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Series Review: His Dark Materials (Season 2)

Season 2 of HBO’s His Dark Materials just finished on the 21st of December, with a 7th episode that will not disappoint fans. After a slow build up throughout this season, the last two episodes have been fast paced as everyone intersects in a world inhibited by soul sucking creatures known as specters (think JK Rowling’s dementors).

In this world, a weapon called The Subtle Knife was made which can slice through anything: even the veils between universes. Here Will Parry, destined Bearer of the Knife meets our heroine Lyra Silvertongue. Here also their budding relationship starts, triggering events which will lead to The Fall of Eve. The witches know that Lyra is Eve, so they rally to protect her.

How Does the Show Compare to the Book?

HBO largely preserves author Phillip Pullman’s masterful storytelling, with the exception of how one of the character’s die. HBO also took more liberty to dig deeper into Mrs. Coulter’s psychology, but who wouldn’t with such a bravura performance by Ruth Wilson?

Would I Recommend to Friends?

Not if you are a religious conservative. Unlike The Golden Compass (2007 film with Nicole Kidman as Mrs. Coulter), HBO stays true to Pullman’s main views about freedom of will, the importance of celebrating physical and natural senses, and the unjust tyranny of, well, God himself. If you’re more open to such view, then this is an epic series absolutely worth your time.

What Did I Like Most?

Amir Wilson as Will Parry! He carries the brooding outcast-warrior character well.

What Did I Like Least?

What in the multiple worlds happened to our heroine? Lyra was clever, confident, and relentless throughout Season 1. Here she gets more and more subdued towards the end of Season 2. She questions herself, the aletheometer, makes too big a deal of her mistakes, and lets her fears dictate her decisions. Is it really necessary to put her into such a corner? Perhaps, or perhaps not.

Do you follow this series? What did you think?

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Series Review: The Queen’s Gambit

Easily one of the best Netflix series in 2020 is the fictional story of Beth Harmon, child chess prodigy. Told in 6 episodes, The Queen’s Gambit had me completely hooked since the first move to the last checkmate. I am a chess lover and amateur chess player, so I could really appreciate the interplay between the game and her life.

“It’s an entire world of just 64 squares. I feel safe in it. I can control it; I can dominate it. And it’s predictable, so if I get hurt, I only have myself to blame.”

Beth Harmon, The queen’s Gambit

In chess every player begins with the same pieces. The area is defined, the rules are clear. Everyone is equal in the game. How different it is in the real world, especially in a society that downplays women! There are so many factors which daily put women at a disadvantage, making it seem like a woman is fighting not just one, but several different armies at once. As a chess master, Beth actually does this a couple times throughout the series. This display shows off not only her chess skills but all of the challenges she has to overcome in order to be the world champion.

Beth enters into a special mental state in order to visualize the chess board on the ceiling. It is a state of deep concentration. Relaxed yet focused, calm yet ready. Many athletes, performing artists, and writers will be familiar with this state of mind. It can be practiced daily with meditation techniques. Beth thought (wrongly) that she could only get to that special mind place with substances. She became addicted, and her addiction could have destroyed her life if not for unexpected friends who stepped in just in time. What a lesson about friendship. It reminded me of how a couple of friends helped me survive and move past my own eating disorder, which lasted a whole decade.

All in all, I loved the Queen’s Gambit, and would recommend it to anyone, even those who don’t like chess.

I didn’t read the book though, so if anyone has read the book, please let me know in the comments what you thought of the novel?