Episodes 1 and 2 The Terror of Tal’Dorei Review
It’s finally here! The nearly three year long wait has been more than worth it. This two episode mini arc set the stage for the greater story to come. For some, who were maybe expecting a grand, sweeping fantasy epic of hefty proportions (a la Game of Thrones and Lord of the Rings), this irreverent and quick paced romp was unexpected. And it’s true; if you were expecting to see long form DnD role play melded into an animated series, The Legend of Vox Machina is not it. The show is a pure and distilled version of the literal hundreds of hours of Vox Machina content in the world. Hardcore fans of DnD that are not used to animated/anime story pacing will have a huge tonal shift to adjust to. There’s only so much role play and improv you can jam into a 30 minute episode.
All that being said. I loved this little intro arc. It hit almost all the right notes for me. The humor was there from the beginning. They didn’t shy away from gruesome animated gore. We finally got to see so many beloved characters come to (animated) life! How about that stellar voice cast!? I guess spending decades working in the voice over world really pays off when it’s time to call in all the favors for your own dream project.
The guest star voice actors are all incredible, of course. David Tennant is a powerhouse as General Krieg and Brimscythe. Indira Varma and Stephanie Beatriz crush it as unstoppable duo Allura and Lady Kima. And Khary Payton plays a fantastically regal Uriel.
The writing in some moments was a bit heavy handed, but again, I’d love to see you try to cram dozens of off and on screen hours of content into a cohesive and coherent series introduction without getting a little cliche. The character depth will come in time (we’ve already seen some great development in episode 3). The compelling arcs will be pieced out over the next nine episodes. The grand overarching story will be built out over two (or three?!) seasons. These episodes gave the series some solid bones. I loved that we got a previously unseen Campaign 1 story arc animated. Seeing Krieg and the Brimscythe reveal was amazing (even if I did know it was coming). Plus we got that amazing Chroma Conclave teaser (did I hear a certain green dragon’s voice??).
The Vox Machina intro song from Scanlan had to be a highlight moment for me. As much as I struggle with Scanlan’s character in general, the song in front of the Council of Tal’Dorei had me laughing. Now that each character has their own archetype to settle into we can start adding that much needed depth and emotion to their stories. Percy’s backstory will be sure to hit some heartstrings. Pike’s spiritual journey will hit new heights, Scanlan’s (hopeful) transformation will hit those high notes, and Vax…dear sweet Vax…. I’m not ready for his story steamroller headed our way. Vex has some interesting facets being explored already. I’m intrigued at how hard they’re laying into her ‘dragon sense’ ability. I’m sure that will come in handy…soon. Keyleth is already becoming a beloved fan favorite. Her ability to go from young bumbling novice, to button sweet ray of sunshine, to insecure but powerful ally is fantastic. After seeing late campaign Keyleth wipe the floor with any opponent and find her stride as the Voice of the Tempest, I can’t help but love this insecure little darling we get to see in this animated series.
While we didn’t quite get to see Vox Machina’s most humble beginnings, I think these two episodes did the best they could to throw us into the Briarwood Arc. It’s also a comfort to know that there are other canon stories to enjoy if a true “Vox Machina Origin” is more to your liking. I understand that trying to explain Pike and Percy’s late additions to the group would have been far too confusing and time consuming for the show. I would one day love to see Pike’s backstory (or at least her deadly Glabrezu encounter) animated.
These two episodes loaded up on easter eggs for long time fans of the show. Doors being Vox Machina’s worst enemy is still my favorite bit so far, the Tusk Love book had me howling, and was that a Sprinkle the weasel I saw on screen? Seriously, I could go on forever about all the campaign 1 and 2 referenced packed into these episodes. It’s fun to catch more and more of them during a second or third rewatch.
