A young Venetian man abandoned at the court of Kublai Khan, seeking to survive the court of the Khan of Khans
- Break the Cutie: Starts out as a starry-eyed youth with dreams of traveling with his dad and uncle; by the end of the first episode these illusions are crushed, but he bounces back.
- Brutal Honesty: It's implied early on that this is what Kublai expects of Marco. Since Marco is independent of his court, and thus has no political ties or agenda, he can speak freely and thus report on things as they actually are. However, he makes the mistake of forcing Marco to give his thoughts in front of the entire court, where he'd have to call them liars to their faces. Consequently, Marco demures, which angers Kublai. In later episodes, Kublai has private audiences with Marco, where he can speak his mind more freely.
- Character Development: Evolves from a scared boy into a hardened warrior who helps end the siege that Ghengis Khan failed to break and manages to briefly hold his own against Jia Sidao.
- Chekhov's Skill: Marco's defining trait is his observation. He first attracts the attention of Kublai by his artful descriptions of the steppes. His official role in court becomes reporting his observations to Kublai. Throughout his stay in Asia, he records his observations and drawings in a notebook. While waiting in a cell, he draws the ship he traveled in from memory on the floor. Later, he records his observations of the walled city. Still later, he's able to draw a trebuchet from memory with such accuracy that he helps build working models.
- Composite Character: Several by necessity given the need to streamline the story for television. Marco himself is shown doing alone what was actually done jointly with his father and uncle, and is given credit for introducing trebuchets to the Mongols, which in real life was done by two Persian engineers.
- Establishing Character Moment: Marco speaks poetically and is willing to dance dangerously around the rules, even around emperors, as seen in his first couple of conversations with Kublai.
- Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": Marco Polo is almost exclusively referred to as "the Latin".
- Fire-Forged Friends: With Byamba and Jingim.
- Fish out of Water: In the Mongolian court.
- Going Native: A rare enforced version, done to Marco by Kublai. When his father sees him for a second time, he remarks that Marco "looks like an Oriental" now.
- The Heart: His compassion and attempts at having a moral center is what differentiates him from most in the Mongol Empire. And his good heart actually helps convince Mei Lin of betraying Ahmad.
- Historical Badass Upgrade: Marco Polo is depicted in historic accounts as a merchant traveler. In this series, he undergoes training in kung fu, swordfighting and archery while in Mongolia.
- Nice Guy: Treats Mei Ling with respect during the mission, and gives a positive report. This ends up saving the day when Mei Ling realizes Ahmad won't free her daughter.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Marco sees the fake construction and passes it on to Kublai, resulting in a humiliating defeat and Jia Sidao almost gaining the army needed to take Cambulac. Their failed attempt to assassinate Jia Sidao also gives him the political credibility to murder his rival in the melee and seize control.
- He also brings the child emperor back.....which ends with the boy dying.
- Not So Different: Marco delivers a passionate speech about the wrath of the great khan to one of his enemies, the "Old Man" leader of The Hashashin. After he finishes, the Old Man says Marco is exactly the type of Hot-Blooded young man he recruits.
- The Rival: Jingim considers him a rival for Kublai's approval.
- Secret Keeper: He learns of Kokachin's true identity and vows to protect her.
- Even later, she tells Marco that Jingim is not the biological father of their children.
- Spanner in the Works: His trebuchets are the only reason Jia Sidao's plans go crashing into ruin. Before he was gathering an army to attack Cambulac; Marco's strike and the fall of the walls preempted this. He also thwarts Ahmad's plans by giving Mei Ling her daughter, causing her to reveal everything. From there he saves Jingim, causing everything to come crashing down and signaling the end of Ahmad's plans, Pope Gregory's and his father's. He also kills Kaidu.
- Took a Level in Badass: Starts out as a callow youth; by the end of the season he's a hardened warrior who manages to (very briefly) hold his own against Jia Sidao (and even surprise him at one point).
- Token White: One of only three white characters on the show and the only white person in Kublai's court.
- Training from Hell: A realistic take, Marco has to become a warrior before he can integrate with the Mongols, so it's miserable for him. Hundred Eyes is a harsh teacher, but he is thorough and not malicious.
- "Well Done, Son!" Guy: Defied. Marco wants his father's love, but ultimately decides after Calling the Old Man Out that he doesn't need his father's approval.
- White Male Lead: Marco Polo, the protagonist, is an Italian in the court of Kublai Khan. The show's creators have said that they wanted to use Marco Polo as the lure to get more Asian characters into living rooms.
The aged grandson of Genghis Khan and Khan of Khans, ruler of the Mongol Empire
- Adipose Rex: The most powerful amongst the Mongol characters is, unsurprisingly, the fattest. While many of his enemies and detractors see him as a Fat Bastard (either due to hedonism or cultural decay), he still has it in him to fight in single combat and to be at the field with his armies. note
- Adult Fear: He's horrified to learn that Jingim fell in battle. And later in season two Jingim and Ahmad go missing.
