It’s not always easy to remain consistent. In life, sure, but especially in storytelling. Take HBO’s hit series Game of Thrones, for example. Once adored by fans the world over, most adulation for the show came skidding to a controversial halt when the final season failed to meet fans’ immense expectations. On the other side of the coin, one might find a series like Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., which managed to find it’s footing in later seasons after a rough start out of the gate. Obviously, neither of these situations are ideal for a writer’s room. In the first scenario, you have years of hard work seemingly derailed by a single batch of faulty episodes. In the latter, you have a glorious comeback seen only by those who were willing to stick with the show through the worst of times. It is with immeasurable pleasure that I state The Legend of Vox Machina has avoided the second prognosis, and shows no signs of being diagnosed with the first anytime soon.
In my last review of the series, it was mentioned that Vox Machina was doing an excellent job of bringing its multiple plot lines together towards a satisfying payoff. As the last three episodes of the season played out, they proved this theory was even more correct than initially believed. Nearly every major character on the show receives a proper conclusion to their arc, often overlapping with each other in ways not expected but wholly rewarding. It almost feels as though the story could not have happened this well on accident, despite its humble beginnings as a recorded tabletop game improvised among friends. There are also quite a few moments of genuine surprise sprinkled throughout the final first season installments, keeping the viewer on their toes and managing to avoid a lot of the unsavory finale tropes that plague multiple tales of the genre.
The passion behind the project is so evident in the way its writers and performers take care of the titular group, each emotion felt by the main cast feeling as though the chaos was actually happening in the recording studio. These lively bits of vocal recording help to heighten the show’s finest moments, adding an extra push to triumphant climactic battles and forcing out that first teardrop in emotionally weighted scenes. Speaking of which, the finale of Vox Machina proves more than willing to venture in the direction of sadness than the early previews of the series ever suggested. After a full season of expertly executed bonding with the merry band of misfits, the surprisingly frequent instances of true drama hit fairly close to home. Yet, the adult cartoon is able to balance these bits with its signature humor and violence quite well, resulting in a wonderfully calculated assault of emotions on the audience.
Perhaps the best aspect of the season’s close is the way it sets up the series promising future. With a second season already in the bag, it makes sense to leave the show off on some sort of tease for what’s to come. But what’s impressive is the way the Critical Role crew is able to leave their characters open for another chapter. So far, the plot has mostly revolved around the hidden personal life of emo gunslinger Percy de Rolo. As that story comes to a close, the door opens for another to begin, and the follow-up could center around any one of the team’s many intriguing members. All the remaining adventurers have been put into a position to succeed going forward, and I can’t wait to see where the series takes them next.