Marco Polo (TV series)
|Created by||John Fusco|
|Theme music composer||Daniele Luppi|
|Ending theme||Altan Urag|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||2|
|No. of episodes||20 + 1 special (list of episodes)|
|Running time||51–60 minutes|
|Production company(s)||The Weinstein Company TV|
|Distributor||Netflix Streaming Services|
|Picture format||1080i (HDTV), 2160p (4K UHD)|
|Audio format||Dolby Digital 5.1|
|Original release||December 12, 2014 –|
July 1, 2016
Marco Polo is an American drama web television series inspired by Marco Polo's early years in the court of Kublai Khan, the Khagan of the Mongol Empire and the founder of the Yuan dynasty (1271–1368). The show premiered on Netflix on December 12, 2014. The series was written and created by John Fusco and stars Lorenzo Richelmy in the title role with Benedict Wong as Kublai Khan. The series was produced by The Weinstein Company. On January 7, 2015, Marco Polo was renewed by Netflix for a 10-episode second season, which premiered on July 1, 2016.
On December 12, 2016, Netflix announced they had canceled Marco Polo after two seasons. Sources told The Hollywood Reporter that the series' two seasons resulted in a $200 million loss for Netflix, and the decision to cancel the series was jointly taken by Netflix and The Weinstein Company.
Cast and characters
|Lorenzo Richelmy||Marco Polo||Main|
|Benedict Wong||Kublai Khan||Main|
|Joan Chen||Empress Chabi||Main|
|Remy Hii||Crown Prince Jingim||Main|
|Zhu Zhu||Nergui / Princess Kokachin||Main|
|Tom Wu||Li Jinbao a.k.a. "Hundred Eyes"||Main|
|Olivia Cheng||Jia Mei Lin||Main|
|Rick Yune||Kaidu Khan||Main|
|Pierfrancesco Favino||Niccolò Polo||Main|
|Amr Waked||Vice Regent Yusuf||Main||Does not appear|
|Chin Han||Chancellor Jia Sidao||Main||Guest|
|Claudia Kim||Princess Khutulun||Recurring||Main|
|Jacqueline Chan||Shabkana Khatun||Does not appear||Main|
|Ron Yuan||Prince Nayan||Does not appear||Main|
|Leonard Wu||Prince Orus||Does not appear||Main|
|Michelle Yeoh||Lotus||Does not appear||Main|
|Thomas Chaanhing||Gerel Khan||Does not appear||Main|
|Chris Pang||Arban Khan||Does not appear||Main|
|Gabriel Byrne||Pope Gregory X||Does not appear||Main|
|Chloe Luthi & Jaime Chew +||Princess Ling Ling||Recurring|
|Max Kellady||Emperor Gong of Song||Recurring|
|Esther Low||Princess Kokachin||Guest||Recurring|
|Tan Kheng Hua||Empress Dowager Xie Daoqing||Recurring||Does not appear|
|Patrick Teoh||General Red Brow||Recurring||Does not appear|
|Lawrence Makoare||Za Bing||Recurring||Does not appear|
|Nicholas Bloodworth||Tulga||Recurring||Does not appear|
|Shu An Oon||Jing Fei||Recurring||Does not appear|
|Vanessa Vanderstraaten||Princess Sorga||Recurring||Does not appear|
|Corrado Invernizzi||Maffeo Polo||Recurring||Does not appear|
|Baljinnyamyn Amarsaikhan||Ariq Böke||Recurring||Does not appear|
|Jason Chong||General Kasar||Does not appear||Recurring|
|Daniel Tuiara||Sukh||Does not appear||Recurring|
+ Luthi portrays Ling Ling in season 1, Chew in season 2.
The series was originally developed at Starz, which had picked up the series in January 2012. After attempts to film in China failed, the project was released back to The Weinstein Company. Netflix then picked up the series for a 10-episode season, for approximately $90 million, making it one of the most expensive TV shows in the world, second to Game of Thrones. The project was officially announced at Netflix in January 2014. Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg serve as executive producers and directed the pilot and second episodes, "The Wayfarer" and "The Wolf and the Deer", respectively. The series was filmed in Kazakhstan, Italy, and at Pinewood Studios in Malaysia, not to mention at outdoor locations in Malaysia, particularly tropical wilderness, as well as Slovakia and Hungary. Kazakhstan doubled as the steppes of Mongolia, Malaysia was the base of operations as well as serving as a location, Hungary provided a setting for Renaissance Rome, and Slovakia provided some mountain settings for Season 2.
