'His Dark Materials' Season 1 - TV Review

I was a huge fan of the book series by Philip Pullman, and I even liked the first attempt to turn it into a movie. It was a bungled mess, but had some redeeming features. But they were trying to pack too much into too short a time: what was needed was, say, a TV series. And a perfect child star: Dafne Keen is Lyra Belacqua, and I find it hard to imagine a better choice for the role. She was very good as X-23 in "Logan," and she's even better here. Lyra is a high-spirited (read: "hell-raiser") and intelligent 13 year old raised at Jordan College in Oxford - left there as a baby by her uncle after the death of her parents in an airship accident. Their world is different than ours: everyone has a daemon (an animal of some sort that accompanies them everywhere, the embodiment of the human soul), and airships are the dominant means of air travel. But by the end of the first episode, she's gifted with an incredibly rare alethiometer, and sent to live with "Mrs. Coulter" - who is obviously powerful and intelligent, but not very nice.

I read the books 20 years ago, so I can't make a precise comparison. But I think this is an accurate interpretation of the first book. What I really want to know is ... are the producers of the series willing to include the death of God? One sentence in the Wikipedia summary of the original books particularly stood out to me: "[His Dark Materials] functions in part as a retelling and inversion of John Milton's epic Paradise Lost, with Pullman commending humanity for what Milton saw as its most tragic failing, original sin." Not surprisingly, the line following that is "The series has attracted controversy for its criticism of religion." It's a coming-of-age story for Lyra, and for Will Parry (Amir Wilson) - he has a smaller part in this series, but I presume his part in the second and third seasons will be much larger.

I was particularly fond of Lin-Manuel Miranda as Lee Scoresby. He's not a very good match for Pullman's physical description of the character, but he's a perfect match for behaviour and character, and I loved him in the part. I'm actually becoming less of a fan of James McAvoy as he ages: his part here (Lord Asriel) is important but small, and he seems to be over-acting to fill all the screen time he didn't get ... With that exception, the acting is good to excellent throughout.

Structurally, this is eight episodes of about 55 minutes each, distributed by BBC One and HBO. Happily, both critical and fan reception seem to have been better than the 2007 movie, so I hope to see the two sequels this time.