Another week has gone by and another episode of Exandria Unlimited has been posted. This past week’s episode, “By The Road”, found the party of glorious idiots (and I use that term with love and affection for the characters) encountering a dark reflection of one of their own, picking up a new companion, and finding their way to the hometown of one of the player characters.
Spoilers ahead, so don’t read if you haven’t watched the episode.
My heart goes out to Aabria Iyengar for the work she has to put in during a game session, particularly since she has committed players who absolutely play to both the strengths and flaws of their characters. Dariax is one example, with Matt Mercer going full tilt into the complete lack of smarts his character possesses. The opening sequence involving the cart the party “acquired” from Gilmore’s Glorious Goods (dubbed The Glitter Sh*tter since it disperses glitter in its wake) and trying to wrangle the horses is what you can and will see in a tabletop game. Since much of the success or failure of an action is up to the roll of the dice, you can have resounding success. Or you could frighten the pair of horses drawing the cart, which then requires everyone involved in trying to prevent the cart from going completely off the road and into further disaster.
The scenes later on involving a dark reflection of Fearne (played with saccharine sweetness by Ashley Johnson) was interesting from a storytelling perspective. The version of Fearne that steps out of the portal to the Feywild wears the Circlet of Barbed Vision and she is thoroughly corrupted, seeking to harm the party of adventurers to ensure the future where she comes into existence. I like this story beat on Aabria’s part, mainly because it shows the group what could potentially happen if one of them starts using the Circlet. As covered in my previous recap, the Vestige of Divergence known as the Circlet of Barbed Vision is imbued with power from one of the evil deities in this game setting. Power like that can have a strong corruptive influence on a person, as we have seen countless times in real life. Whether the party pays attention to this ominous warning or not is a different story (and given the party’s general lack of common sense, I’d say it’s likely they won’t consider it for a moment).
During the confrontation with Dark Fearne, a new companion joins the group: Fy’ra Rai, a Fire Genasi Monk who joins in the fight on the side of the party. Fy’ra is portrayed by Anjali Bhimani, who has been involved in actual play sessions for Critical Role before, most notably in the mini-series UnDeadwood (which I would heartily recommend checking out). Anjali brings a calm, stoic air to Fy’ra, which contrasts sharply with the party (who are more often than not hapless in the face of the dangers they’re now encountering). I’m not sure how long Anjali’s character will stay with the party (most guest spots like this are for two or three episodes at most) but I’m enjoying seeing how she interacts with the others, particularly Aimee Carrero’s Opal.
Speaking of Opal, the continued back-and-forth between Opal and her sister Ted reached a climax after the encounter with Dark Fearne. While Opal continued her stubborn refusal to apologize, Ted acquiesced after Opal went down in the fight, returning the Warlock’s powers. The mystery on how Ted and Opal came to be bonded in this way is still unknown. My belief, given what we find out later, is that Ted sacrificed herself for her sister in some way, leading to Opal becoming a Warlock and gaining access to magic in the process.
The remainder of the episode is spent in Byroden, the party’s last stop before reaching the Qoniira ruins that Gilmore sent them to find. They arrive just in time for a festival and pageant. Some of the party decide to enter the pageant. To make sure everyone can be involved, Aabria made sure to hand out cards to everyone with the names of Non-Player Characters that would be entering the pageant, giving everyone a chance to participate even if their primary character wouldn’t for whatever reason. Anjali and Liam both end up playing an NPC and have an absolute ball with them. The entire sequence, which takes up the better part of the final hour and change of the episode, is exactly what makes Dungeons and Dragons so much fun. This isn’t a massive combat encounter or puzzle to fret over. It’s a chance for the players to stretch their creativity, coming up with interesting scenes their characters would engage in. If you watch only a portion of Episode 4, this would be the section I’d suggest watching, if only to get some great laughs out of the exploits of everyone involved.