During his extensive research, show creator John Fusco traveled the Silk Road by horseback and also crossed the Ming Sha Dunes of Western China on camel. In Venice, Italy he sought out and studied the Last Will and Testament of Marco Polo. While some Mongolian viewers and experts view it as "riddled with historical errors", many have praised the series. Orgil Narangerel, who played Genghis Khan in a BBC documentary, said it was more accurate than any previous foreign portrayal of Mongolian culture. "As a Mongol and an artist, Marco Polo makes me feel like our dreams are coming true," he told AFP. "I watched all 10 episodes in just one day."
The series featured music by Mongolian bands Altan Urag and Batzorig Vaanchig of Asia's Got Talent, who cameoed as a singer. Daniele Luppi composed the main theme, whilst Peter Nashel and Eric V. Hachikian are composers of the original score.
|Title||Directed by||Written by||Original release date|
|1||1||"The Wayfarer"||Joachim Rønning & Espen Sandberg||John Fusco||December 12, 2014|
|After three years crossing seas, deserts and the Silk Road, a young Marco Polo finds himself a prisoner of the great Kublai Khan.|
|2||2||"The Wolf and the Deer"||Joachim Rønning & Espen Sandberg||John Fusco||December 12, 2014|
|Kublai learns of betrayal by his brother Ariq of Karakorum during the siege of the farming city of WuChang. As Kublai Khan battles his warmonger brother for rule over Mongolia. As the two great mongol armies are arrayed again each other, Kublai and Ariq face off mano-a-mano. Marco learns that justice in Khan's Imperial City is swift as it is deadly.|
|3||3||"Feast"||Alik Sakharov||Michael Chernuchin||December 12, 2014|
|Marco begins a dangerous relationship with the beautiful Blue Princess Kokachin as tensions grow between Kublai and Xiangyang's cunning Chancellor. From 100 eyes, Marco learns about Kung Fu, supreme skill from hard work, from practice, preparation, repetition comes mastery. The Chancellor demonstrates the power of Praying Mantis Kung Fu. The Song Chancellor sends the heads of Mongol warriors to the Khan. Marco finds out that Kokachin is the last of Bauyat tribe. His wife counsels Kublai to choose wisdom over wrath from WuChang. Marco wrestles with Khutulun at the feast. Jingim confronts Kublai about his humiliation at the feast. Kublai questions Marco who lies. Marco goes to the Kokachin tree but is attacked by a snake.|
|4||4||"The Fourth Step"||Alik Sakharov||Brett Conrad||December 12, 2014|
|As war looms with the walled city of Xiangyang, Prince Jingim tests his diplomacy skills with the Song while Kublai questions Marco's allegiance. Jia Sidao manipulates politics as the new king is only 5 years old. Marco Polo's father has returned. Marco asks his father for a sword to help Kokachin. Vice Regent Yusuf imprisons Marco and his father for smuggling. In chains they are brought to Kublai for stealing silk worms. Theft of silk worms is punishable by death. Silk Worms from Jiang Xi province. Kokachin prepares for escape. Prince Jingim successfully negotiates with the Chinese. Kublai lets Marco decide the punishment for his father's crime.|
|5||5||"Hashshashin"||Daniel Minahan||Patrick Macmanus||December 12, 2014|
|Marco searches for the mastermind behind a murderous plot, while Prince Jingim weighs the risks of retaliation. A group of three Hashshashin assassins infiltrates Kublai's palace and attempts to kill him, hit with scorpion poison. Hashshashin assassins trained by the old man in the mountain. Marco knows where the Hashshashin are and Prince Jingim orders a group to investigate. Kokachin advises Marco to run. Sabbah leads Byamba and Marco to a meeting with the old man of the mountain. The old man asks Marco to join them.|
|6||6||"White Moon"||Daniel Minahan||Dave Erickson||December 12, 2014|
|On the eve of an auspicious ceremony, Marco searches for the culprit behind the assassination attempted on Kublai Khan, even as a new one takes shape. Mei Lin attempts to assassinate the Mongol queen Chabi with poisoned lipstick, but instead kisses and kills one of the ladies in the harem. There is a celebration for Kublai upon his return to health, and Mei Lin tries to assassinate Chabi by force. But she fails and is captured. Brought before Kublai she claims she did it for Ling ling her daughter.|
|7||7||"The Scholar's Pen"||David Petrarca||Michael Chernuchin||December 12, 2014|
