“His Dark Materials” Season 2 continues the great quality from the 1st season and I can’t wait to see how they adapt The Amber Spyglass for season 3. This season adapted The Subtle Knife for the better, fixing one of the events that happens near the end and the only weakness it has comes from the weakness middle books in trilogies face, as it ends up being setup for the final book. So, the action is better, we see more worlds and our characters have arcs. I recommend this season.
Lyra (Dafne Keen) and Will (Amir Wilson) find themselves in crossroads world of Cittàgazze and must work together as forces of he Magisterium are at play and Marisa Coulter (Ruth Wilson) uses all her influence to hunt for Lyra.
The Magisterium Threat – The Magisterium is powerful in this as we see them destroy the homes of the Witches, imprison Lee and even send forces through the Portal to hunt for Lyra to stop the prophecy she is key to. Their power increases over the course of the show and we see that in their world their agents are everywhere.
The Spectres – We finally see the spectres and how dangerous they are as we witness them turn many into empty shells as they feed off dust. Mrs. Coulter an control them though and uses them to find capture Lyra, killing the wtiches who were protecting her.
Lord Boreal – We finally get Lord Boreal’s motivation and is to hold knowledge and items and power for himself. He is unable to see beyond himself and this lack of empathy and listening leads to his end as he attempts to court Mrs. Coulter, which she manipulates and poisons him. He was a great threat prior though and nearly outsmarted Will and Lyra at one point. Ariyon Bakare did a good job in the role.
Dr. Mary Malone – Simone Kirby is wonderful as Dr. Mary Malone, the character who trusts Lyra and learns how to communicate with “Dust.” This leads to her leaving her life at Oxford behind as she travels through a tear in dimensions and helps some of the orphans of Cittàgazze after how she had helped Lyra and even helped Marisa Coulter realize her value as a person. She is one of the few truly good people we meet and her inquisitive nature drives her arc which remains open at the end as she has left her own world behind.
John Parry – Andrew Scott is great as John Parry. An explorer filled with regret at the family he left behind who learns as much as he an to help as many as he can. He calls Lee to him and he is the mysterious traveler through most of their interactions as they seek the wielder of the knife. In the end he learns it is his son and is able to save him from Magisterium forces, who kill him as he defends Will.
Lee Scoresby – Lin-Manuel Miranda continues to own this role and I love Lee’s friendship with his daemon. This season we learn about the abusive father he grew up with and how his daemon Hester was his only friend and ally through it all. Lyra is a daughter to him and his motivation is protect her above all else. This motivates his quest where he finds John Parry and his last stand against the Magisterium forces, as he dies defending Lyra.
Marisa Coulter – Marisa Coulter is easily the most compelling character this season as we see her shape who leads the Magisterium before searching for Lyra. This leads her to Will’s world where she sees what life she could have lived (in her world she can never be a doctor or publish papers under her name) and after entering Cittàgazze to find Lyra kills Lord Boreal after taking control of the Spectres. She is a force of nature in this and defeats all her enemies while still having moments of kindness, such as when she frees Lee and we learn about the abuse she grew up with and blames herself for. Her drive above all else is to protect Lyra, and by the end of the season she has captured Lyra once again as she promises to take her somewhere safe from all.
Will – Will’s arc in this is learning to trust in others and himself and this comes through getting and learning to use the subtle knife, his getting to know Lyra and finally meeting his father and learning about what happened. His goal is to protect Lyra and his leaving to find his father and losing them both in the process will no doubt lead to facing that guilt next season. Amir Wilson does a good job as Will is a passive character in the books, especially compared to Lyra but he at least shows him making choices.
Lyra – This season we learn Lyra’s other name is Eve and she is the one who can shape what happens to all universes. She can’t know the prophecy though or else she’ll fail so that adds a dimension to her interactions with Witches especially. She is the driver of the plot like last season and is why Will finds the subtle knife and why they need to use it after Lord Boreal steals her Alethiometer. Her arc is learning how to trust as she and Will need each other to succeed. In the end they find that though but as all forces converge to protect or kill Lyra, Marisa Coulter steals her away. Dafne Keen once again is great as Lyra.
Facing Abuse and Trauma – One of the strongest arcs of this season are characters facing heir abuse and trauma. Lee does and it inspire Mrs. Coulter to save him. Mrs. Coulter faces it leading to some healing with her daemon and Will and Lyra do leading to them becoming best friends.
The Witches – The witches lose their home, fail to protect Lyra and stand with Lord Asriel. They spend most of the season losing and I wish we’d seen more of their magic. They felt so under-developed.
Cittàgazze – This city is supposed to have a rich history but we know nothing about it beyond the Guild creating the Subtle Knife. You have orphan kids and spectres as a threat to Will and Lyra but nothing happens beyond getting the Knife. It isn’t until the forces in Lyra’s world enter that this place starts feeling like it matters. I wish it had been developed further and we’d learned more about the guild.
Cliffhangers and the Problem of Middle Books in Trilogies – Lyra is captured by her mother and though her mother says she will be safe, we don’t know how it will be and don’t even know where she is going. Will’s father is killed by a Magisterium soldier (Better than killed by a Witch in the books), Lee is killed by Magisterium forces and Lord Asriel recruits the angels in his war. Will and Lyra’s stories feel open still and that is the problem of cliffhangers as quite a few of these stories are complete but the open ones leave the narrative open and hanging.
Season 2 feels much more focused than season 1, but there aren’t as many compelling characters who have focus. Like in the books Lorek is only around for a cameo and the Gyptians aren’t in it all. I was hoping more could be done with the Witches to make up for that but they just aren’t as compelling sadly. Will’s world and Cittàgazze are also not nearly as intriguing as Lyra’s world and all the different politics and factions. Cittàgazze is especially lackluster in development. Still, this season was great and I can’t wait to see how The Amber Spyglass is adapted.
Final Score: 9 / 10