by Xin Lin
In a world of exploration, Marco Polo is a famous household name; he is
credited for introducing Europeans to Asia and documenting the
experience in his novel, Book of the Marvels of the World. His book is
famous for inspiring many other explorers to seek fame and future
through traveling. When we think about Marco Polo, we see an old man,
aged by his adventures. He would be missing a few teeth but still have a
kind smile that would reach his eyes.
The Netflix reimagined version of Marco Polo is a stark juxtaposition of
that. He is young and brash and still has a few things to learn. The
series sets off with Kublai Khan and his Mongol army attempting once
again to invade Xiang Yang, a province of China still ruled by the Song
Dynasty. Marco, his father and his uncle are travelling through a Song
village that was pillaged by the Khan when the Mongol army finds them
and they are escorted away in chains to see the Khan. Marco becomes the
indentured servant of Kublai Khan, and he must stay in the Khan's court
until he is dismissed.
As premises go, it is an interesting story. What makes this show
exceptional is that it doesn't hold back and it never apologizes to the
audience. Kublai Khan is ruthless, he is feared in many places and he
isn't afraid to kill those who do his work when they do not follow his
rules. Benedict Wong doesn't hold back any punches in his performance;
he delivers each line with thundering grace.
Marco Polo has an extensive cast that work together to tell a beautiful
story. Joan Chen as Empress Chabi and wife to Kublai Khan is beautiful
and delivers warmth in her speech to her husband and son; however, she
is cold to those that would do her family injustice. She has a power
that can never be taken away from her. Remy Hii is amazing in his
performance as Prince Jingim, the son of the Khan who was raised
Chinese. Prince Jingim and Ahmad (played by Mahesh Jadu), despite not
being real brothers have a brotherly bond that is irreplaceable.
Everyone has a role to play in the court of the Khan.
Against the Khan, we have Chancellor Jia Sidao (played by Chin Han) who
is cold and calculating. He is hungry for power, he will do everything
in is power to save his country and especially himself. The fight
between the two is intense; however, what makes it better is that the
two never see each other face to face. They battle through wit and the
armies at their disposal.
Along with the show's storyline, each character has their own storyline
that makes the show truly worth-watching. Marco Polo isn't afraid of its
audience and it isn't afraid of showing us heart wrenching scenes to
make us leap out of our seats in anger. All in all, I would give this a
must watch and 4.5 out of 5 Wolfies.