|Marco and Hundred Eyes take on a dangerous mission to infiltrate the walled city of Xiangyang, while its Chancellor struggles to hold on to power. Kublai asks Marco and 100 eyes to infiltrate XiangYang to kill Jia Sidao. Marco draws a plan of the city from inside the city; and 100 eyes tries to kill Jia but fails and escapes. Marco shows Kublai that there is a weak spot in the wall and that they should mobilize now. Khutulun allows herself to be bested by Byamba and begins as romance as they start to make war plans. Za Bing, Kokachin's bodyguard is killed by Tulgu. Kokachin shoots Tulgu with an arrow.|
|8||8||"Rendering"||John Maybury||Brett Conrad||December 12, 2014|
|When Kublai sets his sights — and his army — on the taking of the walled city of Xiangyang, Marco's allegiance is tested. The village of Wu Chang is taken which is the farming village and the primary supply town for XiangYang. Kublai arrives at Xiangyang and parleys with Jia. Jia thinks that the Mongol Queen Chabi is dead, but Kublai reveals that she is alive and well. Jia realizes that he has been lied to by Zhang Fei who commits suicide in front of Jia. Byamba informs Marco that Prince Jingim suspects Marco of plotting against Kublai. Marco befriends a prisoner, but they are all being cut up. He finds Kokachin in his tent who confesses that she is not a princess but a peasant girl that just happened to be in the palace when the Mongols invaded. She commits to Marco and the two consumate their relationship. Kublai attacks the seemingly weak wall, but it was a trap setup by Jia Sidao and arrows and burning oil are poured on the invaders as they are confined in a narrow wedge. Kublai gives word to retreat.|
|9||9||"Prisoners"||David Petrarca||Patrick Macmanus||December 12, 2014|
|Marco finds his fate in the hands of Kublai yet again. Meanwhile, behind the walls of Xiangyang, Chancellor Sidao sets his sights on regaining power. Marco is imprisoned by the Kublai and sentenced to death because of the Kulai's defeat by Jia's trap. Jingim visits him in his final hours and tells him to have patience. Ling Ling and Chabi talk. 100 eyes asks the Khan to pardon Marco. Jia councels the new Emperor and gives him a Praying Mantis saying there are many lessons to learn: speed, patience, adaptability, ruthlessness. The young emperor orders the execution of traitors. Marco draws a Trebuchet used by Alexander. Yusuf admits to the Kublai of his complicity in his assassination and routing troops at the first loss at WuChang. Marco is freed.|
|10||10||"The Heavenly and Primal"||John Maybury||John Fusco||December 12, 2014|
|Marco's ingenuity — and loyalty — is put to the ultimate test when Kublai takes a violent and bold step in his quest to become emperor of the world. Marco helps the Khan's engineers design trebuchets. Kublai intends to attack XiangYang with the trebuchets. Zuchou pledges 5000 soldiers to the Chinese emperor. Kaidu of house Ogodei threatens to abandon the assault if he can't lead. Kaidu thinks the trebuchets are a gamble and abandons the Khan. Kublai tells Marco that he is counting on the trebuchets. Kokachin is to be betrothed to Jingim. She asks Marco to run away with her presenting an anguishing choice between the duty and love. The siege begins the trebuchets are outside of arrow range, and at first do not hit the wall. But with adjustments, they breech the walls. The invasion of XiangYang is successful. Marco finds Jia but is incapacitated. 100 eyes beats him using the Praying Mantis style against him.|
|Title||Directed by||Written by||Original release date|
|11||"One Hundred Eyes"||Alik Sakharov||John Fusco||December 26, 2015|
|A 30-minute origin story of Hundred Eyes, in which a defiant warrior-monk arrives at Kublai Khan's court in chains and earns his nickname.|
|Title||Directed by||Written by||Original release date|
|12||1||"Hunter and the Sable Weaver"||Daniel Minahan||John Fusco||July 1, 2016|
Much of the second season premiere is about getting reoriented in this world, establishing who these characters are and where they stand. After flashing back to a young Kublai Khan taking lessons from his grandfather, we see Kublai at home in his role, attending to trade issues while also preparing for his son’s wedding. Jingim is set to marry the Blue Princess, the former love interest of Marco Polo, securing more heirs to the throne.
