Marco Polo (TV series)
|Created by||John Fusco|
|Theme music composer||Daniele Luppi|
|Ending theme||Altan Urag|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||2|
|No. of episodes||20 + 1 special|
|Running time||51–60 minutes|
The Weinstein Company TV|
|Picture format||1080i (HDTV), 2160p (4K UHD)|
|Audio format||Dolby Digital 5.1|
|Original release||December 12, 2014 – present|
Marco Polo is an American drama web television series inspired by Marco Polo's early years in the court of Kublai Khan, the Khagan of the Mongol Empire and the founder of the Yuan dynasty (1271–1368). The show premiered on Netflix on December 12, 2014. The series was written and created by John Fusco and stars Lorenzo Richelmy in the title role with Benedict Wong as Kublai Khan. The series is produced by The Weinstein Company. On January 7, 2015, Marco Polo was renewed by Netflix for a 10-episode second season, which premiered on July 1, 2016.
Cast and characters
- Lorenzo Richelmy as Marco Polo, a Venetian merchant who travels to China with his father and uncle and is ultimately left there as a guest of the Khan, rising to official position in the court.
- Benedict Wong as Kublai Khan, the fifth Great Khan of the Mongol Empire.
- Joan Chen as Chabi, empress of the Yuan Dynasty, a Khongirad wife and valued unofficial adviser of the Khan.
- Pierfrancesco Favino as Niccolò Polo, Marco's father.
- Rick Yune as Kaidu, the Khan's cousin and rival, leader of the Ögedei Khanate. (seasons 1-2)
- Amr Waked as Yusuf, the Khan's Vice Regent or chancellor. (season 1)
- Remy Hii as Prince Jingim, the Khan's lawful son and heir.
- Zhu Zhu as Nergui/Kokachin, a servant of the Blue Princess of the Mongol Bayaut tribe who disguised herself as Kokachin and later marries Jingim. (seasons 1-2)
- Tom Wu as Hundred Eyes, a blind Taoist monk willfully enslaved to the Khan and sifu to Jingim and Marco Polo.
- Mahesh Jadu as Ahmad, the Khan's Minister of Finance and adopted son. (seasons 1-2)
- Olivia Cheng as Mei Lin, concubine of the late Emperor Lizong of Song and a talented martial artist.
- Uli Latukefu as Byamba, the Khan's bastard, a general of both the imperial army and the Mongol horde.
- Chin Han as Jia Sidao, the chancellor to the Song Emperors Huaizong and Duanzong, and Mei Lin's brother. (season 1, guest season 2)
- Ron Yuan as Nayan, a prince of the Borjigin royal family and Nestorian Christian who finds himself torn between his faith and his khan. (season 2)
- Claudia Kim as Khutulun, Kaidu's daughter and favored child, niece of the Khan, wife of Byamba, and a superb warrior in her own right. (season 2-, recurring season 1)
- Jacqueline Chan as Shakana, Kaidu's mother. (season 2-)
- Leonard Wu as Orus, Kaidu's son who hopes he'll be named heir over his sister, Khutulun. (season 2)
- Thomas Chaanhing as Gerel, a khan. (season 2-)
- Chris Pang as Arban, a khan. (season 2-)
- Gabriel Byrne as Pope Gregory X (season 2-)
- Michelle Yeoh as Lotus, the designated protector of the Song Dynasty's boy emperor and former lover of Bayan (Hundred Eyes). (season 2-)
- Chloe Luthi (season 1) and Jaime Chew (season 2) as Ling Ling, the daughter of Mei Lin and the former Emperor of the Song Dynasty.
- Max Kellady as Emperor Duzong, the son of the empress dowager and the former Emperor of the Song Dynasty.
- Esther Low as Kokachin, the real Blue Princess of the Mongol Bayaut tribe.
- Tan Kheng Hua as Xie Daoqing, empress dowager of the Song Dynasty.
- Lawrence Makoare as Za Bing, Princess Kokachin's eunuch protector.
- Patrick Teoh as TBD
- Shu An Oon as Jing Fei, Mei Lin's friend, also an imperial concubine.
- Nicholas Bloodworth as Tulga, Kokachin's guardian.
- Vanessa Vanderstraaten as Sorga, one of Jingim's wives.
- Corrado Invernizzi as Maffeo Polo, Marco's uncle.
- Baljinnyamyn Amarsaikhan as Ariq Böke, the Khan's brother, overseer of Karakorum.
- Woon Young Park as Nima
- Darwin Shaw as Sabbah, a member of the Assassins, reporting to Ahmad.
- Daniel Tuiara as Sukh, Ahmad's sworn warrior.
- Jason Chong as Kasar
- Tosh Zhang as Bai
- Byambadorj Altanhuyag as General Qaban
- Bayarsaikhan Baljinnyam as Bariyachi
- Aaron Jackson as Maximus Dutti
- Laura Prats as Shoreh
- Togo Igawa as Chuluun
The series was originally developed at Starz, which had picked up the series in January 2012. After attempts to film in China failed, the project was released back to The Weinstein Company. Netflix then picked up the series for a 10-episode season, for approximately $90 million, making it one of the most expensive TV shows in the world, second to Game of Thrones. The project was officially announced at Netflix in January 2014. Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg serve as executive producers and directed the pilot and second episodes, "The Wayfarer" and "The Wolf and the Deer", respectively. The series was filmed in Italy, Kazakhstan, and at Pinewood Studios in Malaysia.