- Authority Equals Asskicking: Kublai Khan is a fat, middle-aged man, but he's still a powerful warrior, as evidenced by his duel against Ariq.
- Badass Beard: Like other Mongols, Kublai sports some pretty impressive facial hair.
- Beard of Barbarism: For all the civilising he may have gone through as Emperor of China, Kublai's beard is still worthy of any tribesman of the Great Northern Steppe.
- Bling of War: Wears elaborate golden armor into battle.
- Braids of Barbarism: He's got the Mongol forelock hair style, where most of the scalp is shaved but for a tuft of hair and the hair at the back is kept long and tied in braids.
- The Chains of Commanding: A theme in the early part of Season 2. Kublai complains that the downside of being Khan is having to make the hard decisions, serving as a "pin cushion for the sins of others" and constantly being judged and blamed for moral compromises and when things go wrong.
- Establishing Character Moment: Kublai is introduced when the Polo family crawls toward his massive golden throne as Tuvan throat singing drones and the khan himself sits cloaked in shadows, establishing the scope of Kublai's personal and political power. Later scenes in the throne room are not so elaborate, as Kublai has been sufficiently established.
- Et Tu, Brute?: He's deeply troubled when Ariq betrays him, and worries that Marco might betray him as well.
- After Ahmad's treachery he's very torn up; he's also quite angry at Marco in part because Marco let Niccolo escape despite the later being a shitbag.
- Going Native: So much of the earful and criticism he gets from the other Mongol nobility is his clear adoption of Chinese ways, traditions and mindsets—especially compared to the other potential Khans in their midst (like Ariq Boke and Kaidu). That said, it can't be really said that he has assimilated: he's still as gruff, earthy and intimidating as any of the Mongols (especially when compared to the refined sensibilities of the Song).
- Happily Married: He and Chabi aren't always affectionate, but they deeply respect each other.
- Heroic Lineage: His grandfather was Genghis Khan, one of the greatest warriors to ever grace the earth.
- Inadequate Inheritor: Kublai, in public, definitely looks and projects Superior Successor to the previous Khagans (some would say even Genghis). In private, despite his massive achievements and expanding the empire far wider than Genghis ever dreamed of, he seems to fear that he'll never be as well-remembered or loved as him. Season 2 amps this up further by implying that his issues are further related to Kaidu—the grandson who Genghis clearly favored more to succeed his line when he was still alive.
- Parental Substitute: He's been a father figure to Ahmad since he was a boy.
- Papa Wolf: His Tranquil Fury when Kaidu's actions cause Jingim and Ahmad to go missing is something to behold.
- Pet the Dog: He rewards those who have either done him a good service or proven their loyalty. Marco's survival throughout the show is heavily due to the favor he's earned from Kublai.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: He's a hard ruler, but fair, willing to listen to criticism, and won't endanger Mongol lives needlessly.
- Rousing Speech: He delivers one in front of his troops at the eve of his final attack at Xiangyang. Sadly, their first attempt at doing so was a massive disaster.Kublai Khan: The Great Genghis, he of the wolf, dreamed of a Mongol empire stretching throughout all of China. I have sought to realize his dream without spilling Mongol blood. I have been patient. My patience has been rewarded with the severed heads of men who have marched beside you. My scholars, ministers advised me to choose peace over war. But I am a proud Mongol. At times peace can only be achieved through cruel war. We begin the expedition to fulfill our destiny. You noble men willing to die for a cause greater than yourselves, return not with wealth, nor slaves, but with honor. Those of you who do not return will have your names carved in The Secret History of the Mongols. Your wives, children and parents will hold their heads above other Mongols, because in their hearts they know their husbands, fathers, their sons, gave their lives in pursuit of the last dream of our Great Genghis!Soldiers: [all chanting] For Genghis! For Genghis! For Genghis!Kublai Khan: March!
- Shoot the Dog: How he sees killing Zhaoxing. Marco doesn't agree.
- Ungrateful Bastard: Zigzagged. He can be generous to those who serve him well, but as his own wife Empress Chabi points out he is frequently "ignorant" of their services especially when he is angry or needs to blame them for something. Instead, he turns on them forgetting all past services unless they survive long enough to get in his good graces again. Marco Polo, Mei Lin, Byamba and Empress Chabi have all been on the receiving end of this.
- Would Hurt a Child: Murders the child emperor Zhaoxian at the goading of Ahmed to discourage further Song resistance and to prove his worth to his fellow Mongols all against the advice of everyone else. Comes to regret it upon learning why Ahmed urged it both for the political turmoil it caused and it being against his own conscience.
Kublai Khan's chief wife
- Action Girl/Lady of War: She doesn't often get a chance to show it, but she's skilled and graceful with a bow. None of those words should ever be used to describe Mongolian style archery, but the point is she's good.
