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  • Complete Monster: Jia Sidao, season 1's Big Bad, is the Evil Chancellor of the Song Dynasty. He is first introduced brutally beating the army's general in front of his soldiers before killing him upon hearing rumors that he was insulting his style of kung fu. He also shows utter distain for the Mongols, and when he hears Empress Dowager Xie Daoquing was trying to negotiate a peace treaty with the Mongols, he has her and those who agreed to it murdered, along with her already dying husband, so that their son could become emperor, someone easier for him to control, thus leading to him becoming the true ruler of the empire. With his influence, Sidao has every Mongolian village near the Song Dynasty capital, Xianggang, destroyed, with their people all killed. He also holds his sister's daughter hostage so that he can blackmail her to go assassinate the Mongolian emperor and empress. When he finds out she failed to kill them, he tortures her daughter by binding her feet and threatens to kill her if she fails again. When the Mongols attempt to invade Xianggang he uses gunpowder to attack them, with the entire army massacred, causing the Khan to retreat. When the Mongol army succeeds in breaching the walls in their second attempt, Sidao finds Marco Polo, the man who orchestrated this siege, and he makes him suffer, before trying to kill him.
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  • Critical Dissonance: Viewers tend to have much more positive views of the show than professional critics, who have given it scathingly bad reviews. On Rotten Tomato, the difference between the critic's score and the audience's score is a whopping 63%note .
  • Ensemble Dark Horse:
    • Mei Lin is often pointed out as having by far the show's best character arc, with a great performance to match.
    • Hundred Eyes is also loved, for basically being the biggest badass on the show.
    • Michelle Yeoh's enigmatic Song loyalist who goes on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge against the Mongols in Season 2, and is the only person who provides an equal match to Hundred Eyes.
  • Growing the Beard: Season 2 is quite an improvement on the first, with a more interesting Morality Kitchen Sink lacking any simplistic evil villain like Jia Sidao, and Marco himself actually getting to do something besides be a passive Token White observer.
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  • Ho Yay/Foe Yay: Jingim toward Marco. There's a scene where Jingim skips having sex with his wife because he's thinking of Marco (It Makes Sense in Context).
  • Nightmare Fuel:
    • The fact that there was enough of a market for a child prostitute that Mei Lin was able to make a living for herself and Sidao by whoring herself out.
    • The Mongols create the pitch for flaming projectiles by butchering thousands of screaming prisoners and rendering their body parts in a giant cauldron.
  • One-Scene Wonder: Gabriel Byrne as Pope Gregory X, Badass Pacifist nemesis to Kublai.
  • Rooting for the Empire: Within the Marco Polo fandom, you might actually find people (albeit quite a minority) who are actually rooting for Jia Sidao to eventually prevail over the Mongols (historicity be damned), if only because despite his very large character flaws and ambition, he is still ultimately trying to keep Song China independent of Kublai's imperialist designs. The fact that he subverts being a Sissy Villain into actually being Authority Equals Asskicking helps him a bit, lasting long enough against series-wide badass Hundred Eyes—both times they fought.
  • Recycled In Space: Game of Thrones in 13th century East Asia.
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    • Alternately, Vikings but about Mongols. Hilariously, both shows have badass barbarian chieftains who are fascinated by exotic foreigners.
  • Slow-Paced Beginning: A very common view is that if you can muscle through the rather dull first four episodes, the rest is worth it.
  • So Okay, It's Average: The general consensus is that it's fun to watch, but not particularly groundbreaking except that it has an almost all-Asian cast.
  • Tear Jerker: Yusuf's death
    • The Death of Zhaoxing also qualifies. He's just a scared little boy who doesn't want to die, and Kublai clearly feels like shit.
  • Vanilla Protagonist: How some fans see Marco. Some have said that the show should have been called "Kublai Khan".


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