Review: The Season 2 Finale of His Dark Materials Prepares For A Great War - Comic Years
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Review: The Season 2 Finale of His Dark Materials Prepares For A Great War

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BY December 29, 2020

Season 2 of His Dark Materials came to a close this week with an emotional season finale. The episode closely follows the events of the second book in Philip Pullman’s trilogy – The Subtle Knife. The main story beats remained mostly the same with a few small changes. Much of this season was a bit of a chess game, moving all pieces into position for the endgame. All of this is building up to the very weird and wonderful events of the third book – The Amber Spyglass. It was recently confirmed that His Dark Materials was renewed for a third and final season. So how does the season 2 finale of His Dark Materials lead us into the endgame?

His Dark Materials S2 Image via BBC/HBO

The His Dark Materials Finale Brought Character Death and Separation

The season 2 finale of His Dark Materials wraps up the story arcs from The Subtle Knife and lead us into the last book/season. Will and Lyra are still traveling with the Witches, but not for long. As one by one each Witch is pulled away from the young protagonists. All of the main characters get split up, including Will and Lyra.

This leads to Will finally reuniting with his father, and then watching Jopari die in front of him. This is similar to how it occurs in the book with one small change. (In the book Jopari is killed by a vengeful Witch whose heart he broke. I am personally glad they threw out that storyline.) But first father and son get to have a bit of a heart to heart that didn’t happen in the book.

His Dark Materials S2 Image via BBC/HBO

Jopari could only make it to Will due to the noble self-sacrifice of one Lee Scoresby. In a highly emotional moment, Lee makes a last stand to ensure that Jopari can get away. He crouches behind mossy boulders, picking off agents of the Magisterium one by one. His faithful daemon Hester is at his side throughout. In a last ditch effort to save himself, Lee uses the cloud-pine that Serafina gave him earlier this season. However the Witch arrives too late to save him and Lee dies hoping against hope that his actions have protected Lyra.

His Dark Material Trailer Image via BBC/HBO

Marisa Coulter Had The Most Dramatic Character Arc This Season

Despite the fact that he has also sworn to protect Lyra, Will wanders away from her at a critical moment. This is the moment that Marisa Coulter swoops in with her brand new army of Spectres (she can control them somehow) and spirits Lyra away. The episode closes on a shot of her aboard an airship, where she has Lyra sedated and sleeping in a trunk.

Marisa has been through quite a journey this season. She has traveled to new worlds; murdered her ex-lover, discovered new powers of her own. And she might finally be learning what it means to be a mother. Marisa is determined to protect Lyra now. She finally learns that Lyra is the Eve of prophecy, alluding to the Biblical Eve. She swears that she will not let Lyra fall like Eve did, and claims that she is taking her daughter somewhere safe to ‘protect her.’

Mrs. Coulter His Dark Materials Image via BBC/HBO

It should be said that Ruth Wilson may just be the backbone of this entire show. She is an excellent actress who makes you feel sympathy for her character. Even though you know she is incredibly messed up, and often evil. Throughout the season we could see her taking each new discovery in stride, and trying to figure out how to use it her advantage. But we have also seen her vulnerable and unsure, such as in her scene with Mary Malone when she realizes how much she has missed out on simply by being born a woman in the wrong world. Although Marisa is still twisted and cruel, she is starting to learn important things about herself. She also truly loves her daughter, even if it is in a manipulative and abusive way.

Pacing Issues Slowed Down What Should Have Been An Action-Packed Finale

His Dark Materials S2 Image via BBC/HBO

The second season of His Dark Materials started off strong. In my early reviews of the season 2 episodes, I was impressed by both the cinematography and the young actors. These elements remained highlights of the second season. However, this season struggled with pacing issues much like the first season did. It also suffered due to production shutdowns caused by the ongoing global pandemic.

These pacing issues are most evident in the season 2 finale of His Dark Materials. I recall that the end of The Subtle Knife felt action-packed. It was exciting and fast-paced. Unfortunately the show slowed that pacing down to a snail’s crawl. This gave us far too many scenes of people just sitting around talking (an issue with this season as a whole). This also made some of the plot holes more glaring, like why didn’t Lee use the cloud-pine earlier? And Jopari’s death comes immediately after Lee’s noble sacrifice, which somehow lessened the emotional impact of it instead of amplifying it like the book did.

A Heavenly War Approaches

His Dark Materials S2 Angel Statue Image via BBC/HBO

However, despite these issues the season 2 finale of His Dark Materials still did excellent work to lead us into the next chapter of the story. It introduced the concept of the Angels and their vengeance through the storylines involving both Mary Malone and the Witches. There is a key moment where Will’s father tells him that he must take The Subtle Knife to Lord Asriel so he can use it to “kill the Authority.” Will doesn’t know that the “Authority” is the term used for God in Lyra’s world. So he accepts a mission that he barely understands, since it was his father’s dying wish.

Another key moment happens in a post-credits scene, when Lyra hears the voice of her dead friend Roger. This presumably happens while she is unconscious in Marisa’s trunk. She sees a vision of him and asks where he is, but we don’t get the answer. This is an important clue for some of the more ambitious moments coming up in the third book/season. After all when you are fighting a war against God, sometimes you have to go through literal hell to win.

Season 2 of His Dark Materials Needed More James McAvoy

His Dark Materials Lord Asriel Image via BBC/HBO

The season finale of His Dark Materials also brought us an important cameo towards the end of the episode. James McAvoy finally shows up again as Lord Asriel, shouting at the heavens. Finally he recieves an answer from the Angels, who declare that they are on his side.

Unfortunately this is all we get of Lord Asriel this season. It is a strange thing, considering how much of the plotlines inadvertently revolved around him in season 2. It is true that Asriel does not appear very much in the second book, but the show had the opportunity to include him in the second season. The showrunners were actually planning a bottle episode featuring McAvoy that covered Asriel’s adventures in the second book. However – due to the production shutdown – that episode was cut from the lineup. What little they managed to film made it onto screen in the season 2 finale – that moment of Asriel yelling at the Angels.

But we needed more Asriel in this season, and I’m not just saying that because of my life-long love for James McAvoy as an actor. If we had been given his storyline, then the whole vengeful Angels and cruel God parts of the story would make a lot more sense. We also need more time to understand his motivations, as well as his relationships with both Lyra and Marisa. This depth is absolutely be needed before the end of the series next season, if the crucial events that occur at the end are to have any emotional weight.

The Third Season Will Wrap Up The Story

His Dark Materials Mary Malone S2 Image via BBC/HBO

Season 3 of His Dark Materials will adapt the final book in the trilogy – The Amber Spyglass. And we can guarantee you that it is going to get weird. But we will have to wait to see what happens to Lyra, Will, Marisa, Mary, and the Witches. No news on filming season 3 of His Dark Materials has yet emerged, due to ongoing production shutdowns.

So we do not know how long we will have to wait for the next season of His Dark Materials. But you know we will keep you up to date as we learn more. Stay tuned to Comic Years on Facebook and Twitter for all of your genre news.

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Emily O'Donnell is a writer and photographer with roots in some of the earliest online fandoms. She cut her genre teeth on the Wizard of Oz books at the tender age of 6 years old, and was reading epic adult fantasy novels by the age of 10. Decades later, she still consumes genre fiction like there is no tomorrow. She is delighted to be living through the golden age of sci-fi and fantasy popularity. She is unashamed of the amount of fanfiction that still lingers online under her name.

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