During my review of the first three episodes of The Legend Of Vox Machina, I came away with an overall positive outlook of the show, but with some concerns. The first three episodes served as a look back into the events that happened before the actual play show began streaming to give us an introduction to the characters, as well as a glimpse into the story that would define the moment that Critical Role “arrived:” The Briarwood Arc, which serves as the first of the show’s big character arcs in the form of a revenge plot for everyone’s broody bad boy, Percival.
Those first three episodes took some time to digest. Firstly, I had to separate my love of the streamed show from this animated adaptation, and once the hype died down, the frantic and uneven pacing of the show began to be the main takeaway. It just didn’t feel right. It felt unfocused, too quick to gloss over development for a joke or a song from resident bard Scalan that went on far too long and didn’t really land for me. After a few days to think about it, my concerns turned to worries, and while I was still very much all in on an animated Vox Machina, I found myself feeling mixed about the show on its own.
All that is to say that any worries I had completely disappeared at the end of the fourth episode, “Shadow at the Gates.” The first leg of the journey was a rocky one, but as the series began the second, they not only found their footing, but also managed to really hit their stride in a way that was welcomed, but unexpected.
The jokes started landing a bit better. Plot flow began to move more normally, with pacing that felt natural. The characters development didn’t feel like an info dump or something out of left field, and, overall, The Legend of Vox Machina began to feel like the Critical Role of old, when these characters began the journey that would define them. It’s hard to explain to those who haven’t dedicated hundreds of hours of time listening or watching the campaign that inspired this show, but as someone who has, the show just felt right. Everything locked into place with the fourth episode, which so far is the zenith of the season’s first half. The following two episodes were nearly as fantastic, but there’s nothing like the first time something just clicks, which puts that fourth episode over the top.
The group of blundering mercenaries that are Vox Machina, after thoroughly embarrassing themselves in the events of episode three, are found getting further and further entrenched in Percival’s quest for vengeance and retribution from those who have harmed him. Everything that made the show what it is has now begun to shine through, from the relationships of the characters to the ridiculous jokes to the powerful emotional beats. For a show that had me worried, I find myself deeply enthralled in a way I wasn’t at first and barely able to contain desires for the rest of this first season.