his dark materials

fourteen favourite shots: His Dark Materials season one

GOD His Dark Materials is just the most beautiful show ever isn’t it? Now season three has been greenlit I revisited my favourite shots from season one and it was REALLY HARD narrowing it down to just fourteen. Everyone’s face is so expressive! (This was very nearly just a highlight reel of Ruth Wilson’s Mrs Coulter alone.)

Some faves among the faves: The evil monkey whomst I hate staring uncomprehending at an act of self-sacrifice, Mrs Coulter’s animal-like hands silouetted against the light, and the room the captured children are in looking like a blade has divided it.

I also love how many windows there are! Very appropriate right?

This show is so gorgeous that I might do a fourteen favourite shots for every single episode actually.

the His Dark Materials season finale

Okay I admit I haven’t read The Subtle Knife in a very long time and I’ve forgotten almost of it. I DID remember that you-know-who dies tragically and that Will is all kinds of awesome but that’s about it. I gather plenty of stuff was changed from the book anyway? But here have some bullet-point thoughts:

  • This show contains TWO actors who are AT THE TOP OF THEIR GAME and both are called Wilson! What are the odds.
  • MAN every scene with Coulter and the Spectres is so badass I can’t even, I really want to hate her because she’s y’know evil and all but she’s also just electrifying. I would watch episode after episode of Mrs C just walking around with unimaginable horrors and a monkey trailing along behind her.
  • hey James McAvoy is here! I know there was supposed to be a whole episode with him but it was cut cos of Covid, sigh. Awww and they stretched the budget out to his snow leopard, nice
  • I don’t like the designs for the angels, I’m so sorry, I saw someone on Twitter say they looked like Christmas decorations and uh they kinda do?
  • [spoiler’s] death was so terribly sad. I remembered that from the books but I don’t remember his sacrifice in the book being made so immediately pointless? Awww.
  • But hey we’re gonna see him again right!? If that after-credits scene was anything to go by anyway.
  • I hope Mary Malone checked to make sure those kids were actually in the hands of adults before she buggered off to follow petals. (Also why didn’t the children ever try to leave the city before? Or did they? Gosh I can’t remember.)
  • Wow it sure would have been awkward if Mrs Coulter had forgotten to put air holes in that chest.
  • I keep hearing rumblings that this show hasn’t actually been greenlit for season three yet and that would devastate me if it never was. Oh please let there be one, I know it’ll be expensive so do it with sock puppets if you must, just do it

Top 10 favourite TV shows of the decade

Continuing on from my favourite films of the decade, here’s my favourite (not necessarily best) TV shows! Alphabetically, of course, and illustrated with gifs.

Adventure Time

Honestly Adventure Time is a masterpiece. A surrealist masterpiece, an animation masterpiece, a masterpiece of children’s television… call it whatever you want but “masterpiece” needs to be in there somewhere. It was weird, touching, occasionally terrifying, and never lost sight of what it wanted to do…for nine years. I’m sad that it’s (mostly) over but so, so glad it happened.

Brooklyn 99

Come 2013 I was suddenly seeing this show everywhere. I knew the names of all the characters before I ever sat down to watch it, and most of the best jokes. That didn’t dent my enjoyment in the slightest. Brooklyn 99 is so, so good in just about every way. It’s funny, it’s smart, it has people in it who you just don’t see as main characters, like Captain Holt. The fact that Fox *spits* cancelled it and then it was almost immediately picked up by NBC just goes to show how much of a impact it had.

Call the Midwife

Call the Midwife has only been going since 2012 but it feels like it’s been so much longer. (That’s a good thing.) This is a pro-NHS, pro-feminism, pro-LGBT show that goes out prime-time on the BBC and I’m so grateful it exists. It never shies away from the rough parts of history, but instead pulls them out into the light to remind us of our responsibilities. It angers me no end that critics sometimes dismiss this show as frivolous nostalgia for the past, because there is nothing nostalgic about this show. It DESPERATELY wants you to know how horrible it was being a woman even within living memory. It’s a sucker punch to the gut with occasional upbeat ’50s music and some neat dresses.

