TV Review The Legend of Vox Machina (Season 1)

The Legend of Vox Machina

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Hey dungeon crawlers it’s me, Slick Dungeon. I spent this weekend finally binging my way through the animated hit on Amazon Prime The Legend of Vox Machina. If you don’t know, this show is based off of the hit live play world of Critical Role. Critical Role is basically a Dungeons & Dragons live play game where a bunch of notable voice actors get together to supremely nerd out and roll some dice. That show proved so insanely popular the cast members decided to make a kickstarter to fund an animation project about their characters. It was one of the fastest funded projects at the time. Brandon Sanderson has, of course, obliterated that record in the last week but it was fun while it lasted.

Anyway, this is a review of the show, not a history of how the show came to be. Before I go any further, I should mention there will be spoilers in this review. If you haven’t watched this show go watch it and come back here. Of course, if you are a fan of Critical Role, it’s a little hard to spoil this show because you probably watched it happen already.

Still with me? Good. So, what do you need to know about this show? First, since I often publish posts related to tabletop role playing with kids, I need to make it clear that, while this show is animated, it is not suitable for younger kids. Critical Role never claimed to be for kids and this show is about as adult as you can get in animation. I don’t think this is a problem with the show in any way, I just want to make sure my readers are aware of it.

Unlike most other cartoons, Vox Machina does not take the time to go through and introduce each character one at a time. Rather, the world is set up in moments, showing us a heroic adventuring party ready to fight evil who get instantly demolished by a huge dragon. Then we cut to Vox Machina getting into a good ol’ tavern brawl and generally acting like a bunch of buffoons.

It’s fun and hilarious and sets the perfect tone for the whole show. We don’t need to be introduced to the team because they need no introduction. Some of the characters even question why they hang out together at all in the first place. As a long time D&D player, that’s a very D&D question.

If you love fantasy but haven’t really watched Critical Role or played Dungeons & Dragons you will still very likely enjoy this show. There are all of the fantasy elements you could want. There’s vicious antagonists, heroic deeds, and a gnome polymorphed into a triceratops. I’m not sure how much better it gets than that. However, if you don’t enjoy fantasy or Dungeons & Dragons this really may not be for you. You do get more out of it if you play D&D or at least watch Critical Role but it’s not going to be for everyone.

The cast is top notch voice acting perfection. The show features the main cast of Critical Role, Matt Mercer, Marisha Rey, Ashley Johnson, Laura Bailey, Taliesin Jafee, Liam O’brien, Sam Riegel and Travis Willingham. If you’ve watched a cartoon or played a video game in the last ten years you have heard at least one of their voices before. But on top of that there are some notable guest voices. The three that come to mind are David Tennet who you may remember (you definitely remember) as the Tenth Doctor in Doctor Who, Khary Payton who plays Ezekiel on The Walking Dead and is the voice of Cyborg in a number of animated DC projects, and Dominic Monaghan who you either know from the show Lost or definitely know as Merry from The Lord of the Rings movies.

Like with any show, animated or not, there are some stronger and some weaker episodes and story arcs. In this first season, Percy, played by Taliesin Jafee gets a pretty epic story here. Grogg, played by Travis Willingham and Scanlan played by Sam Riegel both get great moments in battle as well as some hilarious comedy on the side. Keyleth played by Marisha Rey gets to re-do a key moment from the live stream of Critical Role and it works much better in the animated show. She also has a couple of moments that look like they will feed into the next season but there are times she is underused. The elf twins Vax and Vex played by Liam O’brien and Laura Bailey respectively get a few good moments but are overall in the background. In my mind the character who shines the least here is Pike played by Ashley Johnson. She’s not a bad character by any means and what she does in the show matters greatly to the overall plot but it gets fairly metaphysical and is simply not the most compelling storyline, especially compared to what else is happening in the show. Yet, I would say this show would hit five stars for me if there was less screen time with Pike’s character. It just wasn’t quite compelling enough.

There are incredible moments in this show and the animation is fantastic. It’s the right blend of detailed backgrounds and clean lines on the characters. It lends itself to believability while not taking itself too seriously either. And there are moments of horror which are fairly terrifying, even in animated form.

While this show is not going to appeal to everyone, there is more than enough here to keep most viewers coming back for more. I’d sort of like to see a full length animated movie with the same characters because it is a little odd watching this in 30 minute chunks. I also wished they could have used the intro from Critical Role in this show but it doesn’t really make sense here so I can’t really blame them for that.

