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His Dark Materials (2019). Image via IMDb.

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What Has Become of Lyra Silvertongue’s Destiny?: A Review of ‘His Dark Materials’ Season One Finale

The finale has come. So much has happened in the last season including deaths, reunions, betrayals and battles. That being said, what is left for the last episode of “His Dark Materials” season one?

This week’s episode, “Betrayal“, begins with the usual landscape marking the setting for the episode. In this week, we see the Magisterium’s Zeppelins in the sky as they journey to the North to find Lord Asriel. The finale is coated with war-like themes, beginning with an image of the Magisterium’s soldiers in masks with their weapons. Jamie Childs emphasizes the idea of war by using dark tonal colors within this scene, making the scene more uncomfortable and tense- who will win the war that is going to occur?

Moving on, within the episode, we continuously see the Northern Lights. Not only do the Northern Lights indicate Lord Asriel’s location, being in the north, but it also alludes to the idea of dust- an important motif that the series is centered around. In Lord Asriel’s hide-out, we get an insight into his work. In particular, he states that “it is time”- but for what? Now, if any of you had picked up on Lord Asriel’s facial expression when he encounters Roger in the previous episode, you may have had an idea. At the time, I couldn’t quite tell if it was meant to be a smile, but just looked creepy. Either it was a purposely creepy smile, or James McAvoy was trying to show Lord Asriel’s inability to present formal social skills due to his time in isolation, and was trying to mask his anger at Lyra being there. However, this episode reveals that Roger was also “spooked” by the smile Asriel gave him. Turns out, like Coulter, Asriel also intended to use Lyra’s friend for work purposes. I think the scene where Roger dies is one of the most emotional of the season. Mainly due to the fact that Roger was Lyra’s best friend, who she had already saved once, and was in the process of doing so again. The most frustrating point is that she saw him as his daemon was cut, meaning if she hadn’t sat and waited for Pam to look in the sky to spot them, she could have been on time to save him.

Throughout the episode, we gain further insight into Asriel’s relationship with Lyra. It is interesting that while Ruth Wilson plays a caring mother, that is conflicted by other priorities that prevent her from being what she needs to be. Asriel is the one (originally claiming to be her uncle), that has had more input on Lyra’s life, and yet he seems to be the most detached and self-centered. Interestingly enough Macavoy’s and Wilson’s portrayal of their characters show them as both being so engrossed in their work that it causes them to neglect what really matters- being Lyra. In some way, at different stages of the season, they both reminded me of mad scientists, that will do anything to get what they want. However, it is interesting in the story-line that despite them both being scientists, Pullman clearly displays them being in different fields. Ms. Coulter is trying to free the humans from Original Sin/dust, whilst Lord Asriel is trying to understand dust. In the process, both are willing to risk anything to get to their conclusion. I find it interesting that despite this world being an alternate universe to the one we know, they still believe in the story of Adam and Eve. Despite Ms. Coulter’s destructive personality, it seems that Ms. Coulter has come to some sort of an epiphany as she refuses to go with Asriel on his adventure, due to wanting to be with Lyra – has Ms. Coulter finally come to her senses?

Meanwhile, Jack Thorne constantly dips in and out of the alternate London to display the events Will is facing. One key moment in the episode’s plot is that we find out that Boreal does not need the letters, but should, in fact, be finding the boy. The result of this is Boreal sending out a missing person announcement, thus making Will being on the run, a much harder task. The majority of scenes include Will being in hiding from the police. Therefore, emphasizing the fact that he is on the run, but also showing Boreal’s determination to find him. One scene in particular I thought was well done was Child’s birds-eye-view shot of the bus Will is in, looking as if it is being followed by a car. The later scenes show that it was simply a car that looked like it was being followed. However, it emphasizes the fact that anyone could be after Will at this rate, and he can’t trust anyone- something Will and Lyra share in common.

In this episode, Thorne displays Lyra as finally coming to the realization as she really can’t trust anyone, and needs to things her way, and alone. Her parents, in particular, have both betrayed her to vast extents. Lyra chooses to go through the portal at this point, in order to go after Asriel, and find the dust before he does, in order to stop him. I think this realization is sad, as though she believes she is alone, she still has Iorek, Lee and the gyptians that are on her side. However, in this moment of betrayal, she doesn’t seem to see it. More frustratingly, we see Will curiously enter a portal from his world. Therefore, we see both the main protagonists entering portals from either universe, which means they were so close, but so far from finally meeting. I particularly liked this scene through Lorne Balfe decorating the scene with the use of a piano piece, which implied a sense of curiosity and innocence on Will’s behalf.

Furthermore, the finale shows us the beginning of the final battle that is to be taken place in the season. The battle begins as a result of Ms. Coulter being threatened by the sight of the armoured bears- clearly known that they are no longer under Iofur’s leading, but Iorek’s. However, it is interesting to see how her impulsive actions endanger Lyra yet again. Though this time she is unaware that Lyra is in the battlefield, due to her being high above in a zeppelin. The battle scene was well done through its dark blue color palette that signifies the masses of snow in the north, therefore giving an uneasy vibe towards the battle scene.  This is matched with a selection of quick shots that makes it hard to pick up if Lyra and Iorek are still alive. Balfe also emphasizes the theme of this scene through her fast-paced orchestral pieces that include intense drums, almost imitating a military theme. Fortunately, Lyra is saved yet again by Iorek, who leads her to Asriel.

Overall, I think HBO and BBC did a good job at this first season. Areas that I enjoyed, in particular, included the cinematography and music. However, one area that I wasn’t so keen on was some of the acting/writing. At certain moments I found the dialogue a bit cringe-worthy and somewhat forced. The result of this made some of the scenes very cringe-worthy and uncomfortable to watch. I felt that certain scenes just didn’t need explaining or showing, in order for the viewers to get the gist of what had happened. An example of this included when Lyra saved Roger in the previous episode, and Child kept showing shots of Lyra and Roger smiling, after their success. These constant close-ups of them laughing just made it a bit uncomfortable to watch. Nonetheless, the season did a great job all round, and I am excited for the following season. Next season we have a lot of questions to ask including:

  • What’s next for Will and Lyra?
  • Seeing as Lyra left Iorek, what will he do now?
  • What is next for the Magisterium?
  • What will Asriel and Ms. Coulter do next?
  • What happened to Lee Scoresby and the gyptians?

Moreover, I think the season proved as being a better adaptation in comparison to the movie version. I felt that, though the movie had good elements, the TV show had the ability to pay closer attention to detail, which proved useful at times. For example, we got a better insight into the lives of those at Balvanger, that I felt the movie didn’t quite develop. Moreover, we had the chance to be more familiar we Asriel’s arrogant and selfish personally, which was merely hinted to in the movie.

The release date of the next season is yet to be announced, though we are currently expecting another season due to showrunners previously announcing that they would have at least two seasons for the show, if not more.

 

Featured Image via IMDb.

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