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Dafne Keen, Amir Wilson, Ruth Wilson
Writing Credits:

Two children embark on a magical adventure through parallel universes.

Rated TV-14.

Aspect Ratio: 2.00:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
French Dolby 5.1
German Dolby 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 345 min.
Price: $29.98
Release Date: 6/29/2021

• “Noble Rogue” Featurette
• “Daemons” Featurette
• “Panserbjørne” Featurette
• “The Daemons of His Dark Materials” Featurette
• “Portals and the Multiverse” Featurette
• “Witches” Featurette
• “Bringing Daemons and Bears to Life” Featurette
• “Exploring Cittàgazze” Featurette
• “Worlds Collide” Featurette
• “The Powerful Mrs. Coulter” Featurette
• “Lyra” Featurette
• “The Subtle Knife” Featurette


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His Dark Materials: The Complete Second Season [Blu-Ray] (2020)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (June 28, 2021)

2019 introduced an adaptation of Philip Pullman’s novels via Season One of His Dark Materials. Unsurprisingly, 2020 continued the series with Season Two.

This two-Blu-ray package includes all seven episodes for the show’s second season. The plot synopses come from the official HBO website.

The City of Magpies: “Lyra (Dafne Keen) and Will (Amir Wilson) explore a new world. The Magisterium take action on past events. Lee Scoresby (Lin-Manuel Miranda) embarks on a mission.”

I didn’t feel wild about Season One, as it could seem draggy and dull too much of the time. Still, it picked up during the second half of the year, so I hoped S2 would hit the ground running.

Which it does in a literal sense, by which I mean it picks up the story from S1 without much exposition or explanation. “City” assumes you remember the events of S1 and can go with it.

I appreciate that, as I couldn’t take extended spoon-feeding. Nonetheless, “City” seems a bit blah anyway, mainly because it feels scattered. The episode covers a lot of ground but doesn’t do so in a particularly dynamic manner. Still, it acts as a decent intro to the season.

The Cave: “Lyra and Will head to Oxford for answers. The Magisterium is faced with a choice.”

After a sluggish season debut, “Cave” marks a good push forward. I like the look at the “two worlds” found here, and the narrative heads down a more compelling path, one that pushes us toward some potential drama down the road.

Theft: “Lyra ignores the alethiometer’s advice leading to dangerous consequences.”

Iorek the bear king offered one of S1’s most engaging characters – even if he just exists as CG – so I find myself happy to witness his return here. Throw in some suspense and action and “Theft” moves along S2 well.

Tower of the Angels: “Will and Lyra make a plan, unaware of the dangers or the cost involved.”

The introduction of the “Subtle Knife” feels a bit out of nowhere – and it also comes across as a pretty obvious combination of the One Ring from Tolkien and the Force from Star Wars. Still, it adds some action and narrative movement, so “Tower” provides a largely engaging show.

The Scholar: “Will and Lyra set out to retrieve what’s been lost. Mary (Simone Kirby) takes a leap of faith.”

To some degree, “Scholar” comes across as a “placeholder”/expository episode, so it provides fewer thrills than usual. Nonetheless, it offers some useful character depth and also helps push along the overall plot in a positive manner.

Malice: “Lyra and Will search for Will’s father. Mrs. Coulter (Ruth Wilson) meets a formidable foe.”

Given its existence as the season’s penultimate episode, “Mallice” also can feel a little expository. Nonetheless, it ratchets up the danger and tension in a satisfying way and acts as a good lead-in to the finale.

Æsahættr: “As all paths converge on Cittàgazze, Will and Lyra’s lives are changed forever.”

Given that Materials will produce a third – and final – season, we can’t expect a conclusive episode via “Æsahættr”. Nonetheless, it offers a good conclusion to this set of shows and helps set up S3 in a winning manner.

The Disc Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B+/ Bonus C

His Dark Materials appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.00:1 on these Blu-ray Discs – I guess. Though the first season went with a screen-filling 1.78:1, S2 used mild letterboxing, so the ratio might be closer to 1.90:1.

Whatever the case, the series came with high-quality visuals. Sharpness worked well.

A few interiors could be a smidgen soft, but those instances remained rare, so the majority of the episodes delivered tight, concise material. I saw no signs of jaggies or moiré effects, and the shows lacked edge haloes and source flaws.

Materials went with an emphasis on teal and amber/orange. These colors seemed tedious, but the episodes displayed them in an appropriate manner, and some other stylized hues popped up at times.

Blacks appeared dark and dense, and shadows showed nice opacity. The episodes came across as appealing.

In addition, the DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio of Materials also satisfied. With occasional action on display, the soundscapes boasted a nice array of information from all five channels, and the information moved well.

Speech came across as natural and concise, while music showed rich, full tones. Effects appeared accurate and dynamic, with good low-end and impact. I felt pleased with the audio found here.

On Disc Two, we find 12 featurettes, and Noble Rogue runs 12 minutes, 43 seconds. It brings comments from novelist Philip Pullman, Autry Museum associate curator Josh Garrett-Davis, writer Jack Thorne, executive producer Jane Tranter, and actors Lin-Manuel Miranda, Ruth Wilson and Dafne Keen.

“Rogue” focuses on the Lee Scoresby character. Some of this turns into basic praise for Miranda, but we get a decent array of insights.

Under Exploring His Dark Materials, we get “Daemons” (7:54), “Panserbjørne” (7:49), “Portals & the Multiverse” (9:15) and “Witches” (8:37). Across these, we hear from Thorne, Wilson, Tranter, Keen, Miranda, and actors James McAvoy, Joe Tandberg, Ariyon Bakare, Lucian Msamati, Amir Wilson, Simone Kirby, Andrew Scott, Jade Anouka, and Ruth Gedmintas.

As expected, the segments cover the Materials topics cited in their titles as well as other unique concepts. These can feel a bit rudimentary at times but they add some good notes about the complexities of the Materials universe.

Bringiing Daemons and Bears to Life spans five minutes, 30 seconds and features VFX producer Russell Dodgson and creature FX coordinator Brian Fisher.

Here we learn about various efforts used to create the series’ non-human characters. It becomes a short but effective overview.

With Exploring Cittàgazze, we get a three-minute, 35-second piece with notes from production designer Joel Collins. He examines sets and design choices in this quick and engaging reel.

Worlds Collide spans two minutes, 40 seconds and involves Keen and Amir Wilson. They tell us a little about the two domains seen in the series, but “Collide” seems promotional and without much depth.

Next comes The Powerful Mrs. Coulter, a five-minute, 32-second program that includes comments from Ruth Wilson, Miranda, Keen, Gedmintas, Tranter, and Bakare. Unsurprisingly, we get some basics about the Coulter character. The featurette doesn’t tell us much of value.

Lyra lasts three minutes, seven seconds and delivers info from Keen, Gedmintas, Miranda, Ruth Wilson, Bakare, Amir Wilson, Tranter, and director Jamie Childs. This becomes another fairly perfunctory character summary without much to make it worthwhile.

Finally, The Subtle Knife goes for three minutes, 21 seconds and features Miranda, Scott, Tranter, Amir Wilson, Ruth Wilson, Gedmintas and Keen. This turns into a minor overview of the title subject, one that doesn’t tell us a lot of value.

Though I thought Season One seemed inconsistent, Season Two of His Dark Materials provides considerably more satisfying. These seven episodes tell a worthwhile tale and move at a good pace to create a compelling series of shows. The Blu-rays brings very good picture and audio along with a decent allotment of bonus materials. S2 makes me look forward to Season Three.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3 Stars Number of Votes: 1
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