It isn’t long before the day of celebrations is spoiled though. Khan’s bastard child Byamba shows up with a message from Kaidu, Kublai’s cousin. Kaidu is still angry about not being handed the lead during the sack of Xiangyang, and he’s prepared a form of retaliation. He’s going to challenge the Kublai’s rule as Khan in an attempt to secure the position for himself. Kublai does not accept such a ridiculous claim, but that’s not the news Byamba brings back to Kaidu. There’s a confrontation on the horizon this season, and it’s taking place within filial boundaries.As for Marco Polo, his first storyline of the season is lacking. He, along with Mei Lin, is looking for the boy emperor, the last heir of the Song Dynasty that Jia Sidao defended last season. The journey leads them past an outpost after Mei Lin uses her ties with the Red Lotus to bargain for safe passage. That leads them to a small house in the middle of the jungle where they believe the emperor is. After encountering quite the fight with a woman there, they find the boy emperor stashed away under the floorboards.
|13||2||"Hug"||David Petrarca||Patrick Macmanus||July 1, 2016|
Marco Polo and Mei Lin are traveling through the jungle with the boy emperor in their care. They’re delivering the boy to Kublai, as Marco has been instructed, but their travel isn’t so easy. The boy’s protector, who’s known only as The Handmaiden, is still chasing after them, somehow able to keep up with them despite traveling on foot.
Meanwhile, Kaidu is doing everything he can to secure support in his claim to Kublai’s throne. While on the one hand it’s not a difficult sell because many believe Kublai stole the election long ago, there are also those who see going against Kublai as a dangerous act. Back in the new capital of Cambulac, Kublai is taking advice from his wife. She says that he needs to accept the challenge to his throne because Kaidu is operating within the law and any other approach would suggest weakness or deceit.
Then, Marco and Mei Lin return with the boy emperor. The return sparks all kinds of intriguing relationships and power struggles. There’s Kublai asserting his power over Mei Lin, even as Marco asks for leniency. There’s Marco being “introduced” to the Blue Princess by Jingim, and the appropriate awkwardness that follows from the former secret romantic partners. Then there’s the issue of what to do with the boy emperor. While Jingim and Marco suggest letting the boy fade from the public’s memory by stashing him in a safe place, Ahmad suggests killing him and parading his head through the streets to send a message. This is the same man who’s working with Mei Lin to overthrow Kublai, even telling her that she could see her daughter in exchange for bringing the boy emperor to the capital.
The Blue Princess has a miscarriage, but Jingim is forgiving and understanding. Kaidu has his meeting with Nayan, who’s preaching Christianity to the Mongolian masses, but they can’t come to an agreement for him to back Kaidu’s claim to the throne. And there’s Marco telling Kublai of the many people in south China killing themselves, as they see the Mongolian presence not as liberation but as occupation.The whole episode revolves around a single decision though: Will Kublai kill the boy emperor? As Ahmad brings the boy to Kublai, and leaves the two of them alone, it’s clear the emperor is conflicted. He first brandishes a dagger but then hugs the boy, consoles him for he knows he’s innocent. But, as he’s hugging him, he suffocates him, his limp body falling to the floor as Marco stumbles upon the scene, a look of disgust crossing his face before the credits roll.
|14||3||"Measure Against the Linchpin"||Daniel Minahan||Elizabeth Sarnoff||July 1, 2016|
As the boy emperor hangs from the capital, and the Handmaiden takes the sight in, Kublai awakes from another nightmare, his wife still lambasting him for his decision to kill a child. Marco isn’t too happy with him either, and with both in crisis, Kublai takes his Venetian friend on a hike in order to decide what to do about Kaidu’s claim to the throne.
