His Dark Materials: Lyra's Jordan   Show Only 
November 4, 2019 6:36 PM - Season 1, Episode 1 - Subscribe

Orphan Lyra Belacqua's world is turned upside-down by her long-absent uncle's return from the north, while the glamorous Mrs Coulter visits Jordan College with a proposition. (BBC, HBO)

EW review: His Dark Materials is definitely a better TV show than a movie - HBO delivers a thoughtful and adventurous adaptation of Philip Pullman’s challenging book series.
posted by oh yeah! (20 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I read these all when the Chris Weitz movie came out, and I recall not caring so much for the last two books as much as the first, but as I’ve been anticipating this production, it’s those two books I’m most excited about, particularly The Subtle Knife.
posted by hwestiii at 6:57 PM on November 4, 2019

hwestii - you want the other thread I think

Mods - I messed up the link for the EW review, can someone swap it in? https://ew.com/tv-reviews/2019/10/16/his-dark-materials-hbo-review/
posted by oh yeah! at 7:05 PM on November 4, 2019

Mod note: Edited!
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 7:06 PM on November 4, 2019

I hope some show-only people do comment in this thread because I'm really curious how it plays if you haven't read the books. Ii felt the pilot erred too far on the side of trying to explain stuff, which paradoxically might have been more confusing than not.
posted by showbiz_liz at 3:03 PM on November 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

I found it a bit slow but not confusing.
posted by tautological at 7:20 PM on November 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

I haven't read the books. I watched the first episode and will not be watching the next one. It's not that I find it particularly difficult to follow. Most of the first episode is just world building, which makes sense.

But it's incredibly BORING world building. I'm not sure how an episode with a child abduction, an airship, and some cgi animals can be boring, but it was. The few moments I was emotionally engaged were based on the strength of the actors.

It definitely had a feeling of trying to be a more gritty Harry Potter as well. I do not need a grittier Potter.
posted by miss-lapin at 2:30 AM on November 6, 2019 [3 favorites]

Never read any of the books, my partner who read them all was forcefully advocating for us to watch. If the point is to be confused, I certainly was. The whole thing where the animals change every other cut was especially bewildering. As was the flooding. And they're leaving Oxford when we've barely seen what happened there in flashback? It's also starting to bump up against the Tolkien/Carroll limit but I'll reserve judgement. The dialogue is also quite difficult for this Yank to understand unless you turn it way up. Gorgeous, well-acted if (deliberately?) unsettling performances, overall I liked it. I doubt we'll watch the whole thing, I see maybe 2 hours of TV/movies a week so at the moment I'd probably prefer to go back to Angels and Demons, but let's see where it goes.
posted by wnissen at 2:17 PM on November 6, 2019

I read and deeply loved all of HDM as a kid and teenager. However I could sense as soon as the episode began that non-book viewers might be put off, not necessarily because it was poorly explained as such but because the pacing seemed...way too fast? A lot of the line deliveries, especially from McAvoy and Peters (Lord Asriel and the Master respectively), seemed strangely rushed. These two are some of the most authoritative, influential characters in the first book--I understand giving them a certain urgency and vitality, but to me they sometimes come across as too frenetic or nervy for the mature power players they're supposed to be. (Compare for example to Lucian Msamati, who brings a weight and seriousness as John Faa which I loved.)

I will probably still watch the whole thing, since visually it is stunning and I am blown away by Dafne Keene and Ruth Wilson as Lyra and Mrs Coulter (no shade to Nicole Kidman, but I was irrationally glad HBO decided to keep Coulter a brunette in their version). It's not "my" Golden Compass, but it's one which has clearly been made with real love and respect for the source material. The latter may of course not translate to a satisfying experience for non-hardcore fans though.
posted by peakes at 3:22 PM on November 6, 2019 [2 favorites]

Wnissen-The prologue says everyone has a "daemon" essentially an animal familiar. (HBO can't actually afford that much like the dire wolves so...yeah). There is the scene about the teenage boy's daemon "setting" (deciding on a form) which is a coming of age ceremony. So before maturation happens, daemon can shift. And the form of the daemon ties into the character of the character.
posted by miss-lapin at 4:46 PM on November 6, 2019

Wait, are they wizards or not? I had assumed they were because of the clear Harry Potter influence, but there was no magic performed, so maybe not. But they do have talking animals, who despite possessing human-like intelligence and personalities are some kind of indentured servant second class citizens. Agree that changing into different animals constantly is disorienting (and the CGI crew must hate it!). And does everyone have an animal? Because there were not thirty animals in the room when James McAvoy made everybody watch his vacation photo slideshow.

