his dark materials season 2

Update: HBO, perhaps noting that they will soon have an epic fantasy-shaped hole in their schedule when Game of Thrones ends next year, has joined the production of BBC’s His Dark Materials. According to Deadline, the prestigious American network will act as a co-producer on the series, distributing it outside of the United Kingdom. Our original story continues below.

Fans of Philip Pullman‘s formidable fantasy series His Dark Materials have been nervously anticipating the BBC’s lavish adaptation — and for good reason. The first attempt at adapting the ambitious three-book saga about two children who take on the Kingdom of Heaven was an expensive dud that squandered its perfect cast.

Now BBC’s His Dark Materials has recruited a promising cast, an Oscar-winning director, and an equally lofty budget, but the question remains: Will it be good? BBC seems to think so, renewing His Dark Materials for a second season before the show even hits the airwaves. Now that’s something that even an alethiometer couldn’t have foreseen.

Deadline reports that BBC has doubled its series order for Tom Hooper‘s adaptation of the Philip Pullman fantasy saga, green-lighting an eight-part His Dark Materials season 2.

According to the outlet, the deal for a second season of eight episodes came just weeks after filming on the first season began in Cardiff, Wales. It signals the BBC’s great confidence in the series, which is reportedly one of the most expensive British scripted series to date. BBC Director General Tony Hall himself alluded to the expensive price tag attached to this series, telling Deadline:

[His Dark Materials] is expensive because of all of the computer graphics to make the daemons. I was on set with them two weeks ago and I’m really pleased we’ve pulled off something there where the cost per episode is high. I don’t think it’s in the Netflix/Amazon territory but it’s really ambitious. All of us felt that was the sort of piece that the BBC should make given the nature of the book and the nature of who Phillip Pullman is, and we’re showing ambition on that.

Price was always going to be a factor in adapting the His Dark Materials series, which is set in a world where humans’ subconsciouses exist outside their bodies in the form of daemons — talking animals that reflect a person’s personality. Add to that the swashbuckling action, the armored (talking!) polar bears, and the journeys between parallel worlds, and it’s no wonder that the series has accumulated a rather large budget. Even the Hollywood adaptation of The Golden Compass, with its $180 million budget, suffered criticisms of its polar bears looking like the Coke mascot. But it seems like BBC is investing a lot of money — and faith — into this adaptation, which bodes well.

I’ll admit that I’m still nervous about Hooper’s adaptation. He’s a director known for muted palettes and period dramas — not sumptuous fantasy epics with an atheistic bent. But the BBC’s faith in the series and its willingness to throw money at it are encouraging.

And I have I mentioned the awesome cast? Logan breakout Dafne Keen stars as the headstrong protagonist Lyra Belacqua, while James McAvoy stars as her adventurer father Lord Asriel. The Affair’s Ruth Wilson stars as the ruthless antagonist Mrs. Coulter, while Lin-Manuel Miranda takes on the role of Lee Scoresby (hilariously inheriting it from the movie’s Sam Elliott, who couldn’t be a more different actor).

Season 1 will adapt the first book of Pullman’s trilogy, The Golden Compass, which first made it to the big screen in 2007. There’s no confirmation on what season 2 will cover, but it will likely adapt the second novel The Subtle Knife, which introduces the protagonist Will Parry, a runaway from our Earth who meets Lyra in an alternate world. The saga closes out with The Amber Spyglass, which takes the series to dizzyingly ambitious – and divisively anti-religious — heights.

BBC has not yet announced a release date for His Dark Materials.

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