HBO and BBC's fantasy adaptation lays the groundwork for its epic conclusion, for better or worse
Bit late catching up with the premiere, but what you say about this story getting a bit big at the expense of the Lyra and Will of it all is really striking, because that's kind of been the vibe I've gotten throughout the whole show. In fairness, it's been ages since I've seen season 1 or 2, and also ages since I last read the books (much as I loved them), so maybe I'm not remembering right. But the books always struck me as very grounded in Lyra and Will's story, and the larger war, interesting as it is, never overshadows them. Here, it feels like they get a bit lost in the noise.
I've also felt like Show Lyra has lacked that feeling of agency, and been more buffeted around by events, versus Book Lyra who's such a dynamic, agile character (not called Silvertongue for nothing) and who drove the story as much as she reacted to it. Again, maybe my hazy memory's unfairly inflating Book Lyra and discounting Show Lyra, so curious if others feel similarly.
Am also a big sucker for the big epic stuff and mythology, so the expanded Asriel stuff should feel more exciting than it is - but it doesn't feel very earned here, and very likely the Asriel stuff they had to cut from last season's a big reason why.
That said, if they give us Mulefa World ASAP that'll go a long way, just saying!
I was behind on getting to these episodes, and I still haven't watched the two that dropped this week. But at least that lets me reflect and engage here on the same level of your review, Myles.
Overall, I agree with most of what you've written, although I'll add that my own personal bugbear of this adaptation, the lack of consistency in depicting dæmons on-screen, continues unabated. (You can't just give a quick shot of one and then shove them up a sleeve! They should be visible and vocal throughout any scene of anyone from Lyra's world. Asriel even directly identifies his dæmon as a manifestation of his soul here, but the episodes do nothing to extend that framing to Father Gomez, the deaf girl, etc. I know it's a budget issue, but come on: if you're adapting HDM, that's something you need to build into your budget in the first place. The story doesn't work without Lyra's world teeming with dæmons, and it's a weakness even as we spend more and more time away from there.)
I also think I'm coming into this final season a bit cooler on it than you are, since I haven't really liked the show much to begin with. Season 1 rushed to introduce Will but found nothing substantial for him to do before the finale, and season 2, while improved by the two child leads actually intersecting, had all those interminable check-in scenes with the witches and the Magisterium that likewise went nowhere interesting. So even though I don't feel 3x1 and 3x2 are telling the best possible version of The Amber Spyglass, they actually surpassed my expectations and have me hopeful that I'll find this season to be another improvement over the last.
Glad to have these reviews to close out the show! I love the books and have been torn with Thorne’s adaptation. His heart seems to be in the right place, and he understands the story, but feel he textualizes a lot of things that could’ve been conveyed elsewhere. I guess I’m just excited to be in this world with some great shots, that I did not find the production design too cheap. I could do with less stylized camera movements, but we’ve had those since S1. So I’m mostly left enjoying performances from a great set of actors, and avoiding the wordiness and repetition of it all. I am watching this with my very Catholic mom, so I’m curious how this will play.
Unrelated to the actual content, but the kind of TV nerdery EM subscribers will understand: I’ve been watching shows with my family in Mexico through the last three years on Facetime, manually syncing our timecodes. I’ve gotten good at it, and there’s no issues -- until tonight, where my mom’s feed was faster than mine. Really odd, only thing I could think of is this being a BBC production, there’s a UK 25 fps vs. US 29.97 fps difference, and regional HBO Max-es got different frame rates served to them. It’ll be an annoying season to watch if so.
Gosh, I am so utterly in agreement with EVERYTHING you wrote, Myles, that it kind of leaves me speechless... 😅 I am really glad to have these reviews for the final season, even though at this point I think I am essentially hate watching this show.
I absolutely love the books and even if the cast is good and the visuals are stunning, the overall execution falls flat. The script is messy and the dialogues clunky. I spent several moments saying aloud "that does not make sense" of "boring". The Magisterium stuff in particular leaves me completely uninvested.
But I too cannot wait for the Mulefas, with a growing sense that I will be sorely disappointed when it finally happens.