If you need a good adult oriented fantasy cartoon to binge this is an excellent choice as long as you don’t mind a bit of crude humor and absurdity to go along with it.

Critically yours,

Slick Dungeon

TV Review Archive 81 (Episode 8)

Archive 81

Hello horror fans, it’s me, Slick Dungeon. I’ve finally made it through the last episode of the Netflix hit horror show Archive 81 and I am here to give the episode and the whole series my final thoughts. Just in case you have not yet finished the whole series yourself do be warned I may be spoiling the entire show for you. If you haven’t watched it, give it a view and then read my reviews.

Alright, now that we have that business taken care of let’s talk about this final episode. Throughout the show Dan and Melody have been on opposite ends of a timeline. Dan is in our present and Melody is in 1994. We’ve been watching events that connect the two through archived footage Melody shot and Dan is restoring.

There’s a lot more backstory to it but basically, there is a cult who wants to open a door into an alternate dimension and doesn’t really care who they have to hurt to make that happen. Twice in the show we’ve seen the ritual to make this happen and we know both times things did not go as planned.

Dan feels a strong connection to Melody and realizes she’s stuck in this alternate reality. This final episode deals with Dan attempting to bring Melody back. I guess if you’ve seen a ritual fail twice, the logical thing to do is try it again? Anyway, that’s Dan’s idea. Considering this is a horror show where weird things happen I don’t think any one is surprised when *spoiler* things go poorly. Dan essentially ends up switching places with Melody and he ends up in 1994. Melody is saved which is one thing the audience was rooting for the entire time but of course we didn’t want to see Dan stuck. Ah well, things happen I guess.

While I think some of the episodes of this show were exceptionally good, especially the early episodes, I don’t think the show reached the level of great. If you are a horror or suspense fan there are definitely worse shows to watch. This is a good show for a weekend binge but I wouldn’t get too invested in it. If they come out with a second season I doubt I will care enough to watch. But on the other hand I don’t regret the time I spent watching it at all. I don’t feel like the show cheated me of anything. The acting is really solid throughout the show and it’s able to take itself seriously without getting bogged down in the ridiculous. There are one or two twists which are genuinely surprising but the end of the show isn’t anything we haven’t seen before. While clever, it’s not amazing.

If you’ve watched this whole show, I’m curious what you thought of it. Was it worth the time or do you wish you had watched something else? Also, if you know of a great show (especially horror or suspense) I should check out next give me your recommendations in the comments.

Horrifically yours,

Slick Dungeon

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TV Review Archive 81 (Episode 7)

Archive 81

Hello horror fanatics and aficionados, it’s me, Slick Dungeon, back to review the penultimate episode of the Netflix horror hit Archive 81. There may be spoilers for the first seven episodes in this review so if that sort of thing bothers you go watch the show first and then come back to read.

The first six episodes of this show really tell us the story of Dan who is in our present and Melody who is in the 1990’s. Throughout the story we’ve been getting little tidbits of a cult that seems to have taken up residence at a place called the Visser building, once an old manor and then an apartment building in New York city. While the portions of Melody’s story would still be considered somewhat of a period piece, the seventh episode goes the furthest back in time so far all the way to 1924 to become a proper period piece. We get more context of the videos Dan has been restoring from that era which were a series of shows called the Circle. Turns out the circle was a straight up cult who seems to worship a demon/alien/god or something tied up with a comet.

I’ve said all along this show is going to hinge on its final episode for me but again if it is aliens, I’m kind of over it. Still, whatever this thing is, strange things are definitely happening and we’re about to get the really big reveals in the next episode. The show has done a good job maintaining the tone and the pace enough to make this fairly interesting and this episode still delivers but I’m not sure it’s as impactful as the makers of the show would like. Because we’ve been seeing what Dan sees and experiencing what Melody experiences, it was already pretty clear there is a cult involved and at least one of the shocking moments is not shocking because, well, we already saw it in the restored footage.

Whether or not the show can wrap all this up in an interesting way remains to be seen but I’m looking forward to the final episode to see how it ends.

Horrifically yours,

Slick Dungeon

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TV Review Archive 81 (Episode 6)

Archive 81

Hey TV bingers, it’s me Slick Dungeon. I’m back to review the sixth episode of the horror hit Archive 81 currently streaming on Netflix. Just a fair warning that there could be spoilers for any of the first six episodes of this show in this review. If you’re all caught up or you simply don’t care about spoilers, feel free to read on!

