Those (like me) who have been eagerly awaiting the third and final installment of HBO’s His Dark Materials will appreciate the release of a season 3 teaser giving us our first glimpse of what’s in store. Based on the bestselling trilogy by Philip Pullman, S3 will see our heroine, Lyra (Dafne Keen), finally come to terms with her destiny, even as her father, Lord Asriel (James McAvoy), declares war on the Authority.
(Spoilers for the first two seasons below.)
As we’ve written previously, the three books in Pullman’s series are The Golden Compass (published as Northern Lights in the UK), The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass. They follow the adventures of a 12-year-old girl named Lyra, who lives in a fictional version of Oxford, England, circa the Victorian era. Everyone has a companion daemon in the form of an animal—part of their spirit that resides outside the body—and Lyra’s is named Pantalaimon. Lyra uncovers a sinister plot that sends her on a journey to find her father in hopes of foiling said plot. That journey takes her to different dimensions (the fictional world is a multiverse) and ultimately to her own coming of age.
The first season mostly covered the events of The Golden Compass, although it also included characters and events from The Subtle Knife. Most notably, S1 introduced the character of Will Parry (Amir Wilson), who doesn’t appear until the second book in the series. He befriends an on-the-run Lyra and has possession of the subtle knife, which can cut the curtain between universes.
Initial reviews were mixed, but the second season amply rewarded those who stuck with the series. “Freed from the creative burden of establishing an elaborate fictional world for viewers unfamiliar with the books, S2 was a briskly paced, yet still emotionally resonant experience,” I wrote in my S2 review. “Ruth Wilson’s fiercely feral portrayal of the complicated Mrs. Coulter remains a highlight, and the heartbreaking season finale perfectly set the stage for the final showdown.”
In the S1 finale, Lyra followed Lord Asriel across the multiverse bridge to another world, just as Will found his own way into that same world through another doorway. S2 picked up from there, covering the remaining events of The Subtle Knife, which establish Lyra’s central quest and set up the climactic showdown portrayed in The Amber Spyglass. Both strangers in a strange new world, Lyra and Will teamed up to reunite him with his own father, a quest they believed was linked to whatever destinies they are meant to fulfill. They also discovered the subtle knife (formally known as Æsahættr), which can cut through the fabric between worlds.
In the heartbreaking S2 finale, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Lee Scoresby sacrificed himself so that Will’s father could briefly reunite with his son and instruct him to bring the subtle knife to Lord Asriel. Mrs. Coulter kidnapped Lyra, believing that her daughter is the prophesied Second Eve who will bring about the fall of man. We last saw Lyra drugged and lying in a trunk aboard a ship, heading to an unknown destination.
McAvoy’s Lord Asriel was conspicuously absent ins S2 because of the pandemic, with a planned standalone episode scrapped. But one final scene depicted him essentially declaring war on the Authority by calling on some angels to join him in rebellion. That war—and probably some recriminating father/daughter fireworks after the events of the first two seasons—will feature prominently in S3. Per the official premise:
Based on The Amber Spyglass, the final novel in Philip Pullman’s award-winning trilogy, in the final chapter of this epic fantasy series, Lyra (Dafne Keen), the prophesied child, and Will (Amir Wilson), the bearer of The Subtle Knife, must journey to a dark place from which no one has ever returned. As her father’s great war against the Authority edges closer, they will learn that saving the worlds comes at a terrible price.
The trailer opens with a voiceover by Mrs. Coulter: “There are forces out there, Lyra, that you can’t begin to understand.” She swears she’s doing all of this for Lyra, but realizes there’s no good reason for Lyra to believe her, even though her protective actions cost her everything. “What could be more dangerous than you?” Will asks at one point. She replies, “The truth.”
Meanwhile, Asriel is “gathering the greatest from every world” for his war against the Authority—which looks like it includes a host of witches and angels. The fierce bear warrior Iorek Byrnison features prominently in the teaser. We also get a final glimpse of Lee Scoresby when Lyra visits the underworld, and some tender moments between Lyra and Will.
The eight-episode third season of His Dark Materials will premiere on HBO on December 5, 2022, with two episodes airing each week. The series finale will air on December 26, 2022.
Listing image by YouTube/HBO