I often wondered if it was possible to adapt The Amber Spyglass, the third and final book of the His Dark Materials trilogy? Well, they did it. Check out my His Dark Materials Season 3 review, which turned out to be a great adaptation of the source material. This review covers the entire third season. As such there may be story spoilers for those who haven’t yet finished it. I will therefore attempt to stay away from any plot spoilers for Season 3 where I can in this review.
Season 3 is emotionally consistent with the book, and that’s not something always pulled off when adapting to TV. There were a few details that had to be compromised. Some scenes had to be added not from the book I order to explain details to the audience. Equally, there are some scenes which had to be shortened or changed slightly to fit the visual medium. I have to say not every single decision made was met with applause by this fan. That being said, given the constraints the crew had, to adapt a massive book in the same amount of episodes as the previous much smaller books, was always going to be a challenge. We know those running the show initially wanted Book 3 split into Season 3 and 4. However the powers that be said finish it in Season 3, so they did.
Overall, they did an excellent job.
A few moments and details here and there felt off. However it was also inconsequential, because the bulk of the important moments were nailed. The last three episodes are really a delight. I am not ashamed to say I was in tears several times across the final two, mostly in the finale. If you’ve read the books, you likely know how emotional the ending of this story is. For those readers, in this fans opinion, they nail the ending. I felt as sad, happy and satisfied as I did reading the book.
Some of the performances in Season 3 are amazing. For me, both Amir Khan and Dafne Keen really grew into this final season, the leads were great. Ruth Wilson was once again amazing as Mrs Coulter, though she’s been smashing it since Season 1. As for the other lead, James McAvoy does a decent job with Asriel. Though there are a few moments where I felt like he was trying too hard if that makes sense? Almost overacting a few situations, for the most part though, all good.
The supporting cast was great for the most part. Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje is brilliant playing General Ogunwe and his story gets expanded from the books to be a sort of audience surrogate for what Asriel has been up to since we saw him last. I won’t name everyone else, though there was one performance I felt very flat. That was of Jade Annouka as Queen Ruta Skadi. I never like to rag on a performance and thankfully it is a minor part here, but I was not impressed on the whole.
Also have to single out Simone Kirby for praise who was just born to play the role of Mary Malone. Some very minor changes to Mary’s story were actually subtly and brilliantly handled.
I was worried based on Season 1 and 2 that this version of the story would shy away from relating our own religions as being on the bad side. Previous seasons were clear to differentiate the Magisterium with our own Church’s and religions. It seems however they were just biding their time and really the story did not veer away from the message contained in the books. I won’t get into what that all means in the context of the story because if you have only watched the show so far, it takes a bit of time to see where the story really goes.
I’m also fully expecting some territories and States to campaign against the show or ban it in some way. Which is rather ironic given what this story is about. However that remains to be seen and I hope I’m wrong. It is just a story after all, but you know how some folks can be.
I have 1-2 but on the whole they seem petty. First, there is a moment that happens in the final two episodes which I was worried they’d skip. When it does happen, I was pleased, but also felt like it was still toned down a little for non-book readers. Specifically, without spoiling, I’m talking about a character death, and the show doesn’t do a great job of explaining who that character is before they die.
Secondly there is a moment between Mrs Coulter and the Spectres which did not work for me. I think it was supposed be a cool Hollywood like moment, but it made no sense within the lore of the books to me. Outside of that, there were a few minor niggles, things like, Oh, that character should have been more involved in the last few scenes, or I wish they had spent longer on this part. Some fans who didn’t read the books may have a few questions after watching this. Why did this or that have to happen? However I hope more knowledgeable fans can explain a few details and perhaps it will also encourage people to pick up the books?
I guess my biggest criticism with the entire series is something unavoidable. There are times when you can feel the budget stretching. Whether that is in sheer numbers of extra’s, Daemon’s not being seen as much as they should, and Mary’s story in the Mulefa world being reduced. I’d love it if the studio had an unlimited budget to pull this show off. However given it’s controversial ant-religion/theism plot, it’s always worth noting that this fantasy series despite winning multiple awards is nowhere near the likes of bigger fantasy books in terms of popularity.
Honestly, the fact I can actually watch this whenever I like and overall really enjoy it, is a blessing and a triumph.
His Dark Materials Season 3 was excellent, especially the final three episodes, and it had me in tears of emotion. Oh and just to be clear, I probably rate His Dark Materials up there with The Lord of the Rings as one of the greatest book trilogies and best fantasy stories I’ve ever read. Now I can say I have a really good adaptation I can watch again with my daughter (middle name Lyra) once she’s old enough. However I will encourage her to read the books first.
A few missteps were really lost inside a flow of good to great. Overall, I loved it. Some episode were an A-, some were at an A+, ergo:
What do you think of my His Dark Materials Season 3 review? If you’ve seen it all, leave your own His Dark Materials Season 3 review below.