For the first five episodes of this show things have gotten increasingly strange. Melody is in the past trying to find out what might have happened to her mother at a building called the Visser. Dan is restoring footage with Melody on it in a remote location. Dan does have some access to the outside world and Melody is free to leave the Visser any time she wants. Yet their fates are intertwined and Dan and Melody seem to somehow be communicating through time. Through it all strange and horrifying things keep happening. Any time Dan or Melody explain what is going on they sound downright disturbed mentally.

Thus we reach the sixth episode where everyone becomes exceedingly hysterical. The episode begins this time with footage of what looks like an old film of a show Dan has been restoring called The Circle which is also the name of this episode. Melody wakes up in an unfamiliar apartment without any recollection of how she got there or who’s apartment it is.

The bulk of the episode is spent with Melody who is understandably freaked out, especially considering her friend is missing and she saw someone jump to their death the night before. As she goes on her quest to find more answers she seems more and more like she’s wildly out of control but of course the audience knows she is completely sane.

Dan, meanwhile stumbles onto some tapes made by the last guy who tried to restore the same videos he is working on. Let’s just say it seems like it didn’t go well for that guy. This does reinforce for us that Dan is also sane but sounds like he is not when he describes what is going on to his friend on the outside.

The show does feel like it’s starting to come to a bit of a conclusion as we seem to know at least who all the key figures are. Exactly what they want and how they are attempting to accomplish getting that remain a mystery. And as in most of the episodes there is a big twist at the end. I won’t spoil it here but it does have something to do with the footage Dan has been watching and some of the footage we saw very early on in the series.

It’s a little hard to tell if it’s possible but this episode does leave the audience hoping Dan could somehow save Melody even though that should be completely impossible.

There are only a few more episodes to go and I still think this whole show hinges entirely on the last episode. If they can tie things up and connect the story this could be a great show. If not, then there are some great episodes but it might not be worth a full watch. We’ll just have to wait and see.

Horrifically yours,

Slick Dungeon

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TV Review Archive 81 (Episode 5)

Archive 81

Hello internet world, it’s me, Slick Dungeon. I’ve just finished watching the fifth episode of the horror hit Archive 81 which is currently streaming on Netflix. I’ll be talking about this episode and the episodes before it so fair warning there may be spoilers below. Otherwise, put your cameras down, lock yourself in a secluded archive and come along with me for the review!

This episode is almost fully focused on Melody and we don’t really see Dan until the very end. Much improved from the last episode, there are fewer horror tropes we’ve all seen, although some still exist. Melody continues her pursuit to find out what happened to her mother and once again the episode opens with a bit of television. This time it’s a news report about someone getting hit by a train. This does come into play later but I won’t spoil why in this review.

The mood and atmosphere increases in creepiness this time as Melody desperately tries to find out what happened to her friend. To find out she has to go to the sixth floor of the Visser, which, of course, was the floor she was warned to stay away from in the very first episode. I thought I had an idea of what might be going on but I was completely wrong. The fact it wasn’t what I was thinking was a refreshing development.

Melody is getting more desperate and her behavior, to an outsider, would seem erratic and like she might be capable of doing a lot of strange things. As the audience, we know she’s sane and there are just strange things happening all around her. She gets some vital information about one of the tenants of the building, which I won’t spoil here but let’s just say, it’s a pretty big reveal.

The last ten minutes of this episode are totally what make it worth watching. There’s a huge reveal and a bit twist which just makes everything more complicated.

I will say this about this show. It’s good at slowly doling out complicating factors and having decent twists. However, if the end is lackluster, that could definitely sink the show overall. I hope their final episodes will keep up the weirdness without succumbing to something like Lost where too many things were simply left unexplained. In order to do that they are going to have to fit a lot in to the next few episodes. We’ll see where it goes.

Horrifically yours,

Slick Dungeon

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TV Review Archive 81 (Episode 4)

Archive 81

Hello fellow horror people, it’s me, Slick Dungeon. I’m back to review the fourth episode of the Netflix horror hit Archive 81. We’ve reached the halfway mark so just be warned if you have not watched the series there may be spoilers for the entire first half of it in this post.

This episode is titled Spirit Receivers and if that made you think there may be spirits or seances or other ghostly things in the episode, well, you win the big stuffed teddy bear, because you are right.

Dan is continuing to restore footage Melody shot in the Visser building. We know now that she is looking for her mother and it seems Melody has shown up to talk to Dan a few times. This should be impossible considering she’s dead and all. With the first three episodes it hadn’t been clear whether or not Dan is hallucinating or dreaming all these interactions with Melody.

