Anyone who knows me is aware of the love I have for Critical Role. After starting to watch the show near the end of the first campaign and binging the hundreds of hours of episodic content of the first campaign and into the second, there is a deep appreciation for the storytelling that the cast and crew of Critical Role bring to the table, both literally and figuratively. I was there when the idea of an animated series was floated by the cast on their social media channels, there to put my own money into the project when it launched, and have followed the journey from idea to reality as the show officially premieres the first three episodes of the twelve-episode first season.
That long introduction is to say that I was extremely excited for the show to land on Prime Video. With the airing of the first three episodes, we finally get a look at what an animated series of Vox Machina would be. And, with the first three, it’s safe to say that it’s going to be a massive hit. There’s so much to love about the show, for both fans and newcomers. Aided by an incredible plethora of guests (with too many fantastic names to list here) joining the already extensive main cast of Dungeon Master Matthew Mercer and players Ashley Johnson, Laura Bailey, Taliesin Jaffe, Sam Riegel, Liam O’Brien, Marisha Ray, and Travis Willingham, the show starts off with some really early game events and transitions into one of the most popular and beloved sagas of the entirety of Critical Role: the Briarwood arc. Without getting too deep into it, the ragtag group of plucky idiots are celebrated for a victory and presented with a recognizable foe for one of the group.
The first three episodes have been positive overall, but not without their stumbling blocks. With an adult content warning straight away, the show makes sure to inform the viewer of its tone, with copious amounts of violence and cursing. This sets a pattern for the tone being a bit all over the place for me, with a frenetic pace to pack so much of the years-long story into a half-hour series being halted by leaning into the inherent goofiness of the characters. It’s not to say the humor isn’t welcome, but it doesn’t always feel as well-timed as it did when conversations and events had room to breathe. Yes, you don’t have to sit through four hours of content every week, but you also don’t get the freedom to explore that four hours of narrative storytelling will allow.
The animation is also stellar. Brought to us by the team at Titmouse, there is a gorgeous, flowing feel to the style that fits perfectly with not only the fantasy setting, but the world that this group has so carefully and lovingly built.
After three episodes and a bit of an odd start, this show still has me hooked. I’m so excited to see what the series has in store, and how they present the rest of this story that is so familiar.