First of all, yes: every character in The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance deserves to be mentioned in this list. The artistry of the puppetry is outstanding, and the voice actors also really put their all into these portrayals, making them more special than just “I’m famous and here’s my voice.” Instead, there is a beautiful devotion to the emotions of these characters that breathed additional life into their puppet forms, acting in concert with the skills of the puppeteers. Truly, Age of Resistance is a wonder.
One can’t help but have favorites (and characters we love to hate) among the Gelfling, Skeksis, Podlings and more, although with such a sprawling cast we had to draw the line somewhere for this list. But know that I still see you and love you, Madraus, Tavra, Red-Haired Paladin …!
Below is a ranking of the 20 best Age of Resistance characters, with lots of spoilers about their individual arcs. You will not want to know anything before you watch, so come back once you do!
What made The Collector stand out among a cadre of disgusting Skeksis is that she was the most disgusting. Aided by Awkwafina’s voice acting, the Collector wailed about her sinus issues while routinely snotting into her own food. Seriously, gross. She was also pretty funny, often ragging on the other Skeksis and often grumbling about what she was being asked to do. The show also invested nine hours of setup into a joke that finally paid off in the finale, with “it’s not so bad!” just before she exploded into goo thanks to Deet’s redirect of The Darkening. I can’t say I’ll miss you, Collector, but oh what a nasty impression you left.
The Sifa clan appear to be seafaring mystics (lowercase “m”), ones who are always looking to capitalize on a good opportunity. That was certainly true in the case of Cadia and Onica, where Cadia’s plan to wipe Brea’s memory was thwarted by Brea herself and turned back on him, with Onica then stepping up from her apprentice role to take over Cadia’s in the aftermath. But Onica’s counsel, which Cadia attempted to withhold, is what first put Brea on the path to discovering the treachery of the Skeksis. They were one of the first signposts of the show subverting our story expectations. Plus, there’s always the hilarity of Eddie Izzard saying, “hello again!”
We didn’t get to know much about this mysterious Dousan, but he certainly was memorable. With his painted face, impeccable manners, and flying means of transportation, Rek’yr had an impact on Brea that will hopefully be explored a little more in seasons to come. He’s not obsessed with death, y’all; but, he did give Brea a necklace of bones. “I like it,” she says. Us too.
Truly, Baffi is here representing all Fizzgigs. These fearsome yet cuddly balls of fluff are tiny brave soldiers in the war against the Skeksis, but perhaps none more so than the battle-scarred Baffi with his eyepatch. The faithful fizzgig companion of Maudra Fara ultimately ends up attacking a Skeksis head-on (or beak-on) to try and save his beloved leader, but alas, it was too late.
But it must be said that in addition to bravery, they are also hilarious. The scene that made me laugh the hardest was when Baffi just shot out across the Skeksis at the start of the battle in Stonewood and their reaction was simply “???”
Gurjin is that friend who always complains about going out, but is a solid member of the party once it starts. Rian’s reluctant friend proved to be one of the most key participants in the first season of Age of Resistance, sacrificing himself to let Rian run off with Mira’s essence and warn the other Gelfling. He was rewarded for his bravery with survival and his own escape, helping to rally the cause behind Rian and showing up more than a few times with his sister and fellow Drenchens. Always a clutch player, Gurjin was even sweet enough to hug an Arathim after the battle.
There still a lot of Mystic mythology left to explore, including The Archer’s sky-arrows. But in addition to some rad bow skills, the Archer had one of the saddest and most affecting conclusions, throwing himself off a cliff to ensure that both he and his evil counterpart, the Hunter, would perish. While The Archer got a sparkling mid-air death, the Hunter was crushed into dust. But it ultimately did save Rian and turned the tide of the battle. Farewell, gentle Archer.
Aughra called The Hunter the best looking of the Skeksis, which is a pretty low bar. While I can’t say that I necessarily agree that any of them are better looking than any others, I can say that the Hunter was definitely the most badass of the Skeksis. Obsessed with the glory and eternity of the hunt, the Hunter adorned himself with the bones of vanquished foes and was able to resurrect twice over the course of one season. Few scenes were as haunting as his corpse being propped up in the castle hall, or us getting “Hunter Vision” via the Archer after his rebirth. He was a truly frightening figure who even scared his fellow Skeksis, but his final death was indeed glorious when, from his ashes, Aughra was reborn.
