Marco Polo: A Netflix wonder


Phil Bray/Netflix

“Marco Polo” is an ambitious Netflix series that depicts the adventures of the Italian merchant.

By Aparna Verma, Catonsville High School

Recently, Netflix has shown a creative streak, producing rather spectacular shows that have garnered many fans from around the world. For example, the infamous House of Cards is well-known throughout the US for its legendary spin on politics and snarky dialogue. Orange is the New Black has haunted viewers with its heartfelt storylines and well-cultivated characters. And now, Marco Polo, Netflix’s latest original series, has once again proven that the streaming media service can create shows of interest and wonder.

Marco Polo aired on December 12. It centers on the adventures of the famous Marco Polo, an Italian merchant who, through a tumult of events, ended up in the grandest court of the time–the kingdom of Kublai Khan.

Kublai Khan’s great court dominated most of China, ranging from the Pacific to the Black Sea, to the vast plains of the Gobi Desert and the mountains of northern China. Although the attempts to film in China failed, the producers of the show picked respective areas within Italy, Kazakhstan, and Pinewood Studios in Malaysia that really did depict the grandness of 13th century China.

Another salute that can be given to the show is its authentic costuming. It is no secret that Khan was a rich emperor, and that members of his court wore the coveted silk of Asia. The women wore elegant dresses of silk and chiffon, hair ostentatiously wrapped in high buns and decorated with headpieces of gold and silver. Men wore suits of iron, beads wrapped in their hair and large stones on their hands. Some may laugh at Kublai Khan’s (played by Benedict Wong) rather silly display of wealth, but historically, it’s exactly right.

Although there are only 10 episodes in season one, Marco Polo certainly has sold the show. The characters themselves are intricate and alluring, ranging from the enigmatic Hundred Eyes (played by Tom Wu) to stunning Kokachin (played by Zhu Zhu) to the main man himself, Marco Polo (played by Lorenzo Richelmy). Although the show does move slowly, one can come to appreciate the slow accumulation of tension and politics, such as the rivalry between Kublai Khan and the Song dynasty.

The grandeur and the danger of living within a Mongol kingdom is effectively captured within the 10 episodes. Viewers on Netflix gave the show an average rating of 4.5/5; IMDb 8.4/10; Metacritic 8.7/10; and Rotten Tomatoes stated that 93% of the show’s audience gave it a “like.”

The show does has its fair share of critics–Rotten Tomatoes called it “an all around disappointment.” Others have said it moved too slowly, but nonetheless, the Netflix series has garnered a quite a bit of viewers who are eagerly awaiting more episodes. Will the next season be just as intricate and well developed as the first? Only time can tell.