Netflix dropped all 10 episodes of the second season of Marco Polo on July 1. So, like Kublai Khan expanding his empire one piece at a time, we binged and recapped every single episode from the season. There are two recaps per page, so feel free to dig in and read along while you watch.
EPISODE 1: “HUNTER AND THE SABLE WEAVER”
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, of course, 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.
The season premiere of Marco Polo is lacking in action and heavy on the setup, but the setup is promising. There’s a tense but necessary marriage between Jingim and the Blue Princess, Kublai Khan dealing with the tenuous nature of his rule, and Marco Polo and Mei Lin finding the boy emperor.
EPISODE 2: “HUG”
The second episode of the season picks up right where the premiere left off. 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. Of course, 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. Note: Don’t trust this Ahmad dude.
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The rest of the episode is filled with small subplots that could have implications later. 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 of course 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.
NEXT: Episodes 3 and 4