Jump to content
BeatKing.com | Music News | Downloads | Forums | Videos | Lyrics

'His Dark Materials' Season 3 review: A devastating conclusion to an underrated fantasy epic


Recommended Posts

A girl in a red sweater lies on her side on the ground looking away from a boy in a blue sweater sleeping next to her.

Philip Pullman's novel The Amber Spyglass finally gets an on-screen adaptation with Season 3 of His Dark Materials, and what a heartbreaking, gorgeous adaptation it is.

Easily the most ambitious and most fantastic of Pullman's trilogy, The Amber Spyglass gives this final season of His Dark Materials a lot to work with: the land of the dead, teeny tiny spies, rollerskating elephant creatures, and more. On top of all that, the novel concludes Pullman's re-interpretation of John Milton's Paradise Lost, meaning we get some pretty intense discussion of free will and individuality in the face of religious oppression. Yes, that includes the "let's kill God" plotline.

Luckily for fans of Pullman's books, His Dark Materials does not water down the novels' thematic content, nor does it stray away from the stranger aspects of its fantasy worlds. The season, while not without its own flaws, proves to be a rewarding finish to a solid show that tended to be overlooked in a crowded fantasy TV landscape.

Season 3 of His Dark Materials brings us to new and exciting worlds.

A furry four legged creature with a short trunk nose stands in a field of grass.
Mulefa alert! Credit: Courtesy of HBO

At the start of Season 3 of His Dark Materials, our characters are scattered. Lyra (Dafne Keen) is in the clutches of her mother Mrs. Coulter (Ruth Wilson), who keeps her asleep as a twisted form of protection from the evil Magisterium. In her dreams, she sees her late friend Roger (Lewin Lloyd), who calls for help from the land of the dead. Meanwhile, Will (Amir Wilson) uses the Subtle Knife to search for Lyra across worlds, and Dr. Mary Malone (Simone Kirby) ventures into a new realm where she'll make unexpected friends. Then there's the not-so-small matter of Lord Asriel's (James McAvoy) final assault against the Authority, which will unite angels, witches, and humans.

The sprawling scope of the season gives us several new fantasy locations to enjoy, from Asriel's bustling battle camp to the austere yet grand kingdom of heaven. Two worlds in particular stand out: the land of the dead, with its fascinating industrial feel and terrifying harpy guardians; and the world Mary stumbles into, a lush paradise populated by the elephant-esque mulefa. That's right, book fans: We finally get to see the mulefa and their seedpod wheels. Rejoice!

His Dark Materials Season 3 goes out with a bang — and a lot of tears.

A man in a cockpit of an aircraft.
Lord Asriel on his way to fight God. Credit: Courtesy of HBO

In what felt like a gamble to be more like Game of Thrones, the first two seasons of His Dark Materials chose to split time more evenly between Lyra and other characters, like Mrs. Coulter and Lord Asriel. As a result, the show could sometimes feel like it was treading water. Characters in non-Lyra and Will storylines spent a lot of time having Big Important Discussions about Dust and prophecies, but these were often redundant and drew focus from Lyra and Will's compelling journey.

With Season 3, however, most of these stories get the opportunity to go full speed ahead. Now, Asriel — who was absent from Season 2 due to COVID-19 shooting complications — rallies his troops, and Mrs. Coulter reckons with her love for Lyra. When the two cross paths, it's like lightning in a bottle. McAvoy and Wilson play the layers of Asriel and Coulter's relationship with a perfect mix of love, hate, and ambition, creating a push and pull throughout the season that will keep you guessing. And of course, the much-discussed rebellion against the Authority finally gets its appropriately epic payoff as His Dark Materials concludes.

Unfortunately, His Dark Materials does not completely fix its pacing problems in Season 3. I say only "most" of the stories get more interesting because the Magisterium scenes are still a slog to get through. The introduction of fanatic Father Gomez (Jamie Ward) does bring our villains in a slightly more dynamic direction, but the constant returns to the Magisterium pull time away from stories that deserve far more of our attention. The main victim here is Mary Malone. His Dark Materials sprints through her time spent with the mulefa (and the construction of a certain spyglass), touching on key plot points but never letting us truly sink into the world of the mulefa. It's both a shame and a missed chance, since passages involving Mary and the mulefa are among the most memorable from The Amber Spyglass.

As with the rest of His Dark Materials, Season 3 most comes to life when it focuses on the relationship at the heart of the show, that between Lyra and Will. While a divine war wages around them, their main focus is helping each other accomplish their goals — be that finding Roger or bringing the Subtle Knife to Lord Asriel. Keen and Wilson continue to have excellent chemistry, grounding each other amidst a sea of lofty fantasy set pieces and cementing themselves as young performers to watch. It's their scenes that pack the biggest emotional punches this season. A heart-wrenching conversation between Lyra and her daemon Pantalaimon (voiced by Heartstopper's Kit Connor) reduced me to tears for a good ten minutes straight, while the journey to the land of the dead is a quietly moving rumination on the beauty of life's small truths.

All of this is building up to the most devastating part of His Dark Materials yet: the very end. No spoilers here, but trust me when I say that it's the perfect culmination of Lyra and Will's coming-of-age story — even if it will leave you sobbing. If you haven't read the books, brace yourself. If you have read the books, know that the show does those final scenes justice.

As a series, His Dark Materials certainly has its fair share of bumps in the road, but it's all worth it to see the stunning weirdness, maturity, and heartbreak of The Amber Spyglass play out on screen.

Season 3 of His Dark Materials premieres Dec. 5 at 9 p.m. ET on HBO and HBO Max, with two new episodes streaming every week.

View the full article

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
  • Our picks

    • Wait, Burning Man is going online-only? What does that even look like?
      You could have been forgiven for missing the announcement that actual physical Burning Man has been canceled for this year, if not next. Firstly, the nonprofit Burning Man organization, known affectionately to insiders as the Borg, posted it after 5 p.m. PT Friday. That, even in the COVID-19 era, is the traditional time to push out news when you don't want much media attention. 
      But secondly, you may have missed its cancellation because the Borg is being careful not to use the C-word. The announcement was neutrally titled "The Burning Man Multiverse in 2020." Even as it offers refunds to early ticket buyers, considers layoffs and other belt-tightening measures, and can't even commit to a physical event in 2021, the Borg is making lemonade by focusing on an online-only version of Black Rock City this coming August.    Read more...
      More about Burning Man, Tech, Web Culture, and Live EventsView the full article
      • 0 replies
    • Post in What Are You Listening To?
      Post in What Are You Listening To?
    • Post in What Are You Listening To?
      Post in What Are You Listening To?
    • Post in What Are You Listening To?
      Post in What Are You Listening To?
    • Post in What Are You Listening To?
      Post in What Are You Listening To?
  • Create New...