Some fantasy fans are still mourning the end of HBO’s Game of Thrones and some fantasy fans are ready to move on. In either case, a new series has landed. Based on Philip Pullman’s series of the same name, His Dark Materials has finally arrived and it’s everything fans of the books have ever wanted.
New Line Cinema released The Golden Compass in 2017 and fans of the series were disappointed in some of the choices. It was not so much that it was untrue to the source material, but it was deceptive in its tone and glossed over some of the darker themes that shape the characters and drive the story forward. That is not the case with HBO’s new series. The audience is instantly pulled into a magical world of scholars and explorers, conversations of faith and heresy, and an overall dangerous place for children.
The tone is set at the beginning of the episode. Across an ominous, stormy looking background, the following appears: “This story starts in another world. One that is both like, and unlike, your own. Here, every human soul takes the physical form of an animal, known as a daemon. The relationship between human and daemon is sacred.” The stage is set for danger and magic and a fast pace is in motion for the first episode.
Viewers are quickly thrust into ominous conversations about prophecies and conspiracies. Daemons are treated as real characters and performances are commanding. James McAvoy is great as Lord Asriel. The power and conflict of his character are unquestionable in McAvoy’s performance. Ruth Wilson’s Mrs. Coulter enchants in her introduction and exudes the character’s enigmatic persona. The children are also aptly cast. Dafne Keen gives a strong performance as the mischievous Lyra Belacqua and it is going to be exciting to see what Keen does with Lyra and her adventures.
In addition to a masterful cast, the episode features excellent writing as it straddles the line from introducing viewers to a new world, while adapting from the novels. While fans of the series will appreciate the HBO adaptation, newcomers to the series will also be drawn into this rich world. Aesthetically, it’s a beautiful show. The set pieces and effects are beautiful. Jordan College, the Gyptian community, and the settings are impressive in their structure. There are some fantastic effects for the daemons. They will immediately arouse curiosity about the content and their role in the story. The show also features some excellent directing.
While the show has the capacity to bring in a large audience, careful attention must be paid. There are a lot of rules and set up to this new world and its inhabitants, so one might lose interest if they find themselves confused. That being said, the first episode sets up a lot of moving pieces and only reveals so much. If the first episode is setting the tone, then the showrunners are definitely confident in what they have in store for audiences. I feel confident in saying I’m all in for the season.
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