Wu-Tang: An American Saga. CRAIG BLANKENHORN / HULU

WU-TANG: AN AMERICAN SAGA

(Premiering Wed Sept 4, Hulu)

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Wu-Tang: An American Saga—which includes Method Man and RZA on its list of executive producers—tells the momentous story of a group of young Black men grappling with their decisions to either pursue an unlikely music career or continue their lucrative-albeit-dangerous adventures in crime. Set in Staten Island at the height of the crack epidemic, the series emphasizes that, despite millennials’ obsessive, nostalgic pining for the music and aesthetics of the ’90s (guilty!), this was a rough time to be a young adult, especially if you happened to be Black or living in an underserved community. Don’t expect any cool graphics to pop up and introduce each character, as was done in Straight Outta Compton—in Wu-Tang, you’re largely left on your own to figure all that out. But in 10 episodes, even a casual viewer can come away with a greater understanding of the intense familial, social, and drug-dealing dynamics that were at play right before Wu-Tang became one of the most influential hip-hop acts of all time. JENNI MOORE


The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance. KEVIN BAKER / NETFLIX

THE DARK CRYSTAL: AGE OF RESISTANCE

(Premiering Fri Aug 30, Netflix)

Is The Dark Crystal a good movie? Uh... kind of? Nostalgia aside, there’s a lot of awkward clumsiness in Jim Henson and Frank Oz’s 1982 fantasy epic, from its sluggish story to the wince-inducing creepiness of its stars, a pair of dead-eyed puppet elves “Gelflings.” (Oz later remembered showing the film to studio executives: “The film ended. The execs stood up. And they walked out. Not saying a word to us. It was not a good day.”) But nearly four decades later, the look of this world is still something else—a captivating masterwork of rich production design, clever puppetry, and wondrous, unhinged weirdness. The 10-episode prequel The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance is Netflix’s latest nostalgia-baiting cash-in, and while the streamer declined to show any episodes to critics, all signs indicate that—once again—the moody, hallucinogenic visuals (with puppetry from Jim Henson’s Creature Shop!) will be the reason to tune in. (Consult your local budtender before viewing.) ERIK HENRIKSEN


Carnival Row. JAN THIJS

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CARNIVAL ROW

(Premiering Fri Aug 30, Amazon Prime)

Amazon’s reportedly spending more than a billion dollars on their upcoming Lord of the Rings show, but they must’ve saved a chunk of change to pay for Carnival Row, a sumptuous steampunk mystery/fantasy/allegory. The eight-episode series is swollen with plotlines I can’t type with a straight face: Detective Rycroft Philostrate (Orlando Bloom) solves a series of monster murders in a sooty Victorian city called the Burgue that’s crowded with exiles from magical lands—faeries, kobolds, and faun-like creatures called pucks. Rycroft also romances a warrior-librarian faerie named Vignette Stonemoss (Cara Delevingne), and there’s political intrigue with Jared Harris and his pet bear, as well as a Jane Austen-y subplot about a wealthy brother and sister scandalized by their new puck neighbor. The whole thing’s too whimsical for words, even as it achieves Game of Thrones levels of sex and gore, and I’m sincerely impressed by the show’s dizzy smorgasbord of genre tropes, as though someone scissored up pages of comic books, mystery novels, D&D modules, and bodice rippers, then pasted the pieces into a lavender-scented dream journal. But the main problem with Carnival Row is that none of this is any fun. The show’s a bafflingly glum-faced trudge through pretty basic all-creatures-are-created-equal moralizing. Apart from some goofy creature design and the outright silliness of seeing a bunch of faeries flapping around, It’s visually impressive, with top-notch CGI, costuming, and sets. But just remember—every time a faerie gets a pair of digital wings, an Amazon warehouse worker loses a decent chance at a living wage. NED LANNAMANN