So much of the Emperor’s power came just from Jason Issac’s voice, but what gave him more depth than many of his Skeksis compatriots was his willingness to sacrifice himself to harness the Darkening. Knowing that it was destroying him even with the regenerative powers of Essence, he continued to bring it into his scepter in order to protect his people. It goes a long way to prove why he’s the leader of this chaotic group of baddies, one that goes beyond power and brutality (even though the Darkening is ultimately the most selfish and brutal of forces to wield). Also, he wears a shower cap while in the bath!
You can’t really split this opera-writing duo up. The only Mystic and Skeksis to choose to leave their tribes and live together peacefully as two parts of one whole, they also provided our heroes (and us) with very key information about the lore of Thra (and Lore itself!) Plus, they were extremely silly and fun in an episode that started with meta puppet jokes and ended, essentially, with the Borg. Their tiny puppet show (puppets wielding puppets is just next-level) was outstanding, as was their opera. The back-and-forth between the hyperactive Heretic and the sloth-like Wanderer was also a joy.
Speaking of the Heretic and the Wanderer: Lore! A character that will be impossible to ever Google anything about. Aside from being a helpful hero to our lead Gelfling hero (saving them more than once from the jaws of death), he also doubled as a stone record player. That’s just incredibly cool. Given how Hup found the crystal that brought him to life once again the close out the season, there is hope that he will return to continue to assist in the fight.
The term “mad scientist” has never been more apt, despite The Scientist referring to himself as one of the most put-upon beings in Thra. He is also one of the most brutal. His evil machinations to drain Essence from living beings was diabolical, and while he was occasionally just a brutish wailer, his bludgeoning of the Gruenak to create a Garthim was really beyond the pale. And yet, he also was almost always being punished by his fellow Skeksis, most horrifically when it came to the Peeper Beetle. The Scientist then channeled his pain and rage into something truly twisted. The role also gave Mark Hamill the opportunity to be his absolute most, and we are all better for it.
Bless Rian, the bog-standard warrior class hero who is actually really terrible in battle (with his sword always being knocked out of his hand until, crucially, the end). His relationship with Mira started everything off, learning a difficult truth and providing the Gelfling with the dreamcasting truth of what the Skeksis were doing. Though Rian’s arc is the most familiar for fantasy fans, he’s charming and likable, and the series allows him to be hesitant and unsure in his co-leadership role. He found purpose in the Dual Glaive, but even when he stabbed the General he declared that he was not a killer and backed off. Rian is a hero, a bit of a dry one for now, but he has his moments of sarcasm and low-key jokes. Plus, he’s smart enough to have a crush on Deet. (And I love that his voice actor, Taron Egerton, is a full-on flailing fan of The Dark Crystal).
Just like, damn Seladon. All hail our misguided goth queen. Even when the truth of the Skeksis was revealed and they killed her mother, she still doubled-down on them being right and correct. Desperate to please and feeling forgotten, Seladon could never see her mother’s love for her or her trust, which led to her rebirth as a Goth-Maudra. Pulling down that veil and putting on that lipstick was iconic, as was her whole Skeksis-inspired outfit. And yet, even when she was humiliated (and stripped!) by the Skeksis, she still believed in them until she was literally strapped to an Essence-draining chair. My girl is a true believer, that’s for certain. But after witnessing so many horrors and fully processing what had happened, Seladon finally calmed down and accepted the truth, joining in with her sisters for the battle in the Stonewood. A fierce fighter, she was saved by Maudra Fara, a beautiful soul, who accepted her as All-Maudra. That was, for once, the last thing on Seladon’s mind—meaning she might not make a bad ruler after all.
