If you were enthralled by the non-stop action, wild adventures and witty banter of the first season of The Legend of Vox Machina, then you are in for a treat with Season 2. With more action, higher stakes, bigger emotional arcs and even funnier punch lines, Vox Machina levels up in its second season.
Vox Machina is based on the popular Dungeon & Dragons-roleplay web series Critical Role, starring some of the video game and anime industries’ most beloved voice actors. In 2015, friends (and beloved voice actors) Laura Bailey, Liam O’Brien, Taliesin Jaffe, Ashley Johnson, Marisha Ray, Sam Riegel, Travis Willingham and Matthew Mercer brought their household Dungeon & Dragons game to the internet. Since the debut of the webseries’ first campaign, in which the friends role-play and wisecrack for hours at a time, Critical Role has blown up into a cultural phenomenon.
The most important thing to note about Vox Machina is that knowing anything about Dungeons & Dragons or even Critical Role itself is not at all required. Whether you are a long-time fan of the campaign or a newbie looking for a new fantasy-adventure show to watch, it is readily accessible to all. And that is exactly where the show’s strengths lie.
The Prime Video series is an animated retelling of the group’s first campaign—and it proves that animation is the best medium for this type of storytelling. Vox Machina follows the adventures of the titular merry band of misfit adventurers as they fight dangerous creatures and people that threaten the kingdom and continent of Tal’Dorei. The group includes twins Vex’ahlia “Vex” (Bailey) and Vax’ildan “Vax” (O’Brien), Percival “Percy” (Jaffe), Pike Trickfoot (Johnson), Keyleth (Ray), Scanlan Shorthalt (Riegel), Grog Strongjaw (Willingham), and fan-favorite Trinket the bear (Matthew Mercer).
The first season of Vox Machina was an absolute blast, but Season 2 expands on it in the best possible way. The second season, which premieres with three new episodes on Jan. 20, starts exactly where the first season left off. Vox Machina has just defeated the evil Briarwoods and once again restored the city of Whitestone to its former glory (or, at least, on its way back to its former glory). As they are receiving their kudos from the leader of Tal’Dorei, alarms blare out, as four dragons swoop in to wreak havoc on the kingdom. For fans of the webseries, these dragons are familiar and feared—they are the formidable villains known as the Chroma Conclave.
In Season 2, Vox Machina tries in vain to fight the dragons. Tasked with the seemingly insurmountable order of defeating four dragons to save their land and people from complete destruction, Vox Machina seeks out Osysa (Alanna Ubach), a sphinx, for advice on how to vanquish the beasts.
Once the group passes Osysa’s trial, she informs the group that they must find the Vestiges of Divergence to defeat the Chroma Conclave. She tells them where to find the first one, but little does the group know how much the search for these vestiges will test their strength and bond. In order to find and secure each vestige, Vox Machina will have to come face to face with some of the darkest corners of the crew’s past.
The characters have always been the beating heart of a good fantasy story, and the same is true of Vox Machina. Season 2 leans into how lovable the ensemble is, which is rare for a show whose lead crew runs eight members deep (yes, including Trinket!).
But it is not surprising, seeing as the characters are what made Critical Role so popular—people fell in love with this ragtag group of mercenaries and this season it becomes abundantly clear why. It also helps that the people behind these characters are all talented and seasoned voice actors. They bring so much depth, creativity and fun to these characters, who in different hands, would not be as beloved. As more and more is revealed about the characters, the performances behind them shine brighter.
The world of Vox Machina is another huge appeal, made more exciting with the fabulous animation. The crew travels to beautiful and dangerous new lands this season, in the group’s search for the vestiges. This adventure gives viewers a real look into just how sprawling and rich the world of Exandria—the name of the world where the campaigns in Critical Role take place—really is.
Although there were many great (and gruesome) battles in the first season, even the battles in Season 2 ramp things up a notch. The transition from table-top roleplaying game to animated series continues to be so seamless, that one could forget that this show is even based on a Dungeons & Dragons campaign—especially since all that violence is so visually exciting, more than the webseries could ever hope of achieving.
And like any good fantasy-adventure, Vox Machina balances its heart and humor perfectly. The pitch-perfect comedic timing of the cast helps deliver some of the show’s most hilarious one-liners. Abrupt musical moments from Scanlan—music is part of his magical powers, after all—are always a crowd-pleaser, with some surprising stand-outs this season.
The show, however, is at its wittiest when it plays with the audience and their expectations of the fantasy genre. Whenever you think the show is about to fall on old adventure story tropes or cliché, like an epiphany-filled dream sequence or a traveling montage, it does a complete 180—usually followed by an exceptionally sharp one-liner. It’s why, two seasons in, Vox Machina has proven it’s not just a stellar adaptation from one medium to another—but an uproarious, heartening, thrilling animated series in its own right.