Double-Take: What is Good in Life? – Marco Polo, S2E1 Review
While I got a bit side-tracked by this whole move thing, I still have a few weeks left in the summer. I definitely wanted to report out on the things that have helped me survive the hiatus while I await the premieres of Arrow, The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow, and The Walking Dead. So here starts a brief series of reviews on the Netflix original series, Marco Polo, Season Two, one of the things that I am watching on my summer vacation.
A solid start, if not perfect. But then, it would have been very tough to put together something that exceeded the heroism and epic-ness of the previous season’s finale. Probably smart not to even try. Season 2 opens up in a pretty good place. The city of Xiang Xiang has fallen. Byamba has departed the war party and cavorts with the daughter of a man who now calls into questions Kublai’s rights to the throne. And Marco leads a covert mission in search of the last Chinese Emperor.
Yeah. You heard that last part right. Partnered up with Mei Lin this time, Polo goes on one of his more dangerous missions to date. This show is at its best when one of the plotlines is a buddy cop movie with Polo partnered up with one of the ensemble cast. This is one of the reasons why the show was at its absolute best last season when it was focused on the budding bromance between Polo and Byamba.
The dynamic between Marco and Mei Lin is decidedly different, as one would suspect. It is a bit painful and sorrowful as the two question each other’s motives, how they can ever be sure if things they do are entirely of their own choosing or things they do in efforts to please their Khan. The two both verbally use loyalty as a weapon in an idealogical knife-fight.
The other major plotline here and one that is just as suspenseful, if not more so, is the impending wedding between Prince Jingim and Kokachin. Koka’s heart is still with young Master Polo. But she cannot bear to break the Mongol laws that could likely see her forfeit her life to the Mongol Hoard.
Queen Chabi has a very interesting discussion with Kokachin prior to the wedding, telling her that Polo is more dedicated to Kublai Khan than he would ever be to her. During this interlude, Chabi also gives Koka a hit from the weed pipe (probably opium). Which she continues drawing from until dusk, when Jingim comes to her. I am pretty sure we are seeing the groundwork laid for Kokachin to be the classic tragically unhappy wife who smokes herself under a permanent rock while her brain slowly turns to mush.
The episode proceeds at a pretty mundane pace, with pretty mundane scripting and abov average performances. But the endcap to the first plotline, with Polo and Mei Lin, is a classic as they wind up running up on Michelle Yeoh. As much as I respect Ming na Wen, Michelle Yeoh is pretty much the definitive female action hero of our time. Hands down. The fight scene with her, Mei Lin, and Polo is nothing short of spectacular. It doesn’t disappoint. Maybe even better than the Sifu v Jia Sidao fight of Season 1? But in that one, all of the marbles was at stake. Pretty hard to deny the epic impact of that fight and its outcome.
The set crew of Marco Polo continue on with their remarkable attention to detail and incredibly high production quality. The sheer size and beauty of some of the background vistas and the attention to detail….just incredible.
So like I said in the beginning, a solid start. The season premiere was not as strong as the opener for Dark Matter, but the two shows fill different spaces in my tv watching spectrum, so there is room for the divergence. Marco Polo and Dark Matter constitute the current solution to “What I watched during my summer vacation…” Thank goodness that in our current TV landscape, having such a selection is even feasible. And it’s not a compromise, but I actually have to be selective of what makes up that solution. Nice work NetFlix, for Marco Polo, Season 2 making the list!