When the first half of Amazon Prime’s The Legend of Vox Machina came to a close, it really felt more like a new beginning for the animated series. The violent, raunchy hijinks of the show’s intrepid protagonists had made the initial mish-mash of adventures a fun watch, but building tension and a genuinely surprising mid-season cliffhanger seemed to be promising something different was on the horizon. In its latest batch of episodes, the series delivers on this promise with exciting confidence and a whole lot of gravitas. After taking its time to introduce its audience to a wide cast of characters, and the expansive world which they inhabit, the series dives headfirst into tightening loose ends and streamlining its story. This allows for some wonderful growth on the part of a handful of leads who felt stagnant in previous episodes, while still leaving room for more developments to come.
Vox Machina‘s continued run is, by nature of its own plot, also quite a bit darker than what viewers will have seen prior. This is by no means a bad thing. While the series’ general gimmick, having been based on the tabletop antics of jovial friends, would seem to imply a lighthearted adventure, the latter half of this season is going in very much the opposite direction. Franchise creator Matthew Mercer and voice acting staple Grey Griffin delight in causing chaos as the merciless Briarwood couple, who serve as genuine, anxiety-inducing antagonists.
A combination of their immense bloodlust and a never-ending supply of monsters lends itself to creating a darker tone and balances surprisingly well with the comical dialogue often spewing from the mouths of the titular group. For example, a massive horde of the undead makes it possible for the leads to maintain and bounce their charming chemistry off one another while keeping the stakes fairly high. It also allows for the series to keep up a constant stream of its increasingly signature violence in some of the most creative ways it can imagine.
An eerier tone brings with it a renewed sense of drama, with the new episodes wasting no time to capitalize on the dramatic final reveal from the ending moments of the season’s sixth entry. Fans are gifted with a litany of new information about Taliesin Jaffe‘s Percival de Rolo, whose origins have quickly become the emotional crux on which the series thrives. The fleshing out of his character comes at exactly the right time, shining a light on why exactly it is we should care about him and his objective in the first place.
Not to mention, a lot of it is just really cool. Vox Machina does an excellent job of mixing nerdy clichés with actually well-done character progression, leading to several moments that are both rewarding and joy-inducing. Thankfully, Percy isn’t the only character who gets a promotion in storytelling. The first half of the season featured not one, but two gnomes with somewhat flat development. Obviously, it’s unfair to claim a character lacks dimension before a full set of episodes has even aired, and Vox Machina proves to it’s audience why.
Ashley Johnson‘s Pike Trickfoot felt like a hero meant to be a fan favorite, but her lack of contributions to the team and the continuous sputtering of her abilities left her character trailing behind the others. Luckily, her side quest pays off in a big way when the series returns, giving her the big moment it always felt like she would have down the road. Sam Reigel‘s Scanlan Shorthalt was in a similar predicament. Though always good for a dirty joke and a hearty laugh, it never quite felt like he had as much depth as some of his fellow companions.
Here, however, the rockstar bard gets an episode all to himself and rises to the occasion in a way that cements him as a genuine article going forward. Some of the leads who flourished in the spotlight earlier in the show get to take a backseat for a while, but this will prove to be worth it in the long run. By the time the show begins hurdling towards its finale, the audience will have an emotional connection, and familiarity, with each one of its protagonists. With any luck, this means the final three episodes will be able to take all of what we’ve seen so far and wrap it up with a nice, hilarious, bloody bow.