“Those Who Walk Away” begins with a flashback to Vex and Vax escaping a hoard of bandits. In the present, Pike and Cash perform a resurrection ritual, but the Matron of Ravens doesn’t allow it, coming to claim Vex for her own. Vax demands to be taken instead; Vex awakens and draws breath as Vax finds himself wearing the vestige. Enraged at being beaten to it, Zara creates a monster that turns the team to stone one at a time. Cash won’t abide this, intervening in the battle. Once the monster is vanquished, the Take goes their own way, but not before apologizing. And Zara gifts Vex with the device that held the beast.
In “Pass Through Fire,” a flashback sees Keyleth’s mother off on the journey to her Aramenti. In the present, the group journeys near Pyra, one of the last places her mother was seen alive. However, Vax insists they can’t stop there as Tal Dorei depends on them. Keyleth heads off on her own after learning that the people of Pyra are in danger. She finds her father and joins him to close the volcano portal the dragons came through. Keyleth enters the portal and destroys the dragons, saving Pyra and achieving the fire portion of her Aramenti.
“Into Rimecleft” finds Grog in a gladiatorial battle, slaying enemies left and right. However, they turn out to be the rest of Vox Machina. He wakes up from the nightmare and moves the sword away from Pike. The party ventures up a mountain to the place Vax saw in his vision. Inside they find the second sphinx, and he challenges them to wound him. Everyone fails to hurt him through combat, but Scanlan succeeds by singing a love song about Osysa. Vox Machina is given Mythcarver, a vestige sword that can lead them to the other vestiges. One of the dragons charges in, having followed the band. He kills the second sphinx and takes the vestige. However, Grog attacks and holds him at bay momentarily. Keyleth prepares a portal, and Pike encourages Grog to join them, but he accidentally strikes her with the bloodthirsty sword.
I’m loving the backstory on characters like Keyleth and the twins this season. We even learn where Vex got Trinket, her pet bear/battle companion. When young Vax rescues his sister from her captors, they find a dying bear and kill her out of mercy. Trinket was her cub, and the siblings take the now-orphaned creature with them. This is a nitpick, and I may even be wrong, but wouldn’t a mother animal fight for her life to protect her baby/babies? Once it became clear that the wounded animal had a cub, I was retroactively shocked that she gave up so easily. Regardless, it’s an emotionally affecting scene that plays out perfectly. My immediate thought about the flashbacks is that young Vex is nothing like her self-assured, sarcastic adult self. However, I think that’s actually for the better and allows us to imagine how she’s grown over the years. I’m reminded of young Leia in Obi-Wan Kenobi and how, despite being 10 years old, she was already as stubborn and righteous as she would be a decade later. I don’t believe in child characters like that; it doesn’t ring true. Real children don’t behave like that, so I feel a disconnect seeing it on-screen. Bravo to Critical Role for taking the more difficult, more honest route.
Vax’s visions about Purvon are interesting, to say the least. I may rewatch the episodes to get a better grasp on what he sees. In Keyleth’s starring episode, “Pass Through Fire,” we learn she’s an Air Ashari. There are fire, earth, and water Ashari, and this, coupled with Keyleth’s mastery of elemental manipulation, made me think, “She’s the Avatar!” In all seriousness, I’m aware that druids have always been connected to wildlife and the elements. The animators did a great job designing Keyleth’s mom; on the wide shot of her leaving home, I thought she was Keyleth! But up close, you can see they look similar but not identical. When Keyleth says, “I’m an Air Ashari like my mother before me,” I wasn’t sure if I should groan or cheer. I appreciate what I assume was a Star Wars reference, but it was a little on the nose for my taste. The main thing elevating season 2 for me is this focus on the ensemble. Season 1 only focused on Percy and some on Pike’s spiritual journey, and I found that disappointing. One of the benefits of a larger cast, especially in a TV format, is the ability to explore what makes them unique and special, really explain why joining a party is better than questing alone. As an aside, I like Vax and Keyleth’s new looks courtesy of the Matron of Ravens and Pyra, respectively.
That brings me to Scanlan, easily my least favorite member of Vox Machina to this point. Ironically, he is probably the most like my own Dungeons and Dragons character, a lovesick fighter who shoots her shot with everyone. Scanlan is the show’s comic relief, and I don’t like his sense of humor. He always goes for the low-hanging fruit. And he’s always hooking up with people, but he does it seemingly for carnal pleasure only. He doesn’t seem to care much about any of his conquests. But that’s precisely what “Into Rimecleft” addresses, as the second sphinx forces him to consider his bond with Osysa. This whole sequence is really well done, and in just one episode, they made me care about the sphinxes and their love. It’s so sad when he falls at the end, much more than Pike, who we know won’t really die. Vex was revived, and Keyleth’s dad was revived. I have a hard time believing any significant characters or their families will die after all this. But the sphinx sacrificed himself to protect his new friend Scanlan, which makes me want to give the little creep another chance, too.
Case in point: Alura (Indira Varma) and Kima (Stephanie Beatriz) are alive and well in Pyra. How is it Alura’s fault Thordak escaped? She explains that she helped trap him, but that doesn’t justify her claim that she’s to blame for his reign of terror. This could be guilt she’s unnecessarily putting on herself, but nobody questions this or reassures her. Speaking of Alura, I didn’t know (or didn’t remember?) that she and Kima were a couple. This show has too many gay/bi characters. We already had Gilmore, Vax, and Scanlan. I don’t have any problem with this type of character/representation, but I don’t even know that many gay people in my personal life. Scanlan is canonically bi, and we can assume Vax is because of his interest in Keyleth and involvement with Gilmore. Vax doesn’t annoy me like Scanlan, though, because he doesn’t talk about it constantly or use it as a crux for jokes.
Finally, we have Grog’s sword problems. His sword hungers for blood and threatens his friends, especially Pike if no blood is supplied. I see a parallel between Grog being chosen by the sword and Vax being selected by the Matron/vestige. Another ongoing thread this season has been that Grog doesn’t know where his strength comes from. They shot down the trite “from the heart,” so unless it’s his friends, I don’t know where they’re going with this. Grog’s race, or at least some faction of them, will evidently be the villains for the next three-episode arc. I’m very interested in how that goes.
This week’s episodes continue the trend of focusing on the characters and fleshing them out. There are also some lovely shots, like the building Vax sees in his visions. I would like more details on certain story beats, like Alura’s story about imprisoning Thordak. But overall, I think this is a strong trio.
I would like more details on certain story beats, like Alura's story about imprisoning Thordak. But overall, I think this is a strong trio.