Champions, dragons, and drinks galore, The Legend of Vox Machina is returning with another tale of dramatic events, wittingly comedic humor, and deep character arcs that mesh together in this climactic and awesome second season. Through thick and thin, Critical Role, with the animation help from Titmouse, successfully builds upon the already well-rounded first season with its introduction to the realm of Tal’Dorei with Vox Machina facing the illustrious, corrupting power of the Briarwoods. With this season, Vox Machina now faces a danger fans could only recognize now.
Following the defeat of the Briarwoods in season one, Vox Machina is faced with saving the world once again—this time, from a sinister group of dragons known as the Chroma Conclave, first hinted at in the beginning of the show’s first season. Vox Machina sees the stoic main roster of warriors returning: Vex’ahlia (Laura Bailey) and Vax’ildan Vassar (Liam O’Brien), Percival de Rolo III (Taliesin Jaffe), Pike Trickfoot (Ashley Johnson), Keyleth (Marisha Ray), Scanlan Shorthalt (Sam Riegel) and Grog Strongjaw (Travis Willingham).
The visuals and action sequences here really push what we’ve been used to since the first season. While season one focused on a more grounded and linear animation style, this season combines the traditional Titmouse-house style with CG-elements to create terrifying set pieces. The Chroma Conclave is already established as such an apocalyptic threat, but the usage of effects in their appearances and abilities through this visual style really makes them the threat they’re meant to be. There’s one big fight between the Conclave and Vox Machina in the middle of the season that feels grandiose on a scale this show has never seen before and it honestly pulled me in a way no other fight in this show has. That’s how intense this season is: with gripping visuals blended with fantastic sounds and music tracks, season two heightens the show’s energy to a higher level past that of the first season.
Furthermore, the writing around the team dynamics within Vox Machina continues to play off its strengths from the first season, albeit with more intrigue thanks to this season’s stakes. Each member of Vox Machina gets to realize their importance this season while staying true to what makes each of them unique. Some of the comedy does feel clever, utilizing its strong suits from season one, but some of the jokes, particularly around the beginning of the season, feel a bit plain and used to. Thankfully, they don’t necessarily overstay their welcome as this season pulls more on being emotionally driven in its story.
Unlike the first season, whose storyline focused on Percival’s character arc, season two branches out into several character-focused storylines that entangle to create a very captivating second season. This time around, the episodes vary between Vex and Vax’s personal growth in self-reliance and kinship, Grog’s development in understanding where true strength lies with Pike’s help, and Scanlan’s reflectance and conquering of his own abandonments. There are also minor storylines in between the lines like Keyleth’s mastering of her elemental powers, which adds a nice icebreaker while still building the blocks in this grand adventure. Through all this, each storyline is able to provide an emotional depth that, with the great writing, helps makes this season an important piece of a larger chronicle.
In addition, the pacing and world-building that each storyline creates helps make each storyline feel unique outside of developing each character. Each location feels lively in its own right, from physics-defying domains to kingdoms and lands brimming with their own livelihoods. The side characters that come from these locations ranged from being unique antitheses to Vox Machina to parental overbearers who create the rebels that form Vox Machina in the first place. With each storyline bearing its own importance to the overall conflict, this season does a great job handling many elements in a well-paced flow.
Though the show does have its upsides, there are also some minor downsides that affect this season. This actually surrounds Percival, the first season’s main focus. Since his character arc was mostly resolved in season one, he seems to be relegated to being a comic relief with a presence of a side character. This could mostly be seen towards the beginning episodes, where he feels a bit directionless to start with. However, in terms of Vex and Vax’s story, he plays an important role in pushing their arcs forward and thankfully retains his more serious personality throughout the season. I just wished that Percy wasn’t relegated to being a bit of a side character like in the first season.
Besides this, one other problem I have is that some of the surprise twists and story events are played off a bit too early in the season to have a strong grip. This mainly goes for the set of episodes leading up to the middle of the season, where some of these surprises almost come out of nowhere with little build-up. To add on to this, the minor storylines don’t have a strong connection to one another, more so only to the overarching conflict between Vox Machina and the Chroma Conclave. I really hoped these storylines would be somewhat connected and paced in a way that calls back their importance to the emotional development this season has.
Nonetheless, The Legend of Vox Machina continues to prove its worth in the realm of fantastical adventures and the fantasy genre in general. With great characters placed in higher stakes, mixed with emotionally strong writing, Vox Machina‘s second season is a must watch for any fantasy-adventure fan who wants to start their 2023 animated binge-watch with a bang.
The Legend of Vox Machina premieres on Prime Video on January 20.