The following contains spoilers through His Dark Materials Season 2 Episode 7 on HBO.
Welcome, dear reader, as we wrap up our coverage of Season 2 of HBO’s His Dark Materials with S2E7, “Æsahættr.” Just in case you are confused, Æsahættr is the name of the Subtle Knife that Will now bears. So, when Serafina sent Ruta off in search of it for Lord Asriel, pretty much all she had to do was turn around. Boy are they going to feel silly in Season 3.
Overall, this was a pretty bleak ending to Season 2. So glad it won’t be the ending to the series as a whole, now that Season 3 has been green lit. The characters we lost in this episode really hit you in the feels. One tragedy after another. And now, Lyra has been captured by Boba Fett and encased in carbonite and…oh wait, wrong series. Though this was definitely giving off some The Empire Strikes Back vibes.
Let’s just clarify up front, John Parry knew he was going to die. The way he bows his head when Will asks, “And then we go home?” Will’s hopefulness that they can be reunited as a family is almost too much to bear. Parry gathers himself up and manages a patently fake smile when he replies, “Then we’ll go home,” knowing that it is a lie.
So maybe he was sincere when he offered Lee to be the one who made a stand against the Magisterium troops. He’s known all along that he was going to his death, but perhaps did not know the means by which he would die. Although he clearly has not been sincere with Lee about promising to instruct the Knife Bearer to put Lyra under his protection.
Of course, Lyra already was under Will’s protection—until he wandered off and left her, and the dozing witch supposedly guarding her, all alone. What is it with all the siestas this party is taking on their way up the mountain? After all this talk about Lyra worrying that she would let Will down, it’s actually Will who lets down Lyra.
Mrs. Coulter is almost more menacing when she is by herself than when she’s interacting with other people. Given that a person’s dæmon is an aspect of themselves made manifest, the psychology of her relationship to the golden monkey is mind boggling. She screams at him, threatens him, kicks him…and then finally reaches out to stroke his fur. He quite naturally flinches at first, expecting to be hit again.
While all this behavior is obviously a manifestation of self-loathing, I wonder if part of it boils down to what Jopari said about discovering his dæmon. He was amazed to find he had an aspect to himself that was female. The golden monkey is Coulter’s male aspect, and maybe that is why she hates him. Although, more and more this season she has been displaying simian gestures and actions. She crouches on her haunches. She sniffed out Lyra’s fur coat. She growls commands to her dæmon. She even chuffed, animal-like, at the spectred boy they found in Cittàgazze last episode.
Now, once again, Mrs. Coulter has Lyra captive. Taking her away to some place “entirely safe.” I’m not sure I understand the thinking that says squirrelling her away from the world is somehow going to prevent a second Fall. What does that even mean? While Coulter appears to be travelling incognito, she is dangerously unaware that the Magisterium has their own plan to prevent a second Fall, which is basically kill Lyra on sight.
So that was all we are ever going to see of the missing Lord Asriel episode. Word is they brought James McAvoy in by himself and filmed this scene, sometime long after the pandemic restrictions had shut down the original production. We also got a little secondhand exposition from Ruta to Serafina, as she apparently did catch up with him off screen and talked about his plans. All of this was a little awkward, but forgivable under the circumstances. It worked, but I’d still rather have that lost episode released as a graphic novel.
Asriel is appealing to the angels who rebelled. Are these the angels then who told Mary they have been guiding human evolution—for vengeance? If that is true, then there may be no conflict between free will and destiny in the first place. The angels, either on their own or under the Authority’s guidance, have been nudging things along. Setting the stage for Lyra’s prophecy and ensuring it plays out. Her destiny is to put an end to destiny and return free will. Perhaps that’s all an illusion, and the free will has always been there all along. We’ll see how that goes in the final season.
Did you catch the post-credits scene? From the subtitles, here is the dialogue:
- BOY: Lyra. Lyra! Lyra, help me!
- LYRA: Roger? What is this place?
On screen, all is black until Lyra voices Roger’s name. Then we see a dark smudgy image of Roger’s face come forward out of the shadows—and boom, end of scene.
This moment is brought forward from The Amber Spyglass, giving us a preview of what’s to come. A shot of hope in what was otherwise a pretty bleak ending to this season. If Roger is not lost to us, then perhaps Lee Scoresby and John Parry will return as well.
It also brings this season full circle, as we began Season 2 with Lyra dreaming of Roger calling her name. Maybe that too was more than just a dream.
A couple of quick takes on the rest of the episode:
- In Lee’s world, the Battle of the Alamo was fought between the Danes and the French. Interesting.
- The heartbreaking moment of this episode (so many to choose from this time) has to go to Lee and Hester’s death scene. Hester blaming herself. Lee telling her not to go before him. Then Serafina arrives a tad too late and lays that kiss on Lee’s forehead. Ah, more like heart-crushing.
- Lord Asriel tells the angels, “You are either for me or you are against me. Now, which is it?” This mirrors Mrs. Coulter talking to her dæmon, “You’re either with me or against me. Which is it?”
- In another parallel, John Parry tells his son “Argue with anything else, but don’t argue with your true nature.” Very similar to Asriel telling Marisa in S1E8, “But do not lie about your ambition, your work, or who you truly are.”
- Yay Mary. Just wanted to throw that in there. Didn’t forget about her, just not much going on for her in this finale. She follows the signs, the blue flower petals, up the mountain until she comes to a little waterfall area that appears to be their source.
- How the heck did Mrs. Coulter get up the mountain so quick, and back down with a presumably unconscious Lyra in tow? She had to have gotten out of there before Will and/or Serafina got back to their camp. Did she somehow physically ride the spectres?
Best lines of the episode:
- “Well, go on, then. Skedaddle.”
- “Everything’s a risk, Lyra. Haven’t you learnt that by now?”
- “What I’ve learnt is that we make mistakes. I don’t want to make a mistake with either of these people.”
- “What do you think you’ll be?” “A flea, I hope.”
- “Don’t you go before I do.”
- “My son…is the Knife Bearer.”
- “The night is full of angels. They will guide you now.”
- “Good. Then let us prepare for war.”
In The News
Here I try to point you to a few of the more interesting and informative news items over the last week related to His Dark Materials:
- Comics Culture’s The Beat interviewed writer and executive producer Jack Thorne about this past season of His Dark Materials. He also talks a little about writing the excellent Enola Holmes and reveals that they’ve already written 4 of the planned 8 episodes for Season 3.
- Collider has a nice long interview with Dafne Keene (Lyra), talking about some of the process of filming the series, and also the pressure being both a role model and playing such a beloved iconic character from literature.
- Collider has an even better interview with Ariyon Bakare (Lord Boreal) where he breaks down how and why he changed up his character from the way he is portrayed in the books.
That’s all for this week. Please let me know your thoughts and feelings about this week’s episodes, and any theories you have on what’s to come, in the comments below. Remember that 25YL will provide continuing coverage of His Dark Materials throughout Season 2 and beyond.
All images courtesy of HBO