Netflix’s The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance has arrived, and the 10-episode season has left us lighting the fires of resistance and curiosity. We chatted with the creators and writer of the first season to get all of your most spoiler-friendly questions answered, and find out which two characters were modelled after Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.
The first season ended with the fires of resistance being lit and the Gelfling finding the strength and courage to rise up against their Skeksis rulers. But it didn’t come without a cost, as Deet took a dangerous amount of The Darkening into herself in order to save everyone else. With a few of the Skeksis dead, and their illusion of immortality broken, what happens next in Thra? And how long before the Gelfling are all wiped out?
We spoke with co-creators Jeff Addiss and Will Matthews, along with co-executive producer Javier Grillo-Marxuach, over the phone about the biggest plot points and mysteries of the season. We asked them about the Heretic and his better half, the Arathim’s mind-control abilities, the meaning of Deet’s vision, and whether the show is hinting at ways the Gelfling could survive the coming genocide. Below is our edited and condensed interview.
Gizmodo: One of the biggest surprises of the season was the Heretic; who was not only helping our heroes along their entire journey but had also reunited with his Mystic half, the Wanderer. What made you decide to bring those two characters together?
Jeff Addiss, co-creator: We had this idea that, at some point, our heroes needed to go somewhere and learn this information: the “True History of Thra.” Because the lead characters don’t know that these Skeksis are half, right? And so, who better to do that than a Skeksis, but why would a Skeksis help them? And so we started playing around this idea of a heretic.
And there was nothing more heretical to us than the idea of a Skeksis and a Mystic who wanted to be one again. Because that was the foundation of everything the Skeksis fought against. And so it would make sense that, if we’re going to the opposite for heresy, it would be two characters who wanted to be joined again.
The Heretic and Wanderer are based on Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. We had a strong image of these two; they’re trying to look into the future but they’re not tapped into Thra, so the way they do that is by doing a large amount of drugs. So we thought of them as very much Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, except one was on uppers and the other was on downers.
Gizmodo: Why did you have them tell the history of Thra as a puppet show in a puppet show?
Addiss: It’s really about what’s the best way to drop a ton of exposition on the audience, the kind of exposition that a lot of the audience already knows. That’s the tricky part. If you watch the movie, you know all this. We’re not actually trying to hold it back from our audience. But our heroes need to learn that information.
So it became a question of what’s the best way to impart that information, to create something the fans would love and watch and care about? Until the answer was: puppets.
Gizmodo: How did the Heretic come across the crystal shard?
Addiss: I won’t say how he got his hands on it, but I think he knows how important it is. And he knows that it is his only shot at being reconciled with his other half. So, I think he would have gone to any lengths that it takes to get his hands on it. The problem is he might have seen the future, “By a Gelfling hand or else by none.”
So we think that the Heretic and the Wanderer sort of set up this trail of breadcrumbs to wait for the Gelfling, who would have had the strength and the power and the belief to bring them back together. Because ultimately he knows he can’t do it.
Will Matthews, co-creator: It is in the canon, and so the idea of the shard being lost and found is this thing that happened more than once. The idea of Aughra searching for the shard, or Raunip helping her search for the shard. All of these things are true. We just think they may be true more often, and from different perspectives, then was initially presented.
Gizmodo: So... where is Raunip (Aughra’s weird rock son)?
Addiss: We love Raunip. There was not space for him in this story, but we’re hoping there’s space for him in later stories.
Matthews: Raunip is such is a great character, and he’s such a great engine for drama, relationships, a different perspective. But in the first season, the audience needs to learn sort of the first perspective: the Skeksis, the Gelfling. That’s the easiest way in. As the story progresses, with more layers, nuance, and grey areas. Raunip is the master of the grey area. So, keep hope alive.
Gizmodo: What was the deal with the fires of rebellion turning into a planetary walkie talkie?
Javier Grillo-Marxuach, co-executive producer: [laughs] We had a similar nomenclature in the room, in fact. It’s a function of Thra. There’s two reasons for it, and I think that they’re both equally valid. I mean, one of them is that being able to talk to each other through the fire does solve a lot of narrative issues that needed to be solved, in terms of bringing about Gelfling unity.
