The Legend of Vox Machina captures many classic fantasy archetypes, but here’s why the gunslinging Percy feels completely unique.
WARNING: The following contains major spoilers for The Legend of Vox Machina, now streaming on Prime Video.
From its beginning, The Legend of Vox Machina showed a deft ability to undermine and reinvent familiar fantasy tropes. plenty of Dungeons & Dragons characters fall into the mold of classic archetypes, the heroes from the critical role campaign each managed to differentiate themselves as new and unique twists on those conventions.
In Vox Machine, Percival de Rolo is the most inventive one of all. Resisting almost any box of a fantasy archetype fans might try to fit him into, he becomes more unique and interesting each time his backstory unravels. In fact, he may be the most unique fantasy hero in years.
The Legend of Vox Machina‘s opening scene proved just how little deference it has for classic Lord of the Rings-style characters by killing off the cliched team it first introduced. Instead, the story focuses on the members of Vox Machina, who prove to be far from conventional. With gross violence and scandalous sexuality immediately differentiating them from the often unsullied and pure fantasy heroes of foundational fantasy works, even the members easiest to reduce to familiar roles prove more complex than any flat stereotype could convey. Grog may be a simple-minded barbarian prone to brawling, but he still shows occasional brilliance and soft-hearted emotions that distinguish him from a one-dimensional archetype.
Yet it’s Percy who strides the furthest from any familiar territory. Often, what most immediately clues audiences in to a fantasy character’s role in their group is their weapon of choice. Grog’s massive double-headed ax tracks with his status as a barbarian while Scanlan’s lute is wholly fitting for the charismatic bard. But Percy wields firearms unlike any other character in his setting, or most medieval fantasies. Referred to as a “pepper-box,” his use of his pistol, “The List,” and his rifle “Bad News” not only instantly distinguishes him from most other comparisons, but hints at a deeper backstory viewers can’t get enough of.
Though his dark and brooding personality may seem all too familiar, the more the narrative delves into Percy’s backstory and reasons for struggling with such darkness, the more unique he seems. over the course of Vox Machine the audience learns of his noble upbringing in Whitestone, how most of his family were murdered by the Briarwoods in their bid to steal that nobility, and how the creation of Percy’s firearms came to him in a revenge-fueled dream as he swore to kill those who wronged him. It is the grim and gritty backstory of an antihero, yet his characterization of him throughout the story proves he is so much more.
Percy shares lighthearted moments and emotional bonds with his teammates, joins their adventures in questing for the good of the people of Tal’Dorei, and shows a diverse range of character beats far beyond the cliché that a sole focus on revenge could make him. Much of the series’ overarching plotline centers on fulfilling Percy’s quest as Vox Machina travels to Whitestone, yet he remains so well-balanced alongside the other characters that his dynamic never becomes tedious. If anything, the mysterious presence that overcomes and spurs him to adopt a plague-doctor’s mask – while enacting his vengeance from him – only fuels fans’ curiosity in wondering what they’ll learn about the gunslinger next.
Part of The Legend of Vox Machina‘s fun is that the characters are so diverse, there is something different for everyone and a little something to enjoy in each of them. The show would not be the same if it focused on Percy alone, yet it’s hard to make any comparisons where he does not stand out as the most unique character worthy of focus.
The story gears up toward its finale this week as Vox Machina will inevitably face down the Briarwoods, whom Percy swore vengeance against. If he fails to get that revenge then viewers would doubtless be intrigued to see how he may get it in the future, but perhaps even more interesting is the possibility of where his story would go in the wake of success. What could define him once his quest is over? That is the exact type of question that keeps fans coming back for more, and makes Percival de Rolo one of the best fantasy characters in recent memory.
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