- Ambiguously Bi:
- After getting frustrated with Kublai, she takes Mei Lin to bed saying she needs to practice pleasing the khan. Right...
- When Mei Lin offers to kiss Chabi in bed "if it pleases the Khan," Kublai looks to his wife and responds "if it pleases the Empress," as if this is something Chabi has been into before.
- Brutal Honesty: She never minces words, and isn't afraid to tell people when they've messed up.
- Clingy Jealous Girl: Averted. She personally selects girls for her husband's harem. Though it seems she sees no threat in concubines as they are just for sex. She flies into a jealous rage when she finds out Kublai is taking Mei Lin with him to the Kurultai when she refuses to go after their fight.
- Even Evil Has Standards: As brutal as Chabi can be as a Mongolian Empress, she's genuinely horrified at what Sidao did to Ling-Ling's feet. She orders her personal healer to fix the girl's feet no matter what. She also opposes the murder of Zhaoxing.
- Happily Married: She and Kublai aren't always affectionate, but they deeply respect each other.
- The High Queen: She's compassionate to her subjects, ruthless to her enemies, and one of Kublai's most trusted advisers.
- Kick the Dog: Shows Mei-Ling that her kid will live....and then tells her she will never see her daughter again. She also forces a peasant to rape Nergui.
- My God, What Have I Done?: Chabi seems genuinely remorseful for having a part in breaking Kokochin/Nergui's mind in the finale of Season 2.
- Nightmare Fetishist: After running through a laundry list of reasons that Kublai's traitorous brother Ariq deserves to die, we get this exchange:Chabi: Ariq believes he can pleasure your women better than you.
Kublai: Does that excite you, Empress?
Chabi: Ariq should be trampled by 1,000 horses and left on a steppe to rot. That would excite me.
- Parental Substitute: She's been a mother figure to Ahmad since he was a boy.
- Becomes one to Kokachin in season 2, but her influence comes with dire consequences...
- Pet the Dog: She seems genuinely fond of Ling-Ling and treats her very kindly.
Kublai Khan's son by Chabi and his heir
- Badass Bookworm: He does look like a bookworm compared to most other Mongols. But make no mistake. He's still among the best fighters on Kublai Khan's side and of Mongol as a whole, easily cut through lines of enemies and was only stopped by nothing less than Gunpowder
- Also seen in season 2, he quickly beat down a Mongol opponent who is literally two times his size.
- Berserk Button: Jingim despises parents who treat their kids like garbage. Even though he personally detests Marco (partially because Marco made him loose face and partially because Marco has earned the Khan's respect very quickly) he's actually angry on Marco's behalf when he see's just how much of a self serving Jerkass Marco's father is.
- Bling of War: Like his father, he wear golden armor into battle.
- Color Motifs: Gold. It's even in his name.
- Everyone Has Standards: He's disgusted by the way Marco's father treats him, despite not liking Marco himself. He also opposes the murder of the Boy Emperor.
- Expository Hairstyle Change: For most of Season 1, Jingim's hair is worn in a proper bun/updo while wearing robes, to further highlight his adoption of Chinese customs (and his alienation from the previous generation of Mongol nobility). By the eve of the attack at Xiangyang at the season finale, he has begun integrating Mongol-style braids not unlike the ones of Kublai, Byamba and his foot-soldiers, emphasizing his growing desire to truly embody the marriage of Mongol and Chinese mindsets he's been raised to.
- Fire-Forged Friends: After a whole season of hating Marco's guts, Prince Jingim finally comes around when Marco helps the Mongols take down the Song empire.
- Happily Married: To Sorga, one of his three wives.
- To Kokachin in season 2, though more on his end than hers.
- Inadequate Inheritor: Some Mongols, particularly his uncle Kaidu, feel Jingim is too culturally Chinese to be Khan of Khans.
- Jerkass: He treats Marco with contempt and hostility. Then he mellows out at the end of season 1.
- Long-Haired Pretty Boy: Unlike his half brother and father, he keeps his hair in a simple bun and lets it down occasionally.
- Meaningful Name: Jingim is Chinese for "golden", and toften wears the color. He is given this name to replace his original childhood Mongol name, Altai, by Hundred Eyes himself—meant to embody his hope: that while the Song Dynasty is too weak to hold on to power while Kublai is still too brutish to ever fully appease the Chinese, Jingim's succession as a good-hearted man might be more palatable to everyone.
- Morality Pet: He's noticeably sweeter and more gentle when he's around his wife, Sorga.
- The Rival: He feels threatened by Marco's closeness to Kublai, due to his own insecurities.
- Took a Level in Kindness: He chills out considerably by season 2.
- Warrior Prince: Often goes into battle in his father's place.
- "Well Done, Son!" Guy: Played straight. Part of his hatred of Marco comes from the fact that Marco earned Kublai's respect very quickly, whereas he still doubts whether his father truly approves of him. Not helping the case is the fact that Jingim is more culturally Chinese than the other Mongols, fueling his fear that he is an inadequate successor.
