Yay for His Dark Materials. I had lots of fun binging through the entire first season. Although the first two episodes, at first, can be tough to watch, unless you are familiar with the sourcebook series. Mainly because there is a lot of exposition going on — lots of information and lots of moving parts are thrown at you pretty fast, so you have to stay focused — and believe me, this show is worth investing your time. By the third episode, I was all in.
It’s the story of Lyra, played by Dafne keen, who was excellent in Logan (2017), and she is excellent here also. Lyra was dropped off for safekeeping at Jordan College by her uncle (Lord Asriel, played by James McAvoy). The characters do not share our reality; they live in an alternate-parallel world much different than our own. This world’s technology seems outdated, like they are stuck in the Edwardian era before the First World War. There are some portals or gateways that connect this world to our current modern world, but there are only a few handful of people who know where those doorways are located. This parallel reality is ruled by an oppressive religious fascist-like regime called The Magisterium. The plot centers around Lyra’s backstory and the mysterious disappearance of children, including Lyra’s best friend, Roger.
In the first two episodes, we get a look into Lyra’s life at Jordan College, and we meet her best friend Roger (Lewin Lloyd). We are introduced to Daemons; creatures who serve as a companion to a child and takes the form of an animal — they can switch to any animal form it desires at will. When a child reaches their teenage years, the Daemon settles into a final animal form — and they remain with their human companion for their entire life.
We also meet the Gyptians; A group of nomadic people who share similar characteristics with Gypsies. They are portrayed as the poor and under-class people of this world. They have their unique way of life and are shown to be a hardworking, honorable, and dignified group of people. Gyptian children are also being taken away, and they take matters into their own hands to find their missing children.
From the third episode on, things get progressively darker as more truths about Lyra are revealed. Lyra’s storyline is full of perils, obstacles, and magical adventures. There are many moving parts in the storytelling here — from the magical, fairy tale type of world, these characters inhabit to the grim and dark aspects of the same world.
The casting was excellent. Roger was a scene-stealer, and Dafne keen is at a whole other level capturing the child-like essence and maturity of Lyra. Ma Costa, played by Anne-Marie Duff, delivered a touching and moving performance. Ruth Wilson is terrific as Mrs. Coulter — capturing her morally ambiguous character exceptionally. Lín Manuel Miranda, as Lee scorsby, had a bit of a Han Solo vibe, but from the stand-alone Solo movie. They need to develop this character and his relationship with Lyra a little better next season, but I did enjoy his performance here.
Game of Thrones fans should recognize James Cosmo, who played Jeor Mormont: Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch — playing Farder Coram, an essential and influential leader type figure with the Gyptians. James McAvoy is always great in anything he is in, and he is great here also. His portrayal of the Lord Asriel character is remarkable. At first, you are not really sure where he stands in the story, his indifference and coldness towards Lyra is off-putting, and McAvoy captures this character brilliantly.
His Dark Materials Season 1 is a well-written adaptation by Jack Thorne (who also wrote the stage play for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child). The blending of action sequences and CGI worked well for me with the combination of compelling characters, and top-notch performances. I heard season 2 was shot simultaneously as season 1, so I assume season 2 will drop early next year.
Four out of Five Popcorn Bags 🍿🍿🍿🍿
HIS DARK MATERIALS (Season 1-Streaming on HBO)