James McAvoy in this really reminded me of Ewan McGregor in the Stars Wars prequels, which is probably not a comparison the show runners will be happy about. Apt, though, because the political intrigue was just as boring as the galactic senate politics in the prequels.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 1:00 AM on November 10, 2019

The prologue says everyone has a daemon. It's an externalized part of the soul They take the form of talking animals. They didn't show that for budgetary reasons. So it ends up looking like only some people have daemons. But they are all supposed to have them.
posted by miss-lapin at 3:38 AM on November 10, 2019

I haven't read the books, though a website did spoil me the major plot points of all three books which I am still pissed about, but I digress.

Anyways, I enjoyed it? It does feel rushed and very in medias res, but I can follow what's going on. Naming photographs "photograms" feels weirdly unnecessary but fine I'll go along with it. The cast is strong, the story is interesting, and while there is a lot we don't know I'm guessing they'll just keep explaining things when necessary. I'll def keep watching.

Also my headcanon is that this is a Luther AU (side-headcanon: season 4/5 never happened) and since Alice is already here I'm waiting for Idris Elba to show up...
posted by KTamas at 6:20 AM on November 10, 2019

qxntpqbbbqxl -- the first of these books came out two years before the first Harry Potter book, if that helps you adjust your speculation.
posted by redfoxtail at 6:39 AM on November 10, 2019 [5 favorites]

I haven't read the books. I'm not familiar with them or the previous film based on the books. I found the plot easy to follow, just totally boring unlike with a show like Carnival Row, which had me way more interested in the first episode.
posted by miss-lapin at 10:04 AM on November 10, 2019

I'm right in the middle of the first book and figured it'd be safe to watch episode 1 (it was). I also found the pacing to be weird, tbh. I was not expecting the first episode to cover as much ground as it did--it's definitely not proportional to book pages. I would have appreciated more showing rather than telling with the world building. The book has quite a lot of that in the first 75 or so pages and the show is just like, "nah we'll just prologue a few sentences on the screen before it starts, that should take care of it."

I think for me so far with both the books and the show is that the physical world is not really the star of the show here. Like, in Harry Potter and Narnia and Lord of the Rings, to a great extent you're meant to be in awe of the world, and want to live in it and experience it. When you read about or see Hogwarts on screen, you're sort of expected to react with, "damn that would be awesome to go there!" It's so different from our humdrum daily experience and so much better. From what I can tell thus far, HDM is not going for that. The Oxford there is more or less like our Oxford, and the main differences aren't like super cool omg awesome wowzer differences. It's also a subtly patriarchal society, Lyra isn't attending Hogwarts, she's mostly just ignored and occasionally doted on by a bunch of crusty dons.
posted by soren_lorensen at 6:24 PM on November 10, 2019

Yeah, I never read the books or saw the movie, but knew it was originally a book and was sort of uncomfortably aware that it felt like the first episode here was deeply rushing through the setup to get to the more interesting bits. So many things that just sort of went from setup to resolution in the same scene.

The coming attractions looked interesting and I'm curious where the story is going to go, but man this first episode was really sort of hanging on Lyra, and they sort of rushed through her wanderlust, I thought. Or is it just that she wants to follow (slash in the foot steps of) her Asshole Uncle? That was sort of uncomfortable, too.
posted by Kyol at 8:05 PM on November 10, 2019

Wait, are they wizards or not? I had assumed they were because of the clear Harry Potter influence

The first book in this series was published two years before the first Harry Potter.
posted by entropone at 5:32 AM on November 11, 2019 [8 favorites]

And I agree, the constantly changing child demons was probably not particularly notable in the source material but man I kept kind of going "wait, whose demon is that, now?" They did explain that demons settled into fixed forms eventually and so that was fine, but man it made a mess in a visual media.

And yeah, it felt like the world was definitely demon-shy given that they should be 1:1 with people in a scene. Suck it up and make it work, even if it means putting a bunch of hired animals in a scene, they don't all have to be animated and verbally capable.
posted by Kyol at 9:06 AM on November 11, 2019 [4 favorites]

My partner and I watched this episode Sunday; neither of us have read any of the books. We were both confused by the daemons changing form each scene, and why only some people seemed to have them. I'm utterly confused by the flood and Oxford's recovery from it. I love the airships and Mrs. Coulter is a stone. cold. fox, of the type that I don't know if I want to BE her or sleep with her. I think we will watch at least another episode but so far it's not taken us by storm or anything.
posted by fiercecupcake at 9:13 AM on November 20, 2019

We were both confused by the daemons changing form each scene, and why only some people seemed to have them.

The daemon changing thing was weirdly handled, because they explained it twice but did it in a rushed way where it's no surprise people missed it:

In the scene where Lyra and Roger are playing in the crypt, they have a conversation about what form their daemons will eventually settle in. Later on, we see a scene where a teenaged boy has a coming-of-age ceremony because his daemon has settled in a final form. Basically, children (who are still growing and changing) have daemons that can change form at will, and adults have "settled" daemons whose forms typically reflect something about their personalities.

Also, everyone has one, but CGI budgets.
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:22 AM on November 20, 2019 [1 favorite]

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