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His Dark Materials: Season Two – TV Series Review

His Dark Materials - Season Two (poster)Over the years, fans of media adaptations of books had to learn to live with the possibility the sequels and/or the follow ups to TV shows and/or movies would never be made. The opposite of this would be when the sequels were made and released, and the audience was left feeling the same finesse was lacking from the first one. Nowadays, fans know to expect a follow up to a successful adaptation. We’ve gotten them from Marvel movies, anime series, and now live action TV shows. Fans of both the book trilogy and the first season of the mini-series, His Dark Materials, were excited to get Season Two.

Season Two of His Dark Materials follows The Subtle Knife, the second book in the trilogy by Philip Pullman, and it takes place immediately after the end of Season One. Lyra Silvertongue has been betrayed and she journeys into a new world to learn about Dust and why everyone in her world fears it. One of the best decisions the production team made was to introduce Will Parry in Season One. This is because the second book is the shortest and the most fast-paced book in the trilogy, and if Will’s introduction in the mini-series happened in this season, then it would have slowed down the show’s pacing overall. This decision allowed the show to run with the changing mood within the series.

It is important to understand the BBC was able to film Season Two before COVID-19 broke out. Unfortunately, it was revealed during San Diego Comic-Con that a separate single episode that would have followed Lord Asriel’s journey was not filmed before the pandemic. This is one of the reasons why there are seven episodes in this season; and, while there hasn’t been an announcement when this episode and Season Three—yes, we’re getting the third and final season—will be filmed, fans are grateful Season Two was able to air on television (and online).

His Dark Materials - Season Two - Lyra and Will

The same actors from Season One returned for Season Two. Dafne Keen and Amir Wilson are back as Lyra and Will, and Lin-Manuel Miranda and Ruth Wilson are back as Lee Scoresby and Mrs. Coulter. The new cast includes the actors Andrew Scott and Simone Kirby as both Dr. Stanislaus Grumman and Dr. Mary Malone, respectively. The cast—both old and new—present the characters they portray from book to screen; and, with the book being shorter than its predecessor, more time is given for character development. The audience learns a lot more about their favorite characters from the books. 

The pacing in this season moves back-and-forth between plot development and character development, and the worlds the characters travel to in order to get what they want. The episodes present at least four different worlds—including ours—and each one presents its own danger to all of the characters, which may or may not breach into another world. This plot device is essential because it’s based on the repercussions of Lord Asriel’s actions and of the coveted item some of the main characters are seeking. Yet, all of these worlds have more in common than their inhabitants realize, and the prophecies point to three of them.

His Dark Materials - Season Two - Mrs. Coulter

Season Two builds upon four storylines from Season One. The first is Lord Asriel’s plans and what they means for the Magisterium. The government realizes if Asriel is not stopped, then they will lose power. So, they seek “the bridge” in order to track him down. Second, is Mrs. Coulter’s mission to find Lyra and learning where her loyalties lie. Unlike in the books, Mrs. Coulter is given more time to develop as a character, which allows viewers to understand her better. This still doesn’t make her a good person, but we all can see where she is coming from. Third, is Dust; what it is and if it exists in other worlds. Last, are the prophecies. There are more than the one prophecy from Season One, and they are no longer esoteric. Everyone from the Magisterium to the witch clans race either to ensue or to hinder them from being fulfilled. Anyone who has read or are reading the books know how significant these storylines are and will continue to be in Season Three.

Fans and readers of the books will appreciate the amount of dialogue and scenes that are translated from book to screen. That being said, there are notable changes from the books to the mini-series—both major and minor—which will make you question whether or not they were necessary. But, for the context of this presentation, those changes work for the show.

His Dark Materials - Season Two - Lee Scoresby

Collectively, Season Two of His Dark Materials is a strong follow up to the first season. While there will be some personal conflict between straight-from-the-book scenes and additional changes, fans of the books and Season One will enjoy this season as much or even more than the first. The cast gives amazing performances of the characters we love, and credit must be given to the production team for completing this season during the pandemic. Hopefully, we don’t have to wait long for Season Three, which will be based on the final book in the trilogy, The Amber Spyglass.

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