The season 2 finale of His Dark Materials aired Monday night, wrapping up the adaptation of the second novel in Philip Pullman’s trilogy.
The latest season of the fantasy epic brought us new characters and familiar faces, more magic and world-crossing, and set up the epic battle coming our way in season 3.
Here are some key takeaways from season 2 of His Dark Materials.
Great Depth for Mrs. Coulter
I LOVE how His Dark Materials has expanded on Mrs. Coulter’s character this season. With the Spectres now under her control, she’s more dangerous than ever. But we’ve also seen the incredible emotional toll life has taken on her this season. From her relationship with Lyra to her relationship with the world around her, Mrs. Coulter is pretty much the definition of “it’s complicated.” (Maybe the best highlight of that? Her relationship with her golden monkey daemon. She’s literally abusing and distancing herself from the physical manifestation of her own soul. “It’s complicated” is an understatement.)
I’m also impressed by how the series portrays her love for Lyra. Both Mrs. Coulter and Lee Scoresby would do anything for Lyra – but their approaches are so different. When Lee confronted Mrs. Coulter about breaking the cycle of abuse? Wow. That was one of my favorite moments from the season. It really underscores the importance of choice in our lives. Mrs. Coulter may be a woman trapped by the conventions of her world, but how she responds to this is entirely up to her.
Lyra’s Growing Up
His Dark Materials is a coming-of-age story. It’s about how the world changes us, and this season we really see Lyra starting to change. This heavily relates to her relationship with Will (and their whole “Garden of Eden” destiny thing). However, I liked that this season also showed us Lyra actively choosing not to be like her mother.
When Lyra first met Mrs. Coulter in season 1, she was enamoured with her and wanted nothing more than to be like her. Season 2 sees Lyra actually act like her mother – lashing out at her in Boreal’s basement – and then immediately regretting her actions. Again, it reinforces the theme of choice for the series. Even as the world changes around you without your permission, you can choose how you respond to it.
The Asriel Problem
It’s a little disappointing we didn’t get more of Lord Asriel in season 2. His absence isn’t without precedence – he doesn’t appear at all in Pullman’s The Subtle Knife. (In person that is. A couple characters do reference him in the story.)
The producers of His Dark Materials actually planned a whole Asriel-centric episode, explaining what exactly he got up to in between opening a rift between worlds and recruiting an army of angels in the final episode of season 2. Unfortunately, COVID forced the series to scrap plans for the Asriel episode. (It was the only one that hadn’t been filmed when the pandemic stopped production.)
Still, I wish season 2 would have included smaller moments with Asriel throughout the season. The series has otherwise done such a good job weaving together multiple storylines. I think that success makes the lack of Asriel feel like more of a missed opportunity.
Setting Up Season 3
Just like the first season of His Dark Materials carefully shifted story elements to set up its second season, so does this season work to set up season 3. Season 1 sprinkled in the witches, who played a larger role in this season. In the same way, season 2 sprinkled in the presence of the angels, who will play a bigger role in season 3. Similarly, we saw Dr. Mary Malone begin her own journey across worlds.
But the end of season 2 lets us know we can expect a major battle (battles?) for season 3. Asriel is amassing an army of angels to take on the Authority. Mrs. Coulter commands an army of Spectres. And at the center of everything: Lyra. Fated to repeat Eve’s fall from grace.
I think we can expect season 3 of His Dark Materials to be just as epic.
So, what did you think of His Dark Materials season 2? What are you most excited for in season 3? Let us know in the comments.
You can stream the first two seasons of His Dark Materials on HBO Max now.