In the past Melody is still investigating what the people in this building who seem to be part of a cult ritual are actually doing. She’s not getting very far with that until she is invited to a party by one of the stranger characters in the building. And if you’re thinking strange character plus party equals seance where weird things happen, you get another teddy bear.

A lot of this episode falls into standard tropes of horror but there is one significant twist that might make this show stand out. After Dan has conversations with Melody, she or another character says things she and Dan said in their private conversations. While this is definitely weird for Melody, it should be impossible for Dan, considering Melody is definitely dead. Yet Dan realizes if he can warn Melody in time, maybe he can prevent this fire from ever happening. What’s interesting about this is it confirms Dan’s sanity but the moment he tells someone else about it, he sounds totally insane. And as the viewer we want to see Dan save Melody because they seem to be the nicest characters in the whole show.

In the background LMG, the company Dan is working for seems as nefarious as ever. And once again there is a significant twist at the end of the episode. Although, it’s not super surprising and it also falls into a horror trope. It will be interesting to see what the show does with it.

So far, I would say if you have not watched this show and you like horror and can stomach a bit of blood (you’ve almost definitely seen worse) this is worth checking out. But I will say this fourth episode to me was one of the weaker episodes overall because it does seem to rely on a lot of standard tropes.

I’m going to watch the whole show before I give final judgement but I would like to see the next episode pull the viewer in a little more.

Horrifically yours,

Slick Dungeon

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TV Review Archive 81 (Episode 3)

Archive 81

Hey horror fanatics it’s me Slick Dungeon, back to review another episode of the Netflix series Archive 81. Just a quick warning there may be spoilers for the first three episodes below so be warned before we get going.

The first episode set our story up with Dan being hired to restore videotapes found after a fire at a building called the Visser. Through these tapes we see the perspective of Melody who is doing a study of the residents of the building. The second episode ratcheted up the connection between the two characters by revealing *spoiler* Melody was being treated for mental health issues by Dan’s father. There is also the potential implication that the two of them possibly had an affair.

While watching these tapes Dan keeps seeing things that don’t make sense. He sees strange images at times, there is a song on the tapes he knows his sister played right before she died in a fire, and there seem to be times where Dan is almost talking directly to Melody.

In this episode, it gets weird. There are times as a viewer where we can’t tell if Dan is dreaming, hallucinating, or somehow actually seeing what it seems like he is seeing. We get more of the backstory of Melody in this episode and start to see that almost everyone at the Visser has something more going on than what it appears on the surface.

There is a subplot with a girl named Jess who seems to have some kind of seizures on a regular basis. While in real life when we would see this happen, we’d all probably have Melody’s reaction which is to want her taken to a doctor to be treated, this is a horror show, so there has to be more to it than that. There is a priest and Jess’ mother who seem to think exorcism is the right approach. There’s clearly some connection between the Visser, Jess, Melody, Dan and Dan’s father all happening at once but it’s still too early to say what it is.

I think one of the most interesting things about this series is that it’s kind of subverting the trope of someone being stuck in an isolated space where horror is happening. While Dan is largely on his own, and he knows this can be bad, the company he works for seems to have people watching him. They have cameras everywhere but they also have a groundskeeper woman who seems to know way more about what he is doing than she should.

This flips the script a bit because usually we want to scream at people to leave the location they are stuck in. Dan can actually leave, and does. But still, there’s something about these tapes and Melody that keep calling back to him. In addition, there were a couple of big reveals in this episode. I won’t get into them here just in case people haven’t watched this far but there was one story with Dan’s friend on the outside that really surprised me and again subverted expectations.

So far, this show is really clever and ratchets up the horror to a high degree without showing much gore or anything overly gruesome. I’m really curious where it will go next.

Horrifically yours,

Slick Dungeon

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TV Review Archive 81 (Episode 2)

Archive 81

Hey horror fans, it’s me, Slick Dungeon back to review the second episode of the hit horror series Archive 81 on Netflix. Be warned there will be some spoilers for episode one and two below. If you’re ready, set your camera down and take a look at the review below!

The first episode of this series did a good job of setting up a mystery with our main characters Dan and Melody. Dan is in our present while Melody is in our past. Melody was making a series of videos for an academic paper on a building called the Visser. Dan restores old film, video tapes, etc. for a career. Dan was hired by the mysterious group known as LMG to restore tapes recovered from a fire at the Visser.

This episode gets into strange territory, starting with a commercial for some kind of DNA tracing technology by a company called Wellspring. This also happens to be the name of the episode. The commercial was so realistic I honestly wondered for a moment if Netflix had suddenly begun putting ads in its shows.

