His Dark Materials Series Finale Review: War and Love

Television

The extraordinary saga of Lyra and Will has finally come to an end.

On His Dark Materials Season 3 Episode 7, the Kingdom of Heaven comes to Asriel’s Republic, and a great battle ensues.

This finale was an epic of war and love that gave us much-needed, satisfying closure.

Asriel finally admitted he was wrong and realized he would not live to see his glory but had to do it for Lyra.

Mrs. Coulter also knew she would never see her daughter again but understood the part she had to play in the endgame.

The juxtaposition of Mrs. Coulter and Asriel in their meetings with Metatron was so telling of both their characters.

I have devoted my entire life to science and the pursuit of truth. I swore blind that prophecies are merely stories concocted to control the credulous, and yet, here I stand, unable to avoid the prophetic truth in front of me.

Lord Asriel

Asriel kept calling for a fight with so much impotent male rage when Metatron was far more interested in the mystery of the woman he couldn’t read.

Ruth Wilson’s Mrs. Coulter had a magnificent final episode. Once again, she harnessed her power over the specters and used it for good this time. Marisa then used her amazing abilities of suppression to deceive Metatron.

This led them all to their end, as she helped Asriel follow through with his plan to throw Metatron into the abyss while the golden monkey set off the detonators.

Mrs. Coulter knew he wouldn’t be able to do it on his own, though Asriel initially thought he could. Throughout that final exchange with Metatron, Mrs. Coulter played her emotions so close to her chest that it was hard to know, even as a viewer, what she was up to!

She even fooled “God” himself! No wonder he offered to make her an angel.

You wish to serve no one but yourself. You are a cesspit of moral filth.

Metatron

The sacrifice of Lyra’s two parents was heartbreaking, but it felt right. Both have been so horrible to her — it was their only way to redemption.

For Asriel, it was a way to prove that he meant what he said and was willing to sacrifice himself for the greater good, with no chance at glory.

For Mrs. Coulter, it was one last opportunity to do one act of motherly kindness and prove that she loved her daughter more than life or the possibility of immortality. The Mrs. Coulter of Season 1 might have made a different choice.

The plunge into the abyss was perfect, vicious, and moving, one last act of teamwork from Asriel and Marisa, with Stelmaria delivering the final push that sent them over the edge. As the beautiful snow leopard dissolved, Asriel passed on.

On the surface, Mrs. Coulter’s daemon reached out to Lyra but disintegrated before they could touch.

It was tragic but fitting. Some deeds are unforgivable, and the monkey was part of Mrs. Coulter and everything terrible she ever did, despite her last act of heroism.

Your love for Lyra is your salvation, and your downfall.

Xaphania

This was the closest thing Lyra got to a reunion with her parents (not that she wanted one). Though, through Ogunwe, she learned that Asriel was proud of her, which was more confusing to her than anything.

That Lyra turned into such a moral young woman despite her parentage speaks to her strength of character, and Asriel should have seen that sooner.

Though Ogunwe’s role was never more than supporting, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje was impeccable casting and delivered solid and honest moments at every turn. His reunion with his daughters was a nice button for the character.

All the battle sequences were well done, exciting, and action-packed, with an appropriately monumental scope for some scenes and the more human side of the soldiers on the ground being haunted and possessed.

Alex Hassell has an otherworldliness that suited the small but significant role of Metatron well.

The reveal of the Authority in his crystal cell was an anticlimax that was over too quickly, but it played that way in the book as well.

You have to laugh at how flippant Lyra was about watching the senile, decrepit, irrelevant God disintegrate in front of her. “Can we go now?” The girl was just so done.

One of the great themes of the whole series rang loud and clear here, with Asriel’s impassioned speech — do not let the promise of Heaven prevent you from living your fullest life on Earth. Submission to religion will only lead to suffering, and there is no Heavenly reward.

Death is not something to fear if you have lived well, for our atoms will return to the world when we die to exist in new life.

Today is our chance. It is our chance to tell him that our lives are beautiful and precious, and that we should be allowed to experience all they have to offer without the fear of retribution.

Lord Asriel

This idea also played a crucial part on His Dark Materials Season 3 Episode 8. There was much-needed joy, brightness, and divine feminine energy — perfect for the awakening of Eve.

Episode 8 was a fitting denouement. The grand fantasy epic fell away, leaving us with an intimate portrayal of two trauma-bonded teens who finally had the space and freedom to be themselves together and realize that they were deeply in love.

