The Quarantine Stream: 'The Dark Crystal: Age Of Resistance' Deserved To Be Hailed As A Modern Fantasy Classic

(Welcome to The Quarantine Stream, a new series where the /Film team shares what they've been watching while social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.)The Series: The Dark Crystal: Age of ResistanceWhere You Can Stream It: NetflixThe Pitch: In the prequel to Jim Henson's cult 1982 fantasy film The Dark Crystal, three Gelflings discover the horrifying secret behind the ruling Skeksis' power and set out an epic journey to try to save the world from being corrupted by darkness.Why It's Essential Quarantine Viewing: The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance is a jaw-droppingly gorgeous and bewitching piece of fantasy storytelling that, in a better universe, would have gone down as a modern classic. But the odds were stacked against it: Age of Resistance had, frankly, a weird puppet-heavy cast, a dense and dark plot, and of course, a premature cancelation by Netflix this week. Its early cancelation is upsetting, though not completely surprising as The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance is one of the strangest, most surreal miracles of television.

I'll admit that I when I first saw Henson's original 1982 film, I was ambivalent to the way that it immediately thrusts you into the rich, sprawling world of Thra with barely more explanation than a quick opening narration. When Netflix's The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance began with a clunky opening animation and a solemn voiceover setting up the story, I was nervous that it would be just as dense and unwelcoming, but was soon bowled over by the dark, gnarled series that was just as bizarre — but way more accessible — as Henson's ambitious original.

The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance introduces us the Aughra, a character from the original film who is the embodiment of the planet Thra and the protector of its heart, the Crystal of Truth, until she is tricked into giving the Crystal to the villainous Skeksis. The Skeksis raise themselves as the revered lords of the Crystal, using it secretly to prolong their lives. But their nefarious activities go unnoticed by the three different clans of Gelflings, the peace-loving, slender humanoids that act as our protagonists in the franchise. The first clan is a warrior race that exists to serve the Skeksis, the second are a fair and wise clan, and the third are a subterranean people in touch with the mystic nature of the world.

Despite juggling multiple storylines and introducing a vast ensemble of characters, Age of Resistance is remarkably easy to get swept up in. The characters are utterly lovable (Hup hive rise up!) and the show's simple, Studio Ghibli-esque themes of spirituality and nature being corrupted by invading force of modernity are familiar enough to guide viewers through the more complex plots. Though The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance was billed as "Game of Thrones with puppets" it transcends its gimmicky premise (and you get over the ickiness of puppets making out) quickly thanks to its prescient environmental themes and stunning artistry. Age of Resistance is easily one of the most breathtakingly beautiful fantasy series in recent memory, which may be why it's so unsustainable for Netflix — lots of money and care was obviously poured into the production design, so wonderfully practical and tactile, with the digital effects only enhancing the otherworldly designs.

But the biggest tragedy of Age of Resistance's cancelation, other than Netflix depriving us of a singular piece of fantasy television, is that the end of season 1 so perfectly set up a second season. There is so much more of Thra to be explored, so many questions left unanswered. It feels like Henson's vision, so fully realized in Age of Resistance, has been cut short once again.