But I think Thra the planet has a very different psychic plane from our own, and the creatures of Thra have a very different bond psychically than the people of Earth. I mean, this is the show is not set on planet Earth, and a lot of the same rules don’t apply.
But here’s the thing: It’s not like the characters are going to pick up the fires of rebellion phone and start talking to each other.
Gizmodo: How did the Dual Glaive come to be, and how did it end up in the hands of Rian’s father and Deet’s Maudra?
Matthews: That will be explained in the new comic coming out this fall [spring in Australia]!
Addiss: It was something that we explored doing a little bit more in the show, in flashbacks, but it felt like it slowed down the pace and the energy of the show. So we wrote it and talked about it, but we never shot it. And so that became sort of, in The Neverending Story fashion, a story for another day.
Gizmodo: How do the Arathim have mind-control powers? And why don’t they use them against the Skeksis, if they’re so opposed to them?
Matthews: [Shadows of the Dark Crystal author] Joe Lee created what he called the crystal singers (Note: those tiny face spiders). We call them Threaders because there were too many crystal words and it was getting confusing.
In the books, the crystal singers have this ability to hear — they can sort of overhear dreamfasting, because of their connection to the crystal. Because even the spinners, the Arathim, they are creatures of Thra as well. So they all have a connection to the crystal, and that binds all of them together. You remember, the Skeksis are not from Thra.
The reason they don’t work on the Skeksis is, one: By the time [the Threaders] emerge, the Arathim were already defeated militarily and morally by the Skeksis. They don’t think to turn on them. And two: Because the Skeksis don’t dreamfast, they don’t have a connection to the crystal. We thought their mind control abilities would work on [the Gelfling] because the positive way to look at mind control is more of a mind-melding. You can’t do that with the Skeksis when they’re not connected to the crystal.
Gizmodo: Was the Grottan clan wiped out after being attacked by the Arathim? We only saw Deet’s family and Maudra Argot afterward.
Grillo-Marxuach: That remains to be seen. I don’t think we’ve dealt entirely with the aftermath of it. I don’t think Maudra Argot, [Deet’s fathers], and their child are the only people who are left of the Grottan clan. We are not yet at the terminal point of what happens to the Gelfling — of the aftermath, of which you see the movie. So I don’t think the caves of Grot have been emptied yet.
These scripts went through a great deal of change, a lot of it just because of what we could do practically. So I know that there were versions of the script where you saw Grottans being marched off to be drained and suffering a lot of the same fate of the Gelfling in Stone in the Wood, whose minds were controlled by the Arathim and they were they were taken away. So I don’t think you’ve seen the last of the Grottans either.
Gizmodo: Do you feel Seladon’s actions (seizing the throne of the All-Maudra, siding with the Skeksis, agreeing to sacrifice Gelfling) are redeemable?
Grillo-Marxuach: Seladon is one of my favourite characters in the show, and I think that she is absolutely redeemable. One of the things that I believe in very strongly as a person, and I think that it’s within the echoes of The Dark Crystal, is that forgiveness is not an impossibility — even for crimes that are dire.
This is a truth of a lot of spiritual traditions, so it’s not shocked to see it in Thra and to see it in the course of our narrative. I think that where there’s life there’s hope, and I honestly believe that; even though Seladon has committed this horrible sort of crime, really, against her mother and against the whole of Thra.
We wanted every character in the show to have a credible motivation that was believable. When you have someone who commits an act that is wrong, but she’s doing it because she truly believes that is the way forward for the planet and for the people, and that she’s doing something good... and then she comes to repent. I don’t see why that’s not redeemable.
Gizmodo: What was happening to Deet when she took The Darkening into herself? What kind of sacrifice was that, how did that affect The Darkening, and how is it affecting her?
Grillo-Marxuach: You’re literally talking about an ecosystem that can no longer defend itself from the insult of The Darkening, from the sense of decay that has been brought because the crystal is corrupted. So, the tree passes that gift onto Deet [to absorb The Darkening from the planet]. But one creature alone is not enough to contain the entirety of The Darkening.
