His Dark Materials

Fantasy drama television series based on the novel series of Philip Pullman

Surrounded by a Gyptian clan, chanting with its usual fierceness, young Billy Costa stands on a modest pedestal with his quirky glasses and a contentful face. Under the lights of bonfires, it is revealed the audience consists of an equal number of animals and humans alike; young to old, they all have a rat, a bird of a kind, a cat or a dog; with the proximity to what we may assume are their owners, the two seem to share an unbreakable bond. Short before Billy's world crumbles, Phillipp Pullman's latest adaptation of His Dark Materials rounds its first episode on the verge between celebration and unnameable fear.


The Materials trilogy is a deeply intriguing exploration of the world's archetypal evolution. Within Pullmann's fictitious realm the rims of experimental and historiographical markings of our world are questioned in a vicious atmosphere of transmuted parallel worlds. Through a thin web bordering those, the existence of body and soul is visually paired with the prolonging duality stretching into almost every corner. Starting with the fact that in one of the worlds, much like the Oxford, England we know, every human has its own daemon, the physicality of soul, with it the intimate bond with our emotional and subconscious self, has been fixed in an animal form following the character until their mutual death. The striking fatality is at the heart of Pullmann's gripping writing, reflecting his confrontation with profanity. Translating the WWII medicinal experimentation on what is considered the spendable material (in this case all pre-puberty children), touching upon the institutionalized beliefs producing terror and condemnation for every exploratory disobey, Pullmann developed a single-minded re-evaluation of logic where the advanced is sometimes hindered by what saves us, by what makes us human.


The adaptation for HBO follows young Lyra Belacqua (Dafne Keen) and her daemon Pantalaimon handling boring Oxford Colleague lessons, Magistrate scolding and her Uncle Asriel's frequent discrimination (James MacAvoy). Feisty Lyra is cut for a whirlwind of adventures and she dreams of following her uncle, becoming as soon as possible an Arctic explorer. As her uncle returns with important news involving the mysterious Dust and its working on far North under the Aurora Borealis, Lyra manages to save Asriel's life by a mere second, understanding soon that the members of Magistrate look not so friendly on her off-putting but concerned uncle's work. As she is moreover introduced with sumptuous Mrs. Coultron (Ruth Wilson) and being offered a much-desired assistance place on a trip north, Lyra is prepared to leave within minutes. However, the same night marks the disappearance of her two friends, Roger and Billy. She is soon to learn there is much to be revealed among soft silken pillows and handmade dresses Mrs. Coultron bids in with a wide smile.


On the other hand, a daemon-free world has one Will Perry taking care of his anxious mother who suffers from inexplicable shock, trying to make sure that they? Do not find them. Later it will be recognized her husband, James Perry, discovered the Daemon world and spent considerable time exploring some of its innate conundrums before disappearing.


With finely tuned cold cinematography, shaping the sensory experience by matching the continuous feeling of abject horror in season one, Jack Thorne's task of bringing one of the finest trilogies has been a tiresome one, to say the least.  With dramatization by Jane Tranter and well-designed crew, what is essentially an engaging (if a little slow-paced) writing became during these first eight episodes a questionable treat. Though many of Materials admirers coming from the novel side into the TV-screen journey may have some doubts about the parallel narration of Lyra and Will and its gradients, a nod is due for dramatization that tries to involve non-readers into Pullmann's minutiae world, without making everything an explanatory course. This being said, the atmosphere of certain episodes surely marks off from the pages, giving off a slightly claustrophobic feeling, especially minding that the good majority of actors revealing the base conjunction process are underaged children. However, the narration lines are often blankly rounded by inexplicably mind closures. or reactions that stem either from insufficient attention to daemon-human connection or with some dramatization decisions that didn't take up well with the pacing. Sometimes we might dwell on useless scene order, offering us little to no answers of either Lyra's or Will's world and the relationships whose disentangling must be endured. On the whole, even when explaining the background might have seem a good idea, taking time serial allows, taking the road of fable pushing onwards in paced steps, not leaving the space for characters to fuse their inner pondering or the re-evaluation of the present dangers, episodes have sometimes slid with recessive glance to the original.material. Thus Lyra's adventurousness or swiftness has taken up more presence on screen than her known, book-double sensibility and resourcefulness. Moreover so, the daemon part is shamefully underplayed as neither extras nor main roles become very little time to reveal this profound sentiment.


It is to be noted some of the true gems of the casting. Anne-Marie Duff brings Ma Costa in such a warming portrait of an enduring leader and a bereaved mother while Lin-Manuel Miranda is a lighthearted relief as Lee Scoresby. The lead casting has found a worthy match in young Dafne Keen with her pairing to her on-screen uncle MacAvoy (the sad truth is we do not get enjoy his presence, as per books). Ruth Wilson, alas, has taken over in her forceful but subtle presence, chilling us in our seats with her usual acting devices relying on underplaying and almost mind-stopping surprises. Her performance is guttural as her daemon, almost always mute, flows in her still regal omnipresence.


After a more than pleasant closure of the season, it remains to be seen if the future season will manage to parch up some writing understatement while the actors remain enjoyably on the height of the task