|The Wolf and the Deer|
|Season 1, Episode 2|
"The Wolf and the Deer" is the second episode of the first season of Marco Polo. It is the second episode of the series overall. It was written by executive producer John Fusco and directed by executive producers Joachim Rønning & Espen Sandberg.
When we last saw Marco Polo, he was trying to make his way through Kublai Khan’s pleasure dome without touching one of his seductive concubines. Now, he’s practicing calligraphy and hoarding food in secret.
Prince Jingim (Remy Hii)returns to court shamed. He lost his battle, and he needs his mother, Empress Chabi (Joan Chen), to defend him against the anger of his father. However, the big question is why didn’t Kublai Khan’s brother arrive with reinforcements? Marco Polo is following a tax collector around the city and like a good, eager intern, he is lugging stuff and absorbing wisdom. He learns that the tax collector lets people pay him in linens if they don’t have coins, and he meets the tax collector’s group of cute, but annoying, kids. The little ones climb all over him and the pretty teen daughter quietly sketches Marco’s exotic face.
Marco notices a piece of paper on a shrine in the house, which he’s told are “words of love” for the tax collector’s wife. And then, Marco presses his new boss about traveling the Silk Road. He acts interested in the finances of it, secretly trying to work out an escape route. The tax collector seems to pick up on it and warns him to stay safe in the city.
Within the Walled City, Mei Lin (Olivia Cheng) tries to explain to her daughter, Ling Ling, that her father, the emperor is dying. She uses a beautiful metaphor about Noble Tiger growing tired and old, and falling asleep, and dreaming that he became young again forever. Jia Sidao (Chin Han), Mei Lin’s brother, interlopes on the scene and the two politely argue about whether or not the Emperor’s death is a blessing for the monarch (who now won’t witness his dynasty falling to the Mongols) or if it’s one for Jia Sidao.
We return to Marco. He is riding out of the city, presumably to try to escape. However, he spies the beautiful Kokachin (Zhu Zhu) hiding something under a tree and he is compelled to stop and talk to her. He finds out that she is “The Blue Princess,” and she is not here for his antics. Marco points out that they are both prisoners of the court, but she explains that while he is a pet, she is a princess. They flirt and they race on horseback back to the city. Her bodyguard is not happy. Kublai Khan isn’t happy either.
Marco is sent to accompany Prince Jingim on a trip to visit Kublai Khan’s brother, Ariq. The Khan wants Marco to report back what he sees in poetic language. Ariq speaks to Prince Jingim in private, and the prince believes his uncle’s excuse for why he was abandoned in battle. However, while this is going on, Marco explores the camp. He observes the horses and the grain supplies, but says nothing for the moment.
When they return to court, Prince Jingim announces that his uncle is ready to join them in battle against the Chinese. Marco, called upon by Kublai Khan, counters they don’t have the grain supply for that kind of campaign. He suggests that Ariq’s army is preparing to take on Kublai Khan’s forces, effectively accusing the Khan's brother of treason. The Khan dispatches a rider to confirm these reports and Jingim threatens Marco.
Threatened and cagey, Marco grabs his food stash and prepares to leave the city. The escape is quickly foiled when Hundred Eyes (Tom Wu) appears in the stables; he explains that Marco is a fool for attempting to run from the Khan and his men, who are numerous and well supplied for a long manhunt. He convinces Marco to stay and to learn how to fight, shown now with a broadsword and improving quickly. Prince Jingim arrives while Marco and Hundred Eyes are sparring, and threatens to kill Marco if he ever humiliates the prince in court again. As he leaves, however, Prince Jingim admits that Ariq had betrayed them.
Kublai Khan relaxes in the palace gardens with his wife, the luminous Empress Chabi, but is visably upset by his brother's betrayal. He does not show outward bloodlust toward Ariq when prodded by his wife about the traitor's punishment. The Empress insults Ariq and compares him to a “dog who would eat its own afterbirth.” She then calmly tells him that she would be aroused by seeing Ariq trampled to death by horses, before leaving.
Jia Sidao is with a friend and working on martial art - the praying mantises. They discuss how Ariq is taking on Kublai Khan, and that is good news, but what’s more important is that the old Emperor has died and left a toddler as his heir. So, Jia Sidao and his praying mantis are in charge. The Empress regent, now widowed, is highly suspicious of the chancellor's ambition.
Back in Marco’s world, he has a meeting with Ahmad (Mahesh Jadu), the Khan’s adopted son and royal treasurer. He wants to know why the tax collector has been stiffing the crown. Namely, why hasn’t the tax collector given the crown the linen that he’s collected in lieu of coin. Marco falters, and dodges the question. Ahmed says that in the Khan's court, an honest answer is a shield, and it is clearly a way to say that he has called Marco's bluff. When asked again, Marco says that perhaps the tax collector simply forgot. Later, Marco meets Prince Jingim on the plains. A man has been wrapped in a carpet and is being trampled to death by horses. It is the tax collector. Prince Jingim says it is an honorable death, but it is yet another thinly veiled threat.
Jia Sidao sends three guards to rape his sister, Mei Lin. Mei Lin responds at first by seductively taking off her robe, dancing and speaking coyly. Once naked, she brutally murders all three men, much to the displeasure of her brother. Knowing she is caught, Mei Lin surrenders. As punishment, Jia Sidao casts Mei Lin off and sells her into Kublai Khan’s harem. Her task is to infiltrate the ranks and spy on him. Jia Sidao will hold her daughter, Ling Ling, as currency. Before she’s sent off, she tells her brother that his generals mock him by calling him “the Cricket Minister.”
Kublai Khan sends his brother Ariq a broken arrow: a declaration of war. The Mongols ride to war against each other. The night before the battle, Kublai Khan and his brother meet in a tent. They play games and reminisce about their childhood. Kublai reminds Ariq that he was elected to be Khan by the Kurultai, to which Ariq responds by reminding him that the Princes of Karakoram and the Chagatid of Persia voted against him. They tell each other they love each other. It’s not enough, though. Ariq’s ambition and Kublai Khan's honor demand they meet in battle.
Back at camp, Kublai Khan and Marco Polo talk about their disappointing fathers. Kublai Khan’s father was never Khan of Khans, and Marco Polo’s father is not the great adventurer he dreams him to be. In this the two men are kindred spirits, having suffered the pains of not receiving love from their family. The great Khan tells Marco to remember what he sees the next day at the battle.
The next day, the two warring Mongol tribes line up to face each other in battle on an open field. Marco describes to Hundred Eyes that the opposing tribe is, "All the way to the horizon. A sea of men and horses ready to break ashore."
However, instead of charging, the two brothers decide to fight one-on-one to the death. What follows is a gripping battle of the wills. Kublai Khan is not the warrior he used to be and it seems that Ariq will get the upper hand. But then, Kublai Khan finds the strength to kill his own brother.
A wild hawk cries. With the civil war ended as quickly as it had started, Kublai Khan reunites the Mongols and declares they will take the Walled City.
- Starring cast members Rick Yune (Kaidu) and Pierfrancesco Favino (Niccolò Polo) are not credited and do not appear in this episode.
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