Marco Polo was a man who spent 25 years and 15,000 miles traveling the Silk Road and successfully navigating the inner court of Mongol Emperor Kublai Khan. Yet he has been diminished to a phrase to be shrieked by children at public pools across the country. Netflix is hoping to change that.
The streaming service will add “Marco Polo” to their roster of original shows. In keeping with tradition, all ten episodes will air at once. This way fans of historical fiction can binge watch at their leisure. Ahead of the Dec. 12 release, the $90 million epic – making it one of the most expensive shows ever produced – quietly dropped its first trailer back in October. As the premiere date approaches however, the buzz has been building.
Netflix has a daunting task in front of them with “Marco Polo,” as Western media has a hit-or-miss history with adapting non-European stories. The trope of the White Savior is a pervasive narrative, and an easy trap to fall into. Looking at you “Avatar” and “The Last Samurai.”
But while “Marco Polo” definitely has shades of modern day historical dramas (re: copious amounts of female nudity), I”m still tentatively excited to see what Netflix has done here. “Orange is the New Black” is one of the most compelling dramas and most diverse casts on television. There”s no reason to believe Netflix won't put the same amount of rigorous effort into accurately portraying 13th century China's socio-political landscape.
Focusing on the titular character in the trailer is the smart move. But my fingers are crossed that Marco Polo is merely a window into the complex cultural shift that occurred under Khan as he mobilized to conquer 1/5th of the world”s inhabited land mass. There”s a rich history here waiting to be told. Let”s hope Netflix will actually tell it.
The show stars Lorenzo Richelmy, Chin Han, Mahesh Jadu, Shu An Oon, Vanessa Vanderstraaten, Rick Yune, and Nicholas Bloodworth.
Season One of “Marco Polo” will be available on Netflix streaming December 12.