His Dark Materials: Season 1 Finale Review

Dec 24, 2019



The past few years, the BBC have declined in engagement when it came to their TV shows. This changed in the fall, when Badwolf Studios, based in Cardiff, started the production of His Dark Materials- a visual adaptation of the novels written by Philip Pullman, that is also aired on HBO. Badwolf Studios are a TV Studio run by previous creators of the infamous TV series “Doctor Who” in its prime, taking their producing skills and creating their own TV Studio with it.

The series gained popularity almost instantly, with each upcoming episode being highly anticipated. Episodes left viewers on the edge of their seats, anxious about what was going to happen. And Badwolf Studios faced the challenge of pulling off a finale that would stun the audience. Which they did.

The long-awaited finale of His Dark Materials Season One involves Lyra Belacqua/Lyra Silvertongue after she has found her father, Lord Asriel, to give him the Alethiometer. She is accompanied by Roger Parslow and Iorek Byrnison, having been escorted halfway by the Gyptians and Lee Scoresby. ​​​During the episode, James McAvoy makes one of his few appearances in the season, having agreed to be in three episodes. The brilliance of the casting is demonstrated in the finale, as despite his lack of scenes in the show, McAvoy is still able to give us the Lord Asriel we see in the books. An adventurer who has no understanding or desire to be a father who is solely focused on his work. His morals are demonstrated in both large and small scenes, including his dialogue with Lyra, discussing sin and dust, and his relationship with Marisa Coulter, which has been long awaited for since the beginning of the season.

The pacing in the finale is carefully spread out and makes you impatient as you want to see what happens next, which links into Badwolf Studios trying their best to stay accurate to the books- will Lyra save Roger or will she be too late? In an interview with the producers at Badwolf Studios, the producers admitted that staying true to the books and not straying away was one of their most difficult challenges, however from the looks of it, it paid off in the end. The viewers desired to see the lacking father-daughter relationship between Lord Asriel and Lyra, as well as the climatic battle sequence, and the heart-wrenching ending. Splitting the episode into almost even thirds, it satisfied the hearts of most viewers.

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Undoubtedly, one of the most heart-wrenching moments was watching Roger get separated from his Daemon. Throughout the series, the writers had been emphasising just how close a bond between a Daemon and human is, with success. Our hearts our drawn to how cute Pantalaimon is, to how beautiful Stelmaria is, and even how deadly Iorek Byrnison is with his armour. So when the contraption was brought down between Roger and his Daemon- it genuinely emotionally hurt and felt as if the viewer was being torn apart. Such an emotional effect on the viewer is very highly regarded. ​

The visual effects in the finale were as stunning as ever, Badwolf Studios did not take a backseat and continued to put their full effort into it. Over 40 crew members that work on the show are from the University of South Wales, also known as the Film and TV School Wales, which is highly renowned for its film and visual effects courses. Another demonstration of their extended post production skills was during the fight scene with the bears and the Magisterium, showing the bears fighting against guns and being affected by explosions that had been finessed in post production.

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Behind the scenes footage of the episode shows their delicacy with the visual effects- including specific tracking marks on animals such as Pantalaimon, Iorek Byrnison and Stelmaria. These all have puppet models and temporary 3D models that are used by professional puppeteers to help in post production and get a more accurate representation of the animals biological design and how they work.

What really stood out in the finale was the northern lights and the giant pillar of light. For a TV show, visual effects of that standard takes up a rather large amount of their budget, demonstrating the fact that Badwolf Studios cares just as much about their post production as they do about their live production and casting, and are carefully managing their money between each area. The beauty of the cinematography was evident in the finale, casting dark shadows over Lord Asriels and Lyras faces as they attempted to talk to one another. This placed emphasis on the fact that Lord Asriel had something up his sleeve, and showed Lyras distasteful emotions towards her father for lying to her about being her father.

Finally, His Dark Materials successfully pulled off a subplot to introduce Will into the next season after regularly giving him short scenes from just over halfway through the series, perfectly leading into a side by side ending of him and Lyra entering each others worlds. ​​

It is a spectacular and well written cliffhanger to the first season of His Dark Materials, with many fans waiting for season 2 next year, which has already finished filming and has gone into post production.

His Dark Materials stars Dafne Keen as Lyra Belacqua, James McAvoy as Lord Asriel, Ruth Wilson as Marisa Coulter, Lewin Lloyd as Roger Parslow, Lin-manuel Miranda as Lee Scoresby, and Anne-Marie Duff as Mar Costa. 

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