Episode 1 – | Review Score – 4.5/5
Episode 2 – | Review Score – 4.5/5
Episode 3 – | Review Score – 5/5
Episode 4 – | Review Score – 4/5
Episode 5 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 6 – | Review Score – 4.5/5
Episode 7 – | Review Score – 4.5/5
Episode 8 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 9 – | Review Score – 4/5
Episode 10 – | Review Score – 4/5
Episode 11 – | Review Score – 5/5
Episode 12 – | Review Score – 4/5
In 2015, a group of voice-actor friends by the name of Critical Role started streaming their casual Dungeons and Dragons campaign, which would continue for two years and 115 episodes. When the show was adapted into an adult fantasy animation to become one of Prime Video’s top hits–I think it’s safe to say that no one saw it coming.
The Legend of Vox Machina is a high-fantasy, action-comedy collaboration between Critical Role Productions, Titmouse, Inc., and Amazon Studios. It chronicles the heroic journey of Vox Machina, a group comprising Percival de Rolo, Keyleth, twins Vex’ahlia “Vex” and Vax’ildan “Vax” Vessar, Pike Trickfoot, Grog Strongjaw, and Scanlan Shorthalt.
The seven unlikely heroes are called upon to undertake a dangerous expedition. Soon they are unfathomably recognized as heroes of the Exandrian realm, thus plunging them into an even darker mission: one that involves Percy’s sordid past, powerful necromantic forces, and one city’s brimming revolution.
Squeezing over 100 episodes worth of Critical Role’s content into two seasons of 12 episodes each is not a small task. But while newcomers to the series won’t know what’s missing, returning fans will recognize that much of the charm from the original series translated to the adult animation–as did some weaknesses.
Tabletop role-playing games tend to be episodic in nature; the party completes its current mission and moves on to the next mini-plot. Players miss sessions, and modifications are made to the story to allow for their absence. By the end of a campaign, skilled dungeon masters such as Matt Mercer often tie the loose threads together to create one cohesive, collaborative narrative.
Similar phenomena play out in The Legend of Vox Machina, as the show takes its first two episodes to establish the direction of the season.
Creators also decided to incorporate one of the aforementioned, improvised storylines. A significant portion of the show follows Ashley Johnson’s character, Pike Trickfoot, in an arc which at the time accounted for the actress’ absence in several of the D&D sessions. But her split off from the rest of Vox Machina finds an unnatural placement in the animated series.
While The Legend of Vox Machina falters slightly with regard to adapting to a different medium, it deftly pulls things together in the end, in typical Critical Role fashion.
Pike’s storyline, though awkwardly introduced, catalyzes a positive change in Keyleth, allowing Marisha Ray’s character to shine all the more brightly within the party. And whereas the first two episodes of the season don’t directly connect to the main conflict, the finale brings both narratives to a harmonious conclusion, leaving no loose threads.
The Legend of Vox Machina does what it sets out to do extremely well. And that’s to provide a roaring good time, complete with suspenseful plot hooks, expertly-staged battles, and engrossing character development.
The characters are the heart of the show. We’re introduced to the members of Vox Machina at what is seemingly their lowest point. Throughout the span of the season, the growth they experience nearly completely shifts the party’s dynamic.
We become familiar with their individual vulnerabilities, personality quirks, romantic tensions, and all the complexities of their relationships to the point where one soft look from Vex’ahlia can melt us–because we know just how much that small detail means.
Vox Machina, however dissonant their relations were at the beginning, never fails to present a stunning united front. And, for a story with such a grim atmosphere and heavy plot, the character dynamics and comedy writing lighten every episode.
Though not without its flaws, The Legend of Vox Machina strikes an expert balance of so many elements: humour, characterization, action, romance–and lots of charm. I truly don’t know of another show quite like it.
Verdict - 8/10