His Dark Materials (BBC/ HBO.) Season 1. Review (Mild Spoilers.)

As a fan of the franchise I was very excited to see that Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials would be getting a proper adaptation attempt in the wake of Netflix doing a pretty solid job with A Series of Unfortunate Events (another franchise i’m a fan of with a very similar adaptation history.) Does this first season suggest we’re on a path to getting the full adaptation this franchise deserves.
Definitely. Don’t get me wrong this does have some problems but it’s generally speaking a lot more faithful to the tone of the books then New Lines attempt at cashing in on the Lord of the Rings with the failed film. The cast is strong all around with Dafne Keen continuing to prove she’s one of the best young actresses around as Lyra and Ruth Wilson’s Mrs Coulter stealing every scene she is in. It’s solidly engaging throughout with some incredibly strong moments when it gets to some of the darker and more intense material. I was a little bit alarmed when I saw Jack Thorne as the sole writer on this season (i’m saying that as someone who will admit the full stage production of Harry Potter and The Cursed Child is very impressive in places despite his work on the mostly terrible script) but he appears to have a much better grasp of the Dark Materials universe and what makes it work then he did with Potter.
The season does have some problems. The pacing is all over the place at times and I definitely felt that one or two of the episodes could have done with a bit of tightening and trimming. There’s also the way they approach to the Demons. They have taken the Lion King 2019 photorealism approach. Like with that film I get what this approach is trying to do but it doesn’t especially work. This is the one advantage I’d say The Golden Compass has over this new series. It did understand that the Demons are broadly fantastical creations. In this season they are treated more like pets and the key plot points that a persons demon is bonded to their souls doesn’t come across very effectively.
There is one major ace card the season has up its sleeve the but I’m very conflicted on it. Going into the season I thought it was going to be a straight adaptation of Northern Lights (and it mostly is) but they do introduce Will Perry and other elements from much later on in the story throughout the second half of the season. On the one hand I’m OK with this on one level as this is meant to be be an adaptation of the trilogy rather than just Northern Lights but we will have to see how this shapes the story next season with a lot of the groundwork already having being set up for the future (and sometimes taking away from the adaptation of the first story.)
Overall despite some problems this was a solid season that suggests this trilogy is well on its way to getting the adaptation it deserves. What changes they make to the story or whether they will eventually adapt The Book Of Dust remains to be seen but I will be there to find out.

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