The mulefa in His Dark Materials season 3 just sorta look like…animals

His Dark Materials season 3. Photograph by Courtesy HBO
His Dark Materials season 3. Photograph by Courtesy HBO /

The third and final season of HBO’s His Dark Materials is based on The Amber Spyglass, the third and final book in Philip Pullman’s beloved fantasy trilogy. This is the one where things get really weird. You thought talking polar bears was wild? Get ready for tiny spies who ride dragonflies, angels fighting each other in the air, and be-trunked creatures called mulefa with diamond-shaped skeletons who get around their world by shoving their claw-like hooves into huge seedpods they use as wheels to transverse the natural highways of their reality.

The mulefa are the intelligent creatures that occupy one of the many alternate dimensions the characters on His Dark Materials visit. Dr. Mary Malone (Simone Kirby) will spend a lot of time with them in season 3. Obviously, designing this kind of alien being was a challenge for the production team. “We’d talked about it a lot because it was what we were frightened of,” producer Jane Tranter told Entertainment Weekly. “We would address the mulefa in the room, if you like, constantly.”

So what did the team come up with? Behold:

Do the mulefa look a little too ordinary to anyone else?

“We knew that the mulefa needed to be immediately beautiful and immediately appealing and immediately not scary,” Tranter said. “They’re strange for sure. Mary hasn’t seen anything like them and the landscape in which they live with these massive, massive, massive trees the size of skyscrapers.”

Okay, not to crap on what I’m sure was a very tricky design process, but I’m sort of disappointed they don’t look weirder. What happened to diamond-based skeleton? This just kind of looks like an antelope-anteater hybrid that spends a lot of time at the gym.

But this is par for the course with His Dark Materials, which has always taken a workmanlike approach to Pullman’s books. Don’t get me wrong: I’ve enjoyed the show, but there haven’t been as many moments of inspiration as you’d think there would be given how imaginative the material is.

His Dark Materials season 3 release date

And it sounds like the creative team would have played things even safer were it not for Pullman pushing for the show to at stay nominally true to his work. The way Tranter tells it, it sounds like her team was wondering if they could lose the whole mulefa-travel-their-world-on-seedpods thing, but Pullman drew a red line in the sand. “I thought, ‘Is that gonna look a bit rubbish [on screen]?’ And he was like, ‘Yes, they do!'” Tranter remembered.

The mulefa’s use of the seedpods is important to their story, since it shows how they’re interdependent with their environment. “It is like a paradise world where the environment, the landscape, and the beings who live in it all live in perfect harmony,” Tranter said. “So there are tracks, for example, all the way through the world of the mulefa, and those tracks are there because the mulefa have made them riding along in their seedpods, but they exist for each other.”

His Dark Materials season 3 premieres on HBO and HBO on December 5.

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