Stuntman Ju Kun was working on the show alongside fight choreographer Brett Chan, but went missing with the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 during pre-production.
During his extensive research, show creator John Fusco traveled the Silk Road by horseback and also crossed the Ming Sha Dunes of Western China on camel. In Venice, Italy he sought out and studied the Last Will and Testament of Marco Polo. While some Mongolian viewers and experts view it as "riddled with historical errors", many have praised the series. Orgil Narangerel, who played Genghis Khan in a BBC documentary, said it was more accurate than any previous foreign portrayal of Mongolian culture. "As a Mongol and an artist, 'Marco Polo' makes me feel like our dreams are coming true," he told AFP. "I watched all 10 episodes in just one day.".
The series featured music by Mongolian bands Altan Urag and Batzorig Vaanchig of Asia's Got Talent, who cameoed as a singer. Daniele Luppi composed the main theme, whilst Peter Nashel and Eric V. Hachikian are composers of the original score.
The first season of Marco Polo was met with mixed to negative reviews from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes, the first season holds a rating of 24%, based on 33 reviews, with a rating average of 4.7/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "An all-around disappointment, Marco Polo is less entertaining than a round of the game that shares its name." On Metacritic, the show's first season has a score of 48 out of 100 based on 21 reviews by critics, indicating "mixed reviews".
In his review for Entertainment Weekly, Jeff Jensen gave the first season a "B−" rating, calling the premise "stale", but added "Somewhere in the middle of episode 2, though, Marco Polo becomes surprisingly watchable. The filmmaking becomes bolder." Writing for People, Tom Gliatto praised the series, calling it "...a fun, body-flinging, old-fashioned epic". USA Today reviewer Robert Bianco gave the series 1 1⁄2 stars out of 4, saying, "Clearly what Netflix hopes you'll see a [sic] big-bucks, prestige entertainment along the lines of that HBO fantasy epic, but in truth, Marco is far closer to one of those cheesy international syndicated adventures."
The second season, however, while not yet officially rated on Rotten Tomatoes due to an insufficient number of reviewers, has a 100% approval rating based on 3 reviews.
On March 23, 2015, the President of Mongolia Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj presented John Fusco and the Marco Polo creative team with an award, honoring their positive portrayal and global presentation of Mongolian subject matter. Fusco, himself, has described the series as historical fiction, based on the accounts of the Venetian traveler Marco Polo.
Season 1 (December 12, 2014)
|Title||Directed by||Written by|
|1||1||"The Wayfarer"||Joachim Rønning & Espen Sandberg||John Fusco|
|After three years crossing seas, deserts and the Silk Road, a young Marco Polo finds himself a prisoner of the great Kublai Khan.|
|2||2||"The Wolf and the Deer"||Joachim Rønning & Espen Sandberg||John Fusco|
|As Kublai Khan battles his warmonger brother for rule over Mongolia, Marco learns that justice in Khan's Imperial City is swift as it is deadly.|
|3||3||"Feast"||Alik Sakharov||Michael Chernuchin|
|Marco begins a dangerous relationship with the beautiful Blue Princess as tensions grow between Kublai and Xiangyang's cunning Chancellor.|
|4||4||"The Fourth Step"||Alik Sakharov||Brett Conrad|
|As war looms with the walled city of Xiangyang, Prince Jingim tests his diplomacy skills while Kublai questions Marco's allegiance.|
|5||5||"Hashshashin"||Daniel Minahan||Patrick Macmanus|
|Marco searches for the mastermind behind a murderous plot, while Prince Jingim weighs the risks of retaliation.|
|6||6||"White Moon"||Daniel Minahan||Dave Erickson|
|On the eve of an auspicious ceremony, Marco searches for the culprit behind the assassination attempted on Kublai Khan, even as a new one takes shape.|
|7||7||"The Scholar's Pen"||David Petrarca||Michael Chernuchin|
|Marco and Hundred Eyes take on a dangerous mission to infiltrate the walled city of Xiangyang, while its Chancellor struggles to hold on to power.|
|8||8||"Rendering"||John Maybury||Brett Conrad|
|When Kublai sets his sights — and his army — on the taking of the walled city of Xiangyang, Marco's allegiance is tested.|
|9||9||"Prisoners"||David Petrarca||Patrick Macmanus|
|Marco finds his fate in the hands of Kublai yet again. Meanwhile, behind the walls of Xiangyang, Chancellor Sidao sets his sights on regaining power.|
|10||10||"The Heavenly and Primal"||John Maybury||John Fusco|