The Khan's bastard son, a formidable warrior
- Ambiguously Brown: His mother is apparently a particularly tall Javanese concubine—which helps to explain why he grew to tower even over Kublai in adulthood.
- Beware the Nice Ones: He's very nice and kind to his people and whom he consider friends, but God helps you if you are up against him in battle.
- Big Brother Instinct: During the season 1 finale Byamba sees a Chinese soldier about to kill Jingim and immediately rushes to protect his half-brother.
- The Big Guy: Towering over most other characters, Mongols included, and is one of the best warriors the Mongols have to offer
- Cain and Abel: Averted; he gets on relatively well with Jingim, his legitimate half-brother, and vice versa.
- Conflicting Loyalties: In season 2 he's torn between his father Kublai and his father-in-law, Kaidu.
- Establishing Character Moment: His first major scene involves him killing an assassin then cutting off another's hand without hesitation (he was going to kill the second one too before Marco stopped him). His second major scene shows him directly and earnestly showed gratitude toward Marco for saving the Khan, his father. He was the only one who gave Marco credits and respect for doing this.
- Fire-Forged Friends: Marco and Byamba become this over the course of the Hashasin hunt.
- Gentle Giant: He's pretty much the only genuinely nice person among all the Mongol cast.
- Heroic Bastard: Byamba is Kublai's bastard son.
- Kissing Cousins: Byamba and Khutulun are second cousins.
- Odd Friendship: Marco and Byamba.
The Khan's vice-regent, a Muslim
- Death by Irony: Yusuf is executed in the same manner as the tax collector he executed: rolled up in a carpet and trampled by horses.
- Foil: Unlike the treacherous, power-hungry Jai Sidao, Yusuf is working for the good of his kingdom. While Sidao is willing to kill for what he wants, Yusuf is willing to die for what the kingdom needs.
- The Good Chancellor: He's a loyal, honest adviser to Kublai.
- Heroic Sacrifice: Yusuf offers himself up as a scapegoat to stop Marco's execution and allow the building of trebuchets.
- The Scapegoat: Self-inflicted. He willingly takes on Marco's punishment for the failed attack on the Song Empire.
Ahmad Fanākatī, Minister of Finance
The Khan's Minister of Finance
- Brains and Bondage: In Season 2 it's revealed he's started an S&M relationship with Mei Lin, with her as the dominant partner. Given that he's the Big Bad of the season, it doubles as Bondage Is Bad.
- Expy: A devious financial minister that plans on betraying his liege and ultimately seize the throne for himself? Say hello to the Marco Polo's own Littlefinger. Though in fairness, this is what he really was like in real life, so it'd be more accurate to state that Littlefinger is Game of Throne's Ahmad.
- Evil All Along: In the final episode of the first season, Ahmad is revealed to have designs to assassinate and overthrow Kublai.
- Evil Is Petty: Really fucking hates Marco, and is annoyed when Marco stands up for Mei Lin
- Freudian Excuse: The Khan wiping out his people and killing his family isn't this; he actually came to terms with it and accepted Kublai and Chabi as loving parents. What broke him is, when working as a tax collector, he slept with a prostitute from his homeland who turned out to be his own mother who he thought had died; she had been taken into the Khan's service and found wanting, and sold off to another brothel. Betrayal, disgust, and self loathing consumed Ahmad, and he directed this hatred against the Khan.
- Happily Adopted: Ahmad was taken into Kublai's court as a young boy after the Mongols invaded his homeland. He sees the khan and empress as parental figures and considers Jingim his brother. Subverted when it's revealed that Ahmad is secretly planning to overthrow and kill Kublai, then double subverted when it's revealed he DID once love the Khan. Then he found out his mom had been sold as a prostitute.....right after he'd fucked her. He didn't take it well to put it mildly.
- Hot-Blooded: Displays this trait during the parley with the Chinese.
- Non-Action Guy: Lampshaded by Mei Lin. While everyone else is fighting the Chinese, he's left behind with the women and children.
- Rank Up: Becomes Vice-Regent after Yusuf's death.
The Khan's brother, overseer of Karakorum
- Cain and Abel: Ariq feels he should rightfully be the Khan of Khans, seeking to keep the Mongol Empire contained to Mongolia. He challenges Kublai and ends up getting beheaded. Kublai asks Marco about the trope namers themselves in the third episode, trying to understand how it is Ariq could ever betray him.
- Off with His Head!: How Ariq ultimately meets his end after losing the final duel to his older brother.
- The Starscream: He withheld promised troops during one the Mongol's battles hoping to bleed them out.
- Starter Villain: Ariq's betrayal and challenge to Kublai would foreshadow Kaidu's own subsequent uprising come Season 2. Unsurprisingly, this is Truth in Televisionnote
The Khan's cousin, leader of the Golden Horde and head of the House of Ögedei
- Fantastic Racism: Kaidu doesn't look kindly on anything that isn't Mongol. He disproves of Kublai having foreigners in his service and openly disparages the Chinese influence he sees in Kublai's court, particularly regarding his heir Jingim.
