Warning! Spoilers for His Dark Materials ahead!
Fans of the novels, written by Philip Pullman, will definitely approve of the accuracy of the television adaptation of His Dark Materials. This first season has faithfully followed The Golden Compass while paving the way for the second novel in the series, The Subtle Knife. Rich in special effects and powerful performances, Pullman’s novels have come to life. ‘Betrayal’ follows the same fast pace the series has set up in the first seven episodes. While the first episodes were powered more by performances, the story takes precedence in the finale.
Lyra Bellaqua has spent the first season of His Dark Materials searching for answers and missing children. She has been grappling with trust issues as the world she has grown up in reveals itself to be full of secrets. Lyra has also been struggling to find someone to trust. She has made friends and forged bonds with the Gyptians, witches, polar bears, and an aeronaut, but it’s her parental figures she can’t understand. The dangers alluded to, the mysteries of the universe, and who is to be trusted, culminate in the eighth and final episode of the season.
Written by Jack Thorne and directed by Jamie Childs, ‘Betrayal’ bridges the themes of trust and loss that have been seen throughout the previous episodes. Lyra discovers news information, but experiences a very severe loss in the bargain. This episode, and what the series has shown thus far, is that self-reliance and trust is the key to survival.
The specials effects are used to their full potential this episode. The return of Lord Asriel means the practice of experiments as he continues his research on dust. The effects are cleverly used to bring heartbreak to a particularly tragic moment and to show a connection between two worlds.
The return of Lord Asriel also means the return of James McAvoy. McAvoy gives a brilliant performance as he gives a terrifying and fun performance as a scholar gone made with ambition. One scene finally shows Lord Asriel’s interacting with Mrs. Coulter. Again, Ruth Wilson’s performance is nothing short of amazing as she continues her inner struggle. This scene also gives further insight as to how daemons reflect their human’s innermost feelings. Lewin Lloyd, who plays Roger Parslow, also delivers a strong performance filled with fear and innocence.
Overall, the season has been truly impressive in story development, special effects, and performances. I, personally, have been waiting for this show since I first read the novels in the early 2000’s. As much as it has been truly enjoyable, it feels that some character development has been sacrificed in the quest to remain true to the novels. The storyline is expansive and well-written, but there have been moments where the characters felt like they were lacking. Despite this, the performances delivered by the actors this season have gone a long way to adding dimensions and depth where character and depth may have been overlooked in order to keep up the fast pace of the story. That being said, I will wait with anticipation for the second season.