The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance: What Exactly Is the Darkening?
WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, streaming now on Netflix.
Netflix's The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance certainly does a great job in painting the bird-like Skeksis as the poison plaguing the planet of Thra, overharvesting its waning resources out of greed. Quite surprisingly, the show also details the internal threats the Gelflings face, such as the All-Maudra Mayrin's love for bribes and Aughra's wilful ignorance when it came to selling her planet out so she could mentally roam the cosmos. However, one of the first season's most intriguing villains comes in the form of something just as sentient, but with a more sinister, creeping presence. This is none other than the Darkening, a terrible blight emanating from The Dark Crystal and tainting all of Thra.Click the button below to start this article in quick view. Start now
In the very first episode, "End. Begin. All the Same." we meet Deet, an animal and plant caretaker of the Grottan Clan who's very much in touch with nature. As she scours her underground realm, she meets a Nurloc mother (a worm-like creature) who proceeds to viciously attack her when she inspects the purple hue in its offspring. It becomes clear there's an infection spreading and causing creatures to turn violent.
Later on, when Deet meets the Sanctuary Tree, it reveals to her this blight is spreading after seeping out of the crystal. It's as if the crystal is bleeding or crying after being manipulated by the urSkeks, who split into the Skeksis and urRu in the Great Division ages before. The Sanctuary Tree alludes to this happening because a shard went missing, physically affecting the crystal, but also because of how the crystal is being used for evil. It's being weaponized by the Scientist, draining the life essence from the Gelflings, all so the Skeksis can have prolonged life. But even before that, the crystal was being experimented on, harnessing sunlight for this same purpose, and seeing as it represents the beating heart of Thra, the crystal is actually using nature's resources to replenish the Skeksis. And as Aughra says, when something is taken without being given, there's an imbalance.
That imbalance manifests as the Darkening and it's Thra's way of striking back at how the crystal is being misappropriated. Even Aughra experiences it firsthand when she meets a creature who dies after the purple infection takes over its body, only for it to be cured by the Sanctuary Tree on the surface, hinting the only thing that can heal Thra is the planet itself. That's why Aughra wants Deet and the Gelflings to save the crystal, especially as we discover the Skeksis Emperor is using his staff to harness the Darkening himself with the crystal in his care.
He tries to unleash it on the Gelfling resistance in the season finale, but Deet absorbs the purple poison after the Sanctuary Tree basically made her its avatar earlier this season. She flips the script, harnessing the poison, using it to kill the Collector and then forcing the Skeksis to retreat to the Castle of the Crystal. Sadly, it appears the ramification is that she's lost all sense of self. Deet's seemingly possessed and wanders off, with plants and trees dying around her as Rian sees what's probably the first step to becoming the new Sanctuary Tree.
The Tree told her earlier it wanted to stop the Darkening, saying the infection was the darkness and corruption the crystal held within -- the polar opposite to the light Aughra said it was meant to be. Now, though, it looks like the Darkness wants to use Deet as its vessel to strike back against those mining the planet and harming it. Jim Henson's stories are known for climate change messages so this fits right in, in that Thra is fighting back and Deet is now its warrior against all those who've tainted it.
Admittedly, this is a relatively new development from the 1982 movie set "many years later," letting fans in on how the separation of the crystal and the lost shard truly impacted on the planet. What's also very interesting is when Deet gets blessed by the Sanctuary Tree to embark on this journey to the surface to alert everyone to the Darkening, everyone ignores her as they don't believe they're hurting Thra, or they think the resources will last forever. But as Deet embraces the Darkening in the end, two particular scenes from a previous vision she got suggest there's a duality we have to look out for.
Firstly, we see a shot of Rian trying to put the crystal back in, which is eerily similar to Jen from the '82 movie reuniting the crystal with the shard. This hints the Darkening does want peace and everything to be set right. This even teases Deet could become the Oracle that the Mystics and Aughra spoke of in that movie who foresaw how to fix the crying planet. Also, at the end of Deet's visions, we see her sitting atop the Skeksis throne, teasing she'll be coming after the villains in the name of revenge, or that she might want to rule everyone, including the Gelflings. Apparently, the Darkening wants to punish them all for letting Thra fall into this depleted state and the Darkening may well be the planet resetting for a better tomorrow.
Streaming now on Netflix, The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance is directed by Louis Leterrier, and features the voice talents of Taron Egerton, Anya Taylor-Joy, Nathalie Emmanuel , Caitriona Balfe, Helena Bonham Carter, Harris Dickinson, Natalie Dormer, Eddie Izzard, Theo James, Toby Jones, Shazad Latif, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Mark Strong, Alicia Vikander, Harvey Fierstein, Mark Hamill, Ralph Ineson, Jason Isaacs, Keegan-Michael Key, Ólafur Darri Ólafsson, Simon Pegg, Andy Samberg and Donna Kimball.