The story moves forward with Dan restoring more tapes and us seeing flashbacks of Melody. On Dan’s end it’s clear people are watching him and he has limited access to the outside world. On Melody’s side she meets more of the residents of the building and let’s just say, they are far from normal. There definitely seems to be something under the surface that is out and out creepy. It’s too early to tell exactly what it is yet but definitely enough to make the viewer want to keep watching.

As the episode goes on we see more of a connection between Dan and Melody. They seem to be connected as Dan’s father has now shown up on the tapes. There is also a clear connection due to a song that Dan hears but is also showing up in the tapes with Melody.

Around the last third of the episode things get very bizarre for Melody and the threat of impending doom is palpable to the viewer.

This second episode is continuing the trend of having a pretty major reveal near the end. I’m not going to say what it is here but I can see why people have been binging this one. I’ll hold my judgement over the whole show until the end but so far the first two episodes have been well worth the time.

Horrifically yours,

Slick Dungeon

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TV Review – Archive 81 (Episode 1)

Archive 81

Hey movie fanatics, it’s me, Slick Dungeon, here to give a quick guide to the first episode of the hottest horror series on Netflix right now, Archive 81. There will be some mild spoilers below so be forewarned. I’ll be posting through the first season’s episodes but I have not seen past this first episode so let’s keep it spoiler light in the comments too okay?

Archive 81 is about an archivist named Dan who restores films, VHS tapes, basically any visual arts that use a film reel. He works for a film museum and one day he’s asked to restore an old VHS tape that has been damaged from a fire. We don’t know a lot about Dan other than he somehow lost his family and he at one point was, “feeling low” and has a friend who is concerned for his welfare. Soon into the episode the donor who asked for the video tape to be restored requests Dan come work for him in the Catskills where they have a collection of these VHS tapes. He’ll be secluded and on his own if he agrees though. The company hiring Dan seems a bit odd and the man who hires him seems to know way more than he should about Dan.

Of course, Dan agrees to go, and since this is a horror show, needless to say some strange things start happening. I don’t want to give too much of that away other than to say Dan is restoring tapes that focus on a building called the Visser. The tapes show him a woman named Melody who we can presume will be the focal point of the tapes and might provide clues as to what happened at the Visser.

It’s hard to judge a show from a first episode. Especially one that is meant to be totally bingeable and wants you to sit through eight hours of episodes. I still think it’s worth taking a look at each one on its own merits.

For a first episode, this one sets the tone quite nicely. There’s just enough odd going on that as a viewer you want to know what happens next. At the same time, it’s not giving so much away you see all the twists coming.

It’s clearly going to be weird but to my mind this whole series will end up making it or not based on the ending. I’m just going to say now if this has anything to do with aliens, I’m out. But so far, it has a lot of potential and I’d say it’s probably worth a watch.

Mysteriously yours,

Slick Dungeon

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TV Review – Ash vs Evil Dead (Episode 3)

Ash vs Evil Dead Season 1 Episode 3

Hey everyone, hope you all had a great Halloween. It’s me Slick Dungeon and I just watched the next episode in the Ash vs Evil Dead series. There are some spoilers for the episode below so fair warning.

The third episodes starts out with a mysterious woman driving a cool car who is willing to kill some deadites to find out where Ash is. That’s about all we know about her but obviously it looks like she’ll be an essential part of the show.

As soon as that is over we see Kelly, Pablo and Ash trying to get the book of the dead interpreted to put the army of the dead back where they belong. While trying to do this Ash decides the best idea would be to summon a demon who could tell them how to fix everything. He figures since the book already made things bad it can’t make things any worse. Or in his words, “It’s like spilling paint on a painting. It’s okay because there is already paint on it.” It’s lines like that which keep me watching this show.

You can bet things don’t go smoothly here but Ash, Kelly and Pablo do end up meeting up with Amanda, the cop who seems to know whaat is going on because she had to shoot her partner in the first episode. That doesn’t go so well either.

The show continues to be full of fun and entertaining comedy but I will say the special effects in this episode are not as good as the ones from the first two episodes. The demon that is summoned just doesn’t look as real as the people around it. I’m not expecting perfection here or anything and that is just a minor flaw in the otherwise solid episode but it does distract a bit.

Still, the plot and the comedy is certainly enough to keep me watching the series. So, until next time stay safe out there and don’t spill paint on any paintings.

Horrifically yours,

Slick Dungeon