Now let’s fast forward a couple decades to meet two very different ragtag bunches of misfits in the land of Exandria.
The Legend of Vox Machina
This show started out as an animated adaptation of a very long-running web series where a bunch of nerdy voice actors play Dungeons and Dragons. (Yes, I memorized the tagline.) But for the purposes of this blog, I’m looking at how the team in the animated series inspired hope in a time when hope is very hard to come by.
The mercenaries that make up Vox Machina are way more chaotic, crass, and dysfunctional than the Fellowship of the Ring. At the very first episode, the druid Keyleth even questions why they’re still together when they have nothing in common. Vax and Vex only look out for themselves and their own needs, Pike and Keyleth have morals that conflict with the rest of the group, Grog and Scanlan both act as the “id” of the group with very basic motivations (ale and sex), and Percy treats everyone with disdain.
However, in spite of their differences, the team works well together. Vax and Vex act as the leaders, keeping everyone in line and encouraging them, albeit in very unorthodox ways. Vax has an ongoing competitive rivalry with Grog, akin to Legolas and Gimli’s friendly rivalry. Grog and Pike have basically been friends forever and Grog’s straightforward honesty helps Pike with realizing that she can still serve the Everlight and still be a part of Vox Machina (as crass as they are). Scanlan gets the chance to prove that he’s more than a joke by going off on his own to distract Duke Vedmire, one of the baddies living in Whitestone. Vax helps Keyleth with her confidence issues.
The best example of Vox Machina’s unlikely but heartwarming bond is how they all decide to help Percy once Lord and Lady Briarwood enter the picture. Percy spends most of the season keeping Vox Machina at arms length as a coping mechanism. Since Percy already lost his family to the very sudden and violent coup that the Briarwoods pulled, he doesn’t let anyone else in for fear of losing anyone else.
Percy was focused on one thing and one thing only: Vengeance for the death of his family.
The animated series starts off with Vox Machina taking down a dragon, but this very typical fairy tale task was no easy feat. In fact, their first encounter with the dragon was a near-disaster, leading to the dragon desecrating an entire village. Thankfully, with a bit of ingenuity, the team manages to slay the dragon and avenge the deaths of the villagers.
The real arc, however, begins when Lord and Lady Briarwood come to Emon. As soon as I realized that the Briarwoods were vampires, I screamed with excitement. Vampire hunting is one of my favorite things, after all. But what really made it compelling were the personal stakes: Percy’s vendetta was against the Briarwoods.
The party journeys to Percy’s hometown of Whitestone, which has a very bleak aesthetic due to the Briarwoods taking the town over. Much like Star Wars, however, there’s a band of residents who act as the Resistance. Percy is quickly tasked with rallying the Resistance members, as he is the only surviving member of the De Rolo’s who’s out of reach from the Briarwoods.
There are two moments in The Legend of Vox Machina that inspire hope for me. Both of them came from the episode “The Tide of Bone,” which is my favorite episode of the season.
The first moment is when Percy decides to rise to the occasion, just as everyone has their backs to the Sun Tree as an army of undead surrounds them. This is the first and only time thus far that Percy ever used his full name. (In the livestream, Taliesen introduced Percy with the full name every time they met someone.)
The other moment I wanted to share is, well, basically a deus ex machina/divine intervention. But Vox Machina made it work:
Even though Pike was separated from her friends, she found her resolve. She realized that she loved her friends and that being a bit chaotic wasn’t in conflict with her job as a cleric for The Everlight. Pike becomes the hope that Whitestone needed, inspiring the rest of Vox Machina into fighting back.
The entire arc in Whitestone shows instances of the members of Vox Machina rising to the occasion. Before the battle at the Sun Tree, Scanlan succeeded in distracting Duke Vedmire while the rest of the team rescued Percy’s sister, Cassandra. Grog helps the team escape from an acid trap. Vex holds the team together, even when her brother is charmed by the Briarwoods and taken away. When the team finally takes on the Briarwoods at the Ziggurat, Keyleth unleashes her full potential and literally lets the sunshine in, destroying Silas.
The Legend of Vox Machina was one of the few things that made me smile this year. As of now, I’m deep into Critical Role. I’ve watched the Vox Machina adventures up until the end of the Briarwood Arc and now I’m enjoying myself with the misadventures of the Mighty Nein.
Something I love about the Mighty Nein thus far is just how relatable they feel. The members of Vox Machina eventually became, well, the stuff that legends speak of. The members of the Mighty Nein all have mysterious pasts and live in less of a fantasy world a la Lord of the Rings and more of a Game of Thrones style kingdom, even with all the fantasy elements. The land of Wildmount is a lot more barbaric and harsh with an Empire and lots of underground criminal activity. And yet I still find myself wishing I was adventuring with this ragtag bunch of misfits.
I’m not exactly sure what it is about the Mighty Nein that inspires hope. It might be because they’re aware of the powers that be and have the potential to bring down establishments. It might just be because they’re full of puns. But regardless, I’m having a very good time.