The Handmaiden confronts Mei Lin - they both agree they have a common enemy. Meanwhile, the mounting pressure on the Blue Princess to produce an heir before Kaidu’s claim comes to pass leads the Empress to force a stable boy with similar features to Jingim, Batbayer, to impregnate the Blue Princess while the Empress holds her down. The Blue Princess tries to object that the resulting infant would not contain full royal blood to which the Empress responds, "actually, the baby will have no royal blood."
While this is happening Jingim goes to Karakorum to help persuade people to side with his father. That means taking down a huge warrior in a wrestling match and earning some respect, though that doesn’t stop Kaidu’s two children from attacking them on their way home. Furthermore, Kaidu makes a bold decision and insists that his daughter Khutulun, rather than his son, will be the next heir.This episode is all about the hike though. Marco and Kublai discuss death, responsibility, and fate, and come face-to-face with a wolf several times. Kublai and Marco stare the wolf down and eventually shoot it when things get dangerous. Kublai sees it as a sign. He will stare down Kaidu’s claim until it becomes too dangerous.
|15||4||"Let God’s Work Begin"||David Petrarca||Kate Barnow||July 1, 2016|
Nayan is in Northern Israel, along with Marco’s father, to talk about Kublai. The discussion is rather simple. The Pope sees Kublai’s rule as a threat, especially since he’s so accepting of many religions, and vows to confront his forces should they move West. Nayan is less enthused about this idea, but when he proves his religious value to the Pope and the two agree to work together, he’s swayed, washing away his sins and preparing for battle.
Meanwhile, the hunt is on for Jingim and Ahmad. Kaidu is pissed at his son because of his actions, which have brought Kublai to his doorstep. Together they all go out to search for the Khan’s missing sons. Along the way, Kaidu and Kublai connect with memories of their childhood but also remain divided on the prospects of the Mongol empire. Things get particularly heated when the insults start flying and Kaidu pulls his sword on Kublai. Ultimately, nothing comes of the moment, as Jingim and Ahmad are found, but certainly the challenge to the throne will not go so smoothly.The other dangling plot thread is that of the Blue Princess and her potential pregnancy. Here she finds out that the stable boy who impregnated her has been killed, and when she goes to see the body for herself she stumbles upon his wife and spends the day with her and her baby. It almost seems as if she’ll abandon her position, especially if Jingim isn’t found. Alas, after some bonding with Ahmad, who almost reveals his plans to overthrow the Khan in his delirium, he is found, and she returns to greet him with the good news of her own pregnancy.
|16||5||"Lullaby"||Jon Amiel||Bruce Marshall Romans||July 1, 2016|
Five rebels execute five different attacks and kill 300 Mongolians, as Ahmad informs the Khan. Kublai states that while he’ll still travel to Xanadu to challenge Kaidu, he gives Ahmad control of his forces to strike back.
Meanwhile, Khutulun makes it clear to Kaidu that she’s not happy about being the heir because it would mean sacrificing her own goals, and Byamba, who she’s now separated from, is demoted to a foot soldier by Ahmad, who’s still working on his own plans to dethrone Kublai.
Ahmad gains even more control when a guard tells him about the Empress leading a stableboy into Princess Kokachin’s chambers. That whole situation is about to get even more complicated because the real Princess Kokachin shows up, apparently not dead like we all believed, and wants her life back. At the same time, Marco continues to grow suspicious of Ahmad, especially as he decides to send nearly 60,000 troops to battle the uprising and only 7,000 with Kublai to Xanadu.
