Skip to main content

Jim Henson's The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance Season 1 (2019)

Image result for the dark crystal age of resistance

As promised, I've watched all ten episodes of Season One of Jim Henson's The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, and boy was it a ride! Some spoilers may be forthcoming but I'll let you know when I'll be talking about said spoilers (and may try to do it at the end as well).

Plot synopsis: A prequel to The Dark Crystal (1982), it has been 1000 years since the appearance of the Skeksis, who have kept watch over The Crystal of Truth, since its keeper, Mother Aughra, has gone off to explore other worlds. But when three Gelfing, Rian, a castle guard/warrior from the Stonewood Clan, Brea, a princess from the Vapra Clan, and Deet, an animal caregiver from the Grottan Clan, discover the Skeksis' horrifying secret, they must band together to convince the Clans to come together, light the fires of rebellion, and fight back before its too late.

With the first five episodes of Age of Resistance, the series starts off very strong, building on and expanding on the lore of the movie, worldbuilding and developing rich cultures and histories for the Gelflings, splitting them up into seven clans that are very distinct from each other. The characters are very rich and complex (including Aughra!). The majority of them are given such heart and likability in their personalities, voice acting, and backstories and are put through so much, that I was instantly hooked and wanted to see more, even if some of the story elements were ones I had seen before. My favorite of the group is Deet, so upbeat, good-natured, and kind-hearted that I wish I could hang out with her, and she's the kind of friend I wish I could have hung out with growing up as well. Deet Forever!

Like the film, the visuals are absolutely gorgeous, giving the characters distinct looks and the locations such an epic, magical feel, that I just wanted to keep exploring this world.

The first five episodes in a nutshell instantly made me feel like a kid again, reminding me of the fantasy adventures that I had grown up with like Lord of the Rings, Chronicles of Narnia, and the first few Harry Potter books and movies. The series may also feel like "Game of Thrones for kids" to some, and while I can definitely see that and agree, especially in its topical themes and subject matter (right down to some disturbing imagery and moments. Not for the younger kiddies. Just a warning), I'd take AOR over GOT any day as the former has the fantasy, magic, and whimsy that the latter was sorely missing (and the topical stuff was more engrained in the plot and better executed than have been in GOT and other film and TV shows lately).

After episode five, is when the season started to stumble for me a bit, however, due to some dragging plotlines. In particular because of a plotline involving Aughra and a side character that was executed rather predictably and in such a forced manner for several episodes, that I could only cringe as this part of the story went on and on to only a semi-satisfying conclusion. Another storyline that seemed to drag a little bit involved the surprising appearance of characters played by Andy Samberg and Bill Hader funnily enough, whose schtick get literally a little too long in the tooth in the first half of their first episode, but who are able to calm down and balance out their humor and more serious moments in their appearances afterwards.

My biggest issue, however, is with the ending, and this may be more personal taste mixed with having shot myself in the foot by watching the movie first. Because I watched the movie first, I could see where things were going by the final shot of the final episode and that made where the Gelfling characters end up at the end of the season feel a bit hollow. Because of that, I'm not really sure I want to see a second season of the show, and I'm not sure if I want to watch the original movie again, at least for a while, which does a great disservice to the first half of the season (more about this in the spoilers, although I technically did kind of spoil it already in my review of the original film).

Overall,  if you're a fantasy adventure fan and especially if you're a fan of the original movie, I definitely say see it, particularly the first half of the season. There's so much on offer here that can't afford to be missed: gorgeous visuals, heartfelt characters, exciting action, rich expansive worldbuilding, and endless amounts of imagination. If, however, you're a newcomer to the series, like myself, and or have a particular taste in your fantasy storytelling, then you might find the latter half of the season rather troublesome and unsatisfying).

Final rating: 4 stars out of 5

SPOILERS BELOW!! IF YOU HAVE NOT YET WATCHED ALL OF SEASON 1 OF AGE OF RESISTANCE AND DO NOT WANT IT SPOILED, STOP HERE AND COME BACK AFTER YOU'VE WATCHED IT!

Going into more detail with my issues about the first season of AOR, particularly the dragging storylines, my first major issue was with the storyline of Aughra and Brea's sister, Seladon, in episodes six through ten. While Seladon has a good build-up at first as the more stuck up of Brea's sisters, trying to win her mother, the Maudra or leader of the Vapra clan and the All-Maudra of all the Gelfling clans' approval, things start to go off the rails when she first meets Aughra. At this point in the story, all the major characters, Rian, Brea, and Deet, as well as several other Geffling soldiers Rian has befriended along the way, the All-Maudra, and Brea happen to Dreamfast or share their memories with each other all at the same time, while Aughra is trying to connect with the spirit of Thra, and all end up in a realm that Aughra called Dreamspace, where she explains what's going on and what they need to do to stop it, having them Dreamfast again so they all see what each of them has experienced. However, before this, Seladon angrily accuses Aughra of being a treasonous witch and showing blind devotion to the Skeksis for sake of tradition.

