His Dark Materials Season 2 Review: Sifting Through the Dust

In the heart, Its dark materials – Sir Philip Pullman’s trilogy of young adult fantasy novels – and the BBC-HBO co-produced series named after her and written by Jack Thorne (Enola Holmes), both are about control. In a sense, it’s control over knowledge. The shamanic John “Jopari” Parry (Andrew Scott) crystallizes the meaning when he first appears in the middle of season two of His Dark Materials. He notes that there are always two groups fighting for power. One, in this case the Magisterium, decides what the truth is, what people should know, and what they can say. It is a clear reference from Pullman to the Catholic Church in history. The other, Lord Asriel (James McAvoy) and his loose cohort, want you to explore and think for yourself.

In another sense, it is adults trying to control children. From the start, series protagonist Lyra Silvertongue (Dafne Keen) has tried to escape the clutches of not only the teaching profession, but Marisa Coulter (Ruth Wilson), who was exposed as her mother in season 1 of His Dark Materials, The show speaks to the young adults on the other side of television and says that sometimes they have to take matters into their own hands. And in another sense it is control over certain segments of the population. Deep in the second season of His Dark Materials, Marisa wonders how different her life would have been in our world. In her world, she was denied access to a doctorate and her papers could only be published if she agreed to let a man take out the loan.

Speaking of Wilson, the 38-year-old English Golden Globe actress is sure to be the highlight of the second season of His Dark Materials. Two scenes are particularly notable for showing a vulnerable side of their character that is rarely seen on the series, and because it’s not about moving the plot forward, which unfortunately, His Dark Materials is too much about. The first she finds across from Lin-Manuel Miranda, who plays aeronaut Lee Scoresby as he delves into their similar upbringing. The moments between Wilson and Miranda go deeper in a minute than in over 200 minutes anywhere else.

The second wordless scene is with her onscreen daughter Keen and reverses the torture scene from the first season of His Dark Materials, in which Marisa lets go of her golden monkey demon on Lyra’s ever-changing demon “Pan” Pantalaimon. Although it takes place in the midst of the chaos, their quiet moments together are powerful and insightful, and Lyra sees in real time as she transforms into her mother in front of her. But those moments are all too rare and His Dark Materials Season 2 is a lot less powerful and insightful when it is left to the young adults to carry the show.

From Ludo to its dark materials, which can be seen in November

But the bigger problem for His Dark Materials Season 2 is that it never really gets going. The new season begins with a foreboding message – Asriel’s portal opening actions have left the world in chaos that the witches believe is the “beginning of a powerful prophecy that could destroy or remake all existence” – but then it lasts forever place the pieces on the board. A brewing war should add some power to a TV show, but there is no oomph, intrigue, or premonition in season 2 of His Dark Materials. The pace of the glaciers doesn’t make sense when you’ve got a seven-episode season on your hands first. Critics had access to five episodes. It looks stunning – season 2 was partially shot on the island of Kauai, Hawaii – but it’s sluggish.

His second season of Dark Materials begins with a disturbed lyre that the truthful alethiometer blames for the death of her friend Roger Parslow (Lewin Lloyd), who was sacrificed by her father Lord Asriel to open a portal to another world of Season 1. After following her father through the portal, Lyra arrives in an eerie and mysterious town in Cittàgazze. It looks a bit like the island of Korčula in Croatia and is next to a larger peninsula, but it differs in that all the houses on Cittàgazze are one above the other and the land next to it is completely deserted. It doesn’t make much sense, but His Dark Materials Season 2 never bother explaining why that is. But more importantly, Cittàgazze seems like a ghost town itself, with no one to be seen.

The first person Lyra meets is Will Parry (Amir Wilson), who has traveled from our world and is very surprised that Lyra has a “talking animal” with her. Lyra, on the other hand, wonders why Will doesn’t have one. A man without a demon? You cannot be trusted. The two eventually strike a middle ground when they discover they are from the same city of Oxford, but from different worlds. Lyra and Will then meet other children who reveal that Cittàgazze is empty because it is full of ghosts – they are like a floating black liquid, something off Lost or fantastic beasts – sucking all of humanity out of people. The restriction? They can only attack adults. In Cittàgazze there is only one adult left who lives in a tower that has no visible entrance.