So, even though Deet takes it on, The Darkening continues to be a force on the planet. She cannot be a vessel for the totality of The Darkening and survive — and I think that’s a problem that, should the series continue, is going to have to be addressed.
If you look at the film, there are rivulets of purple light feeding into the castle of the crystal... so you have certainly have not heard the last of it. And certainly, Deet, even though she has the ability to absorb it and take it into herself as an act of sacrifice to save her people, she is not enough to hold it back. It takes more than one person to do that.
Gizmodo: What about her vision of Brea holding a child, and herself sitting on the Skeksis throne?
Addiss: That’s us saying that this is where we’re going. That’s us saying that we have a plan. That’s the thing we know where this goes. In fact, we know exactly what everything in there is, what it means, and where the grey areas are. Prophecy is mutable.
Matthews: It’s one of the things we had to fight for. Because when you show a flash forward, some people pointed out: “If you do this, you’re now locked into doing it.” And we were like, “Yes!”
Gizmodo: So can the future from her vision be changed, or is it fixed?
Addiss: The second season, if we’re lucky enough to do it, is a lot about prophecy. There are big prophecies coming. We always thought that was really interesting, the idea of accepting your place in it. And what if your place in it isn’t that great?
Matthews: Because usually, especially in high fantasy, it’s always: “Accept your destiny. You’re the most important person in the world.” And what if your destiny is, “Yeah, you’re not going to make it. But maybe someone you love will. Or maybe more people will.” What cost are you willing to pay?... This idea of: “If you know the future, can you change the future?” isn’t just fun and adventuring — it will be for a lot of the characters — but for some of them, it will be a real test of moral character.
Gizmodo: What role are Rian and Brea playing in the resistance now, and what is their fight going to be in the future?
Addiss: I think that’s going to be a big part of what they wrestle with in the second season, and why we’re talking about prophecy and role and place. We very consciously, if you noticed, lost a lot of the older characters. The sort of go-to leaders for the future.
So part of moving forward will be who’s in charge and what does the world look like now, and do the old ways fall when the older characters fall? And so the answer is: That’s the question. This is what they have to wrestle with.
Matthews: But they are a bit apart. Deet is clearly off doing something that has literally and figuratively consumed her. Rian is off trying to find or help or be alone. And Brea holds up the charge. She holds it up by herself. And so the first season was about everyone coming together. They did and it worked, but there’s a cost. They’re not together anymore. And so the second season will be about that too.
Gizmodo: Is the show hinting at a relationship between Deet and Rian?
Addiss: I think it’s developing. There was always conversation of how much relationship you have between Rian and Deet. We were very aware that Mira’s death is a big part of the show, and we didn’t it to be like, “Well yeah, now she’s drained, so hello new Gelfling”... I think there’s strong affection. I think we are pushing toward a growing relationship between them, that it is going to be romantic. We don’t think it is yet, but that is our goal.
Gizmodo: Obviously, we have this pending doom—especially with the season ending with the Garthim being created to hunt down the Gelfling. However, there is hope. For example, we have the desert clan, who live on sand dunes that can’t be crossed. Are we supposed to see things like this as a way for more Gelfling to survive? Is there hope that can come out of this?
Addiss: Yes, we are playing with expectations quite a bit. We are doing all of those things very purposefully. And some of them are to set things up, and some of them are to lead you down the wrong path. But we are big believers in there is hope in this world, and in this story. It may not take the form that you think, it may not end in a place that you think. But there’s a lot of room for hope.
Grillo-Marxuach: One of the things that I can assure you is that nothing we do will seem like a cop-out, but it will also re-frame and re-contextualise the events of the film. Thra is a big place and there’s a lot of room for hope, absolutely. And we have built our narrative very much with an endpoint that addresses the fate of the Gelfling in the film, why the film is the way it is, and what has happened to them. But, again, to get too deep into it would be to spoil our future plans. If we don’t get a second season I’ll tell you everything.
Gizmodo: I’m going to hold you to that.
The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance is currently streaming on Netflix.