‘Dimension 20: Escape from the Bloodkeep’ TV show review
By Jacey Gibb, Distribution Manager
The jokesters over at CollegeHumor launched their own comedy streaming platform Dropout TV. I’m here to tell you if their exclusive content is worth the subscription fee.
Mainstream fantasy stories often follow a similar narrative: Introduction to overwhelming forces of evil; introduction to forces of good; forces of good assemble to combat aforementioned evil, while experiencing small victories/defeats/losses; forces of good ultimately prevail.
It’s a broad generalization, but it covers a lot of the story arcs out there—and that’s (at least partially) what makes Escape from the Bloodkeep such a compelling tale.
For those unfamiliar with the show, Dimension 20 is a tabletop role-playing series, largely rooted in the fantasy world of Dungeons & Dragons. Whereas the first season of Dimension 20 followed six fledgling heroes navigating adventure academy, season two focuses on the villains’ story. In particular, it zooms in on six generals during the final days of the war-to-end-all-wars. The forces of good have been presumably decimated, and the villains are preparing for the final push when a twist encounter threatens to undo everything they’ve worked towards.
While officially dubbed season two of Dimension 20, Escape from the Bloodkeep is also referred to as a “side quest.” The season is a tight, six-episode run that continues the previously established pattern of plot-heavy episode followed by combat episode. The episodes are jam-packed and vary considerably in length—the finale is a bursting three hours long—but each feels like a crucial part to the overall story.
Knowing the episode count heading into this season, I was worried that the compressed length would come at a cost of character development, but the opposite occurred. With only a handful of sessions to go, players make bold decisions and act like each episode could be their last. The second combat episode, which takes place between multiple air ships, is particularly panic-inducing. This rise in stakes results in a plot that moves at breakneck speed, with some immensely satisfying character arcs playing out along the way.
The cast is a who’s-who of D&D royalty as well, with Matthew Mercer (Critical Role), Erika Ishii (Geek and Sundry), Ify Nwadiwe (Nerdificient) and Amy Vorpahl (Saving Throw) all playing new, original characters. During a behind-the-scenes featurette (also available on Dropout) several cast members keep referring to how stacked the roster is, and it truly feels like an all-star gathering. Balancing it out are CollegeHumor cast members Rekha Shankar and Mike Trapp, who’ve never played D&D before but hold their own against the tabletop veterans.
Of course, the glue holding everything together is Dungeon Master Brennan Lee Mulligan. Mulligan remains one of the most exciting DMs in pop culture, and Escape from the Bloodkeep is no exception. For this outing Mulligan has created a beautiful, engaging story that succeeds in simultaneously feeling like an homage to the fantasy genre while also sculpting a path of his own. Several of the characters and locations will immediately sound familiar, in a fun wink-and-a-nod to many popular fantasy icons. You could assemble the most talented players and have the best storyline around, but without a charismatic DM like Mulligan at the helm, it just doesn’t work.
Escape from the Bloodkeep is tabletop adventuring at its best. The show takes all the best aspects from Dimension 20’s first season—terrific performances, rich storytelling, and impressive set pieces—and distills it into a shortened mini-adventure that will leave you wanting more, yet completely satisfied.
Part of the first episode of Dimension: Escape from the Bloodkeep is available on YouTube. The full season (all six episodes) can only be found on Dropout TV.