The third season of His Dark Materials also works very well dramatically because, unlike with previous seasons when we knew there was still story left to tell, anything can happen from this point forward. All bets are off, which raises the stakes considerably as it takes leaps and bounds towards an exciting end.
“There’s a great war coming” seems to be the mantra of almost every single character this season, as most of the eight episodes act as a build-up on its own to the promised conflict. The mission of Lord Asriel (James McAvoy, returning to a starring role with a powerhouse performance) is now in full swing, as he recruits followers and makes bold moves against the Kingdom of Heaven. Fascinating religious elements are introduced as we learn that the Authority (‘God’ in our world) is no longer ruling in Heaven, and Asriel is attempting to unseat Metatron, the being who has taken up the position of regent in lieu of the Authority.
But, even though angels are major players in the conflict, His Dark Materials is not about the drama in the Kingdom of Heaven — that’s more Lucifer territory — it’s more about the machinations and war politics in the different mortal realms. Seemingly disparate storylines are woven together both literally and thematically, and while it may get overtly metaphorical at points, the series retains the air of subtlety key to immersing oneself in a grounded multiverse of gods and men.
Dafne Keen and Amir Wilson return to star as Lyra Belacqua and Will Parry, unlikely friends destined to make a finite change across the many worlds. Keen and Wilson have grown up since they first appeared in the series, and their real-world aging reflects the journey of maturity their characters have embarked upon. Events and circumstances have forced them to grow up fast, and the fact that these young actors are doing so before our very eyes is a further signifier that times are changing, even though the premiere of His Dark Materials seems far more recent than it was.
Every episode is written by Jack Thorne (the playwright behind the divisive Harry Potter and the Cursed Child and the Netflix hit Enola Holmes), and he’s at the top of his game here; this season has some of the best dialogue and character interactions of the entire series. I love it when series only get better as they go on, and His Dark Materials has absolutely earned that honor at this point.
New episodes of His Dark Materials premiere Mondays on HBO and HBO Max. The entire third season was screened for this review.
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