While the series relies heavily on its quick paced humor, the show is not afraid to lay into the more serious story lines as well. Not only do we have some epically tragic backstories to unpack, but we saw an entire village get roasted in the Brimscythe attack… including killing off those two sweet kiddos. Pike’s inability to save the surviving child was quite a heart wrencher. These scenes gave the series the gravitas needed to not shock the living daylights out of new fans when we finally get to Whitestone (hello Sun Tree scene).
Episode 3 The Feast of Realms Review
The Feast of Realms is where the series really begins to hit its stride. Character introductions are out of the way, a solid story arc is introduced, and some compelling characters make their exciting appearance.
The story pacing evens out a bit after the absolute roller coaster of episodes 1 and 2. I’m glad that the breakneck speed slowed down a bit for this episode and will most likely continue at this pace for the duration of season 1. The writing felt a bit more solid, though that may be due to the fact that the writers literally had entire episodes of content to pull from instead of years old notes and second hand retellings to base their story on.
We got a quick flashback of Percy’s childhood in his nightmare scene. I’m sure they’ll do a slightly more in depth reveal of what exactly went down that awful night. I know I’d like a little more context to give a certain De Rolo’s return the weight it deserves. Percy also got another layer added onto his anime badboy persona. We’ve seen our first hints of Orthax seeping out around the edges of Percy’s psyche. The ominous shadowy smoke, eerie shadow illusion, and eyeless plague mask can only mean bad news.
Lord and Lady Briarwood are as amazing on screen as they were in the campaign stream. Silas and his bloodthirsty weapon easily matching Grog’s strength and stamina was exciting to see. And Delilah’s magical command of the battlefield is unparalleled. These villains are not here to mess around. Percy’s going to have a hell of a time trying to get their claws out of Whitestone. We’ve also got some serious hints about Silas’ otherworldly abilities. So far, he’s showcased his mind control, unnatural speed and strength, and that life draining bite he gave to Vax. I also love the way the animators captured familiar spells and spellcasting in the series. You can easily recognize some fan favorite spells being slung in this episode. Delilah dancing around with a fancy misty step and Keyleth’s insect plague were a couple memorable moments for me.
Scanlan had some more obnoxiously adult themed moments in this episode. I understand that they’re going to lay pretty hard into this facet of his character, I just hope the crassness ages well and doesn’t become too heavy handed or over played. My hope is that once Kaylie comes in, we’ll see a bit of a shift in this intense persona. Beyond the shocking and in your face lewdness, Scanlan continues to be a source of humor in some other ways. I’m enjoying the bit that Scanlan always misses out on the battles. Though, I am looking forward to the Whitestone heist with great anticipation (I’m ready to see that triceratops).
Gilmore also made his glorious appearance in this episode! And he’s got it all, the swag, the panache, the flirty eye, and the ever helpful bit of information to push the story onward. I absolutely loved how hard they laid into Gilmore and Vax’s little crush. We’ll see how they develop Gilmore into a more serious ally in the coming episodes and into season 2.
It’s a bit funny to see all the ways that the show has to dance around the DnD lingo they can’t use. No more Bigby’s hand for us, instead we get Scanlan’s hand! Sarenrae gets a gentle rebranding as The Everlight and spells and abilities will most likely continue to go unnamed or feature a slightly off brand renaming.
A few easter eggs that caught my attention in this episode were Silas not having a reflection in mirrors or water (cluing us in to his unearthly abilities), the Vecna reference from Delilah’s journal, and that sweet sweet Craven’s edge introduction. I almost forgot about the classic Grog and Craven’s Edge outhouse scene and now I’m desperately hoping to see it animated. I also love the fact that we get a little Matthew Mercer animated character in each episode. It does make up for the fact that not every NPC in this universe will be voice by the ever surprising DM.
I am on the edge of my seat for the next three episodes to be released this Friday! I can’t wait to see how the disgraced Vox Machina will handle their banishment from Emon and the lengths the gang will go to for one of their own. Join The Geekly Grind next week for a review of episodes 4-6. Don’t worry Critters! It’s almost Friday!