“I think the Skeksis are hiding something and I want to know what.”
For many of those who grew up in the 80s, The Dark Crystal is a movie that, like its cinematic brethren—The Goonies, Labyrinth, The Neverending Story, E.T., The Princess Bride, Star Wars, among others—is synonymous with that amazingly entertaining decade. Its tale of the Gelflings fight to reclaim their world of Thra was brought to life by the wonderfully talented Jim Henson and company. Since then, use of puppets in mainstream entertainment has, for the most part, gone by the wayside. The revitalization of this storytelling vehicle for The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, a prequel to the original movie, brings back not only nostalgic memories of a decade 30 years in the rearview but a reminder that, with a good narrative and its atypical visuals, we truly can resurrect a past long gone.
Set an untold number of years before The Dark Crystal, “End. Begin. All the Same.” introduces viewers to the seemingly peaceful land of Thra before the Skeksis influence has completely corrupted this beautiful land. The episode follows four separate narrative arcs; the vile Skeksis as they look to maximize the Crystal’s power for their own gain and the three Gelflings—Brea, Rian, and Deet—who find themselves caught up in the changes that no one else sees.
For the inquisitive Brea, her curiosity and mysterious interaction with a tome (not to mention her disillusioned view of her mother, the All-Maudra) sets her out to discover the truth behind what the Skeksis are hiding. Deet, an animal specialist who is part of the Grottan Clan, discovers the poisoned behavior of the Nurlocs, beasts in her care, which in turn sparks her conversation with the Sanctuary Tree. It tells her of the Darkening, “an infectious contamination within the Crystal of Truth and within Thra”. Giving her a vision of the now and future, the Tree sends her off on a journey to warn other Gelflings that all of Thra is at risk.
Yet, even with the mystical interactions that Brea and Deet face, Rian is the one hardest hit by the truth when he watches helplessly as Mira, his love, is fed to the Crystal, her life essence consumed by the Scientist and his fellow Skeksis in their quest for immortality. He flees the scene as the Skeksis give chase though it’s the words of the Scientist to his Emperor that is the most chilling of all: no one will believe Rian’s claims, boasts the Skekis, for “to believe him is not to believe themselves”.
Tightly crafted narrative aside, what makes Age of Resistance stand-out is the wondrous use of the seemingly forgotten art of puppeteering. Similar to the jaw-dropping Kubo and the Two Strings with its painstaking use of stop-motion animation, Age of Resistance’s unique visual style that pays homage to the 1982 classic is a welcome change of pace. But it’s not just the puppet work on the characters either; a couple scenes channel the psychedelic nature of Doctor Strange, creating that otherworldly feel while maintaining a clear and concise visual. Married together with exceptional voice acting from the likes of Taron Egerton, Helen Bonham-Carter, Mark Hamill, Alicia Vikander, and many others, makes for a powerful entertainment piece that does its predecessor justice of the highest order.
If this series was a book, “End. Begin. All the Same” is the prologue. It does a fantastic job establishing the world of Thra, its people, and how the Skeksis took power, all the while putting the main characters in positions to begin their epic journey. If this episode is any indication, The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance will stand tall as another spellbindingly delightful Netflix original series.
The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance – “End. Begin. All the Same.”
8 out of 10