WARNING: There are SPOILERS for His Dark Materials Season 2 in this review! You’ve been warned
It has been a rough year for the creative industries, hasn’t it? A pandemic – one that is a once-in-a-century event – is something that the vast majority of us did not see coming. We have spent almost 365 days living under some kind of lockdown, restriction, or isolation – with no end in sight so far. We have turned into our screens – such as by watching Netflix boxsets back to back, or tuning into the latest BBC drama. And all before Twitter takes over with another Covid 19 announcement that will inevitably be depressing.
His Dark Materials remarkably escaped most of the pandemic, as a lot of the filming was already complete by the time we were all under restrictions. Compared to season one, there was an impact at times – such as an entire episode being scrapped, with the ensuring edits sometimes leaving plotlines lagging. Season one was punchy, dramatic – and very true to the books. Season two is more of a ‘filler’ – with more spent on background rather than drama, and dramatic scenes being sporadically packed at the beginning and end of episodes.
His Dark Materials Season 2 has been a bit of filler
The question of diversity has been carried on well from season one to season two – and you can read more about that here. While diversity has had its turn in the spotlight this year – such as with the SIA controversy, Black Lives Matter, and so much more – His Dark Materials has proved that it is important, it can be ‘done right’ – and not just for reasons of being tokenistic – and that it can be an integral part of the storytelling process. Those who watch His Dark Materials with wishes of writing for the screen should take this on board – because it’s how we can create a better future.
The writer who created Line Of Duty once remarked that those characters staying on board depends on how the cast age – and this has been planned exceptionally well. His Dark Materials essentially is written round the subject of ‘growing up’ – and the finale of season two saw Lyra talking to her Daemon about beginning to ‘change’. The suggestion was that Will may have had something to do with this feeling. Season one is of Lyra the child – one who is obstinate, difficult, with lacking emotional awareness at times. That Lyra is only just beginning to learn how to navigate the world around her. Lyra in season two is more of a young woman – one who is more sensitive, slightly hardened by her experiences, world wary. She is more inward thinking, thoughtful – and the character development is brilliant.
Some of the drama in His Dark Materials Season 2 was removed
Read more: His Dark Materials Season 2 Episode 2 Review
For the sake of having a programme to air, season 2 of His Dark Materials had to sometimes sacrifice drama and pace to simply fulfil the screen time. The ‘dramatic moments’ are usually at the beginning or end of each episode – simply as there is a lot of time spent on the background or building up to the events, often to the detriment of the programme. There are some brilliant scenes – such as the iconic scene between Ruth Wilson and Lin-Manuel Miranda – but they are at times few and far between. It is unfortunate, but a necessity at an unprecedented time. Lee Scoresby’s death occurs at the beginning of The Subtle Knife – yet is one of the closing scenes of the season two finale. The witches may have an expanded relationship, with the Magisterium having commanded more on an on-screen presence, but some key ingredients are missed – such as the dramatic fights, key moments of revelation. (And even those are prolonged – with Mrs Coulter finding her daughter is Eve right at the end. This was in the first third of The subtle Knife)
An eye to detail is one of the key components when it comes to the design, the costumes, the ‘look’ of His Dark Materials. Season one was just exquisite. Season two less so – with more of the subtle meaning being given away through exchanges, clothing, the verbal utterances by the actors. The costumes that Ruth Wilson as Mrs Coulter wears have many meanings that could be derived – and they even misdirect the audience at times.
The Daemons are brilliant
Read more: His Dark Materials Season 2 Episode 5 Review
The Daemons in season two are brilliant – and there has been an upgrade especially in terms of their appearance. Compared to The Golden Compass, the technology to make the Daemons a reality has come so far – and they form an integral part of season two in particular. Social media was fawning over Pan as a red panda and mouse, for example. But they are more than just a ‘pet’ – instead, they are characters in their own right, and the meaning of the form of the Daemon says a lot. Lord Asrieal, played by James McAvoy, has a snow leopard as a Daemon – an animal at once seductive but so cold and calculating, ruthless. We saw Pan take on the hideous Golden Monkey, and Hester coaching Lee Scoresby through some of his most vulnerable moments, including his death in battle. The writing was gorgeous, and even heart rendering at times.
What made it worthwhile, even though season two of His Dark Materials sometimes lagged? The finale and the one last-minute change that completely altered our understanding of the programme. Originally designed as eight episodes at almost an hour-long, a spin-off had to be scrapped due to the pandemic. Lord Asriel’s background would have been explored far more, with this contributing to our understanding of him a little bit more. But he made one appearance, right at the end – with one epic monologue concerning his mission and what he wishes to achieve. We should all think about this, perhaps – as it was a little bit on-the-nose for the times we live in currently.
While the Wikipedia entry for His Dark Materials and the related subjects note that the books are controversial in religious terms, this is perhaps to misunderstand them entirely – and Pullman can attest to this, such as with his Desert Island Discs. The one question that needs answering is: how to top this, and will there be a third season?
What do you make of this review? Did you enjoy His Dark Materials Season 2? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
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