Laxmii, its dark materials, and more on Disney + Hotstar in November

his review of dark materials season 2 amir wilson dafne keen on his review of dark materials season 2

Amir Wilson as Will Parry, Dafne Keen as Lyra Silvertongue in the second season of His Dark Materials
Photo credit: HBO

Meanwhile, the Magisterium in its original world is trying to limit the portal crisis, and the news is spreading that it is a gateway to another world. Marisa offers her services and promises to extract information from a captive witch in the care of the Magisterium, because witches have always claimed that there are other worlds. And now it has been found to be true no matter how much the chief magistrates would like to live in denial about it. But just as Marisa tries to elicit the full prophecy from the captive witch, the fellow witch Queen Ruta Skadi (Jade Anouka) draws the first blood in a war against the teaching profession. The always intriguing Marisa is planning a Machiavellian coup in which Father McPhail (Will Keen) is her farmer.

Thanks to Lyra and Will’s world jumping adventures, His Dark Materials, Season 2 spends a lot more time in our world than Season 1 – and a lot of that involves Dr. Mary Malone (Simone Kirby) who studies Dark Matter at Oxford University. Scoresby, trying to find a weapon that he is told can protect Lyra, has much less time on the screen. He completed his life’s mission after failing to do so in Season 1. Although he doesn’t know, The Weapon He’s Looking for is the name of the second book whose second season is based on His Dark Materials: “The Subtle Knife”. That drives the series into a different select fantasy, as it did with Lyra and the Alethiometer in Season 1, but it’s not that incredible because there is at least a bit of guidance.

But its dark materials still haven’t figured out what to do with demons, which is disappointing because having a talking animal connected to a person’s consciousness is the best way to reveal their inner thoughts. His second season of Dark Materials doesn’t bring out any humor either, with the exception of a single shot of Marisa’s golden monkey sitting in a car wearing a seat belt. That – the lack of humor – is one of many ways His Dark Materials isn’t the fantasy epic for HBO like Game of Thrones was.

Of course, Season 2 of His Dark Materials has bigger problems. It has no idea how to develop scenes or plan longer term. It feels like one of those “X-Hour Film” TV shows where the entire season was planned as a feature-length film. That’s annoying in itself, and even more so when it’s not available as a binge watch. Since this is a BBC and HBO series, new episodes of the second season of His Dark Materials are broadcast weekly. (Originally it was eight episodes, but a stand-alone episode that focused on Asriel had to be cut due to COVID-19. As a result, McAvoy is completely absent from season 2.)

His Dark Materials season 3 is in the works

His Dark Materials Season 2 Review Lin Manuel Miranda His Dark Materials Season 2 Review

Lin-Manuel Miranda as Lee Scoresby on the second season of His Dark Materials
Photo credit: Simon Ridgway / HBO

Originally invented for the Harry Potter era and now remade for the post-Game of Thrones era, His Dark Materials is in an identity crisis. In the second season – the middle, when the producers have the desire to transform the third and final book “The Amber Spyglass” into two seasons – they are still trying to figure out what it should be. Its multi-world conceit literally turns it into science fiction, but metaphorically it really is about one world: our world. Even today there are people who refuse to believe in science and governments who make unscientific or pseudoscientific claims. COVID-19 only made that clearer. By dividing it into two worlds, His Dark Materials Season 2 can make the differences between the two sides clear.

But while it’s timely and relevant at times, His Dark Materials Season 2 can’t shake the feeling that everything it tries was done better elsewhere. It searches the dust – pun intended – and the answers largely elude it.

His Dark Materials Season 2 premieres on November 16 on HBO and HBO Max in the US and on November 17 on Disney + Hotstar Premium in India. It aired on BBC One in the UK on November 8th.


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