Rise of the Chroma Conclave
The Trials of Vasselheim
The Sunken Tomb
Those Who Walk Away
Pass Through Fire
The Fey Realm
A Test of Pride
Belly of the Beast
The Hope Devourer
Is it possible to adapt a tabletop role-playing campaign to the big screen–to keep alive the unique camaraderie of dungeon master and players, and translate the complicated ins-and-outs of campaign arcs to a completely different medium of storytelling? If it wasn’t already clear by season 1 of Critical Role and Prime Video’s partnership in animation, The Legend of Vox Machina season 2 proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that it’s not only possible; it’s a hell of a good idea.
Adapting a Dungeons and Dragons campaign for TV is an impressive feat that comes with many challenges, but the second installment of The Legend of Vox Machina accomplishes this even more deftly than the first. The comedy-fantasy show stars Critical Role cast members in their returning roles: Ashley Johnson as Pike Trickfoot, Travis Willingham as Grog Strongjaw, Laura Bailey as Vex’ahlia Vessar, Liam O’Brien as Vax’ildan Vessar, Taliesen Jaffe as Percival de Rolo, Marisha Ray as Keyleth, and Sam Riegel as Scanlan Shorthalt.
In season 1, the titular adventuring party barely holds itself together by a few threads of hope, and in this near-broken state must summon the strength to conquer the fearsome Briarwoods. They face new foes in this much-anticipated sequel with the rise of the Chroma Conclave, an unlikely alliance between dragons who want nothing more than to plunder Tal’Dorei of all its treasures. But Vox Machina now rises to new challenges with a newfound sense of connection, tangible in the chemistry between the seven dynamic protagonists, who offer the perfect foundation for a high-stakes adventure as emotional and poignant as it is thrilling.
Courtesy of Titmouse Inc., a gorgeous animation style elevates character interactions and thoughtfully-staged battles–but these shine mainly due to a skilled team of writers who never lose sight of where each protagonist is coming from. Every battle, already impressive in its animation, incorporates characters’ inner struggles, insecurities, and goals to create both the most epic and emotionally-charged moments. A fight is never just a fight, but an opportunity for stunning character growth and revelations.
Amid the epic scale of character-driven adventure, however, the animated show still maintains the characteristic bawdiness we saw in season 1. In one moment we might be viewing a heartfelt exchange of hopes and fears–and in the next hearing a sex joke, or Scanlan engaging in a cheesy pop number. The borderline-cringe could very easily become overbearing, but it nicely breaks up the series’ more serious moments and (from me, at least) elicits genuine laughs. Just like with D&D, Vox Machina reminds us, the point of the show is to have fun.
All of it–from the epic battles to the potty humor–is very “D&D,” and this is largely more a strength than a weakness, aside from a few moments in the show with little purpose other than to offer fanservice (Grog’s “I would like to rage” will feel out-of-place to all but seasoned players of the tabletop game). The hours upon hours of Critical Role’s first campaign give show writers a wealth of creative material to draw from. And yet, writers of this season of The Legend of Vox Machina fully realize this animated show as its own production. Rather than use the original Critical Role livestream as a crutch, they are flexible enough to bend, cut, and adapt where needed. In the end, the story stays relatively close to the source material, but is executed in a wholly original manner.
A near-perfect recipe for an ensemble animated fantasy adventure, season 2 of The Legend of Vox Machina triumphs both as an adaptation and as a stunning narrative in its own right. There’s no need to have any prior knowledge of Critical Role or Dungeons and Dragons to enjoy the series. These animated characters will captivate viewers completely on their own.
The first three episodes of The Legend of Vox Machina season 2 premiere on Prime Video January 20, and all episodes of season 1 are available on the streaming service right now.
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Verdict - 9/10