His Dark Materials S02E01: The City of Magpies REVIEW

Season 2 of His Dark Materials has finally premiered, boasting more impressive visuals than the previous season, great set designs, and improved pacing that has left me seriously excited for what may be in store for fans of the series over the course of this new season.

Having reread The Subtle Knife over the course of this summer, episode one was immediately satisfying as it showed me a Cittàgazze exactly like the one I pictured in my mind. If there’s one thing I’m the most pleased with about HDM, it’s the way the show is consistently succeeding in bringing my imagination to life in front of me with such accuracy and detail.

The details, overall, seem better this year, with the daemons looking more polished and – is it just me – taking centre stage more regularly? This is great, as it was one of my larger issues with season one overall – though I do hope daemons continue to be featured so heavily throughout this season, and not just in this first episode.

Finally seeing Lyra (Dafne Keen) and Will (Amir Wilson) interact was fantastic and, truthfully, the best part of this opening episode. The two of them had excellent chemistry together and were engaging throughout, really carrying their scenes equally. I love that so much from the books was included, everything from the electric vs. anbaric conversation to the omelette scenes. I am surprised I’m saying this, given my love for Ruth Wilson as Mrs. Coulter last season – but they even outshone her this time around. I could have watched them compare their worlds for the entire episode, and still loved it.

I did feel an opportunity was missed to cover Will’s reaction to Pantalaimon shape-shifting; but that is a minor gripe.

One scene I did feel was slightly rushed was Mrs. Coulter’s torture of her witch captive. In the books, Serafina uses her magic to make herself invisible and sneak into the interrogation scene, ultimately killing the witch. I felt much more intrigue reading the interrogation in the book, and felt more importance was given to the secrecy over Lyra’s other name. As visually fabulous as the episode’s take on this scene was, I don’t think the mystery was presented as clearly as it was in the book.

Regardless, I adore the visuals being used for the witches and think the way they fly, move, and speak is handled fantastically. What a treat for the eyes this first episode was – it is, at times, easy to forget you’re watching a TV series and not a big-budget movie.

I’m so excited to see what’s to come this year after such a strong opening. In terms of what’s coming up, some spoilers: I am really curious how they are going to portray the angels, though I’m optimistic after how well they’ve handled everything else. Seeing Serafina give her magic calling card to Lee gave me all kinds of goosebumps for the scenes ahead. END SPOILERS.

Episode one flew by, and I most certainly wasn’t ready for the credits when they rolled. A brilliant opening, and in many ways stronger than any episode from season 1.

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