Marco Polo

December 11, 2014 4:33 PM

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In the third episode of Netflix's historical drama Marco Polo, a blind martial-arts master instructs the titular Italian adventurer about kung fu. ''It means supreme skill from hard work,'' he teaches while schooling Marco's ass with crane-and-tiger moves. ''The painter. The calligrapher. They can be said to have kung fu.'' An entertaining television show can be said to have kung fu too, though it needs to quickly prove it. You have to knock us out immediately or we won't be back the next week — or, with a bingeable, the next hour. There's just too much great kung fu out there to be wasting time on anything that isn't a kick in the head.

This is to say that Marco Polo's pilot blows. The premise is stale, a riff on the Western-white-guilt stranger-in-a-strange-land-goes-native genre. You can start counting the minutes until Marco (Lorenzo Richelmy) falls for the moony princess (Zhu Zhu) and repudiates his own exploitative people. The...

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