Final Space

All the praise to Netflix, because if it hadn’t existed and advertised this show on its front page I would never have discovered it. And I love it. This is an adult cartoon done right, i.e. using animation to tell a story of vast scope instead of using it to tell fart jokes. (Though there are probably a couple of those, even if I don’t remember them.) It’s like… how can I even describe this show… the ambition of Star Wars meets the themes of Guardians of the Galaxy meets the zest of Futurama. AND it has a adorable squishy space pet/planet-destroyer! This show not having a much bigger fanbase is such a dang injustice.

Gravity Falls

I’d heard of Gravity Falls, and heard nothing but good things, but I didn’t actually see it until several years after it came out. And I’m SO CROSS because the show was set up as a big mad mystery to be solved, and it would have been great to be able to trade theories and decode the end messages along with everyone else. But as it stands… I got a fantastic experience anyway. I knew all the major twists, but I’d never really met the characters properly. So now I love them all, especially Soos. And I also love the show’s central theme, which is that growing up is hard as hell and you need a good support system.

The Handmaid’s Tale

The Handmaid’s Tale has always been one of my favourite books and this adaptation was more than I could ever have dreamed of. It took characters I already knew and built them backstories and new futures. It cast unbelievably talented actors for even the smaller roles. And my god the visuals, the punch-you-in-the-face visuals. The red-and-white Handmaid uniforms are seen at political protests a lot now, and they should be. This show demonstrates how unforgivably close we always are to losing everything we hold dear.

His Dark Materials

I read all of the His Dark Materials series as a kid and I remember liking them, especially the third book. This TV adaptation brought all of that crashing back and then some. I have some qualms (it’s obvious that the budget couldn’t stretch to one visible daemon for every human, for example) but my gosh, what an absolutely beautiful job they’ve done with everything else. And the acting is wonderful, although Ruth Wilson is the standout the child actors are like… clearly the best in the business, holy hell. I can’t WAIT for the next couple of seasons.

The Last Man On Earth

The Last Man on Earth massively lit up my life… for the few years it was on. My god, Fox had no idea what they had on their hands. After the dodgy first season it suddenly turned into this amazing, beautiful, touching tale about life after the end of the world. Characters underwent development! They got married! They had kids! And then all of a sudden… end of show. Right after a cliffhanger ending, a major one. Sigh. I’ll always miss LMOE but I’m grateful I was around at the same time it was.

Superstore

I’d wanted to watch Superstore for ages but I only finally got to see it when it came on British TV. And even then I managed to catch only the season one finale before anything else. But it hooked me instantly and I quickly went back to the beginning to see what I missed and then forward again to season two. By the season two finale I had utterly fallen in love with it. It’s hilarious but it pulls no punches about how inhumanly terrible the American retail systems are – how inhumanly terrible a lot of systems are, in fact. Also, Mark McKinney’s “Muppet voice” for Glenn is possibly the best comedy voice that has ever been created, EVER.

Unbelievable

This show. Rarely have I seen anything so bleak and depressing and yet so triumphant at the end. Marie, who is very VERY closely based on a real person, goes through an amount of trauma and distress which would destroy most people (and very nearly destroys her) but she gets to walk away vindicated, thank god. The intervention of two female detectives saves not only her but a multitude of other women. It seems to me to be so rare that such a terrible story has a happy or just ending, so thank god this show arrived with its pointed message: when it comes to rape cases, we need to be better. So, so much better than we currently are. Please watch it.

Honourable mentions: The Good Place, Steven Universe, the Moffat and Chibnall eras of Doctor Who (not eligible because the show itself started last decade…), Broadchurch, Orange is the New Black, and probably a few more that I forgot, sorry.

Oh my GOSH the HDM finale

So, so good. I can’t believe how blown away I’ve been by this show. I actually, whisper it, I think I like it more than the book. (There was always something about Pullman’s writing style that didn’t quite click with me, as good as he is.) But even though I either knew already or easily guessed everything that was going to happen, I was a nervous heartbroken wreck by the end of it.

My god, it was SUCH a good adaptation decision to have The Golden Compass run alongside the first chapter of The Subtle Knife, damn. I thought the last scene of the episode might be Will and Lyra stepping through their respective portals and I was right, what an ending!

I’m annoyed I haveta wait a year to see the rest but at least I can properly reread the books now. (Maybe I’ll end up liking them more than the show after all, who knows?) And in the meantime, I can submerge myself in the beautiful, beautiful visuals and music.

(Oh, also, the BBC started airing their take on A Christmas Carol after HDM ended. It’s not good. At all.)

