I will admit, despite being a long time Henson fan, I only felt a mediocre level of excitement as the Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance approached. As I stated in my review of the novelization, the movie is gorgeous but lacking in both world building and interesting characters. I am so thankful to say I have successfully been converted. I love every aspect of this show. Beautiful puppets! Amazing cinematography! Extraordinary world building! A huge cast of female characters who break the Bechdel test every episode! I’m sold!

I had the pleasure of watching episodes 7 and 8 for my review – in these parts of the show’s run, we can feel the season starting to head towards its conclusion, but there’s still a lot of information to pass along to the audience before we hit the denouement.  Let’s get into it!

Episode 7: Time to Make … My Move

I can’t be alone in saying that this might be my favorite episode in the season (I mean, I haven’t watched episodes 9 and 10 yet, but I have a feeling). Episode 7 is an exposition heavy one, which usually is not the most interesting arc of any episode, but Age of Resistance takes a much more, well, humorous approach to it.

We start with the characters on the back of a (very cool) flying manta ray, where a poor Hup is hurling from air sickness. Rek’yr and his crew leave Brea, Deet, Rian, Hup, and Lore to start the next leg of their journey. There’s a wonderful shot of the three Gelfling embarking towards the Circle of the Suns that gives you such a grand feeling. This is what we’ve been waiting for: these three heroes uniting in an attempt to save Thra.

After some Spider-Man skills from Lore, the group arrives only to find… a Skeksis! Oh no!

Jokes on us though! This Skeksis, known at the Heretic, has nothing to do with draining Gelfling of life. What’s more, his Mystic counterpart, the Wanderer, is there with him! What’s even more, these two goofy additions are voiced by none other than Andy Samberg and Bill Hader. These SNL alums and real life friends, along with puppeteers Damian Farrell and Olly Taylor, bring both seriousness and levity to the show. One of my favorite moments is when the Heretic reacts angrily to being told he’s a Skeksis, takes a beat, and then jovially shouts, “That was a jest! I’m a fun Skeksis!” That moment tells us exactly what kind of episode we’re in for.

Brea says a heartfelt farewell to Lore, who has served his purpose and turns back into a pile of rocks. The duo tell the Gelfling they have a surprise, enlisting their “Podling Slave” (much to Hup’s chagrin) to help. Deet and Rian have a moment to connect, with Deet finally having a chance to bemoan being an outsider and missing her family. She’s been so strong and positive this entire time, it’s nice that she gets to let down her guard a little.

Then, at last, the surprise is ready. It’s… a play! And an opera! And a puppet show! What the what, amazing!

As I said, this episode is exposition heavy. The showrunners were more than aware that they’d have to retell what we already know from the film, so how could they do so while keeping things interesting? Have the characters delivering the information do so in a zany way of course! It’s great watching our heroes react to the bizarre storytelling (Hup sleeps, Brea and Rian are bored senseless, and Deet is absolutely delighted).

After a lot of humorous takes, we get the true lead up: the Skeksis and Mystics used to be one entity, the UrSkeks. There were eighteen of them that came from another world, and now the Heretic and the Wanderer long to reunite their previous forms. They then introduce the Dual Glaive, a sword that can beat the Skeksis, which Deet figures out is in the Caves of Grot.

As the three get ready to set off on their next leg together, the Hunter makes a dramatic entrance in hopes of nabbing Rian once more. He is followed closely by the Archer, who wounds the Hunter several times, in turn wounding himself as well as they are mirrors of one another. Desperate, the Hunter grabs Brea and makes a break for it.

While the focus of this episode is heavy on the three Gelfling and the history of the UrSkeks, much is happening elsewhere in Thra. The Emperor strikes up a deal with the Arathim. Maudra Fara is keen to attack the Skeksis, while Aughra tries to sway her towards other options. Tavra is given over to the Ascendancy. We meet Baffi, a Fizzgig with an eye patch performed by none other than Dave Goelz. The war rages on.

The last scene of this episode is a harrowing one. A mind-wiped Tavra is sent into Stone-in-the-Wood carrying a hoard of tiny Arathim that then rush the village. Attaching themselves to every Gelfling face, they take control and turn them into a hive-mind, sending them all to the Skeksis’ castle to be drained. For an episode that brought so much humor and lightness throughout, it’s a sobering beat to end on.

Though it does have some lightness, with one of the Arathim attempting to control Aughra only for her to bellow, “What? You dare try to control Aughra? Aughra can barely control Aughra!” It’s a chuckle-worthy moment, but doesn’t take away from the seriousness of what we’ve just witnessed in the Game of Thrones-esque control of the entire Gelfling clan.

