I’m a Critical Role fan (only recently though, starting at Campaign 3), but not like a huge fan. I’d caught wind of the fact that the voice actors behind the campaigns would be animating their first adventure, and I was mildly excited to see what was so special about “Vox Machina”.
As it turns out, their adventure was pretty darn amazing. The characters (and their voice actors) were unbelievably good, and the story with the Briarwoods is handled really well.
I had a fun time with every episode in this wonderful season – but how would I rank them all?
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12 – The Terror of Tal’Dorei – Part 1 (Episode 1)
I think it was a good idea to start with a light two-parter, as that gave use a nice, chill environment to learn about the characters and the world.
All of the characters introductions are quite fun and zany, and the voice acting is great (I’ll only mention it here, otherwise I’ll sound like a broken record!), but on the whole it was a fairly standard adult cartoon episode. A good start, but nothing too crazy or note-worthy.
11 – The Terror of Tal’Dorei – Part 2 (Episode 2)
A solid conclusion to the opening two-parter, and it’s commendable that every party member feels fleshed-out and fully realised by the time the story is done.
Since I wasn’t familiar with Vox Machina or any of their adventures, it’s possible that this story has a deeper impact than I know, but on it’s own it was enjoyable nonetheless.
Points deducted for killing off David Tennant. Not cool.
10 – Depths of Deceit (Episode 10)
The only episode within the Briarwood arc that didn’t grip me, I felt that “Depths of Deceit” spent far too long just filling up the runtime with mindless action.
The battle in the crypt was the least interesting of the series – it’s over in seconds and serves no purpose – and while the final set-piece with the rising acid was cool, it wasn’t the craziest thing we’ve seen.
Some people might put this higher due to the twist where Cassandra betrays the group … but that was literally in the episode description? It was hard to be shocked when they outright tell you a betrayal is about to happen.
9 – Scanbo (Episode 7)
Yep, I thought 9 out of the 12 episodes were pretty darn great. Even though “The Legend of Vox Machina” was hardly ground-breaking television, it was so unabashedly fun that I couldn’t help but enjoy myself.
I’d heard rumours of the legendary “Scanbo” endeavour from the livestreams, and it was great to finally see it in action. Scanlan goes complete badass in this episode, and the final confrontation on the roof with Vedmire was great.
8 – Fate’s Journey (Episode 5)
The gang finally sets out to do something about the Briarwood menace, and the carriage chase along the way was lots of fun. It didn’t feel extremely intense or urgent, but it was a fun little set-piece.
Other than the carriage chase, there were two scenes that bumped this episode up in my ranking – the scene where they talk about their strangest kills around a campfire (the funniest scene of the show), and the horrifying ending with the Sun Tree. The rope sounds in the credits sent chills down my spine, and it was a good indication that the Briarwoods wouldn’t be the cliché cartoon villains you might expect.
7 – Shadows at the Gates (Episode 4)
I think a pure horror episode was far down on the list of genres I was expecting from this show, but “Shadows at the Gates” really surprised me with how intense and visceral it was.
I love how the show isn’t afraid to show gore and violence on such a scale, and even the main characters get put through agonising pain. The climax where Keyleth saves the day was very satisfying, and the ending where Pike had to part ways was an emotional conclusion to the episode.
6 – Spark of Rebellion (Episode 6)
Vox Machina face their toughest battle yet … a door.
The assault on the prison is great, and we get a little bit more of an insight into what makes Percy tick. That door scene is definitely my favourite moment of the episode and one of the funniest gags of the season.
5 – The Tide of Bone (Episode 9)
The 2nd best fight in the season, I really liked how every three episodes we got some sort of climactic battle (especially since the episodes aired in batches of three anyway).
This will easily be my hottest take of the lot, but I’m still a bit mixed as to the Pike Ex Machina near the end of the episode. It was an awesome spectacle, I’m not denying that, but part of me wishes the rest of the group had pulled their weight a bit more.
4 – The Feast of Realms (Episode 3)
The first two episodes of “The Legend of Vox Machina” were fairly tame overall, as while they did a good job of introducing the world and the characters it didn’t quite have the “It” factor just yet.
That all changed in Episode 3 – “The Feast of Realms” – which was the first time that an episode really blew my socks off. The Briarwood arc is finally introduced, and both Sylus and Delilah make great first impressions as sadistic and intimidating villains.
It all culminates in the final battle with the Briarwoods, and I loved how visceral and damaging all of the blows and wounds were to both sides. The cherry on the proverbial cake was easily when Percy started going beast mode – “No Mercy Percy” was a moment I didn’t see coming (having missed Campaign 1), and I was hooked from that point onwards.
3 – A Silver Tongue (Episode 8)
I thought this was one of the coolest premises for a fight in the show – they’d already established that Vox Machina were hella strong (okay, maybe just Grog mainly) so once they all started to get brainwashed against the group one by one it added some genuine stakes.
No Mercy Percy is just as badass as ever, and the final moments where he blows the Professor’s head clean off was some of the gnarliest television I’ve seen all year, but it was actually Pike’s arc that made this episode so good.
She has a real problem connecting back to the Everlight, and the emotional journey she goes on made for some of the most impactful and visually stunning storytelling in the entire series. We wouldn’t see the payoff until the next episode, but this may actually be a case of the journey being more interesting than the destination.
2 – The Darkness Within (Episode 12)
“The Darkness Within” acts as a sort of denouement or “cool-down” to the season, and yet it doesn’t take its foot off the gas at all.
Percy finally confronts the demon within him, and the personal struggle is really the culmination of an entire season of character growth and backstory.
Everything gets wrapped up, and I thought every plot thread had been fulfilled – and then all of a sudden they throw the dragons at us again. I can’t wait to see what they do for Season 2, but for now I can be satisfied with a great season of television that stands on its own two feet.
1 – Whispers at the Ziggurat (Episode 11)
This was the real climax of the show, and the fight with the Briarwoods is one of the best cartoon battles I’ve ever seen.
Everyone gets their moment to shine – and I mean everyone – but a couple of moments in particular stood out to me: Pike’s fight with Sylus is animated beautifully, and Keyleth activating her sunbeam spell (if that’s what it’s called?) was the true emotional peak of the series.
Even though there was an episode after this, “Whispers at the Ziggurat” will always be where the season peaked for me.
Overall, this was a great season of television that I had a blast with. The first couple of episodes were a little off-putting at first, but once the Briarwood arc starts you’ll forget all about them. I would give Season 1 of “The Legend of Vox Machina” an 8/10, or a B+, purely for how engaging and fun the story and characters were.
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