Wednesday, November 06, 2019

The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance episode 6

Episode 6: By Gelfling Hand...

Obligatory Plot Summary: The Chamberlain arrives at Stone-in-the-Wood and demands the Gelflings serve his needs. Instead, they hide and throw rocks in open defiance. Terrified, the Chamberlain flees. Rian and his party catch up with the Skeksis coach conveying the "volunteers" as well as Brea, Deet and Hup to the Castle of the Crystal. The rescue doesn't go that well until the stone golem, Lore, arrives and starts ripping the coach apart. The Skeksis flee in terror. Rian convinces the freed Paladins of the Skeksis' evil. They then spread out across the land to warn all the Gelfling tribes. Despite the panic of the Skeksis seen thus far, things go differently at the Castle of the Crystal. Despite overwhelming numbers, the Gelfling guards' rebellion against the Skeksis is crushed off-camera. All the Gelflings, including Princess Tavra, are imprisoned in the dungeon. Many of them are drained of their essences. The Chamberlain arrives warning of the Stonewood tribe's open rebellion. Rather than fear, the Skeksis celebrate not having to pretend to be benevolent rulers anymore. Aughra meets with the Archer about Hunter. The Archer tells her he cannot kill his counterpart, but Aughra responds he must find a way. In Ha'rar, Princess Seladon burns her mother's body as a traitor (apparently, cremation is a huge insult in Gelfling circles) then summons the Maudras from the other tribes to crown her the new All-Maudra. The others point out that any of the Maudras may be chosen All-Maudra, and Fara of Stonewood challenges for the title. Seladon initially accepts the challenge, but later reneges, forging a new, Skeksis-inspired crown and declaring herself All-Maudra. Fara and the Drenchen Maudra flee, while the remaining Maudras bow to Seladon. Elsewhere, at the edge of a great desert called the Crystal Sea, Rian and the rest pause to rest and mourn their lost friends and family. Their songs attract the attention of a Dousan Gelfling tribesman, Rek'yr, arriving the next morning on the back of a giant, flying manta ray. He agrees to transport Rian, Deet, Brea, Hup and Lore not exactly to the Circle of the Suns (which is their goal), because that place is supposed to be cursed/haunted/a bad place to be, but at least within shouting distance of it. The others in their group depart to organize resistance against the Skeksis. Ominously, Hunter shows up as the party departs.

Musings: Okay, I thought some of the sets inside the Castle of the Crystal looked familiar, and now I'm certain of it. Some of the passageways in this episode are definitely Moya's corridors from Farscape redressed. I don't mean the actual sets from that science fiction series--it was filmed in Australia, after all, and the sets were broken down after the show was prematurely cancelled following season four. But the passages are of the same odd teardrop shape, which leads me to believe they pulled the original blueprints and adapted the design for a more fantasy-leaning setting. Which doesn't mean much in the grand scheme of things, but I notice details like that. Like most episodes thus far, this one's a mixed bag for me. The Skeksis seem inept and hapless early in the episode, to the point where one wonders why the Gelflings haven't risen up and slaughtered them before now. Then we turn around and have the castle guard uprising put down without the Skeksis so much as breaking a sweat. This inconsistency is maddening. We saw the Chamberlain suffer pain from simple rocks being thrown at him earlier. We've seen a Skeksis stabbed back in episode 2 when Rian and Gurjin were captured, and while the wound wasn't fatal, the Skeksis was clearly in distress. Yet here we have an entire detachment of highly trained Gelfling warriors defeated without much effort? It's inconsistencies like this that keep throwing me out of the show. If the Skeksis are so powerful, they shouldn't be driven off by thrown rocks. Likewise, if the Gelfling warriors are legit, then the Skeksis should've suffered serious wounds putting down the rebellion. This show seems to exist in binary: Everything that happens is either all or nothing.

The scene between Archer and Aughra was interesting. This is the first time the duality of the Skeksis/Mystics is alluded to. Although those of us who've seen the movie have already figured out that Archer and Hunter are a single being, split, Star Trek-style by at transporter accident into separate physical forms, it's nice to see that fact coming into play in this narrative. The scene with Rian, Deet, Brea and Hup in mourning was nice. Lore is interesting, as the stone golem has imprinted on Deet. I'm wondering if this will come into play in the future. Rian and Deet make goo-goo eyes at each other briefly, and I had a huge problem with this. Rian lost Mira just a few days before, and watched as the Chamberlain drank down the last of her essence. To have him in a budding romance with Deet in episode 6 is just icky. The Dousan are interesting additions to the series. As aerial nomads, I wonder how the Skeksis would be able to conquer them. Curiously, Rian shares that they're the only Gelfling tribe forbidden from serving as guards at the Castle of the Crystal. I wonder if there's payoff for that in the future, or if it's just a throw-away line. The flying manta ray is cool. Although it's a muppet, it's still composited into the scene and that use of CGI remains distracting. It's not as bad as the landstriders roaming in the distance (the landstriders compositing bothers me more than it should) but is still an issue. Seladon has also dropped any pretense of being a nuanced, complex character. She's a power-mad villain at this point, which still doesn't jibe with the more complex character she was initially presented as, but I've come to expect these inconsistencies.

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