“Lullaby” also spends a bit of time filling in Ahmad’s backstory. He was once simply a tax collector for the Khan, wanting to travel and learn about the people in Kublai’s empire. Before long though he becomes jaded; a prostitute he shares a bed with, and ends up killing when she hums the same song his mother did when he was a child, signals his turn as he returns to Kublai and takes a position as his finance minister and begins to take control of his future.The future for everyone is clearly about to get chaotic. The Handmaiden and Hundred Eyes have a strange fight/dance showdown, Kublai is leaving for Xanadu with little protection and an uncertain meeting with Kaidu, and Ahmad is clearly gaining more power.
|17||6||"Serpent’s Terms"||Jon Amiel||Noelle Valdivia||July 1, 2016|
First, as the episode opens, we see Kaidu and his mother secretly finding their way to Cambulac. They arrive in the middle of the night shrouded in hoods. The purpose of their meeting in the capital is to discuss the overthrow of the Khan with Ahmad. The Khan’s Vice Regent has made it clear that he wants Kublai gone, and he sees Kaidu as his own tool. Along with Kaidu he invites Nayan for the meeting, securing both in opposition to Kublai, the offer of Mei Lin’s daughter to the sinful Nayan helping to sway him.
Meanwhile, Kublai is in Xanadu petitioning for votes and arguing for his vision of empirical expansion, complete with fireworks, to the people there. There are harbingers of death all around though. Horses that were gifted to Kublai are attacked, found with their eyes carved out. Marco and Jingim believe it’s the work of Kaidu, but Kublai doesn’t seem worried. Eventually, after a night of passion with an exotic dancer who’s traveled the world, the Blue Princess visits Marco and the mystery of the horses is solved.
Under pressure from her pregnancy and guilt over her child and the dead stableboy, the impostor Blue Princess suffered a nervous breakdown; the real Blue Princess that had been demanding her life back was nothing more than her hallucination and it was the impostor Kokochin that had been gouging out the eyes of the Khan's horses. Marco points out to her the blood all over her hands.“Serpent’s Terms” ends with Ahmad, Nayan, and Kaidu forming an alliance — one which Khutlulun isn’t happy about — while Kublai remains unaware, and Byamba is off on his own following barrels of black powder that he believes will reveal something corrupt.
|18||7||"Lost Crane"||Alik Sakharov||Matthew White||July 1, 2016|
We see that Hundred Eyes and the Handmaiden, who he refers to as Lotus, were once friends and lovers, until the Mongolians attacked them, Hundred Eyes believing he watched Lotus die at the hands of an archer. That bit of backstory makes their reunion here that much sweeter, and their separation at the end of the episode all the more heartbreaking.
The second attack is undertaken by Khutulun and Orus on the order of Kaidu. He’s conducting murderous raids under the banner of Kublai, having his children and warriors wear masks to conceal their identities. Essentially he’s framing Kublai in the hopes of drumming up support for his ascension to the throne.
Meanwhile, the Blue Princess is truly losing it, and her visions threaten to reveal the true nature of the baby. Jingim is upset by his wife’s condition, but, after Kublai finds out about Kaidu’s attacks under his own banner, he’s ordered to ride East to engage in their own attacks. That’s all part of Ahmad’s grand scheme though: send Jingim East to die while Nayan and Kaidu amass troops in the West.
There’s a twist that Ahmad doesn’t expect though: Mei Lin turns on him after he fails to deliver on his promise for her to see her daughter. That sends her to Marco, who gives her time with her daughter, and in return she tells him everything. Marco goes to the Khan and asks for his permission to head West even though he can’t reveal why. He’s asking for trust and Kublai gives it.A good thing he does, too, as Marco and Jingim ride West and, after Byamba saves them from two of Kaidu’s men, discover the gathering forces and one big surprise: Marco’s father, Niccolò Polo.
|19||8||"Whitehorse"||James McTeigue||Elizabeth Sarnoff & Patrick Macmanus||July 1, 2016|
First, Ahmad lies to Kublai about Jingim’s attacks in the East — remember, Marco and Jingim actually headed West — and when Mei Lin goes missing, Kublai questions his Vice Regent’s connection to her.
At the same time, Niccolò goes missing from Nayan’s camp near the Twin Rivers, captured by Marco and Byamba. They spend the entirety of “Whitehorse” hiding in the woods, Marco questioning his father about where they will attack the Khan, and his father returning fire by essentially calling him a traitor to his Christian people. For a while it looks like Marco has no choice but to kill his father, but a last-minute attack leaves the elder Polo’s fate hanging in the balance.