From the start, Brea’s smarts were on display. Further, her intelligence and obsession with the history of Thra and the lessons learned from it was an essential part of the party’s ultimate success. Though she was kicked out of the castle a few times by her tired mother (including one of the season’s best scenes when Brea is with the Order of Lesser Service and witnesses the Podling Deterg!) and wiped Cadia’s memory, Brea was the one able to crucially convince the All-Maudra that the Skeksis were actually very bad. And, she was never afraid to call them out and challenge them to their faces. We stan our rebel princess, especially one who is willing to not just make friends with stone creatures and death-obsessed Dousan, but who also just loves to give hugs.
The craftiest of the Skesis, The Chamberlain was a standout in the original Dark Crystal movie as well. Simon Pegg did a truly outstanding job with his vocal portrayal in this updated version, as the Chamberlain went from being the Emporer’s right hand (or, claw?) to being cast out (and beaten up, more than once!) and eventually clawing his way back into favor. He schemed with just about everyone, a true Master of Whispers who was also not afraid to wield a sword himself as an act of petty vengeance. The Chamberlain could never be trusted, yet he was rarely wrong. Almost everything that happens in the series (and the movie) is because of the puzzle pieces he moves into place, or has a direct response to. Worth noting, he also has the closest thing to a catchphrase in the series with “hmmMMM!”
Mother Aughra, the Gandalf of Thra, is our grumpy wizard angel. A key actor in the movie, Aughra had her own arc this season trying to repair the damage she did to her home world by allowing the Skeksis to take control of the crystal while she astral projected across the universe for ages upon ages. Aughra’s powers are far more vast than the movie had the time to show us, and it was a joy to explore her story more fully—especially the way she would just hustle right into the Skeksis’ castle without fear. Her bringing the fellowship together, essentially, in the dream world was a galvanizing moment, not to mention of course her sacrifice for the lives of the Gelfling (hoping for resurrection but not being able to assure it until it wonderfully happened). Her grouchy love for all of Thra gave an extra spark to all her scenes, helping to imbue the series with its great humor. Aughra was a benevolent guiding hand, although she was mostly on the fringes of the tale; she didn’t swoop in to save our heroes in the end, it was a group effort to defeat the Skeksis (this time). As she notes, hope remains but the story is far from over.
“Podling justista!!” is really the rallying cry of Age of Resistance. Though Podlings exist throughout the story (mostly in subservient roles or just as little dirt creatures), Hup aspires to something more. He wants to be a paladin, the first Podling to do so, and endearingly carries a spoon as his weapon of choice. It’s adorable and incredibly warm, but Hup is also a capable and scrappy fighter, as was proved when he helped Deet handle some clannish bullies. Forever brave as well as incredibly sweet and loyal, Hup is eventually replaced at Deet’s side by Rian, which made sense even though it was a little sad to separate those two companions. But he did good work at the Circle of the Suns helping the Mystics and the Heretic there, and grabbing the crystal at the end that will likely reanimate Lore. But ultimately Hup is just pure joy, and we love him dearly.
Deet is the heart and soul of Age of Resistance. So pure, so good, and just so darn cute. She makes friends with everyone, and is quietly unafraid to face even the darkest foes (including using smoke bombs and other Grottan tricks to do so!) It’s what makes her, tragically, so perfect as the vessel for the Sanctuary Tree’s power and the Darkening itself. Deet is the character who takes the most risks to go on this journey to save Thra, from leaving her beloved home alone to enter a strange top-side world she literally can’t even see at first, to absorbing incredibly powerful forces without a sense of what to do with them or how. But we love Deet because she is just so good, so willing to help everyone out, and fearless in her journey. She even appreciates Mystic/Skeksis opera. And, she knows that because of the Darkening within her, she can’t get close to Rian who she is starting to have a connection with. Deet is ultimately a key force in saving the day, redirecting the Skeksis’ dark energy back towards them with love, but it corrupted her beyond recognition. Now she wanders Thra scared, alone, and full of a horror none can comprehend. It is an incredibly sad conclusion to such an epic journey, and yet, one cannot help but believe that Deet and her friends will find a way to make it through.
Allison Keene is the TV Editor of Paste Magazine. For more television talk, pop culture chat and all things Dark Crystal, you can follow her @keeneTV