“Thra’s true balance will be found when natural order is sound.”
The Skeksis receive their largest screen time yet as Rian finds a spark of hope in the unlikeliest of places and Brea realizes that the Gelfling clan hierarchy accepted within her society may be the very thing keeping them from seeing the truth.
The stereotype of the physically dark and twisted villain has been a staple of fiction for centuries. Considering that Age of Resistance is prequel to a movie whose roots are firmly planted in the 80s when even in their variety, the villains possessed such traits, it’s understandable that “The First Thing I Remember Is Fire” goes all-in by displaying the Skeksis as a most vile and vainglorious lot. Aside from even their horrid physical appearance and the rot infesting them, watching their gluttonous and self-centeredness behavior as they feast the return of their Ornamentalist is both dull and yet enjoyably accurate. Funny enough, it seems as if the Hunter—tasked by Chamberlain to track down Rian—is the only Skeksis that lives by any sort of code (to him, the hunt is all that matters). But even his ‘honor’ and the Scientist’s thoughtful call for moderation offers enough variety to give the Skeksis anything more than a passing acknowledgment of diversity.
In her short time on screen, Naia provides the series with another strong character deserving a larger part in the story. (Photo by Kevin Baker – © Netflix)
Heavy focus on the Skeksis notwithstanding, the three Gelflings (and Hup!) make up Age of Resistance’s foundational narrative. When Gurjin’s sister Naia, and her partner Kylan track Rian down at a podling tavern that one can’t help but see shades of Fraggle Rock, things don’t look too good for the dejected and weary hero. Tavra’s arrival further emphasizes his predicament but, despite the Skeksis lies about his sickness, Rian convinces the trio to dreamfast with him, allowing them to see the truth. Even Rian’s father, who coincidentally walks in during the dreamfast, takes part in it.
Armed with the truth, the group vow to meet back in Ha’rar, to rescue Gurjin as well as share the truth with the All-Maudra. Unfortunately, things don’t go their way as—in a rare occurrence of poorly edited transition—Rian and his father find themselves in the crosshairs of the Hunter. As wonderful as the puppeteer work has been thus far, the ensuing action sequence between Rian, the Captain, and the Hunter is a painful reminder to this medium’s limitations.
What should be an adrenaline-fueled romp is a boring confrontation, rife with shoddy editing and lackluster action. It’s worsened by the Captain’s sacrifice, one so obvious that it doesn’t even warrant an eye roll reserved for such an overly done trope. It’s not all bad, though, as the Hunter’s surprising survival and capture of Rian offers a sprinkle of drama in the otherwise drab closeout.
As disappointing as Rian’s leg of the journey was, Brea’s own trial thankfully picked up at least some of the slack. Maybe it’s because her foray into the underground chamber took me back to the many dungeon puzzles of Skyrim, but watching her try to make sense of the chamber’s inscription about the natural order was fun in its simplicity. Moreover, the young princess grows up before our eyes, grasping the fact that the prejudicial hierarchy her world has accepted, one that all too closely mirrors the Skeksis’ own thoughts on inferior life, is in direct opposition to the idea of harmony. Reinforcing this truth aloud, she summons Lore, the guide she will need to make her way to the Circle of the Suns in order to remove the Skeksis’ poisonous influence from Thra. But Seladon’s unexpected appearance interrupts her and now Brea will undoubtedly need to convince her elder sister that they are all in danger.
Though it’s not without its moments, “The First Thing I Remember Is Fire” is the most disappointing episode yet in this young season. The final action sequence is a major part of this, as is the focus on the increasingly tiresome Skeksis and their one-track minds. The more colorful characters like Deet, Hup, and the Aughra are only bit players (though the latter gains a major clue as to her path to rediscover the song of Thra) and as entertaining as Brea’s puzzle-solving skills are, it’s not enough to raise “The First Thing” past the predictable and mediocre narrative.
The Dark Crystal – “The First Thing I Remember Is Fire”
5.5 out of 10