His Dark Materials is an epic but frightful and harsh journey into adulthood and destiny.
His Dark Materials is an epic fantasy series full of adventure, heroism, betrayal, loyalty, friendship, mystery, witches, daemons, talking armored bears and dust, that takes place in a parallel universe. Themes like theology, philosophy and science are combined in this new world, different, yet with a connection to ours. It’s a coming of age story about Lyra Belacqua who has an important destiny to fulfill.
This new world is well constructed, but can be a bit overwhelming, if you haven’t read the book. But without too explicit explanations, it takes the viewer by the hand and leads them with Lyra on an epic journey, while the mysteries unfold. It is often heartbreaking, exciting and dangerous, and brings a full spectrum of emotions to the screen.
This first season consists of 10 episodes with each a duration of 60 minutes. It tells the epic tale of Lyra’s journey to the North but importantly, to the truth. It is a straightforward structure, chronologically told, but it unfolds in two parallel worlds.
Lyra Belacqua is raised in Jordan College, Oxford, brought there as a baby by her uncle Lord Asriel. She and her daemon (animal spirit) Pan are best friends with Roger and his daemon Salcilia. All that changes when Roger is kidnapped by the Gobblers and Lyra is asked by Mrs Coulter to come and live with her in London, as she promises to look for Roger.
But Roger is not the only missing child. Many children of the Gyptians are kidnapped. Lyra finds herself in a dangerous adventure while looking for the missing children. She finds out more about her parents, finds new friends in the Gyptains and Lee the aeronaut and Iorek the armored bear and is confronted with unexpected enemies.
Why you should watch it
This series is not only an epic journey but an emotional roller coaster, that leaves you wanting for more. The story is very pleasantly told, and takes the viewer together with the brave, smart and curious Lyra on a journey to The North in search for the children. Her journey is not without danger and she makes some devastating discoveries, which leave the viewer in astonishment.
There is cruelty, search for power, knowledge or truth, ruthlessness and betrayal, that is sometimes hard to watch especially because it effects young children. At the ending you definitely need some tissues. You will cry, so be warned.
The design of the daemons is beautifully lifelike but it is a shame that not everyone’s daemon is always visible. Iorek Byrnison is an impressive polar bear and very humanlike and he is an asset to both Lyra and the series.
The characters come to life as well, especially Lyra who proves herself to be a tenacious heroin. Her bond with Pan, and with Roger is endearing. Her relationship with Mrs Coulter is frightful and Mrs Coulter is a disturbing woman with a lot of traumas.
But Lyra’s journey is not the only one. In our own world a boy named Will Parry has an important yet still unknown role to play in the events that are to come. His path is unclear and unfolds slowly. And is a contrast to Lyra’s adventures.
The world building takes after an older version of our world but with magic and with the Magisterium (the church) who holds the power and finds new ways to control the people and even more sinister, try to remove sin from people.
The story is heavy on emotions and has some heartbreaking and devastating moments. Luckily there are also lots of joyful and victorious moments and Lee and Hester bring some much needed humor to the story. It is a fine-tuned balance that works well and knows how to captivate the viewer.
My favoriet part
The bar fight is a very funny introduction to Lee and his daemon Hester and a welcome change of pace and tone. Both Lee and Hester are cynical but funny and are a fun couple to watch. With Hester cheering on Lee and air fighting alongside him, while warning him for incoming blows is a real laugh. Unfortunately one of the few in this series, for the overall tone is more seriously.
Lyra herself is a delight to watch and a very well cast heroin. She is believable, likable, but by no means a helpless or meek little girl. She carries the series on her small shoulders and does it with great bravado and charm.
Epic factor: ★★★★★
Drama factor: ★★★★★
Cast and crew
His Dark Materials is based on the book series His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman, which contains three volumes Northern Lights (1995), The Subtle Knife (1997) and The Amber Spyglass (2000). The series is created by Jack Thorne. It stars Dafne Keen (Lyra), Ruth Wilson (Mrs Coulter), Lewin Lloyd (Roger), Lin-Manuel Miranda (Lee), Amir Wilson (Will) and James McAvoy (Lord Asriel).
Music: Lorne Balfe. Cinematography: Joel Devlin, Justin Brown, David Higgs, David Luther. Production companies: Bad Wolf, BBC, HBO, New Line Cinema, Scholastic. Original network: BBC, HBO.