“Marco Polo” is just one episode away from the end of the season, and it looks like the title character might be killed off by the end of this very episode. Of course, we all know that isn’t going to happen. The main character can’t die before the series finale, and there is no reason to believe Netflix expected this to be a one season deal. My confidence is also boosted by the fact that the real Marco Polo eventually went back to Italy and published his memoirs.
Episode 9 features Marco as a prisoner awaiting death for treason. Of course, we all know Marco did not commit treason. But someone needs to go down for the failure to invade the Walled City, and Marco is a convenient scapegoat. He is foreign and no one is still entirely sure why Niccolo would actually choose to leave his only son in China as a slave to the Khan. What is the incentive to sacrifice one’s son? It couldn’t possibly be out of pure greed (Marco’s Dad received the right to travel the Silk Road by sacrificing Marco). However, Marco points out that the case against him doesn’t make any sense, because he didn’t ask to stay with the court. He wanted to remain with his father and travel far from the Khan. He couldn’t be a mole place inside the court in order to destroy the Khan’s kingdom. That would only make sense if he actually volunteered to stay.
In this episode, we see Yusuf shine as Vice Regent. He personally investigates Marco by reading Marco’s diary. Curiously, he finds that there is no evidence Marco has ever plotted against the Khan. What he does find is that Marco has made several escape plans but apparently bailed on all of them. It is exactly as Marco said. His actions have never been about destroying or simply serving the Khan; his goal has always been to return to Italy. Of course, seeing as Marco’s wish has always been to simply return home, it makes Yusuf wonder why the man has stayed with the court for so long. And that is when he finds out that it is love for the Blue Princess and also his dedication to the Khan (out of thanks for allowing Niccolo to live) that has kept Marco from following through on any of his escape plans.
And that is when Yusuf makes a bold and unexpected decision to save Marco’s life. Always the faithful servant, and equally bound to his incorruptibility, Yusuf realizes that in order to save himself, Marco, and the kingdom, he will have to disobey the Khan and do what is best for everyone. Another writer on the internet wrote an article that I thought described Yusuf’s epiphany in a very accurate and funny way: Yusuf had a Jerry Maguire moment.