Review of what went wrong in the end with a beautiful rendering of the materials of Philip Pullman, making them DARK for real, but for us. If you read the books or watched all three seasons of the HBO series, go ahead. All others, BIG SPOILER ALERT.
What might sound like a harsh review stems from the love Lyra and Will evoked, from the good parts of this weird fantasy plot. I am fan of the first two seasons produced by HBO – and it sours me if the underlying text taints the picture, exposing the evil twist, which makes His Dark Materials rather dangerous to read & see, specially for girls coming of age. It’s a warning: what is on the surface might not be found in its contents, its DNA. Don’t trust the teller, trust what the tale actually conveys, intrinsically. The promise of a new take on the tale of Eden may just turn out to be more repressive and gloomy than the original biblical story, Milton’s “Paradise Lost” and the Church together.
On what grounds do I criticise the unfolding action of demons as souls and the human rebellion against God, conveniently called “The Authority”. It’s antiautoritarian stance is not the reason for my disdain, but the results of the adventure: the simple lesson from a story spanning the wakening of a rebellious mind, becoming a beacon of hope, revisiting Orpheus & Euridice and unraveling the mystery of Dust – is: getting cruelly punished for it. The sacrificial lamb, the Jesus crucified by this story is Lyra Silvertongue, and nobody of her powerful friends can save her from her misery. She has to sacrifice the love of her life (after two days of being together and one kiss) and lost her best friend and both her parents. Thank you very much, indeed.
Lyra Silvertongue – tricked by a paternalistic author, taking all the fall, having it worse than in the bible. Unbearably odd for a rebellious story who wants their protagonists to succeed against The Authority. She cannot even have a family like Eve a husband Adam, two kids, shut out of Eden, but – two kids. No, Pullmann is as misogynistic with the mother, Marisa Coulter, as with the daughter in the end. Strong women seem to be invented to loose everything in the end, and pay the price. That the father pays with his life for his hubris is not wonder, but both the female leads were actually making a lot of progress. Will has his mother and the Serpent (science as Satanic has a strange ring to it, dark matter as Angelic, too) but Lyra is left with nothing, and even needs to tediously relearn to read the alethometer, also that is taken from her.
Seeing Lyra and Will meeting for years in the same place only a worlds apart likely drains all the emotional dust out of the kind readers and fans who followed their heroes’ journey. My fifty celestial cents: the likelihood seems infinite that this is a sinister plot by Metatron, sneaking out of the Land of the Dead (anyone shut the door, no), making them destroy the godkiller knife and forcing them cruelly apart, for vengeance only…think about it. Its too convenient. Who is succeeding Metatron anyways and why – which faction has learned what from this war?
It may be Xaphania’s insidious plan to take over after getting rid of Metatron with the help of the stupid humans. Authority restored by management – where the hell did the geriatric angel in the cube go (unexplained – I looked it up, the first angel, another upstart, taking the mantle of “The Creator”), which Will freed with his knife? Why did the Authority die on front of everyone, BECAUSE of freedom? Old age? Really? There is so much wrong here. Prison keeps everything together – opening a portal destroys harmony. Aha. Like with “knowledge” and the apple from the tree, the story acts against its outspoken plot and undermines the „good goal“ with bad results. Science, yes, but it turns to threaten Lyra. One gun against thousands of angels. In the end Lyra’s compassion (not the compass) is her destiny, but she does not reap the fruits of it, far from it. It makes me wonder, what the real intentions of the author are…
Pullman is the serpent, the Satan, who undermines the rule of a good benevolent god with his story? God, hello, it’s time to take the reins and reward the two puny humans who give everything for the multiverse, even their love. God is are love, and not the vindicative god from the desert of the old testament, right, so get into some form and rewrite the ending, please, I pray. In season 3 Lyra and Will fight for the completion of the show’s movie fix, their jab on organised religion, actually Christianity, only to remain broken like the knife. Not very loving. His Dark Materials season 3 solidified its willingness to explore the religious themes from Philip Pullman’s books, thereby avoiding The Golden Compass‘s shyness and anguish to take on organised religion. But is the church only negative and no story even okish? Right off the bat in season 3, episode 1, there is a scene detailing how the Authority dominates the Kingdom of Heaven and oppresses other angels for control. The entire plot of season 3 seems to be shaping up for Lord Asriel’s battle for The Kingdom of Heaven and the fight to destroy the Authority. And then WHAT? If you aim to change control offer an alternative, not just destruction. How can two humans (and a snow leopard) pull the angel/god Enoch into the abyss? What god is that, when tackling succeeds like in a football game? No wings, bat wings maybe? Why does Marisa also have to die, being the backbone of the story throughout more than half of the arc. Because she chooses to act out of parental love? Stabbing the mother, too in the back, as a repenting sinner, sounds very much like Pullmann’s intention.
If His Dark Materials was shying away from any religious themes before, it certainly isn’t anymore, but the twists imposed seem show much more contempt for the heroes than the villains. What would Asriel have done if the abyss did not open up in front of them where he can harness dust as weapon (remember, Dust is presented as being conscious)? Shot some bullets? Lyra remains alive but essentially alone and an orphan, in a world which repressed women even more than ours. She remains hoplessly separeted from her love, who is a child of two worlds, found his demon and met a father who survived for more than 10 years in another world. Why can Will not? There are dark gaping holes in this story and what I cannot forgive is to treat a role-model badly even though she succeeded in all her missions. That is a darkness I would shield the kids from, seriously.