In its latest season, Netflix’s Marco Polo takes a turn away from a character centering around a single character and turns more towards a Game of Thrones style compilation, with many characters all weighing in heavily on the story. I really did enjoy the uniqueness of perspective we got in the first season by getting to see more of Marco but I can appreciate the fact that this season allowed the show writers to flesh out other characters more. Unlike Game of Thrones, Marco Polo has a hard time shadowing characters intentions or plots for surprise moments. The twists that the show is able to pull off are fantastic, brutal, and horrendous (yet brilliant). For the majority of events though the show often openly points in the direction events are taking which leaves out this feeling of uncertainty that the show could thrive off of.
The main story thrusts viewers right into conflicts unresolved from last season and new ones very quickly. Kublai Khan is threaten by Kaidu in a challenge to be the next Khan. All of the while, Ahmad is planning his own take over of the thrown in a more brutish fashion. While the main story does set all of our characters into motion learning about them was easily the best part of this season. This is especially true for Ahmad’s character. Learning of his past and how he became the man he is was engrossing and amazingly done. This sadly can’t be said for all of the characters, some who seem more one dimensional like Kaidu’s family members, and even Prince Jingim didn’t have much of a development this season. While it’s efforts might be applauded, Marco Polo didn’t give all of the characters enough depth as I might have hoped. Game of Thrones does a superb job at giving us reasons to care for characters and understanding what they are thinking and how they feel while still living having them feel slightly mysterious. Macro Polo made it feel slightly more like a job to hit all of the characters multiple times over an episode. It didn’t have to be that way either. Clearly, the effort but into Ahmad’s story pays off immensely and if a couple more characters had this amount of detail in their story arcs it would have made the show that much better.
Most of the let downs are in regards to the writing of the characters. The casting is still very strong. Some of my favorites being Benedict Wong, Mahesh Jadu, Tom Wu, and Lorenzo Richelmy (Kublia Khan, Ahmad, Hundred Eyes, Marco Polo). Benedict Wong does an extraordinary job at playing the Khan in this show. I have no premonition as to how a Khan should act, but after watching Wong’s performance I feel like I now know. Mahesh Jadu and his role as Ahmad reminded me of a more evil version of Jafar from Aladdin. He always had this edginess to his voice and a dark aroma around him. Undoubtedly one of the most superb performances in this show.
One aspect I still love about the show is the aesthetic and atmosphere the show is able to create. In a way the show kind of made me feel like Marco Polo, exploring and learning about this foreign society, which includes the beautiful and ugliness of it. In part this is due to the great production value that Netflix puts into this show (the first season alone cost $90 Million, which is a shit ton of money for a show that isn’t super popular). The amount of detail out into the environments, culture, and history is outstanding. While maybe a Mongolian historian would find a significant amount of errors the show has been highly praised for it’s accuracy and depiction. What matters the most is that the production does pay off in a seemingly real depiction of what you would imagine to be the characters and environment.
Personally I wasn’t a big fan of the last 5 minutes of the season but after speaking with friends I believe that it’s probably just me being picky. Overall, the finale was brilliant.
Let’s not forget, the freaking amazing action sequences, particularly by Hundred Eyes. There weren’t as many this time around (more time on politics) but when they happen they are awesome. I’m not sure who choreographs those but give them a raise because they are so memorable! An easy way to imagine the amount of details in fights just think of Game of Thrones Mountain vs The Viper fight and now that is basically every single fight in Marco Polo.
Overall, I immensely enjoyed watching this new season of Marco Polo. The atmosphere it is able to create in a world that feels so alive and real is amazing. There are plenty of exciting and very unpredictable moments in each characters story arcs. For a rather semi-popular show Marco Polo doesn’t get enough credit for how great of a show it is. Even though I personally enjoyed more of a focus on Marco Polo many people enjoyed this season a whole lot so check it out!