His Dark Materials Season 2 More Watchable Yet More Wandering Than Season 1

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His Dark Materials Season 2

His Dark Materials is a series of books by Sir Philip Pullman which plays on the subject of parallel worlds that blend fantasy and reality, magic and technology, and quantum physics and religion. It's like a recipe card where all the ingredients sound delicious, but which have to be mixed just so in order for the final product to measure up to expectations.

While I am familiar with the books, I am not someone who has read them. Therefore, I cannot comment as to how closely HBO adheres to the story in their serial adaptation of the adventure, which finds Dafne Keen playing Lyra Silvertongue, the young heroine of the story. I can say that, having watched the first two seasons now, the live action version has done little to motivate me into reading the source material.

The first season bounced the reader from Lyra's reality -- one overseen by a religious order called the Magisterium, and where everyone is born with with a spiritual attachment to a shapeshifting animal avatar called a daemon -- and the world of Will Parry (Amir Wilson), which would be seen as our "real" world. Throughout that first season, never the twain meet, and we are only made aware of the importance of the two worlds to each other through following a mysterious agent, Carlo Boreal (Ariyon Bakare), who had found a window between the two realms, and we follow the twin mysteries of Lyla's parentage and the disappearance of Will's father.

This second season feels as though there is more driven action to it. Having walked through a passage on her own world now, Lyra and Will meet up in an in-between city run by feral children. Lyra is still being hunted by the ambiguously evil Mrs. Coulter (Ruth Wilson) while Will is sought by the police for a murder. It is during their time in this realm that Will becomes the bearer of the Subtle Knife -- a knife forged so that one edge of it is capable of actually cutting rips into the fabric of reality itself -- opening a window between one reality and the next. Lyra's quest is put on hold when the alethiometer -- a sort of Magic 8 Ball / tarot device built into a compass -- tells her that it is important for her to help Will find his missing father.

Along the journey, Lyra loses her compass to Carlo, and makes the acquaintance, in Will's world, of Professor mary Malone (Simone Kirby), who is researching dark matter -- what Lyra would call "dust," and which is an important part of the overall quest. Working together, they are able to make a breakthrough with Mary's computer program to the point that they can begin communicating with dark matter -- and it communicates back.

Beyond that, it becomes difficult to say what the second season really accomplished. We get a brief scene of the armored polar bear if for no other reason to than to remind us he still exists, and aeronaut Lee Scoresby (Lin-Manuel Miranda) flies about seemingly at random into shooting adventures all for the sake of Lyra whom he loves like a daughter -- which ultimately brings him into contact with a figure who will change Will Parry's future forever.

I come away from watching the second season of His Dark Materials feeling like I've seen many good scenes of fantasy, action, and adventure, but I simply cannot reconcile those scenes into something of a cohesive narrative with a distinct beginning, middle, conflict, and climax. If you're a fan of the books, you may come away with a different feeling, and if so we'd love to hear your comments.