Fantasy is all the rage on TV, but while most of the attention is given to the big, expensive live-action shows, animation is not being left behind, with The Dragon Prince, Dragon Age: Absolution, and The Legend of Vox Machina providing epics on par with the houses of dragons and the powerful rings. This season of Vox Machina is bigger, meaner, and has a better balance between absurdist comedy and serious fantasy adventuring. It may anger some hardcore fans with how many liberties it takes with the source material, but it’s all in service of telling one cohesive tale that nevertheless continues to capture the essence of improvised Dungeons & Dragons campaigns and the chaos that tends to fuel them.
Based on the hugely popular Critical Role livestreams, The Legend of Vox Machina Season 2 picks up right where the previous one ended, with a group of dragons calling themselves the Chroma Conclave invading Tal’Dorei and taking control of its capital. The first episode alone is a fantastic and at times terrifying half-hour of TV, with tones of action and mayhem caused by the dragons destroying everything and everyone in their path in different (yet still very painful) ways. Titmouse, Inc. does a terrific job with the animation, even if the computer effects are still a bit wonky at times. With the dragons now in charge, it is up to Vox Machina to go on a McGuffin hunt and find sacred weapons that can aid them in the fight against the Conclave, lest the whole realm be destroyed.
While the show has always taken liberties, Season 2 feels more distanced from its source material than the previous installment. Even if you’re not familiar with Critical Role, Season 1 felt more like a shortened animatic set to voice recordings from their gaming sessions, looser and more improvised in a way. By comparison, this season has a lot more plot to cover, and the script reflects that with a tighter narrative where every scene serves a purpose — whether to advance the plot, or the character arcs. And there is a lot of ground covered this season, with multiple locations, dozens of side characters, and side quests that give The Legend of Vox Machina a sense of accomplishment even if the larger plot is too big to cover in a single season. The result is a proper fantasy epic, with a grand quest, huge repercussions, and larger-than-life villains. The season sadly falls victim to an overabundance of tropes and cliches typical of fantasy and tabletop RPGs, but the well-rounded characters make them work with a natural 20 in charisma.
Season 2 is also much more focused on developing each character as they embark on this huge quest. Everyone from Scanlan, to Grog, to Keyleth gets an episode centered around them, deepening their backstories, throwing a few surprises their way, and giving them individual victories—but also throwing wrenches at them, personally, and even romantically. Granted, not everything goes their way, so expect a lot of very emotional moments and personal sacrifices that prove Vox Machina is not just a group of opportunistic adventurers, but true heroes.
Of course, this is still a comedy, and Season 2 doubles down on the absurdism, while finding a better balance between the crude jokes and the serious story. Though the writers found a way to make the improvised moments from the livestream feel structured enough that newcomers may not notice, fans of Critical Role should be delighted to see fan-favorite moments make their way to the animated series, from jokes about the proper way to pronounce the name Purvan, to Scanlan singing a tune to drown out the sounds of Grog… taking care of his private business — a definitive highlight of the season. Fans of the livestreams shouldn’t be surprised by this, but if nothing else, Season 2 of The Legend of Vox Machina proves they should just go ahead and release an album with all of the original songs performed by Sam Riegel.
Whether you’re a fan of Critical Role hoping to relive some of your favorite moments or you’re looking for a great fantasy show that provides a more lighthearted and earnest approach to the genre, The Legend of Vox Machina continues to roll a critical hit .