His Dark Materials returns for its third and final series with a brilliant opening episode, the only question is whether to binge or not
“Lyra darling, there are people coming for you”
It’s a bit of puzzler, trying to work out how best to consume content in this day and age ain’t it. The days of settling down in front of the TV every Sunday night to watch a bit of prestige drama seem a little quaint as entire series are now dropped at the same time, leaving the audience to decide whether to binge or ration. Is this progress? I’m not sure, not least because I’m so terminally indecisive.
His Dark Materials is the latest show to adopt this model. The entirety of the third and final series now available to watch on iPlayer and for once, the decision was relatively easy. I’ve adored this adaptation thus far and want to make it last as long as I can, hence just sticking the one episode for now. Plus, having some familiarity with the books, I’m expecting an emotional ride ahead.
Replete with some stunning location work and yet more fabulous wardrobe choices for Ruth Wilson’s iconic Marisa Coulter, this first episode does a strong job at reintroducing to the multiple worlds of Philip Pullman’s imagination, adapted here by Jack Thorne and Amelia Spencer, and the multiple threads pushing us through to what promises to be a thrilling finale.
Coulter has gone into hiding with Lyra in drugged captivity, protecting her in her own manner; James McAvoy’s Asriel is recruiting for his assault on the Kingdom of Heaven; gay rebel angels have arrived to help out Amir Wilson’s Will; and in her sleep, Dafne Keen’s Lyra is having haunting dreams of her best pal Roger whose traumatic death exploded the end of the first series.
The choice not to bring Simone Kirby’s Mary Malone in just yet is a canny one, letting us reaccustom to this universe with its Dust and daemons. Victoria Hamilton slips effortlessly into the shoes of the late, lamented Helen McCrory as the voice of Stelmaria, and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje’s Ogunwe looks to be a strong addition to the cast, as do Simon Harrison and Kobna Holdbrook-Smith as angels Baruch and Balthamos. I may not be able to hold out for long…!