- This is largely restricted towards the Chinese, though, as he is friendly and respectful of Marco and Ahmed, even as he mocks Jingim.
- Subverted; he dislikes Christianity immensely, though that doesn't stop him working with Nayan and Gregory's forces to win the Kurultai.
- This is largely restricted towards the Chinese, though, as he is friendly and respectful of Marco and Ahmed, even as he mocks Jingim.
- Hypocrite: Despite disdaining outside influence he works with Nayan and Niccolo to gain power. His main complaint about Kublai is that he cheated to win the Kurultai, and then he cheats to gain every advantage he can think of to win his election.
- In the Back: Marco stabs him in the back to save Kublai.
- Jerkass: He spends almost the entire third episode just mocking Jingim.
- Lean and Mean: Only relatively compared to the other Mongol leaders of his generation (and especially as Foil to the massive Kublai)—he is actually pretty ripped for a man of his age, especially one already with adult children.
- Near-Villain Victory: He manages to blackmail Kublai in the last episode and turns the tables on Kublai when the later tries to kill him. If Marco hadn't stabbed him in the back to save Kublai he would have won.
- Parental Favoritism: Granted we don't see much of his other children, but it's clear that Khutulun's his favorite by far.
- To an extent, he is also recipient of this from his own grandfather, the legendary Genghis Khan, as seen in the Season 2 premier, where he as a child is shown greater attention compared to the young Kublai. That Genghis, at least in this narrative, clearly expected his line to continue with the House of Ögedei seems to be one of the sources of Kaidu's enmity with Kublai—apart from it also feeding Kublai's Inadequate Inheritor issues.
- Shipper on Deck: He strongly approves of his daughter's relationship with Byamba since he considers him to be worthy of her.
Kaidu's daughter, a formidable warrior herself.
- Action Girl: She's a fearsome warrior.
- Daddy's Girl: Kaidu clearly adores Khutulun and is very proud of her achievements. Truth in Television; in Real Life Khutulun was her father's favorite child.
- Best Her to Bed Her: Khutulun's hand in marriage is promised to whoever can beat her in a wrestling match. She sleeps with Marco even though she beat him. She eventually allows Byamba to best her because she actually wants to marry him.
- Kissing Cousins: Byamba and Khutulun are second cousins.
- Offered the Crown: Her father names her his heir, passing over her older brother. She has no interest in being Khan.
- Wrestler in All of Us: Her preferred form of combat, though she does it for recreational purposes too. The only person to beat her, Byamba, was allowed to win.
Sifu Hundred Eyes a.k.a. Li Jinbao
A taoist monk and kung-fu master. Like Marco Polo, he too is a bound servant of Kublai Khan
- Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: For all his insistence that he's not Marco's friend, Hundred Eyes sure goes to great lengths to protect him.
- Badass Boast: The only time we ever saw him speak well of himself was during his first meeting with Kublai after his blinding—and after regaining all his reflexive skills:Hundred Eyes: The monks of Wudang spend their lives trying to achieve true emptiness. For only when the sage can overcome the self does he enter into the Tao. That is a dark mystery beyond all mysteries, and a gift you gave to me. Blind? I now see the world with one hundred eyes.
- Bare-Fisted Monk: Hundred Eyes is a Taoist monk and martial arts master who prefers to fight with his fists.
- Deadpan Snarker: If it breathes, he snarks at it, not even Kublai is completely immune to it.General: This Wrestler is named Black Steppe Boar, a prisoner, captured in Scythia. Do you know why he is named after the boar?Hundred Eyes: His resemblance is extraordinary...
- Despair Event Horizon: Being blinded by cobra poison after a failed attempt to escape from Kublai's prison definitely shattered his morale. At some point, however, he simply decided to fight it out and continue training even when blind—subsequently honing his supernatural reflexes even further.
- Establishing Character Moment: Hundred Eyes demonstrates that blindness is no barrier to him by throwing the piece of fruit he's eating into the air, slicing it with his sword on both the way up and the way down, and then flooring Marco by kicking his legs out from under him.
- Friendship Denial: Makes a point of this to Marco throughout season one. Eventually, Marco finally points out to him that it's not true.
- Handicapped Badass: He doesn't let being blind stop him from beating Marco senseless at every opportunity he gets.
- I Need a Freaking Drink: Invokes this to Marco after the latter's duel with Jingim.
- Ironic Nickname: He is a blind man called "Hundred Eyes." It was revealed Kublai gave him this appellation when he regained his fighting skills after training blind—and after successfully training the young Prince Jingim to Kublai's satisfaction.
- Master Swordsman: Very much so. Though he is just as good with his hands.
- Mêlée à Trois: The episode "White Moon" features one of these between Hundred Eyes, Jia Sidao and Fang Zhen of the Red Lotus Society.
