The Legend of Vox Machina makes its triumphant return. This show is an Amazon Prime animated original. Furthermore, it is based on the campaign from Critical Role. This shows paves the way for adult animation. Quite a hard feat to accomplish with the saturations of new animated projects. However, the artists behind this band of misfits easily rise to the occasion.
Raise the Stakes
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Vox Machina is back. Season two begins where the previous season ends. The heroes are victorious over the Briarwoods and have a dragon kill to boot. However, things take a dark turn. Tal’Dorei is invaded by a band of dragons.
The Chroma Conclave lay waste to their safe haven. Vox Machina escapes. Now, they seek out Vestiges of Divergence to amplify their chances to defeat these powerful foes.
The Legend of Vox Machina focuses its intentions this season. Each hero has obstacles and trauma explored throughout their journey. Shame, self-doubt, and fear are all relatable problems that preface the forefront of many adults’ lives. The merry band of misfits is painted in a more vulnerable light. Subsequently, conquering their struggles transforms them. Furthermore, the narrative highlights how relatable they remain despite being set in high fantasy.
On the other hand, season two keeps a balance of humor and melancholy. Critical Role’s flair of improv and innuendos is deftly sprinkled throughout the dialogue. Additionally, light-hearted and whimsical moments elevate the ongoing theme of hope.
Despite fantasy tropes, The Legend of Vox Machina darkens its setting. The Chroma Conclave poses a grave threat. Furthermore, death and carnage run rampant throughout the show. Consequences exist and have weight in this world. Season two takes the moral ambiguity of the world a step further.
Tied by Fate
Season two expands the world of Tal’Dorei. Vox Machina visits many places and allies along their journey. The scope is so grand it could not be contained to one season. However, the plot is truly driven by the humanity and realistic struggles of each character.
Vax is the typical rogue. Liam O’Brian’s performance exemplifies the character’s brooding nature. However, the Chroma Conclave arc pivots Vax’s motivation. He is still the devoted, overly cautious brother. Yet, he becomes a stalwart in his belief in a higher power. The cynic-turned-believer moves the viewer in emotional ways. On the other hand, his sister finally steps into her own power. Laura Bailey’s vocal performance drives home the emotional impact and heartache of Vex’ahlia’s crucible.
Vex is the ranger of Vox Machina and the twin sister to Vax. This season she grapples with family shame and stepping out of its looming shadow. Subsequently, she finds comfort in being vulnerable to others. Viewers are taken on a journey through family trauma and how to deal with it. The outcome of this is practical rather than wishful. However, you are left happy and rooting for Vex’s future by the end.
Percival Fredrickstein von Musel Klossowski de Rolo III
Enter the gunslinger. Percy takes a back seat in terms of large character arcs. Previously, he vanquished his devils in season one. The Briarwood arc was a pivotal moment in his growth. Although, Percy still has shining moments. These are smaller, and showcase his continued work on smaller flaws. His story thread feels less important this season in lieu of elevating the others. However, Taliesin Jaffe’s pompous and noble performance continues to be a treat.
Keyleth of the Air Ashari
Keyleth serves as the group’s underdog. Her druid powers are only limited by her self-esteem and shy nature. Consequently, she must face her first real trial during her Aramenté. Self-doubt and anxiety swarm her constantly. However, Keyleth’s moment of triumph is highlighted by the best quote of the season delivered by the fantastic Marisha Ray.
“I have passed through Fire.”
A tale of reflection. Often people falter; however, Keyleth shows it is never too late to rise up again.
The Legend of Vox Machina is sprinkled with comedic relief to bring brevity to dire situations. Much of this comes from Scanlan. He is a bard who uses large amounts of bravado to hide his shortcomings. Conversely, he may have the biggest heart among anyone in Vox Machina. The season explores him removing his superficial mask.
However, I found it fell short compared to the other character arcs. Scanlan is a fun character. Sam Riegel’s performance is always captivating and often steals a scene. Yet, I found Scanlan’s moment of revelation lackluster. I found the payoff not equating to the amount of tension building up to his big moment. Its placement in the season finale also echoes this setback.
