With only six episodes left in the first season of The Legend of Vox Machina, the Briarwood Arc is moving through the story beats established during Campaign One of Critical Role. Episodes Seven, Eight, and Nine of the series cover some of the more bombastic moments of the original arc, with special mention going to the seventh episode for an epic moment I enjoyed watching during the live-stream.
Spoilers ahead, so don’t read this if you haven’t watched the episodes.
Episode Seven, titled “Scanbo”, picks up where the last episode left off. In order to create a distraction to draw the guards away from the home of Professor Anders, Scanlan Shorthalt (voiced by Sam Riegel) heads off on his own to attack the home of Duke Vedmire (who appeared briefly in episode six to torture Archie, the leader of the Whitestone resistance. Without much in the way of combat or sneaking abilities, Scanlan is quickly nabbed. But with the use of some magical potions, including one that induces fire-breathing, Scanlan is able to set Vedmire’s house on fire, leading to a confrontation with the Goliath monster. As can be expected, the fight is most definitely one-sided, since Scanlan is a gnome and nowhere near a physical match for the Duke. The entire sequence of Scanlan assaulting the manor was one of my favorites during the Briarwood Arc in the live-stream and the animation team at Titmouse (along with the writers) did not disappoint.
Quite a bit of the episode further explores Percy’s backstory, specifically how he invented the Pepperbox gun he uses (which fans of Campaign One recognize as The List). Percy’s premonition of the gun and his description of how he swore an oath to avenge his family are laying the seeds for the reveal of the reason behind Percy’s black smoke and black eyes. I won’t spoil that for anyone who hasn’t seen the live-stream but the reveal of what exactly is feeding on Percy’s vengeance is going to be fun to see.
Episode Eight, titled “A Silver Tongue”, starts immediately at the end of last episode, with Professor Anders having slit the throat of Percy’s sister Cassandra. Keyleth manages to save Cassandra using her magic while the rest of the group takes on Anders, who reveals a silver enchanted tongue that allows him to enthrall others. When the group manages to take down the animated armor pieces Anders first commanded, the Professor switches up to charming the minds of Vox Machina, eventually turning everyone against Percy. Only a trick shot that manages to take out Anders’ lower jaw and tongue saves the day for the party, with Percy mercilessly dispatching his former tutor for Anders betrayal of the De Rolo family.
There’s a reason the Critter fandom refers to Percy De Rolo as No Mercy Percy and this arc is what cemented that moniker among the fans.
Seeing the tide of events turning against them, Delilah Briarwood sacrifices her own steward in order to raise an army of undead from the graves of Whitestone, leading to a small-scale zombie apocalypse as the cliffhanger for the episode.
The final episode of the three released is titled “The Tide of Bone”. The opening of the episode reveals how Sylas and Delilah began their path into darkness. Stricken with an ailment that could not be healed, Sylas Briarwood dies, leaving his wife Delilah distraught. Turning to ancient, foul blood magic, Delilah is able to revive her beloved as a vampire, only to now become part of the Whispered One’s followers in return for this “grace”.
Over the previous episodes of the series, Pike Trickfoot has been attempting to contact her deity, the Everlight, to discover why she has lost access to her divine power. The Everlight revealed in the previous episode that Pike herself cut off her access to the power of the Everlight, largely because Pike could not reconcile the joy she felt carousing with Vox Machina and being a cleric of the Everlight. Having come to terms with who and what she is, Pike’s return to the group occurs at their most dire moment.
The pacing of this episode is intense from start to finish, with Vox Machina and the Whitestone Resistance constantly falling back against the seemingly endless hordes of undead summoned by Delilah Briarwood. The death of Archie, Percy’s childhood friend and the leader of the Resistance, is one of the hardest blows of the season, largely because the writers took the time to endear Archie to me over the course of his short time in the series. When all hope is nearly lost, the return of Pike signals a change in the fortunes of the group, turning the tide of battle and imbuing everyone with a sense of hope that had been whittled away by the battle with the undead.
The stage is set for the final three episodes of The Legend of Vox Machina. With the exception of some of the crass and puerile humor used during the course of the episodes so far, I’ve enjoyed this jaunt through Exandria and the adventures of Vox Machina. I’m looking forward to seeing how they conclude the Briarwood Arc and what further adventures they set up moving forward.
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