- My Kung-Fu Is Stronger Than Yours: He uses a different style of kung fu against Jia Sidao's Praying Mantis style and finds him difficult to defeat. It isn't until he demonstrates his own proficiency in Praying Mantis in their final duel that he is able to best him.
- No Social Skills: Downplayed. Hundred Eyes is certainly capable of talking to people, but he has a persistent problem of trying and failing to use diplomacy to solve problems. The only thing he can reliably use to have his way is force.
- Only Known by Their Nickname: Before entering the Khan's service, Hundred Eyes was a Wudang monk known as Li Jinbao.
- Pet the Dog: Has a fair few instances of this to Marco.
- Pressure Point: Is capable of this, though it's generally not his first choice in a fight. Overlaps with The Paralyzer.
- Race Lift: The historical counterpart of Hundred Eyes, Bayan of the Baarin, was a Mongol not Chinese.
- Servile Snarker: Downplayed. Hundred Eyes knows that his whole existence and that of his religion is at Kublai's mercy, but that doesn't top him from having some attitude.
Kokachin, the Blue Princess of the Bayaut/Nergüi
Princess of the Bayaut tribe. A hostage of the Khan.
- Arranged Marriage: Chabi arranges for Kokachin to become another wife for Jingim.
- Broken Bird: Her people were slaughtered and she was imprisoned by the khan.
- Defiled Forever: Subverted. When the virginity test fails, Chabi blatantly fixes the results and with one look commands the examiners to proclaim her a virgin anyway.
- Driven to Suicide: The real Kokachin, who considered capture a Fate Worse than Death, killed herself before the Mongols could take her. Her servant, Nergüi, then took her place...only to realize that her former master might have had a point after all. She also tries to kill herself, but decides against it at the last minute.
- Played straight in the season 2 finale; tormented by guilt, heartbreak and postpartum depression, she submerges herself in the water; Chabi helps by pushing her head under.
- Emergency Impersonation: The real Kokachin committed suicide before she could be captured. Her servant dressed up in her clothes and was taken away instead.
- Fake Aristocrat: The so-called princess is actually a servant of said princess named Nergüi.
- Gilded Cage: Princess Kokachin, as a "guest" of the Khan, lives in one.
- Meaningful Name: Her real name, Nergüi, means "No Name" or "No One" in Mongolian.
- Sanity Slippage: Throughout the second season. It starts with frightful emotional repression, and goes from there.
- Stepford Smiler: Engages in a lot of this, particularly once she has been wedded to Jingim, and considers herself abandoned by Marco.
- Sugar-and-Ice Personality: Best demonstrated by how she interacts with Marco as they grow closer.
- Uptown Girl: Marco has Belligerent Sexual Tension with her. Subverted when she confesses to being a fake, then she and Marco make love.
The eunuch protector of Kokachin
Kublai's uncle, he is a Mongolian Christian.
- Bald of Evil: A bald-headed Mongol leader who leads a rebellion against his Khan, who also happens to be his nephew.
- Christianity Is Catholic: The most prominent Christian among the Mongols turns out to be a Catholic who agrees to be the Pope's agent to stem Mongol expansion toward Christian lands. In real life, Nayan was actually a Nestorian Christian, who would've been counted as a heretic by the Pope and who in turn would not feel any special regard for the Pope himself.
- Cruel and Unusual Death: Crucifixion, by his own request no less.
- Enemy Mine: With Kaidu, who dislikes Christians but works alongside him and Gregory to overthrow Kublai.
- Evil Uncle: To Kublai Khan.
- Flanderization: In context to his historical self; Nayan was indeed a Christian, but he was a Mongol first who embraced his people's nomadic ways of life and viewed Kublai as a traitor - his religion being secondary. Christianity makes such a big part of Nayan's character in the show that he chooses crucifixion as his way of dying.
- Historical Villain Upgrade: In the show, Nayan agrees to lead a Crusade against his own nephew out of purely religious reasons, while the real one led a rebellion thinking he was abandoning his Mongolian roots and embracing Chinese values instead. This motivation change was likely done in order to differentiate him from Kaidu, who criticized Kublai in the same way.
The dying emperor of the Song dynasty
Empress Dowager Xie Daoquing
Empress Dowager of the Song dynasty and Lizong's chief wife
Emperor's Lizong son and successor (note: his real-life historical counterpart is Emperor Duzong, the nephew of Lizong; in this TV series, he is instead changed into the son of Lizong and renamed as Emperor Zhaoxian)
- A Child Shall Lead Them: He wasn't even ten years old when he came into power.
- Children Are Innocent: He's very playful and trusting, and has never faced serious hardship.
- Puppet King: He relies on the Empress Dowager and Jia Sidao to rule the kingdom in his stead.