As for Mei Lin, she’s escaped her entrapment with Ahmad, daughter in tow, and when Mongols attack her on the road, Lotus comes to her aid. That forces Mei Lin to accept that the Mongols will keep coming after her and her daughter until she ends this feud, so she leaves her daughter in the care of Lotus, the same woman who couldn’t protect the boy emperor.Essentially, “Whitehorse” is about bringing the conflicts to the forefront before the season’s climax. Kublai learns of Ahmad’s betrayal when Jingim arrives home safe, and he’s devastated, crying in his wife’s arms when he realizes Ahmad tricked him into killing the boy emperor. With Nayan and Kaidu set on destroying Kublai, and Kublai realizing it now that Ahmad’s been outed, the forces are set to collide in the final two episodes of the season. And Marco’s caught in the middle.
|20||9||"Heirs"||James McTeigue||Kate Barnow||July 1, 2016|
“Heirs” begins with the Khan's force's attack on Nayan and Kaidu's camp. Borrowing an unconventional battle tactic from his grandfather Genghis, the Khan lights all of his white horses on fire and sends them charging through the enemy camp, setting the gers ablaze and igniting the black powder which rips through the enemy stronghold.
Moments before the Khan's cavalry charge into the camp, Niccolò orders Kaidu to escape to Karakorum in order to preserve their plan of dethroning the Khan at the Kurultai. After some hesitance, Kaidu relents. During the melee, Byamba and Marco fight side by side. Hundred Eyes encounters a Knight in chain mail, whom he dispatches with a well-placed jab to the neck. Khutulun and Orus face Jingim but she leaves to save Byamba from a rebel which allow Jingim to overpower Orus and bash his skull in with a rock. Marco intervenes and saves his father from the Khan's men, allowing him to escape, which the Khan sees from a distance and once again sows doubt about Marco's loyalty in the Khan's mind.When the battle is over, Nayan is crucified and the Khan must reckon with the fact that not only has Ahmad betrayed him, holing up in Cambulac under the false pretense of the Khan’s orders, he also feels betrayed by Marco. The arrival of Jingim’s heir — or “Heirs,” as the Blue Princess gives birth to both a girl and a boy — should bring some joy to the lives of the Khan and his people, but it’s clear there’s more darkness on the horizon. Marco is banished from the tent, but only after the Blue Princess whispers her secret to him, and Kublai heads toward a vote that will impact his empire and legacy.
|21||10||"The Fellowship"||Alik Sakharov||Elizabeth Sarnoff & Patrick Macmanus||July 1, 2016|
At Karakorum, Kublai and Kaidu await the outcome of the Kurultai. Ahmad sits on the Khan’s throne in Cambulac. The episode also foreshadows the plot of the show's third season with the arrival of a new adversary: Prester John.
Two storylines make up “The Fellowship.” The first involves the cases both Kaidu and the Khan give at the Kurultai as to why they should earn the Mongolian noblemen's votes in order to be selected as the Khan of Khans. It looks as if the vote is all but settled, with the people siding with Kublai and protesting Kaidu’s aggressive tactics. The Kurultai doesn’t go down without a hitch. Ahmad, backed into a corner by the presence of Jingim, Byamba, and Hundred Eyes, sends word to Kaidu revealing the truth about Jingim’s son and Kublai’s heir.
Kaidu uses that knowledge to blackmail the Khan and the Empress, but they’re more determined than Kaidu gives them credit for. First, the Empress helps the Blue Princess drown herself, and Kublai attempts to poison Kaidu, hoping to stop the potential leak of the information. Kaidu gets the upper hand though and is moments away from killing Kublai when Marco saves him, coming back from his banishment to inform the Khan about Prester John's approaching Christian army, killing Kaidu and proving his loyalty to Kublai in the process.
Back at Cambulac, Jingim, Hundred Eyes, and Byamba expertly pull off a raid that sees them take back control of the capital as Ahmad runs and hides. Unfortunately for him, Mei Lin is waiting for him in his room. She kills him and, in return, Jingim allows her to leave the capital freely, with Hundred Eyes offering to escort her back to her daughter.Thus, “The Fellowship” re-establishes Kublai as the Khan of Khans, and Ahmad, Kaidu, and the Blue Princess are dead. As Ahmad hangs from the entrance to Cambulac though, things aren’t exactly peaceful. In fact, as the episode cuts to black, Byamba and Jingim look out at the empty camp where the Kurultai was meant to be held. The camera focuses in on a bloodied cross. Kublai may be back in full control, but Prester John and his Crusader army are moving East.
