It has been a long road, but finally we come to the epic conclusion of HBO’s His Dark Materials. The creative team have battled the Magisterium, the Authority, COVID, and so much more to deliver on the complete story of Phillip Pullman’s novels. Drawing on the third and final book in the series, The Amber Spyglass, season three draws together all of the characters, threads, and ideas presented up to this point and brings us to the ultimate conclusion in spectacular fashion.
Dafne Keen and Amir Wilson continue to embody Lyra and Will PERFECTLY. Will is driven and passionate, but doubts his own motivations and his past choices. He’s unsure of himself, but eventually finds the strength of will – no pun intended – to do the impossible. Lyra is committed, headstrong, and genuine. She truly wears her feelings and we see every bit of it. Kit Conner gets a shoutout for his voice work as Pantalaimon, as well. He’s able to accentuate everything that Dafne’s performance gives him, and make it all feel honest and natural. You can feel his pain as he whimpers on the boat docks or sense his trepidation before leaping across tears in the multiverse.
Ruth Wilson’s Mrs. Coulter and James McAvoy’s Lord Asriel are likewise phenomenal. Wilson’s Coulter is without a doubt the standout of the series, and her scenes with McAvoy are wonderful. You can see the absolute obsession in Asriel’s eyes and you can see the gears turning in Coulter’s mind as they play their verbal chess match against one another right up to the end.
Visually, all of the stops have been pulled out for the final act. We see angels in glorious fashion, the kingdom of Metatron, rips across reality, and so much more I can’t even attempt to explain it. A clever combination of small practical sets combined with CG backgrounds and expansions does wonders this year. The physical sets themselves are immersive, and it’s really nice to see everyone actually interacting with their environment. The Land of the Dead in particular was excellent. Seeing Lyra pull bits and pieces from the mountains of forgotten things added weight to the scenario that would’ve been lost without it.
Models of ruined villages and clever camera work make for some fun effects, as well. Seeing Asriel and Ogunwe maneuver around all of the flotsam and jetsam of their basecamp or tinkering with their various inventions of travel or destruction made everything feel all the more real. Seeing Father President MacPhail and Dr. Cooper manipulate the quantum bomb or Commander Roke’s tiny body as he zips through impossibly small passages were tense, exciting, and carried us perfectly from one place to the next. From one scene to the next.
If you’ve followed the story for the last two seasons, everything comes together here in the most satisfying ways. The Magisterium attempts to thwart a prophecy that states Lyra will become “Eve” and bring about destruction. Asriel, the Witches, and his forces from across infinitude see her as a means of salvation. A battle must be fought and won for the very nature of reality itself. Meanwhile, a former nun now quantum physicist continues her journey across the dimensions to find a greater truth and point our young hero and heroine down the path. All the while, two young souls travel to places never before seen by the living and attempt to rescue all from an eternal prison in purgatory. If that’s not enough for you, then I don’t know what is.
The Final Word: 9.5/10
His Dark Materials has always managed to be a surprisingly faithful adaptation of the best-selling (and genuinely fantastic novels) by Phillip Pullman, and the series’ final season is no exception. For eight glorious episodes we are treated to beautiful blockbuster level visuals, exceptional performances from the entire cast, and a fantastic score that raises you up to the highest highs before making you feel the lowest lows.
I’ve loved this show from the first episode, and I’m happy to report that it only gets better from there. If you haven’t treated yourself to some of the best television of the last few years, I suggest you find yourself a couch, get comfortable, and settle in for a treat you likely won’t be getting anything close to for quite awhile.
His Dark Materials is available to stream on HBO Max.
HBO's 'His Dark Materials' final season goes out with a bang
I’ve worked my whole life to become a comic book illustrator, writer, and stand-up comedian. Batman and Captain Benjamin Sisko helped put a good head on my shoulders. I spent most of my childhood saving Hyrule and the Mushroom Kingdom and seeing the Justice League save all of creation time and time again. I live in Johnson City, TN with my wife Kary and daughter Laila enjoying the beautiful mountain scenery and occasional show. Three puppies round out the family and take up the rest of the time that isn’t spent debating which Wes Anderson or Studio Ghibli movie to watch. I spend an inordinate amount of time binge watching SVU, Futurama, and Letterkenny, and when I’m not watching I’m listening to “My Brother, My Brother, and Me” or playing the occasional game of D&D. If there’s a nerdy endeavor out there, I’ve probably at least tried it.