Similar to Percy, Pike underwent most of her character arc during season one. Being the cleric, she often serves as the group’s moral compass. On the other hand, her gratuitous humor and boyish jabs with Grog offer a unique contrast to the holy-person visage. Ashley Johnson plays these sides of Pike with ease and skill. Yet, I found Pike to be overshadowed by the other heroes of Vox Machina. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Time is limited with a twelve-episode season using thirty-minute runtimes. However, I found Pike’s importance to be almost trivial when compared to other grander developments by the end of the season.
Lastly, we have the barbarian. Grog evolves from the typical brute with a soft heart. Viewers are taken on an emotional journey into his past and where his future lies. He grows more independent this season. Grog’s tribulations grapple with all too real inner demons. Family trauma is a reoccurring theme for many characters this time. Yet, Grog’s victory is the most gratifying. Subsequently, Travis Willingham’s delivery heralds the best action sequence of the season. I found Grog simple but lacking in season one. However, season two evolved the character in ways I did not expect.
The Chroma Conclave
The Legend of Vox Machina showcases a lovable cast of heroes. Retrieving the show’s various MacGuffins serves as a right of passage for many here. The villains they face pose a serious threat and are equally imposing. Lance Reddick performs a spine-chilling villain as Thordak. Although not as prevalent this season, his character leads to a deeper plot teased for season three akin to Thanos in the MCU.
On the other hand, Umbrasyl thwarts Vox Machina at almost every turn. He radiates power and dread as a dragon. However, I found the danger meter became unclear toward the end of the series. Our heroes narrowly escaped with their lives after every encounter. Yet they still struggle after a supposedly significant power boost. It further flattens the climactic battle for me during the finale. Nevertheless, the other dragons of the Chroma Conclave seem equally as dangerous and one, in particular, is a wild card.
Roll for Initiative
This season’s plot heavily centers around its characters. Furthermore, the scope widens immensely unable to be contained in a single season. I never felt bored progressing through the episodes. Each story beat had a purpose and struck a balance between impending peril and lighthearted adventure. One moment finds our heroes debating strategy to minimize casualties and survive. Meanwhile, a private, moral dilemma happens elsewhere accompanied by a song about poop. Only Critical Role can meld such conflicting scenarios seamlessly.
On the other hand, there is a substantial amount of character development and subsequent backstory pertaining to Vox Machina. This may disappoint some viewers who prefer a more fast-paced storyline. Although, the quiet moments of various scenes throughout serve as an undertone for later payoffs. Every scene is intentional and is called upon later; from a subtle line to a heroic victory, attentive viewers will appreciate the deeper meanings and interconnectedness of the story.
Season 2 of The Legend of Vox Machina spends quality time with its characters. It is a thrilling ride filled with comedy, heartache, action, and passion. Similar to a rollercoaster, I found the show to have incredible depth and multiple levels of dramatic storytelling.
A Long Rest
Every supporting role and puzzle piece melds together to transport viewers into a fantastical setting and heart-throbbing adventure. The musical score is outstanding with orchestral set pieces and outlandish songs performed by Sam Riegel’s Scanlan.
Meanwhile, the animation done by Titmouse, Inc. is top-notch. Tal’Dorei’s colorful vistas and distinct climates/realms were created wonderfully along with amazing character designs. At the same time, action sequences are tightly animated and tastefully stylized. The violence can be quite visceral at times. Although, the 3D portions can be jarring at times for the dragons and a few scenes.
The Legend of Vox Machina season 2 continues a dominating campaign in adult animation. This show pioneers the genre in ways other products have simply fallen short. Hardcore fans of the DnD campaign might feel slight disappointment at the amount of content cut from the original arc. However, the product created proves it is a necessary sacrifice in the television medium. Especially considering the Chroma Conclave arc continues next season.
I believe fans will still find mass enjoyment with these characters, and newcomers have an open and inviting door to Tal’Dorei through this show. Lastly, Vox Machina itself represents an important message endorsed by the talented and creative minds at Critical Role:
“Remember to love each other and leave the world in a better place.”