The first season of Marco Polo was met with negative reviews from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes, the first season holds a rating of 34%, based on 44 reviews, with a rating average of 4.79/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "An all-around disappointment, Marco Polo is less entertaining than a round of the game that shares its name." On Metacritic, the show's first season has a score of 48 out of 100 based on 21 reviews by critics, indicating "mixed reviews".
In his review for Entertainment Weekly, Jeff Jensen gave the first season a "B−" rating, calling the premise "stale", but added "Somewhere in the middle of episode 2, though, Marco Polo becomes surprisingly watchable. The filmmaking becomes bolder." Writing for People, Tom Gliatto praised the series, calling it "...a fun, body-flinging, old-fashioned epic". USA Today reviewer Robert Bianco gave the series 11⁄2 stars out of 4, saying, "Clearly what Netflix hopes you'll see a [sic] big-bucks, prestige entertainment along the lines of that HBO fantasy epic, but in truth, Marco is far closer to one of those cheesy international syndicated adventures."
The second season was met with more positive reviews. On Rotten Tomatoes, it holds a rating of 100%, based on 6 reviews, with a rating average of 7.2/10.
In 2015, the President of Mongolia Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj presented John Fusco and the Marco Polo creative team with an award, honoring their positive portrayal and global presentation of Mongolian subject matter. Fusco, himself, has described the series as historical fiction, based on the accounts of the Italian traveler Marco Polo.
|2015||Primetime Emmy Awards||Outstanding Original Main Title Theme Music||Daniele Luppi||Nominated|
|Hollywood Music in Media Awards||Best Main Title – TV Show/Digital Series||Daniele Luppi||Nominated|
|Golden Trailer Awards||Best Trailer/Teaser for a TV Series/Mini-Series||Aspect||Nominated|
|Australian Production Design Guild Awards||Set Decoration on a Television Drama||Christian Petersen||Won|
|SXSW Film Festival||Excellence in Title Design||Nominated|
|2016||American Society of Cinematographers Awards||Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography in Regular Series||Vanja Cernjul||Won|
|Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography in Television Movie/Mini-Series/Pilot||Romain Lacourbas||Nominated|
|2017||Golden Reel Awards||Best Sound Editing – Short Form Sound Effects and Foley in Television||Nominated|
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- Sharf, Zack (July 5, 2019). "'Triple Frontier' Leads Netflix to Cut Back on Huge Spending for Films — Report". IndieWire. Retrieved July 25, 2019.
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- "Netflix's 'Marco Polo' Sets Its Cast". The Hollywood Reporter. April 8, 2014. Retrieved April 8, 2014.
- Fowle, Kyle (July 1, 2016). "A mega Marco Polo recap: Let's talk about all of season 2". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 6 July 2016.
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- "The Weinstein Company, Seeking Hits, Shifts to TV". 25 November 2013 – via The New York Times.
- "Netflix Is Creating One Of The Most Expensive TV Shows In The World — Here's Why It's So Important". Business Insider. Retrieved 2016-01-07.
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- "Riding the Silk Road". Traveller. Retrieved 2016-04-12.
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- "MARCO POLO: SEASON 1". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved December 22, 2014.
- "Marco Polo (2014) : Season 1". Metacritic. Retrieved December 22, 2014.
- Jensen, Jeff (January 7, 2015). "Marco Polo Review". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved January 10, 2015.
- Gliatto, Tom (December 12, 2014). "Netflix's Fun New Marco Polo Is All About the Wrath of Kublai Khan". people.com. Retrieved January 10, 2015.
- Bianco, Robert (December 12, 2014). "'Marco Polo' gets lost on the Silk Road to nowhere". USA Today. Retrieved January 10, 2015.
- Newbould, Chris (28 June 2016). "New season of Marco Polo to reveal the dark side of characters, says actor Lorenzo Richelmy". The National. Retrieved 4 June 2017.
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