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Review of 'His Dark Materials' 3.6

Stories

By Paul LevinsonPublished 2 months ago Updated about a month ago 3 min read
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I was going to wait until I'd seen all eight episodes of the third and final season (presumably final, because you never know) of His Dark Materials (on HBO Max) before posting a review, but episode 6 was so powerful, deeply beautiful, and just satisfyingly good, I couldn't wait.

[Spoilers ahead... And, as I said in my reviews of episodes from the prior two seasons, I haven't read the novels by Philip Pullman, so there will be no comparisons here of screen to page.]

First and foremost, I really liked that at least one of the heroes of this story -- maybe the hero -- was the story itself, or maybe stories would be a better word. But the harpy that Lyra named told her that all the people in purgatory -- or the talking dead -- could become free, their spirits reunited with the universe at large -- if they told their true stories. No liars could pass, the harpy rasped. Only tellers of true stories.

This was a brilliant touch, because, first of all, stories, many and maybe most stories, are not true, or at least not completely true. (An Italian friend of mine liked to quote what he said was an old Italian saying, "it may not be true, but it's a good story." But who knows if he was telling the truth or just a story.) The cognitive anthropologist Alexander Marshack wrote in The Roots of Civilization in 1972 that the defining characteristic of human beings in contrast to other vertebrates is that we tell stories. Presumably those that are true, untrue, and mixtures of the two, but who really knows about that exactly, either.

Meanwhile, in addition to the harpy craving the sustenance of stories, there were other really notable and heart-lifting things in episode 3.6. Mrs. Coulter's reunion with her daemon monkey was really something, a powerful tableaux metaphor of someone finding themself and becoming whole again. And while we're on the subject of reunions, it was also good to see Mrs. Coulter and Asriel, if not quite back together, at least on the way there. (And, come to think of it, they never really were together in the first place.)

Other things I liked not only in the sixth episode of this third season, but throughout the entire third season so far (which, by the way, I think is the best of the three seasons): I liked the aptly named despicable Father MacPhail insisting on being called "President," because it harkened to one President and one former President I really despise in our world, Putin and Trump. And, I don't know, maybe it's only me, but does the name "Metatron" remind you of Facebook's "Metaverse"?

Also, it was good to see Lee again, and that wise bear was better than ever.

Anyway, see you back here in not too many days with my review of the final two episodes of this season. Kudos to Jack Thorne for putting this fine series together.

And as long as I have you here, what's the opposite of kudos? Let's be courteous and say, brickbats. I'd like to send some of that criticism to whoever at HBO/HBO Max made the clueless decision to cancel His Dark Materials after this third season. What's gotten into HBO? They've lost their taste for science fiction? In the past year, they've prematurely cancelled, let's see, Raised by Wolves, Westworld, The Nevers (in the middle of the first season!), and His Dark Materials. (Frankly, I thought Amazon cancelled The Man in the High Castle too soon. But that's just one.) Someone -- maybe more than one exec with no taste -- needs to be replaced by people who know a good story.

another kind of multiple worlds

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About the Creator

Paul Levinson

Novels include The Silk Code & The Plot To Save Socrates; LPs Twice Upon A Rhyme & Welcome Up; nonfiction includes Fake News in Real Context, The Soft Edge, & Digital McLuhan translated into 15 languages. Details here. Prof, Fordham Univ.

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