What Was Sundered and Undone
The Dark Crystal is a notoriously terrifying 1982 children’s classic from Jim Henson. Recently, Netflix decided to cash in on the nostalgia and released The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance in 2019. Currently, there is one season with ten episodes; it follows the adventures of the Gelfling Rian, Brea, and Deet as they go up against the always-intimidating Skeksis.
The show centers on the land of Thra and focuses on three out of seven clans of Gelfling: The Stonewood, the Vaprans, and the Grottons, represented by Rian, Brea, and Deet respectively. The show takes place about one thousand Trine (years) after the Crystal of Truth cracked and split its keepers into the Skeksis and the Mystics. This is far before Jen and Kira exist, if they even do exist in this timeline.
To give us a sense of perspective in comparison with the film: the Gelfling are still alive, the Skeksis Emperor is still alive and relatively young, and the Skeksis have just figured out how to make Essence of Gelfling. At this point in the show, we’re not sure yet how the film fits in with everything, or if it even will. But we do know the Crystal has already cracked and the urSkeks split in two.
There is one timeline anomaly that can’t be explained, and so will be presented as a question: If Mother Aughra was the original keeper of the Crystal, then who cracked it, and how did it get cracked? In the show, it is explained that Aughra gives the Crystal to the Skeksis in exchange for her orrery to travel the stars. The question remains: who cracked the Crystal, and why did it result in the urSkeks being split?
In the show, we meet Rian, Brea, and Deet, three Gelfling from wildly different backgrounds who come together to build a rebellion.
Rian originally comes from Stone-in-the-Wood, but we find him in the Crystal Castle as a guard with his father, girlfriend Mira, and friend Gurjin. At this time, all Gelfling blindly serve the Skeksis as Lords of the Crystal. Gelfling from the Stonewood Clan serve as guards in the castle. After Mira is drained for her essence and Rian is caught witnessing the whole thing, the Skeksis spread lies among the Gelfling that Rian is a murderer and that his mind is infected so no one will Dreamfast with him for the truth. In the beginning, Rian’s main goal is to clear his name with the Gelfling. He also hopes to prove that the Skeksis are evil.
Brea is the youngest princess of the Vapran Clan. The Gelfling consider the Vaprans the “highest clan” and so Brea’s mother serves as All-Maudra, somewhat queen to the Gelfling. Brea aims to gain as much knowledge as she can; when she discovers a mysterious symbol and has a vision in the library, she puts all her effort into finding out what it means.
Deet comes from the underground Gelfling Clan the Grottons, who live in the Caves of Grot. She is the first to know of the Darkening. The Sanctuary Tree grants her a vision of what the Darkening would unleash; Deet takes it upon herself to go to the Vapran city of Har’Ar and warn the All-Maudra. On her way, she meets Hup, a Podling traveling to Har’Ar to become a Paladin. Together they journey across Thra on their way to the All-Maudra.
What’s interesting about the character design is that each Clan has subtle differences: skin color, eye color and shape, ear shape and size, and hair color. Age of Resistance did a fantastic job of making each Gelfling unique according to their Clan background.
There were many unsettling moments in Age of Resistance. But, for the sake of spoilers, we’re not going to mention any of them. In comparison to the film, Age of Resistance is much darker and more sinister. It also contains a strange mix of puppetry and CGI that was slightly jarring to look at. For instance, the Skeksis are all puppets and costume, except for their tongues, which are CGI. Imagine watching the already disturbing Skeksis talk with their mouths moving like puppets but their tounges moving and looking computer-animated. It could possibly help to make them seem real—except for the fact that they very clearly move like elaborate puppets/costumes.
Similarly, there were important, poignant, and dramatic moments with the Gelfling in Age of Resistance that seemed cheap or goofy because everyone is a puppet. These characters deliver soul-crushing lines, but the effect is downplayed because their mouths move like puppets. There were moments that seemed too human for puppets to accurately portray. We needed more nuanced facial expressions and distinct mouth movements to really drive home these ultimately emotional moments. The writing, voice acting, and puppetry were amazingly done, but there were moments that seemed too sophisticated for puppetry. The puppetry was done with respect to Jim Henson and the original film, but Age of Resistance could’ve benefited from full CGI.