“Marco Polo” Season 1 Episode 1 “The Wayfarer” has started streaming on Netflix since Friday, Dec. 12, 2014, at 12:01 a.m. Find out what happened in the first episode of the series in the recap below.
It was the 1200s, and a young Marco Polo (Lorenzo Richelmy) was traveling with his father and his uncle as merchants. They came across a village near Silk Road, which has been burned to the ground as ordered by the ruthless conqueror Kublai Khan (Benedict Wong), the great emperor of Mongolia. The village townsfolk, now mostly dead, were apparently supporters of the Song dynasty, the ruler of the Chinese regime and the Khan's biggest adversaries.
Khan’s forces spotted Marco and his band of travelers. When the priest who was with them tried to run away, he was killed with spears, while the rest of the Polos were brought before the great Khan. The ruler reprimanded Marco’s father for not bringing a priest as he had asked. Marco’s father politely said that the priest could not handle the rigors of travel, but would the great one be pleased with the holy oil they have for him?
Kublai was not impressed and ordered them banished from his grounds, never to trade in his cities again. He was, however, intrigued by Marco, as the young merchant told him stories about the empire’s deserts and Kublai’s lands. He had the gift of words. Marco even showed off by speaking in different languages, which were self-taught. He learned these during his travels with his father. Moreover, he pleased the Kublai’s empress when he perfectly answered where the empire’s beautiful women resided.
So that Kublai would reconsider lifting their ban, Marco’s father offered his son to him to serve the emperor’s court as he pleases. Marco begged for his father not to leave him, but he was immediately locked away in a prison cell.
In a flashback, it was revealed that Marco met his father only after the death of his mother. As a traveling merchant, Niccolo (Pierfrancesco Favino) was away a lot. He returned to his family upon learning Marco’s mother had passed. His relationship with his son was not strained, but it was clear that Niccolo had no intention of filling the void, with one parent now permanently gone.
When Niccolo announced he was going to travel to Silk Road, Marco begged to come with him. When Marco was not allowed to do so, he snuck in his father’s boat. He was discovered by his father in the middle of the storm, and it was too late to let him off the ship now as they were battling high waves and the angry sea.
They traveled for three years, encountering shifting sands, bandits and sandstorms. At one point, Marco nearly died from the cold. His father tended to him to get better. It was then that Marco’s uncle warned his father that the boy will gut the very foundation that they have worked hard to build.
After a near encounter with bandits, Marco and Niccolo had a heart-to-heart talk about following the stars if he ever got scared. But Marco was growing up to be an impressive man, who wasn’t scared of new things and new experiences. He was more curious than scared.
Back in the current world, Kublai’s men were discussing their moves against the Song dynasty, and it was decided by the emperor that his son, Prince Jingim (Remy Hii), will lead the attack on a farmland near Xiangyang, the walled city. He will be supported by Ariq Boke, Kublai’s brother and Kaidu, Kublai’s cousin.
Meanwhile, the Chinese’s emperor was dying, and it looked like the chancellor, Jia Sidao (Chin Han), has been calling the shots, steering things in his favor. Jia Sidao had an ally in his sister, Mei Lin (Olivia Chen), the royal concubine. They were both dangerous and scheming. Mei Lin asked her brother to negotiate with Kublai in the event of the emperor’s death, but Jia Sidao countered she should trust him and his plans.
Back in the Khan empire, Marco Polo was finally released from his cell and was soon introduced to the blind kung fu master Hundred Eyes (Tom Wu), who would teach him the ways of the Mongol. This featured a montage of Marco learning how to ride a horse, improve his swordplay and archery skill, master martial arts and practice calligraphy. Then the time finally came for him to stand before Kublai again.
The emperor asked Marco to tell him his impression of his kingdom, about what he has seen so far, but the young man started whining. Far from being grateful he wasn’t treated as prisoner, he only wondered why Kublai had him take all those lessons.
Kublai instructed him to accompany his tax collector whenever he would make the rounds around town, and in doing so, Marco would have to report to him about the things he would see in his kingdom. It sounded like an easy role, right? But Marco still did not understand what the emperor sought to achieve with this.
One night, Marco was exploring town and saw a pretty Mongolian lass entertaining the children with paper lanterns. But her bodyguard warned Marco to stay far away from her.
During one of his trainings with Hundred Eyes, the kung fu master implored on Marco to forget that his father would come back for him. This was his life now, in Mongol. Later, Marco was asked to visit Kublai while in the middle of an orgy fest. He wanted to test his loyalty. Can Marco walk through the Halls of Five Desires without ever touching any of the beautiful naked women enticing him? Marco successfully did.
In the closing scene, Prince Jingim and his men were getting ready to attack the city, when they realized that it was already protected with Chinese soldiers. They were outnumbered, and the reinforcements Jingim expected from his uncle, Ariq, have yet to arrive. One of the generals advised the prince to retreat, as they would be massacred. But in his eagerness to prove himself to his father and bring him honor, the prince commanded his men to attack.
— Marco Polo (@MarcoPoloMP) December 14, 2014
Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons/Netflix Media Center