A thousand trine (years) have passed since Mother Aughra entrusted the Crystal of Truth to the alien Skeksis, who siphon its lifeforce to extend their own lives while proclaiming themselves Thra's rulers. The corrupted Dark Crystal begins to cease giving its energy away, with the Skeksis emperor skekSo ordering his scientist skekTek to devise alternative means for them to survive. skekTek accidentally learns to use the Crystal to siphon the life essence of other beings' for the Skeksis to reinvigorate themselves. He abducts the Crystal Guard Gelfling Mira during her search for an Arathim in the catacombs, resulting in her death as the Skesis feast on most of her essence. This act is witnessed by Mira's boyfriend Rian, who escapes them. Meanwhile, Princess Brea of Ha'rar uncovers a symbol after questioning the Skeksis' laws following Ha'rar's tribute to skekOk and skekLach. Another Gelfling named Deet, of the Grottan Clan, embarks on a mission to save Thra from being consumed by the Darkening, a corruption building up within the Crystal.
Tropes featured in this episode include:
- Accidental Discovery: The discovery of the Dark Crystal's essence-draining power is pure accident. skekTek reverses the polarity of the Crystal in an attempt to force it to give new life, which has an opposite effect of Vampiric Draining of his life essence. He chalks it up as yet another failure... until skekSil the Chamberlain points out that it can be used to drain the essence of other creatures of Thra. He reminds skekTek that there are beings who have the closest connection to the life force of Thra and must therefore contain the strongest life essence... then they look at the Gelfling guards...
- Ascended Extra: The Skeksis Scroll-Keeper, skekOk, didn't have much to do in The Dark Crystal bar cheering with the others, freaking out with the others and feasting with the others, and barely said anything. Here, he goes to Ha'rar with skekLach the Collector to collect the Gelflings' tithe, has a more defined personality and dialogues with Brea.
- Awful Truth: Much to his horror, Rian witnesses the true nature of the Skeksis when they drain Mira's essence. Princess Brea also witnesses the Skeksis' greed and cruelty when the Scroll-Keepr pressures a farmer's wife to give her mother's necklace as a tithe (on top of what little crops they could grow during a blight), and she sees her mother wear that same necklace later.
- Brainwashed and Crazy: The Darkening corrupts the mind of the creatures living in the caves of Grot, and makes them aggressively attack everything on sight.
- Cassandra Truth: The Skesis are not too concerned about Rian seeing them kill Mira, since they think no other Gelfling will believe him.
- Defector from Decadence: Princess Brea becomes this when she realizes her royal family's wealth and status comes from shaking down poorer Gelflings for "tithes" same as the Skeksis.
- Evil Laugh: skekOk cackles as Brea rides in the carriage with him and skekLach.
- First Kiss: Mira and Rian are implied to have had theirs in their shared flashback. They then unknowingly share their Last Kiss before pursuing the Spitter, which results in Mira entering the catacombs, being captured and then drained of her essence by the Skeksis.
- Good Cannot Comprehend Evil: The Gelflings are on the whole good people who have complete faith in the Skeksis, partly because they can't imagine anyone being so cruel or deceptive unless they witness it with their own eyes. Unfortunately for the Skeksis, a few Gelflings do witness their cruelty this episode...
- He Knows Too Much: Rian becomes the primary target of the Skeksis, as he now knows what they're truly up to, that is, draining Gelfling life essence.
- Kick the Dog: Bad enough the Skeksis demand farmers too poor to feed themselves give what little they can grow, but pressuring a farmer's wife to give her mother's necklace, a treasured family heirloom...
- Locked Out of the Loop: The opening narration outright states that the Gelflings know nothing of the Skeksis' abuse of the Crystal.
- Nice Job Fixing It, Villain!: Who knows how much longer Brea would have continued buying the Skeksis' bull, if it wasn't for the Scroll-Keeper insisting on taking the farmers' necklace? All the problems she goes on to cause for them can be laid at this pointless bit of cruelty.
- No Body Left Behind: Mira ends up the first victim of the essence-draining machine of skekTek, which disintegrates her after she's emptied of her essence instead of becoming a zombie slave like what happens to the Pod People in the movie.
- Sacrificial Lion: Mira dies at the end of the episode to show just how ruthless the Skeksis are, and how desperate they are to hold onto their ill-gotten immortality at any cost.
- Scenery Porn: There are gorgeous close-up shots of the Castle of the Crystal and its finger-like towers, as well as wide shots of its natural surroundings.
- Slave Race: The Skeksis see the Gelflings as one, since the latter serve and worship the Skeksis. Podlings also seem to be one to Skeksis and Gelflings alike.
- Villain with Good Publicity: The Skeksis pass themselves off as wise and benevolent rulers who guard the Crystal of Truth, and ask only so little in return: only complete obedience, servitude, and annual tithes from the Gelflings. Said Gelflings are all too happy to oblige, until a few of them witness the Skeksis' true natures firsthand...