|Marco's ingenuity — and loyalty — is put to the ultimate test when Kublai takes a violent and bold step in his quest to become emperor of the world.|
Christmas special (December 26, 2015)
|Title||Directed by||Written by|
|11||"One Hundred Eyes"||Alik Sakharov||John Fusco|
|A defiant warrior-monk arrives at Kublai Khan's court in chains and soon earns his tragic nickname in this 30-minute origin story.|
Season 2 (July 1, 2016)
|Title||Directed by||Written by|
|12||1||"Hunter and the Sable Weaver"||Daniel Minahan||John Fusco|
|On Prince Jingim's wedding day, Kublai receives disturbing news about the ambitions of his cousin, while Marco navigates a delicate mission.|
|13||2||"Hug"||David Petrarca||Patrick Macmanus|
|Marco gets an unpleasant surprise upon return to Kublai's court. Kublai faces an impossibly difficult decision.|
|14||3||"Measure Against the Linchpin"||Daniel Minahan||Elizabeth Sarnoff|
|Haunted by recent events, Kublai journies with Marco into the mountains for answers. Empress Chabi takes action to insure an heir to the khan.|
|15||4||"Let God’s Work Begin"||David Petrarca||Kate Barnow|
|The Challenge for the throne escalates when two of Kublai's sons are endangered. From far away in Acre, the Holy Land, another threat to the Khan is born.|
|16||5||"Lullaby"||Jon Amiel||Bruce Marshall Romans|
|Rebel attacks flare up in the south and pull Kublai's attention away from home. Kokachin gets an unwelcome visitor from her past.|
|17||6||"Serpent’s Terms"||Jon Amiel||Noelle Valdivia|
|Ahmed's deadly and secret chess match against Kublai enters its endgame, even as Kublai's thirst for power grows stronger than ever.|
|18||7||"Lost Crane"||Alik Sakharov||Matthew White|
|Kaidu's ruthlessness reaches new levels in his bid for power, while Hundred Eyes' former lover has him questioning his loyalties.|
|19||8||"Whitehorse"||James McTeigue||Elizabeth Sarnoff & Patrick Macmanus|
|Marco's allegiance to Kublai is tested like never before. Mei Lin's bold move throws Ahmed's plans into chaos.|
|20||9||"Heirs"||James McTeigue||Kate Barnow|
|Marco's past with Kokachin resurfaces. Kublai's position as Khan faces a final challenge, even as he welcomes a new heir into the world.|
|21||10||"The Fellowship"||Alik Sakharov||Elizabeth Sarnoff & Patrick Macmanus|
|The day of the Kurultai arrives, shaping Kublai's fate as Khan. Ahmed makes his final stand, and Marco learns a terrible truth.|
- "Marco Polo TV series finishes shooting in Slovakia". The Slovak Spectator. Retrieved 7 July 2016.
- "Netflix's 'Marco Polo' Sets December Premiere Date". Deadline.com. August 28, 2014. Retrieved August 28, 2014.
- "Netflix's 'Marco Polo' Sets Its Cast". The Hollywood Reporter. April 8, 2014. Retrieved April 8, 2014.
- Fowle, Kyle (July 1, 2016). "A mega Marco Polo recap: Let's talk about all of season 2". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 6 July 2016.
- "Joan Chen Joins Netflix Series 'Marco Polo'". Variety. May 15, 2014. Retrieved May 15, 2014.
- Approximately the current Xinjang.
- "Egyptian Star Amr Waked Joins 'Marco Polo' Cast (EXCLUSIVE)". May 20, 2014. Retrieved May 20, 2014.
- "Chin Han joins Marco Polo cast". May 16, 2014. Retrieved May 16, 2014.
- Villareal, Yvonne (13 January 2012). "Marco Polo to get the Starz treatment with new original series". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 16 July 2012.
- "The Weinstein Company, Seeking Hits, Shifts to TV". 25 November 2013 – via The New York Times.
- "Netflix Is Creating One Of The Most Expensive TV Shows In The World — Here's Why It's So Important". Business Insider. Retrieved 2016-01-07.
- "It's Official: Netflix Orders Series 'Marco Polo' From Weinstein Co.". deadline.com. January 14, 2014. Retrieved January 14, 2014.
- "Malaysia Airlines MH370 passengers include stuntman, honeymooners". 7 April 2014.
- Mike Ayers. "Inside 'Marco Polo,' Netflix's $90 Million Epic". WSJ.
- "Riding the Silk Road". Traveller. Retrieved 2016-04-12.
- "Netflix Marco Polo Series 'Riddled With Historical Errors'". January 29, 2015. Retrieved March 22, 2016.
- "MARCO POLO: SEASON 1". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved December 22, 2014.
- "Marco Polo (2014) : Season 1". Metacritic. Retrieved December 22, 2014.
- Jensen, Jeff (January 7, 2015). "Marco Polo Review". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved January 10, 2015.
- Gliatto, Tom (December 12, 2014). "Netflix's Fun New Marco Polo Is All About the Wrath of Kublai Khan". people.com. Retrieved January 10, 2015.
- Bianco, Robert (December 12, 2014). "'Marco Polo' gets lost on the Silk Road to nowhere". USA Today. Retrieved January 10, 2015.