- Put On The Bus: In-universe. He's sent away in the season 1 finale when the Mongols attack. Marco and Mei Lin track him down and bring him back to Cambulac, where a council is held to decide the boy's fate. Despite Marco, Jingim and Chabi opposing it Kublai later kills the poor kid after Ahmad goads him into it.
Chancellor Jia Sidao
Chancellor of the Song dynasty
- Authority Equals Asskicking: Jia Sidao, the chancellor of the Song Dynasty, also turns out to be the nation's most powerful martial artist.
- Badass Bureaucrat: He's a bureaucrat and at the same time a deadly practitioner of Tang Lang, the "Northern Praying Mantis" kung fu.
- Big Bad: The man keeping up the war effort with the Mongols, although he's not the highest authority in the Song dynasty, Jia Sidao is still the primary antagonist for season 1.
- Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: He acts affectionate toward his niece Ling-Ling, but doesn't really care about her beyond what advantages she brings him.
- Cain and Abel: The Cain to Mei Lin's Abel.
- Curb-Stomp Battle: Jia Sidao effortlessly beats up the strongest man in the Chinese army to show his strength. When Marco fights him in the last episode Jia effortlessly beats the shit out of him.
- Dragon-in-Chief: Jia Sidao is merely the chancellor, and thus the dying Emperor, surviving Empress and the new child Emperor all outrank him. Nonetheless, Sidao is the primary antagonist, and the only Chinese actively pursuing war against the Mongols. After the Dowager Empress dies, leaving the boy Emperor in his care, Sidao rules completely unopposed.
- Establishing Character Moment: Jia Sidao describes his pet mantis, which allows itself to appear vulnerable in order to position itself perfectly to strike at the right moment and gain dominance, in a way that clearly refers to himself.
- Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Subverted. He doesn't care one bit for his sister or niece. Despite his strong attraction to Jing Fei, he doesn't bat an eye at her suicide, though he is visibly saddened to know she lied to him.
- Evil Chancellor: Jia Sidao, by far the most evil Chinese character.
- Evil Counterpart/Foil: To the honest, loyal Yusuf.
- Evil Uncle: Jia Sidao holds his own niece hostage to get Mei Lin to spy on Kublai Khan's court. The little girl is too young to see through his Bitch in Sheep's Clothing routine.
- Freudian Excuse: Jia Sidao's distrust of women stems from being forced to rely on his younger sister whoring herself out to older men. When he finds out that Jing Fei lied to him he admits that he actually did try to overcome his distaste for her and was genuinely heartbroken to see she lied to him.
- Historical Badass Upgrade: Jia Sidao is also portrayed as an extremely proficient martial artist that can fight Hundred Eyes to a standstill. He's also a cunning strategist whereas his real counterpart was an incompetent idiot who helped doom the Song dynasty.
- In-Series Nickname: "The Cricket Minister". Bonus points for it sounding like "The Crooked Minister"
- Jerkass: Petty Asshole is about the nicest thing anyone can use to say about him.
- Kick the Dog: If Jia Sidao is talking to or about his sister, he's probably doing this. He considers her a worthless whore and shows no respect for her whatsoever.
- Never a Self-Made Woman: Inverted. He resents that a large part of his success can be attributed to his sister Mei Lin. While he's clever and skilled in his own right, it was Mei Lin who kept them alive in the slums and wheedled them into the royal court.
- Off with His Head!: How he finally meets his end.
- Rags to Riches: Jia Sidao and Mei Lin moved from living in the slums to having powerful positions in the Song court.
- The Rival: He struggles for power against the Song Empress Dowager.
- Sex Is Evil, and I Am Horny: Jia Sidao has some serious sexual hangups because he used to hide under the floorboards while his sister whored in their room. Might veer into Freudian Excuse.
- Took a Level in Badass/Took a Level in Jerkass: In flashbacks, he's shown to be a relatively nice, clueless guy who depended on his younger sister for everything. Now he's powerful enough to give the empress dowager cause for concern and treats his sister abominably.
- War Hawk: Jia Sidao wants war between the Chinese and the Mongols in order to consolidate his own power within the Song court.
- Would Hurt a Child: Jia Sidao breaks his niece's feet while binding them in order to punish his sister.
Jia Sidao's sister, a former whore turned concubine of the Emperor Lizong
- Action Girl: She's a pretty deadly warrior and assassin.
- Because You Were Nice to Me: She helps Marco unravel Ahmad's plan because he was the only character in the series who actually treats her with respect (and as such the only one she trusts enough to ask to deliver her daughter). She even gives him a genuine kiss.
- Cain and Abel: The Abel to Jia Sidao's Cain.
- Establishing Character Moment: She's first shown having sex with a Song official to broker a deal, then putting a knife to his throat to make it more interesting.
- Full-Frontal Assault: Mei Lin attacks a trio of soldiers who seek to rape her fully nude.
- Heterosexual Life-Partners: With Jing Fei, a fellow concubine.
- Honey Pot: She made a career out of it.
- Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Heart of Gold might be a bit generous, but she does care deeply for the people she loves. She's only spying on the Mongol court for the sake of her daughter.
- Kiss of Death: Mei Lin, posing as a concubine, tried to assassinate Chabi by mixing poison with her lipstick. She knew Kublai was into that kind of thing, but Chabi declined the kiss and made Mei Lin kiss another concubine instead.
- Mama Bear: There's nothing in the world she wouldn't do for Ling-Ling.
- Manipulative Bitch: She's very good at getting people to do what she wants. At one time, she was the one pulling the strings, until her brother got more clever.
- The Mole: Sidao sends her to spy on the Mongol court by posing as a concubine.
- Reverse Mole: But she's apprehended after failing to assassinate Empress Chabi and made to serve Kublai.
- Ms. Fanservice: Due to her position as a concubine, she has a lot of nude scenes.
- Rags to Riches: Jia Sidao and Mei Lin moved from living in the slums to having powerful positions in the Song court.
- Royal Harem: She was a concubine for the late emperor, Ling-Ling's father. Later she infiltrates Kublai's harem.
- Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: With Marco in the first two episodes of season 2. Though she does kiss him after he frees Ling Ling.
Mei Lin's daughter with the late Emperor Lizong
- Agony of the Feet: Played for drama. Footbinding was practiced by the Song dynasty and it is not pleasant at all. The fact that her uncle does it to her is used to show that he doesn't give a damn about her well-being.
- Cheerful Child: Few things get her down.
- Children Are Innocent: She's completely oblivious to all the plots and wars going on around her. Though she later indicates she has realized what Mei Ling has been doing.
- I Have Your Daughter: Her uncle holds her hostage to force her mother to spy on the Mongols. Later, she ends up in Empress Chabi's custody, who wants Mei Lin to spy on the Chinese.
- When Are You Coming Home, Mom?: The longer Mei Lin's mission takes, the more frustrated Ling-Ling becomes. She doesn't understand why her mother left or why it's taking her so long to get back.
Another concubine of the late Emperor Lizong and former whore, a friend and ally of Mei Lin
- Dark Mistress: She plays this role to Jia Sidao, who is in love with her, but it's unclear if she returns his feelings. She may only be maintaining a relationship with him to protect Mei Lin and Ling-Ling. On one hand she refuses Marco's offer to leave with him and Hundred Eyes during their exfiltration mission to extract Ling-Ling and is visibly saddened just before committing suicide; on the other hand, she didn't tell him about Marco and Hundred Eyes.
- Driven to Suicide: She falls on her sword after Sidao learns that the assassination attempt on Empress Chabi has failed.
- Heterosexual Life-Partners: With Mei Lin
- Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Plays this straighter than Mei Lin.
- Mama Bear: She's very protective of Ling-Ling and the only person looking out for the little girl when her mother leaves.
- Love-Interest Traitor: Inverted. Jia Sidao believes her to be this after she falsely reports Empress Chabi's death, but Jing Fei is good and he's evil.
- Parental Substitute: She's a mother figure to Ling-Ling, even before Mei Lin left.
- Undying Loyalty: To Mei Lin
A member of the Red Lotus Society and champion of the Empress Dowager
- The Champion: Of the Empress Dowager.
A mysterious Song loyalist who launches a single-handed mission to avenge the dynasty after its destruction.
- Action Girl: Yeoh is in fine form as usual. She's the only other character who's an equal match for Hundred Eyes.
- Love-Interest Traitor: She views Hundred Eyes as this, after learning that he now serves the Khan who slaughtered their people.
- Noble Bigot: Does not have a high opinion of Europeans (and is in fact appalled that Hundred Eyes taught "a round eye" their skills.)
- Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Nothing will get in the way of her revenge on the Mongols.
Marco Polo's father, a Venetian merchant
- Abusive Parents: Nicollo left before Marco was born and did not return until he was sixteen, had no idea his mother had died, and intends abandoning him again within days of their meeting. When Marco sneaks aboard his father's ship, his father decides to sell him off to Kublai.
- Hidden Depths: Not only is Noccolò a merchant, he is also an agent of the Holy See who works to annihilate the Mongols and is very proficient with a sword. A very different picture of the amoral smuggler one could have had of him in the first season.
- Knight Templar: Believes that the Mongols are a blight to be eliminated and to this end has worked with five popes to try to destroy them.
- Pet the Dog: Despite being generally disdainful towards Marco, he nonetheless treats him when he falls ill during a climb through a wintery mountain pass. He even goes so far as to expel Marco's uncle - his own brother - from the tent for insisting Marco be left to die for threatening everything the traders have been working for.
Niccolò's brother and business partner
- Jerkass: When Marco falls ill, Maffeo suggests leaving him to die.
Rashid ad-Din Sinan, the Old Man of the Mountain
The leader of the Hashshashin
A member of the Bayaut tribe and would-be suitor of Princess Kokachin