Well here we are. After 7 weeks of plot building and characterisation, His Dark Materials finally sees the climax of Lyra’s journey come to the foreground this week, while offering up clues over the show’s direction going forward. The poetic and suitable cliffhanger to end things on is a nice touch too, given the show has already been renewed for a second season, while the crescendo of action and drama finally offers up some answers over what the end-game is here.
We begin with Mrs Coulter and the rest of the troops preparing to launch their attack. As the aurora borealis glimmers overhead, Asriel comments on its strength and how “the child” is there now – an ominous bit of foreshadowing for the climax to this episode.
Lyra creeps out of her room with Pan and they talk to Asriel regarding him being her Father. He holds back tears and starts talking about her Mother before putting a wall back up and returning to his stand-offish behaviour. Lyra takes offence and adopts Iorek’s name for her instead of his – she’s now Lyra Silvertongue. Fingering the alethiometer, he ponders momentarily before handing it back to her as they retreat for the evening.
Father MacPhail speaks to Mrs Coulter about Asriel and in particular, her loyalty to the cause, given Lyra is her daughter. Meanwhile at the magisterium, Boreal questions the messages given by the alethiometer they have there and deliberates over a prophetic message involving “a son”. Could this be William? It’s enough for Boreal to think so and given he left last episode on a mission of his own, no one seems to know where he’s gone, prompting him to pull some strings and get the police to hunt for him.
Roger talks to Lyra about Asriel’s sketchy behaviour while Asriel himself prepares to leave in the middle of the night. As the evening wears on, Roger and Lyra share a drink together under a makeshift tent and share a tender moment while the aurora continues to shimmer. However, Asriel awakens her in the middle of the night and decides to spill the truth about the dust and just what it is. It apparently infects people during puberty and dust is an “original sin” – something that’s highly dangerous and he intends to try and utilize to his benefit. He goes on to suggest she come with him to find out exactly what this is. While she deliberates over what to do, Asriel bids her goodnight while Mrs Coulter allows the darkness to consume her thoughts, looking out the window and readying herself for the next move.
Boreal monologues in his car, commenting on the Tower of the Angels and just whether Will will bring him to the knife or not. As he does, we cut to see Will on a double decker bus heading away. Lyra however, is awoken soon after by Thorold as the Magisterium approach. She scrambles outside and calls for Iorek, who in turn calls forth his bear brethren for the upcoming fight. Ass they do, Asriel leads Roger away.
Foot soldiers arrive at the camp, marching in along with Father Macphail and Mrs Coulter. She clocks on to what Asriel has been doing though and looks through the telescope pointed at the sky, finally starting to understand what’s happening. As it turns out, Thorold stayed behind and knocks out MacPhail, pointing the shotgun at Coulter. She scoffs at it though and instead demands to know just what Asriel is doing.
The fight begins and chaos descends over the snowy battlefield. Gunfire whips through the air, snow shoots into the sky and in the distance an explosion rocks the cliffside. Iorek grabs Lyra and amid the flames and fire, races up the mountain. At its peak, Asriel snatches up Roger and stuffs him into a cage. Lyra bids farewell to King Iorek and thanks him for his help before crossing the perilous ice path alone.
As Lyra scrambles up the mountain, Asriel sacrifices Roger and his daemon, severing their bond as a beam of brilliant white light rains down from the sky. The soldiers put their guns down and watch in awe from afar as Lyra finds herself knocked partway down the mountain. The light materializes into a portal as Asriel finds himself face to face with Mrs Coulter. He sneers, telling her the Magisterium’s reign is now over as he turns his back on her and comments on the sun from another world. He pleads with her to work with him and create a new Republic Of Heaven but she rejects him, prompting him to step through the portal and into another world.
Lyra meanwhile awakens and hurries up the mountainside, freeing Roger from his cage. Unfortunately he’s now dead. With no-one left in this world for her, Pan and Lyra make a bold decision – to head through the portal and find the Dust before Asriel does. Meanwhile Will follows a cat into a hidden area behind the fence and steps through the portal Boreal has been using all season, just as Lyra steps through hers. The season ends with the future unknown and plenty of questions going into season 2.
Having not read the books I can’t comment on how accurate to the source material this stays but based on the season finale, HBO and BBC have done a really good job with this one, rounding out the first season with enough answers and resolved plot threads while upping the stakes ready for next year. His Dark Materials has been one of the bigger surprises in 2019. It’s one of the better shows this year too and the intriguing bites of foreshadowing for the future will certainly be debated by fans and newcomers to the series alike. Boreal’s comments about the knife being the most notable (especially given the next book is called The Subtle Knife) and the poetic portal jump at the end leaves things wide open for the future.
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed His Dark Materials and I’ve commented a few times that the BBC are notorious for missing the mark with their series finales. Thankfully they seem to have bucked that trend here and delivered a really impressive first season. This is one fantasy show I’ll be counting down the days to the return of and with more involvement from HBO next time around, the future certainly looks bright for Philip Pullman’s book trilogy adaptation.