 Two issues with this. One: since Aughra is in the lore and history of Thra and thus part of "tradition", wouldn't Seladon have understood this and stopped to take it under consideration? Two, and the much bigger one: When Seladon does show her devotion to the Skeksis, instead of trying to convince her with Dreamfasting and have the All-Maudra talk to her, Aughra just sends her away, saying "her path is different from ours. Can't convince her." However, because of this, Seladon reports this to nearby Skeksis, resulting in her mother, the All-Maudra, being killed, causing strife among the Gelfling clans, and inadvertently getting one of the Gelfling Maudras, Rian's Stonewood Clan's no less, captured and later killed when the latter saves Seladon in battle, and Audhra becomes shocked and saddened when she sees her doing some of these actions, going "No no! Please don't do that! Poor lost child!" even though just moments before Seladon first accused her, Aughra was celebrating that she was connected with Thra again and could see many paths, despite not being able to see how they ended. If she could see the path Seladon was going to take, why didn't she try to stop this from happening, especially if it would have resulted in the All-Maudra possibly staying alive and instantly uniting all the clans against the Skeksis and having a better strategy so their chances were much better?

Even worse for the Seladon character, when she does cause strife among the other Gelfling Maudras, being challenged by one for the All-Maudra crown, she goes completely cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs by dressing in a black costume and purple lipstick that makes her look like Maleficent or Mia Sara's character in the climax of Ridley Scott's Legend (with one of the Maudras even saying she looks like a Skeksi) and devolves into a stereotypical Mad Queen performance (the character was voice acted by Gugu Mbatha-Raw, a wonderful actress, but she came off very cringey and groan-worthy here that made me feel bad for her). This whole nonsense continues until Episode 9 when she visits the Skeksis' castle in an attempt to return things to normal, only to find that the Skeksis are now openly capturing and draining Gelflings, and is proceeded to be assaulted by them. But after all that, she is still devoted to the Skeksis and blames Brea for everything, only finally coming to her senses when she sees her and Brea's other sister, Tavra, mind-controlled by temporary Skeksi ally, the Arathim, and fatally injured by the Chamberlain Skeksi during the escape, which sort of makes sense, but isn't executed very well. Lastly, after all the strife and injury Seladon has caused the Stonewood Maudra, she doesn't really directly apologize to her when the Maudra is fatally wounded saving her, and mostly disappears after the final battle, not really have much of a redemption part to her arc at all and putting her as well as Aughra, in a bit of a worse light.

If Aughra had done all she could to prevent Seladon from committing the actions she did, including Dreamfasting and having the All-Maudra talk to her, but it still didn't work, and Seladon apologized to the dying Maudra at the end/redeemed herself in some way, then that would have her arc much more satisfying and convincing.

With the ending, because I saw the movie first, I knew that by the time the original film takes place, Jen and Kira are the only two Gelfling left. That means Rian, Deet, and Brea, and all the others are dead, making the victory of killing several of the Skeksi, chasing the remaining ones off, and finding the missing Crystal shard at the end of the season rather hollow instead of uplifting, and the twist of the Scientist having created a new soldier for the Emperor's army, The Garthim, rather melancholy and depressing instead of suspenseful.

This is further backed up by when Deet absorbs the dying Sanctuary Tree's power to stop The Darkening and sees visions of future events, including Jen returning the Crystal shard and a female Gelfling, who looks a lot like Deet, running away through the woods, trying to deliver either a baby Jen or baby Kira to safety.

While I don't mind a bittersweet or depressing ending to a story especially if it's well done like the Harry Potter series or Lord of the Rings, I'm a bit old-fashioned and tend to lean toward stories with happy endings, which I haven't seen in a fantasy film/TV show in a while. While the original Dark Crystal movie has a happy ending of sorts and while I do enjoy the movie quite a bit, like I mentioned in my review of that film, there isn't much to Jen or Kira as characters, so except for a few brief moments,  I couldn't emotionally connect with them. Rian, Deet, and Brea, on the other hand, I connected with so much that they feel like good friends, experiencing their highest highs of victories and becoming friends, and the lowest lows of defeats and heartbreak as they lose loved ones.

After all these characters have gone through, I want to see them succeed and live on. I want to see them get their Happy Ever Afters. But the fact that they most likely won't and they're most likely going to be massacred in the next season or two, just feels draining and offputting to me. While a character does mention that when a Gelfling dies, they return to Thra and are always with their loved ones, I know that most likely that will be more talked about than seen. Indeed, if the show did end with an epilogue of sorts to the movie where Rian, Deet, and Brea were revealed to be alive but in hiding or Jen and Kira got to interact with their spirits via the Crystal, then I'd feel a bit better. But as that's most likely not going to happen, not only do I not really want to see a Season 2 of Age of Resistance, but it might be a while before I want to watch The Dark Crystal movie again.

But maybe that's just me. What did you guys think? Respond in the comments below.


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Star Wars Episode 9: The Rise of Skywalker

I have seen Star Wars Episode 9: The Rise of Skywalker and in addition to covering the film, I'll give my thoughts on the Sequel Trilogy as a whole in a separate post, so things don't get too long. (I recommend reading both just so you're able to get a full sense of where I'm coming from.)

First, Episode 9: In the following weeks since its release, I'd been hearing a wide variety of opinions about the film: some liked it, some hated it, and some were indifferent. so I knew it was going to be an interesting experience either way.

What did I think?: I actually...kind of liked it and had fun, leaving the theater with a big dumb grin on my face. HOWEVER, I do acknowledge that there are also a lot of problems with it.

Does the Emperor feel needlessly wedged in? Yep.

Are cameos from the Original Trilogy here just for the sake of nostalgia and catering to fans? Yep.

Are characters and plot elements introduced just to muddy the waters of how things turn out in the end and in so…