Time to Make…My Move: Things are getting deadly serious. Rian, Deet, Brea, Lore and a nauseous Hup receive a warm and informational reception at the Circle of the Suns. The Emperor strikes a deal with the Arathim, skekMal is still on the hunt (what a surprise) and Aughra is still a step behind in the times.
Prophets Don’t Know Everything: Rian and Deet soar into Grot to find unexpected occupants. Seladon tries to find mercy at the Castle of the Crystal but is greeted with careless heinousness. The Ascendency has a tough choice to make and Chamberlain continues to stir the pot.
Marni Hill – With the first season beginning to reach its apex, the story marches on into depths of which I never saw coming. The writing is, to simply put it, nothing short of astounding. Different gears are clicking in and turning as needed. Characters who have hung about in the shadows are now coming into play in a massive way. Loyalties are broken and reformed and the lore of Thra broadens even further than we imagined it ever could.
Let’s begin with the brighter topic of urGoh and the Heretic in the Circle of the Suns. It’s interesting how the Dousan clan have branded the place as riddled with Death when it’s two occupants have metaphorically ‘seen the light’ for Thra’s future. The easiest conclusion is that the stigma around the Circle of the Suns was generated by urGoh and The Heretic in order to keep their sanctuary safe. However, as Rian stated, the Dousan have an affinity for death. With the stakes of finding the Dual Glaive being so high, practically teasing death, it’s no wonder the Dousan stay clear.
Also, consider the structure of the Circle of the Suns, it’s overbearing height, towering over the Crystal Desert is almost a defiant answer to the Castle of the Crystal. A different tower for very different ideals. It’s the perfect dwelling for a Mystic who actively helps the cause rather than hiding away in the Valley and a Skeksis who is the most un-Skeksis a Skeksis could be.
The Heretic may just be the most interesting character aside from Seladon in the series. There are so many questions that come with his enlightenment, including as to whether all Skeksis are inherently evil, or if they were simply driven mad overtime by their own weakness of greed. If showing Heretic a vision was enough to change his mind, why didn’t the Crystal show the other Skeksis the same vision? What made skekGra different? Perhaps that is a discussion for another time.
The puppet show was a brilliant, rather cheeky moment of meta from The Jim Henson Company. It’s beautiful, using a array of puppetry techniques, from shadow puppetry to utilizing the skills of Barnaby Dixon to tell the true Song of Thra. The cinematography, music, lighting and execution of the performances made for a thrilling scene and I would not have complained if the play had lasted for twenty minutes. It is easily my favourite scene in the entire season and we should all hope to see more of it as a story telling device in the future.
Now onto the Darkening. skekSo the Emperor, rightfully voiced by the likes of Jason Isaacs in a continuation of brilliant casting, goes to extreme lengths to make things worse. By dragging the Arathim into the chaos, he inadvertently tips the scales in the favour of the Gelfling, but it’s not without sacrifice. The continuing theme of loyalty is waning with one last push before everything finally settles into place.
The fall of Stone-in-the-Wood is nothing short of horrifying. From the moment the General throws the floodlight upon the warriors, we get a sense of a higher power about to rain down of which the Gelfling cannot fight. It’s immediate terror. What really makes the sequence shine is the contrast between the size of the fear and how the attack is carried out. Having Princess Tavra be the one to deliver the Threaders is yet another blow to the warrior’s spirit and the image of her presenting them as if they are her precious children will be stuck in my head for a long time. We’ve been exposed to a lot of atrocious imagery over the past six episodes, all of it different in its nature, but no less horrible. This wasn’t an exception. If the Skeksis can’t pull the wool over the eyes of the Gelfling, then it’s easier to pull it over their minds instead.
The Arathim Ascendency is difficult to place on a scale of light to dark. They are not outwardly evil but are willing to sink low if it means they’ll gain an advantage. It’s not until Deet saves the threader possessing her brother that the Gelfling stop being faceless collateral damage and become sentient beings with good hearts in the eyes of the Arathim. At the end of the day, both have suffered terrible losses on part of the Skeksis and need to work together. It was not an alliance I could have seen coming, but the story beat is pleasing to witness.
Meanwhile, Seladon continues to frustrate with her ignorance flaring up full bolt. It’s almost aggravating to witness her speaking down to Aughra in such a condescending tone. If it weren’t for witnessing the mass draining earlier, I would have been satisfied to watch her get taken down a few pegs by the Skeksis. However, their careless regard for her was sobering, reminding both Seladon and myself that she is a lost, broken young woman who is about to have the truth beaten into her skull and it is going to hurt like all hell.