His Dark Materials Season 3 TV Review

Last Updated on December 1, 2022

Plot: Based on “The Amber Spyglass,” the final novel in Philip Pullman’s award-winning trilogy, in the final chapter of this epic fantasy series, Lyra (Dafne Keen), the prophesied child, and Will (Amir Wilson), the bearer of The Subtle Knife, must journey to a dark place from which no one has ever returned.  As her father’s great war against the Authority edges closer, they will learn that saving the worlds comes at a terrible price.

Review: Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials has always been a bigger series overseas than in the United States. When the first season of the HBO fantasy saga premiered, it pulled in over seven million viewers in the U.K. as compared to less than a million in the U.S. Similar to the cinematic adaptation of The Golden Compass, American audiences have struggled to appreciate the deep issues at the core of this story centered on the control of faith by a dystopian government that clashes religion with faith and science. HBO’s adaptation of the trilogy of novels has done an incredible job of delivering the complex layers of this tale with the scale of franchises like Harry Potter or Game of Thrones. As the series comes to an end with the third season, His Dark Materials brings to the screen satisfying conclusion to a story much larger than anything you would expect from a story involving teen protagonists and talking animals.

The eight-episode third season of His Dark Materials is the most challenging of the three books in Pullman’s series to adapt. Since I first read the novels, I was unsure of how this tale could even be brought to screen thanks to the inclusion of invisible angels and a race of creatures virtually impossible to visualize based on their description. Thankfully, the consistent presence of writer Jack Thorne and producer Jane Tranter has kept His Dark Materials heading towards an encompassing and cinematic conclusion. Weaving the major elements of the story with plot threads from all three books, this season is an achievement that brings the entire story to a close that many may not have seen from the outset. What started as a story about the ethereal energy force known as Dust becomes a cataclysmic war between Heaven and Earth involving angels, the god-like Authority, the armies of mankind, and witches as well as ghosts and more.

Picking up immediately where the second season left off, His Dark Materials opens with Will Parry (Amir Wilson) searching for Lyra (Dafne Keen) who is being kept hidden by Mrs. Coulter (Ruth Wilson). Will is contacted by two angels, Baruch (Simon Harrison) and Balthamos (Kobna Holdbrook-Smith) who try to obtain the subtle knife for the coming war. At the same time, Lord Asriel (James McAvoy) rescues Commander Ogunwe (Adewale Akinnouye-Agbaje) for the fight. Recently named Father President McPhail (Will Keen), the Magesterium also chooses their side while Serafina Pekkala (Ruta Gedmintas) rallies the witches for the eventual showdown. Dr. Mary Malone (Simone Kirby) also takes a key role as she joins a race of creatures who will play a key part at the end of this series. All of these threads unfold over the season with the battle lines being drawn and both Lyra and Will at the center coping with their growing feelings for each other and their duty to save the world as they know it.

The challenge with His Dark Materials comes from the spiritual and metaphysical focus in this final season. Conceptually, there is a lot of really heavy subject matter in Pullman’s novel and Jack Thorne and his writing staff have worked diligently to make it digestible for viewers. There is a lot of exposition needed to make this story work and luckily it overall does. With eight episodes to bring it all together, I was worried that this tale would either be disjointed or rush things. Thankfully, the pacing is good and balances the various characters, many of whom are separated by entire dimensions and worlds. The ending of the series culminates in the most action since the first season and dwarfs anything this series has yet done. Still, it is both massive in scale and very intimate which may confuse some audiences. I would highly encourage anyone who has not watched the first two seasons recently to rewatch them before starting this run of episodes or you may find yourself a bit lost.

To reveal anything about how this story goes would be a disservice to anyone who has invested in the first two seasons of His Dark Materials, but I will say that it absolutely honors the source material and keeps the structure of the final novel intact. The race known as the Mulefa does not look like how I imagined it would have after having read the book, but it works as well as could for a visual medium. What surprised me most about this final season is how propulsive it feels as it heads towards the conclusion, something that you cannot skip to the final episode to truly appreciate. While this season will be released weekly after the two-episode premiere, it really must be experienced as a whole story to appreciate the maximum impact of what happens. Without divulging anything, I strongly suggest that the final two episodes must be watched together. Independently, the ending may feel a bit anticlimactic, but that is why this story is ideally consumed as a binge rather than in a serial fashion.

I doubt many fans of the novels will be disappointed by this season of His Dark Materials other than the fact that this is likely the end of this story. While Pullman has a prequel/sequel trilogy called The Book of Dust, I do not foresee that ever being adapted on the scale of this story. His Dark Materials was always going to be a difficult story to realize on screen but HBO and the creative team here have managed to deliver a faithful and satisfying adaptation that doesn’t skip the hardest aspects of this story. His Dark Materials started out as a fantasy adventure but finishes with a season that is a blend of mature storytelling about religion and the essence of what makes us human. It is a wonderful ending to a series that satisfyingly tells a complete story about Lyra and her magical world.

His Dark Materials third season premieres on December 5th with two episodes on HBO.

Source: JoBlo.com

About the Author

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Alex Maidy has been a JoBlo.com editor, columnist, and critic since 2012. A Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic and a member of Chicago Indie Critics, Alex has been JoBlo.com's primary TV critic and ran columns including Top Ten and The UnPopular Opinion. When not riling up fans with his hot takes, Alex is an avid reader and aspiring novelist.