Derik Badman's Journal

2020-01-07 08:32

Finally started making a little progress on some comics reviews, which may mean less journal writing in the near future. I have comics to reread, notes to take, paragraphs to write, images to scan, all of which will take up some of my non-working time.

We watched 2 episodes of His Darkest Materials on HBO last night. I've never read the books (I associated them, perhaps unfairly, with Harry Potter, which I have also avoided), so it is all new to me. I'm enjoying it so far, though it is not... amazing. The protagonist, Lyra, is engaging and the actor is doing good work. Ruth Wilson is awesome as a character who so far I do not have a handle on, but is clearly struggling internally with something (it's to Wilson's skill I think how much this is evident in her expressions and actions without her having to explicitly say anything). The effects of the characters' daemons (some kind of animal representation of one's soul?) is well done too and looks pretty seamless.

Where the show falls down a bit is the context of the fantasy world. At one point Lyra opens the door of her new keeper's (Ruth Wilson's Mrs. Coulter) private office and sees her monkey daemon in there. Lyra looks shocked and afraid, though it is not clear why. She turns and Coulter turns around the corner down a long hallway. It is only in their following conversation that we learn the daemons are not supposed to be that far away from the person. By not explaining that world context to us sooner, the show completely deflates any feeling we have about Lyra's shock when she opens that door. We have no explanation for why she is shocked, and by the time we do the effect is gone.

It's almost like the showrunners wanted to avoid doing any info dumps (though they do put in a few lines of text right at the beginning to spell out some very basics), but then failed to naturally work the context in at the right time. Two episodes in and I'm still unclear about what the "Magisterium" actually is (I think a theocratic government), or who exactly the Gyptians are (I think a Romani stand-in). Also, in that regards, a plot thread involving the Gyptians searching for some lost children is oddly used, as it gets a decent amount of screentime, but we never really get much sense of any of the characters. There's a mom who does clich├ęd dramatic grieving mom things. There's a brother who... wants to help, but is told he's too young. There is a gruff guy who is somehow in charge. It's telling I remember none of their names. Maybe their plot line is not an ongoing part of the story, but it feels like its more important by dint of screentime than it does by the depth of attention given to the characters involved.