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Review of Season 3 of “His Dark Materials”

It’s been some time since HBO aired the final season of His Dark Materials–based on Philip Pullman’s novel, The Amber Spyglass (this season was aired on a later date on the BBC). This season had a lot of material to work with thanks to the size of the book. However, the right amount of book content and the right amount of changes made from the books presented an excellent adaptation of the 3rd Season of this show. Remember, due to the pandemic, there was a delay between Seasons 2 and 3; yet, one could argue that the year gap between filming the show allowed the younger actors to “grow up” closer to the “mature” adolescents they play on the show.

As I mentioned before, the length of the third novel provided a lot of content as to what happens to all of the protagonists and all of the characters in this series. It should be mentioned that James McAvoy’s Lord Asriel is back and the character is fulfilling his cause, which he first mentioned in Season One, but wasn’t manifested until the end of Season 2. It needs to be said that both James McAvoy and Ruth Wilson presented excellent performances as Lord Asriel and Mrs Coulter. There were additional scenes where viewers learn more about both of their motives and how their feelings and their ambitions affected their social standings and their child’s life. The way the actors portrayed their characters demonstrated these characters as morally gray better than in the books. Now, unless you’ve ready my episode reviews, then you already know that the “returning” characters are portrayed excellently once again by the actors who played them.

Given the length of the third book, it seems that certain scenes in each episode go on longer than they should (i.e. the scenes in “The Land of the Dead”). However, all of the various plots were developed at appropriate rates based on the length of the episode and how and when all of the plots and the characters would converge eventually. The final battle and the final showdown are brilliantly done and by both the actors and the special effects crew. And, similar to many of the modern speculative fiction adaptations we’ve been watching, the price of victory is very real and is presented as the ultimate sacrifice it is in actuality.

In this season, the characters are split into pairs with whom they interact with throughout the season. Lord Asriel and Mrs. Coulter; Lyra and Will; Dr. Malone and Atal; the witches and the angels; etc. Interestingly enough, these pairs are essential for the “prophecy” that’s about to be fulfilled by 2 not-so-young children. Each of the remaining pairs have their roles to play within the prophecy as well. A slight spoiler is that The Authority does not mention the prophecy at all. It’s the Magisterium, the Witches, and the Angels who know about the prophecy and either work with it or against it. The prophecy is fulfilled, but the aspects of the entirety of it isn’t mentioned until closer to the end of the series.

There were concerns as to how the ending would be presented. The series’ “bittersweet” conclusion matches the emotions both the protagonists and the audience experience (and, in the case of the protagonists, continue to experience for the rest of their lives). As melancholy as the ending is, it is presented as a poignant ending to the epic series everyone experienced over the last few years. Everyone is reminded how such life-changing experiences remain with us forever. The ending of this book-to-media adaptation reminds the audience how much the series has maintained its fan base and appreciation overtime. As a fan of the books, I’m glad they we given the media adaptation they deserved. Overtime, I hope more fantasy fans watch this series and enjoy it as much as I did.

Overall, Season Three delivers on everything viewers and readers wanted from the actors who all nailed their portrayals of the characters they played throughout all 3 seasons. This was one of the best adaptations of a book series and I’m glad there was enough demand and work put into making a better media adaptation than the movie from 2008. However, I have 2 complaints of this season. The first is that HBO could have done a better job with how they decided to air the episodes (2 episodes back-to-back in 4 consecutive weeks were a lot). Second, there was one change done within the show that didn’t happen in the books, which, in my opinion, didn’t needed to be changed. Yes, in terms of the context of the show and the plot of one of the main characters, it made sense. Yet, the change takes away from the sense of danger some of the other characters should be more vigilant about as the narrative gets closer to its conclusion. Other than that, I couldn’t have asked for a better season.

If you wish to read the reviews of each episode, then you can click on the episode title to access them.

S3, E1: The Enchanted Sleeper

S3, E2: The Break

S3, E3: The Intention Craft

S3, E4: Lyra and Her Death

S3, E5: No Way Out

S3, E6: The Abyss

S3, E7: The Clouded Mountain

S3, E8: The Botanic Garden

My Rating: 9.5 out of 10

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