The Legend of Vox Machina season 2 review: bigger and bolder

The Legend of Vox Machina season 2 review: bigger and bolder

Vox Machina stands together in front of an archway in The Legend of Vox Machina Season 2.

The Legend of Vox Machina: Season 2

“In its second season, The Legend of Vox Machina greatly expands its scope and delivers an adventure that feels more richly drawn, deeply felt, and emotionally rewarding than its first.”

pros

  • Grog and Scanlan’s late-season arcs

  • Spirited, charismatic performances

  • Several colourful, visually striking new locations

cons

  • One slow, ineffective midseason detour

  • Certain characters still feel too one-note

The Legend of Vox Machina Season 2 is a bigger, darker, and more ambitious season of television than the first. In its second year, the adult animated series remains one of the more interesting shows that’s on the air right now. That’s not because its high fantasy story or eccentric group of misfits are all that unique, either.

Unlike practically every other fantasy TV show — live-action or otherwise — that’s being produced these days, The Legend of Vox Machina isn’t based on a preexisting book or video game. The series is, instead, based on the first Dungeons & Dragons campaign that was broadcast as part of the online tabletop role-playing web series critical role from 2015 to 2017. The events of the show are, in other words, based on the story that the core critical role cast created together over the course of several years.

It was for that reason that The Legend of Vox Machina season 1 was often at its best whenever it was actually able to replicate the sense of camaraderie and theatrical drama that made so many viewers tune into critical role in the first place. Fortunately, those moments are far more common in The Legend of Vox Machina season 2, which greatly expands the series’ fantasy scope, but does so without ever losing sight of the friendships and emotions that make it so fun and pleasing to watch.

Umbrasyl roars atop a burning city in The Legend of Vox Machina Season 2.
Courtesy of Prime Video

ace critical role fans will already know The Legend of Vox Machina season 2 wisely picks up right where its first left off. The new season’s premiere installation follows all seven members of Vox Machina after they and the citizens of the royal city of Emon are suddenly ambushed by the four giant, villainous dragons who make up the powerful collective known as the Chroma Conclave. Many are killed and the city of Emon is utterly destroyed during the attack, which forces Vox Machina to flee to Whitestone, the very city Percy (Taliesin Jaffe) and his friends spent most of the first season of The Legend of Vox Machina trying to save.

Visually and emotionally, the animated series doesn’t shy away from the death and devastation that is caused by the Chroma Conclave’s attack. However, much like it did in critical role‘s first campaign, Emon’s destruction does serve as an efficient catalyst for the rest of The Legend of Vox Machina season 2. By wiping out its first primary location, the series is forced to send Vox Machina to new cities and regions that hadn’t previously been explored, which gives The Legend of Vox Machina season 2 an expansive scope and visually rich variety of locations.

The Chroma Conclave’s arrival also sets up the dramatic engine of The Legend of Vox Machina season 2, which follows its central heroes as they are forced to seek out a handful of powerful weapons known as the “Vestiges of Divergence.” As was the case in the critical role campaign that inspired it, their pursuit of the Vestiges forces the members of Vox Machina to confront personal issues both new and old. That’s especially the case for Scanlan (Sam Riegel), Grog (Travis Willingham), Vax (Liam O’Brien), and Vex (Laura Bailey), all of whom have to put themselves through considerable emotional turmoil in order to earn their Vestiges.

Pike sits on Grog's shoulders in The Legend of Vox Machina Season 2.
Courtesy of Prime Video

Not all of The Legend of Vox Machina season 2’s emotional detours work as well as others. Bailey’s Vex, for instance, remains the source of many of the series’ most cringeworthy lines. while The Legend of Vox Machina season 2 does try to add depth to her self-worth issues and greedy tendencies, the character’s depiction is ultimately too stiff for any of her biggest moments to feel as impactful as they should. That, in turn, makes the season’s Vex and Vax-centric detour into a trippy alternate plane known as “The Feywild” feel less engaging than many of its other subplots.

Thank you, the rest of The Legend of Vox Machina‘s latest 12 episodes don’t struggle with those same issues. The season’s first half crackles with an alluringly adventurous spirit as Vox Machina sets out for various new locales and joins up with a handful of new characters. The season’s first six episodes also effectively set up several compellingly introspective arcs for Vax, Grog (Travis Willingham), and Scanlan, all of which pay off to great effect in The Legend of Vox Machina season 2’s final half. Grog’s journey, in particular, combines the epic and personal in a way that should not only please critical role fans, but also the casual viewers who were first drawn in by The Legend of Vox Machina‘s eclectic brand of fantasy storytelling.

Vox Machina stands together at sunset in The Legend of Vox Machina Season 2.
Courtesy of Prime Video

After spending the majority of its first season focused on Jaffe’s Percy, The Legend of Vox Machina shifts its focus to some of the other members of its eponymous team. This change in direction allows already standout cast members like Willingham and Riegel to only further flex their muscles and turn in the kind of charismatic, multidimensional vocal performances that help Vox Machina‘s characters feel more fleshed out than their recognizable archetypes suggest. The season’s increased focus on Grog also results in more time spent on his sweet friendship with Pike Trickfoot (Ashley Johnson), Vox Machina’s resident healer.

While she’s not the focus point of any of the season’s central arcs either, Johnson continues to bring a playfully comedic spirit to Pike that only further highlights the character’s heart and overwhelming sense of compassion. She and Willingham have an infectiously joyful chemistry together as Pike and Grog, and the former is even given the chance to duet with Riegel’s Scanlan on a country-style song that is, in and of itself, the kind of deep-cut reference that should delight critical role fans everywhere.

Among the season’s guest stars, Henry Winkler and Ralph Ineson prove to be perfectly cast as Wilhand Trickfoot, Pike’s great-great-grandfather, and Kevdak, Grog’s villainous uncle, respectively. The Nightingale star Aisling Franciosi also steals a handful of scenes in the second half of the season as a confident gnome who quickly turns Scanlan’s world upside down.

Although critical role fans may be surprised by some of the new ways The Legend of Vox Machina diverges from its source material, the tweaks that the show’s creative team makes all result in the story of the series’ second season feeling more well-structured and streamlined. Coming off its occasionally uneven first season, The Legend of Vox Machina has returned with a sophomore run that gradually builds in its scope and emotional weight before climaxing with a series of confrontations and redemptive moments that feel simultaneously seismic and earned.

As far as second seasons go, The Legend of Vox Machina season 2 not only outdoes its predecessor, but also cements the series’ place as a new, must-see staple of fantasy television.

New episodes of The Legend of Vox Machina season 2 premiere Fridays on Prime Video. Digital Trends was given early access to all 12 of the season’s episodes.

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