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Review: The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance Episode One

Episode One: End. Begin. All the Same.

 

Title image (image: Netflix)

I came in to this Netflix show with very high expectations. I’ve been very impressed with Netflix’s offerings and Jim Henson is the grandfather of many of my childhood daydreams. I have loved, laughed, and grieved with his creations. I have travelled through dangers untold and repaired great crystals and sung with bears and chickens. I have loved and needed all of them (but particularly Ludo). When the opportunity came to review the comics based on Henson’s work for this very blog, I jumped at it and read and loved all over again (read them here, here, and here).

When I first heard about this show, I was afraid to get my hopes up but really, I couldn’t help it. With each trailer, my brain reverted more and more to the 8-year-old girl who wanted a Hoggle of her own. This show is beautiful, imaginative, and amazing. And it is dark in the way most kid shows aren’t allowed to be any more. I wouldn’t shy away from letting my kids watch this one but there are some moments that, if you have particularly sensitive kids or are a particularly sensitive parent, you might not want to watch with the younger set. It’s very much in the vein of its predecessor and movies like The Black Cauldron and The Labyrinth.

From this moment on, there are going to be spoilers, sweetie. Please come back after you’ve watched the show and tell me if you agree with me or not.

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Spoilers ahead!
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Skeksis (image: Netflix)

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My family didn’t recognize Mark Hamil’s voice and I didn’t catch Simon Pegg or Jason Isaacs until the credits but the entire voice cast is nothing short of amazing. None of the voices stood out as out of place and the puppeteering is first rate and smooth. The creature design is brilliant and in line with the universe as it was built in the already available material. The set design is something that feels both fantastical and somehow familiar and perfectly at home on Thra.

While some of the creatures are as familiar to me as the gelflings and the skeksis, others are brand new. Using critters reminiscent of roly-poly bugs as wheels is some out of the box lo-fi genius. The world building is detailed and true to all I’ve read of the material available. The characterization and the script is better than I expected. It’s simple enough for everyone to follow and complex enough for those of us who like to pick and prod and dissect things to enjoy the process of doing exactly that.

The beginning is very reminiscent of Galadriel’s monologue at the beginning of the Fellowship of the Ring. I do wish so much of the blame wasn’t put so squarely on Aughra’s shoulders and I wish we’d seen her son who played a large part in what leads Thra to where it is in the comics. The moment Thra’s path is set and all the players step into position, when Chamberlain steps forward to be just as conniving and horrible as he is in the future, everything comes together. I admit, I gasped a little bit.

Already, I am swept up. My heart broke at the disillusionment of a loyal, if flighty daughter. I felt a chill run through me as the old batty crone of a grandmother understood what no other could and set her granddaughter on the path that cannot lead to happy places. I love batty crones and I’m pleased to note Aughra won’t be the only character like that in this world. The celebration by and of the Skeksis in the biggest moment of grief and sorrow says all we need to know about them, whether you’ve seen the movie or not.

There is rampant government corruption, marked by guilt, manipulation, and gaslighting tactics, the classism, racism, poverty. All of the elements are there to sew the seeds of rebellion in a generation of youth who are not quite ready to bow their heads and tow the line. They see and note the inequities with logic and curiosity. They have a strength of purpose that youth carries so well.

The darkening is growing and the stage is set for a rebellion that has very little hope (we all know how it has to end, don’t we?). I’m choosing to watch this show one episode at a time. Binging is good for some things (Stranger Things, Mindhunter, etc) but this show deserves a bit more reverence and a lot more mulling. I’ve seen people saying it’s better than the movie and I’m not exactly saying that, but I think it has advantages the movie didn’t have, especially with time allotted. The serial format really lends itself well to this world and I’m looking forward to watching the rest of it.

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