Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Marco Polo - Season 2 (2016)

Netflix's second season of its epic foray into medieval times does not live up to the standards of the first season. The acting, set pieces, and direction are still great, but the plot and pacing were at points disappointing.

The reasons I enjoyed the first season of Marco Polo were the scale of the show, its (relative) historical accuracy, great fight-choreography, acting, compelling side-characters, and the lean story - in other words, it did not waste time. The plot revolved around the conquest of the last remaining province of China by the Mongols. The titular character (Marco played by Lorenzo Richelmy) was actually a secondary player in the show. The main story revolved around the politics within the Mongol Empire (court of Kublai Khan - Benedict Wong) and the intricacies of the relationship between the last emperor from the Song dynasty and his chancellor (Jia Sidao - played by Chin Han). The characters were as physically fierce as they were mentally and politically strong. Some even considered this show to be Netflix's (worthy) contender of Game of Thrones - which is high praise indeed!

The second season, however, lost most of the intrigue. The main antagonist (Ahmad) did not have the same flare that Jia Sidao had, nor the stakes were as high. The show also followed some unnecessary story lines - namely, Blue Princess's hallucinations and identity crisis that lasted for the whole season, and Kaidu's mother who was holding a grudge for what happened generations ago, and because of those petty reasons, she manipulated her own son and pushed him to his doom. In other words, some of the story lines needed to be trimmed, and also the intrigue was gone from this season. The most significant addition to the show, who received very limited screen time, was Lotus - played by the magnificent Michelle Yeoh (the Bond girl from 1997's Tomorrow Never Dies). She lit up the screen whenever she was on. One of the reasons that I look forward to season three is to see more of Lotus with Hundred Eyes (Tom Wu) and Mei Lin (Olivia Cheng).

Still, it was an enjoyable experience and a good way to spend a weekend, particularly after the excellent season finale of Game of Thrones that left most craving for more medieval carnage. Although the season ended abruptly on a forced cliff-hanger, I was mildly satisfied. Overall, I'd given it a 6.5, but because of the new character introduced, a 7/10 may be appropriate.

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