Thursday, 19 February 2015

TV Review: Marco Polo Season 1

I started watching Marco Polo because of a friend's recommendation. He described it was "Game of
Thrones in Historical China" and I have to admit I can see the comparison.

The story starts off with young Marco finally meeting his father and uncle, who had been away at sea since before Marco was born. Marco accompanies his father and uncle on their next journey and ends up at the court of Kublai Khan, Mongol emperor. Marco ends up being abandoned by his family and would have been a prisoner of the Khan, except for his pretty words and excellent observation skills. Marco rises through the Khan's court.

I enjoyed the first season of Marco Polo quite a bit. While it wasn't as good as Game of Thrones, that is a huge shadow to be in. Marco Polo combined court intrigue with complex imperial politics. There is backstabbing, forbidden romance, social climbing, attempted assassinations and family dynamics. While it occasionally made me feel stressed out, this is common for dramas with me and just means I have to limit myself to two episodes at once and no binge watching.

There is quite a cast of characters. My favourite is Hundred Eyes, the blind kung fu master. He is a bit of a cliche, but I really liked him as a character. My other favourite was Jia Sidao, generally the villain of the show. He is just the kind of character that you love to hate. Plus he had some weird thing with praying mantises, which was kind of cool. I also loved the casting they did for Kublai Khan. I think actor Benedict Wong does an awesome job.

The one part of the show that I didn't really enjoy was the Kokachin storyline. I just didn't understand the risks they started taking in the last part of the season and generally disliked the character, so it was hard for me to get invested in this storyline.

Overall, I would recommend giving Marco Polo a try if you have any interest in epics or political intrigue. I continue to be impressed by Netflix Originals, as I almost always find them interesting and well-produced.

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