Episode 8: Prophets Don’t Know Everything

This episode picks up with Aughra healing the Arathim that tried to mind-wipe her in the last episode, making it her ally. As she tells it, “Minds forget. Scars remember.

Aughra confronts the delusional Seladon, who was MIA all of last episode. She attempts to help the child see reason, but Seladon’s too far gone. Disappointed, Aughra makes the best out of a bad situation by dropping her lone eyeball into her pocket to get more intel on the opposition.

We then see the Chamberlain – also missing from episode seven – convince the two enslaved Gruenak to help him plot against the General. In return, he promises them freedom. Of course we know there’s something nasty up the Chamberlain’s sleeve, but the two do agree to help.

Deet and Rian set out to find the Dual Glaive. In their journey to the Caves of Grot, Deet teases Rian about names the Grottan give to other Gelfling, like Daylighter and Sky Baby (which are delightful jabs). Seeing Deet shine in her element while Rian stumbles in the dark is a nice change of pace. While hinted at in previous episodes, this one confirms that there are some feelings a-brewing between the two Gelfling, which I don’t have many qualms with (sorry Mira) though it is perhaps one of the lesser interesting elements of the episode, so I won’t dwell on it.

Several of the brainwashed Gelfling at the castle find themselves about to be drained. I don’t know if it’s been said in previous reviews, but watching the Skeksis drain essences is an honestly upsetting experience. They are gleeful in their genocide, and it’s hard to stomach at times, which I suppose speaks to the amazing job of the writers, performers, and creature shop. There’s so much horrific enthusiasm to the Skeksis as they commit their crimes, and so much genuine terror in the Gelfling. I had to fight the urge to look away throughout this scene.

At long last, we watch Seladon learn the truth of the Skeksis. There’s true fright in her when she learns that there is not an ounce of mercy in the Skeksis bones – even when she attempts the cold-hearted offer of working alongside them in their draining, they refuse her, rip away her garments, and throw her in their prison. It is a bizarre mixture of upsetting and reassuring. On the one hand, we want Seladon to know she’s in the wrong and make amends, on the other hand she’s still a child who thought she was following the rule of order.

The Hunter returns to the castle with Brea, barely alive from his fight. Brea reunites with her two sisters, but it is not a true reunion. Tavra, the peacekeeper of the three, is still mind-controlled and not herself. Seladon admits wanting to be the one to decide who lives or dies, all while blaming Brea for everything still – big Yikes right there.

Back in the Caves of Grot, Deet finds her entire clan’s minds have become controlled by the Ascendancy, including her two dads and brother. The Darkened Nurloc come back, and Rian and Deet save the Arathim attached to her brother, Bobbin. This leads to the Arathim sparing the two of them and explaining why they’ve agreed to team up with the Skeksis. Rian then figures out that if they return to the Caves, they’ll be wiped out by the Nurloc, just like the Skeksis want. With this knowledge, and with Deet offering them help since they’re Grottan like her, the Arathim agree to join the Gelfling side of the war.

Just as Rian and Deet are about to split up, the Sanctuary Tree starts to be devoured by Darkened Nurloc. The Tree, in its final moments, transfers all its powers to Deet. We’re then given these three visions:

  1. A female Gelfling running through the woods holding a baby (presumably either Jen or Kira) as a Garathim chases her
  2. Jen stabbing the missing shard back into the Crystal
  3. Deet sitting on the Skeksis throne, glowing with Darkened power and looking mighty evil

With that, Deet reaches a new level of awesome: she has true power. In the last moment of this episode, a Nurloc goes to attack Rian, only for Deet to wipe all of the Darkening from it. This seems like a blessing – a solution to defeating the Darkening, but at what cost? With the visions Deet saw, plus how we know this is all going to turn out in the end, will it come with a price?

This is as far as I’ve watched, and there’s so many questions I still need answered. I keep coming back to a line said by the Heretic in episode seven, “The power of the Aureyal is the power of all Gelfling. Alone you are small. Together you are a cleansing flame. Be that flame.” We all know how this series has to end. Things are going to break bad in order to transition into the time the movie sets up. That said, much like these dark times we’re currently living through, we’re stronger when we work together. This episode ends with Brea imprisoned, Deet wiped of all her strength, and Rian carrying Deet alone. The three are all separated from each other in some way at the close of episode eight.

Will they reunite and rally against the Darkening? Will Seladon come to her senses? Will the Gelfling finally get one over the Skeksis? Only one way to find out – time to fire up Netflix one more time.

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by Julia Gaskill

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