The Legend of Vox Machina premiere delivers heart and hilarity

The Legend of Vox Machina. Courtesy of Amazon Studios
The Legend of Vox Machina. Courtesy of Amazon Studios /

Nearly three years after Dungeons & Dragons live-play giant Critical Role launched their Kickstarter campaign to fund a 22-minute animated special titled The Legend of Vox Machina, the first three episodes of the 12-episode first season have dropped on Amazon Prime.

The project hit its original funding goal of $750,000 within the first 40 minutes of launch and went on to raise over $11 million in the course of its 45-day campaign. The fans of Critical Role, known as Critters, were passionate and excited for this project to be brought to life, and for good reason.

The first three episodes, which premiered on January 28th on Prime Video, are nothing short of worth the wait. The series effortlessly establishes Vox Machina as a group while planting the seeds needed to delve into each character’s arcs in the future.

Episodes 1 and 2 feature events that happened pre-stream, for those familiar with Critical Role’s history of playing a home D&D game before streaming their live plays on Twitch, but still allow the audience to get immersed in the world of Exandria, and especially make a home within Emon with Vox Machina.

In a surprising revelation, the opening two episodes also set the stage for a notorious storyline from later in the campaign, one that was instantly recognizable for anyone even vaguely familiar with the events of Campaign 1.

The third episode is where the infamous Briarwood arc begins, with the introduction of Silas and Delilah Briarwood, and the revelation of their connection to Taliesin Jaffe’s Percy de Rolo. The use of flashbacks within the third episode to acclimate the audience to Percy’s dark past was incredible, giving the audience enough information to understand the gravity of the situation, but leaving much to be desired, hopefully, to be uncovered in the later episodes of the season.

The series is full of both heart and humor, finding a perfect balance between the two. A lesser show wouldn’t know when to stop, but The Legend of Vox Machina keeps the laughs coming while allowing their heroes to still sit in painfully dark moments.

The series delivers in the voice acting department, which is no surprise, coming from a team chock-full of incredible voice actors.

Each member of the main cast can bring the same magic to each of these characters as they were on stream, able to bridge the gap between hours at the table to hours in the studio expertly. The guest stars shine bright as well, especially Grey Griffin as Delilah Briarwood and Khary Payton as Uriel Tal’Dorei. In his short time on the show, David Tenant also knocks it out of the park.

For longtime fans of Critical Role, this series has everything we all loved about the 373 hours of Campaign 1 on their Twitch streams. Despite the fast pace, the characters still feel fleshed out, or at least are beginning to be, and are being set up for an incredible run throughout the series. It’s just as violent and crude as a Critical Role property should be, and with enough heart and suspense to carry it home.

The inclusion of a few choice easter eggs referencing various moments from Critical Role’s other campaigns as well also feel like little love letters to the audience that made this entire show possible in the first place.

For those just joining the fold, The Legend of Vox Machina allows audiences to enter into the world of Critical Role with little to no knowledge of years worth of Exandrian exploits. And, if you’re entirely too impatient between the season finale, airing on February 18, 2022, and the premiere of the already-ordered second season, then there are hundreds of hours of these wonderful characters available to watch on YouTube to pass the time.

That’s the beauty of the series, in my opinion. Despite hundreds of hours of game-play, pre-stream comics, even a novel about the exploits of Vox Machina, the series still feels fresh and new. If the pacing is simply too fast or audiences are left wanting more, then there’s ample opportunity to enjoy seemingly endless content related to these characters.

The Legend of Vox Machina feels extremely rare and special, and that’s because, in some ways, it is.

Each member of the cast of Critical Role is a producer on the show and had a heavy hand in the writing process for the series. It’s not often that the lead actors on the project are quite literally the ones who wrote their characters, but that’s par for the course with Critical Role.

The series feels lived in and loved, even just three episodes, and I’m beyond excited to see where the next nine installments take this band of adventurers.

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The Legend of Vox Machina airs new episodes on Fridays, only on Prime Video.