BEAR FIGHT! BEAR FIGHT! BEAR FIGHT!

I’m still loving His Dark Materials, but I found the aforementioned BEAR FIGHT! to be a damp squib. I can see fans of the books absolutely up in arms in Twitter about the lack of, ur, body parts being scattered, and I agree. I’ve forgotten so much about the books since I read them as a kid but I definitely remember Iofur’s jaw flying bloodily off. I was, iirc, playing Spyro the Dragon 2 while trying to read my copy of Northern Lights at the same time (don’t ask), getting to that bit of the book and being appalled. I’m sure Spyro died a couple of times that day.

It sounds slightly weird to be annoyed that the whole scene was toned down so much, but I am a little cross I guess. Teeny, tiny little bit. Still, I know how expensive this show is so I suppose corners have to be cut here and there.

Here is a delightful image of one of the HDM prop bears, which will probably not rip your face in half. Probably.

(In other HDM news, I watched the end of tonight’s episode with a mounting sense of dread as I realised I couldn’t remember at ALL what happens to Roger in the books. It’s…. not good, is it.)

My favourite scene (so far) in His Dark Materials

“The Daemon-Cages,” an absolutely incredible hour of television, takes pains to inform us that these doctors experimenting on innocent children aren’t happy about it. Dr Rendal up there (played by Amit Shah, I knew I recognized him, he was in Doctor Who) seems by far the most human of the bunch. He listens to Lyra at a crucial point. He doesn’t overtly mistreat the children, he just presses the buttons. He has doubts.

But he still did it. He helped destroy multiple lives and set into motion the events which led to Billy’s horrible death in the arms of his mother. So when he tries what all of us here in this world know as the Nuremberg Defense, he gets exactly what he deserves.

His Dark Materials is REALLY, REALLY GOOD

I read all three HDM books in high school, but it’s been such a long time that I’ve forgotten a lot of the most memorable moments. Well, no more! This adaptation is amazing. It’s beautiful and horrific and stunningly well-acted. The episode that just aired had a scene between Ruth Wilson and Dafne Keen where they just scream at each other from opposite sides of a door, that’s it, and it sent chills down my spine. The best way I can think of to describe both their performances is “animalistic,” which works for HDM for obvious reasons if you’ve seen it.

Ruth Wilson has blown my mind in this. Her Mrs Coutler is a horrifying, unpredictable, vicious snake (except, monkey) of a woman and she’s amazing to watch, even though honestly I’m watching most of her scenes from behind my fingers now.

Also, the Golden Monkey, damn that creature. Rarely have I seen a CGI creation exude such malice before. I hate it, I hate the jumpscares it brings with it, and also I forgot the book explanations for all the weird things about it so I hate it even more for that.

Heh, I saw lots of people complain about this on Twitter, but I actually like the fact that the show just flat-out didn’t bother to hide that Mrs Coulter and Lyra are mother and daughter, or that the father is Asriel. I mean, LOOK:

Not only do Ruth Wilson and Dafne Keen LOOK EXACTLY ALIKE, on the poster Lyra is wearing a combination of the clothes her parents are wearing! So I kinda feel even if I hadn’t read the books I would’ve guessed quite easily. Again, EXACTLY ALIKE! The hair, the faces, everything!

So yeah, this show is frickin’ amazing and so far I’m impressed at the adaptation choices they’ve made (bringing in Will and The Subtle Knife in only the second episode, that bowled me over, also killing off Billy, sorry Billy.) There’s one thing that prevents me from loving this series as much as I want to, though, and that’s the sidelining of the daemons! They’re one of the most important parts of the story but apart from the aforementioned horrifying monkey none of them have made an impact. And we’re not seeing them, which is worse! There are whole scenes where people are standing around and their daemons should be there, and they’re not. (Budget issues, I know, but…) Daemons aren’t pets, they’re part of a person’s soul, but the show hasn’t really gotten that across. And that’s really disappointing, but the only reason it’s disappointing is because everything else is so damn good.

Anyway, I can’t wait for this show to develop even more. Definitely can’t wait to see some of the things I remember from The Amber Spyglass. One more thing: I saw this tweet from one of the writers –

I was a child carer as well, to some extent, so I really appreciate that. So far, the show’s been really good at showing the realities of it, and I guess that is actually quite a bit more important than the daemon thing really.