Love is never small to those who discover it for the first time.

Xaphania

Dafne Keen and Amir Wilson finally got to play and have fun together. It was the most real thing in this magical world and the chemistry between them was so perfectly awkward and sweet.

Keen got the big emotional moments and playing “Eve,” was the one who made the moves. Wilson exuded a gentle warmth throughout the whole thing. His was a more stoic love.

These two have grown so wondrously alongside each other within these roles. In his love for Lyra, Will was free and open to the goodness of the world — the way he said “Hello” when first meeting Atal was proof of that.

It can be easy to dismiss teenagers in love, as they all believe theirs is the greatest love of all in the history of the universe.

Lyra and Will are not two ordinary teenagers. They have literally been to Hell and back together. They lost their souls but still had each other. No one could ever touch the bond they have.

Dr. Mary Malone has always been my favorite character (not just because we share a name) but because of how she approaches life and her time with the mulefa.

Simone Kirby is such a subtle, natural actor. Her portrayal of Dr. Mary Malone was everything it needed to be, the honest serpent telling the children the truth about the beauty of love.

I just couldn’t bear the idea of living without feeling that alive. And I thought, “Will anyone be better off if I just go back to the hotel and say my prayers and promise never to fall into temptation again?” And the answer came back — No. No one will. And I realized there was no one there to reward me for being a good girl and no one there to punish me for being wicked. There was no one. And it was liberating.

Dr. Mary Malone

Her goodbye with Atal was perfect (the seeds!), and her joy at seeing her daemon, the Alpine chough, was transcendent.

Mary being a lesbian was another change from the book I didn’t know I needed, but it brought her impact to another level.

It tied in with the gay angels Baruch and Balthamos — and how lovely to have Kobna Holdbrook-Smith back in this episode, but we’ll get to him in a moment.

The church shuns so many LGBTQ+ folks, so to have this message stated plainly, by an angel no less, that desire is human, and love is the closest we get to divinity.

Desire is not sin. Love takes a million forms, each of them beautiful. Each of them worthy. You who judge — just afraid.

Balthamos

There was such relief and validation for Mary to meet Xaphania then, an angel, who didn’t care whether Mary believed in God or not, only that she had done well in being honest about love with Will and Lyra.

Clearly, Father Gomez didn’t get the memo that his superior was dead. His quest added some tension to the proceedings, injecting danger into this perfect Eden.

His confrontation with Balthamos was a bittersweet ending for them both. Father Gomez finally heard — from the source — that he was wrong, that he had devoted his life to a lie.

Balthamos, at last, had a chance to fulfill his promise to his beloved Baruch by saving Lyra’s life.

Chipo Chung as Xaphania and Ruta Gedmintas as Serafina Pekkala also provided grounding energy and support to Mary, the daemons, and eventually Will and Lyra.

They all know this is a terrible sacrifice that Will, Lyra, Pan, and Kirjava must experience for the sake of the multiverse (Xaphania even got in a sneaky COVID allusion).

The love of Eve shall heal the earth, and all the worlds shall feel it. Nature will be restored. Hope will spark in darkness, as innocence turns to experience. All will be in harmony once more.

Serafina Pekkala

Just like Adam and Eve, they are cast out of Eden, but they will carry their love with them forever.

At least Lyra will always have Serafina, and Will will always have Mary as a friend — and finally, after so long, Will is reunited with his mother.

Kirjava was a little off-looking but cute enough. It took so long for the daemons to return to Will and Lyra, but how beautiful was their reunion?

Remember when Father Gomez mentioned it’s forbidden to touch another’s daemon? And then these two, so in love, just pet each other’s daemons. That’s how intimate their bond is, and what a lovely way to portray this. 

It’s in the books, but seeing it on screen was magical. And Pan finally settled as a pine marten, the shape he was Lyra left him on the jetty in His Dark Materials Season 3 Episode 4.

The ending was beautiful and heartbreaking — the choice for Lyra and Will to return to the botanic garden annually, on Midsummer’s Day, to sit “together.” I don’t know about any of you other book readers out there, but it was exactly as I had pictured it in my head.

What is there even left to say? This was a sublime ending. In terms of adaptations of source material, maintaining the same kind of feel and magic of the original, His Dark Materials has succeeded on just about every front.

Not everything from the books made it in, of course — it’s a different medium, and even eight hours per book isn’t really enough for these dense and rich stories.

Above all, though, Pullman’s world translated so well, with much of his evocative prose making it into the dialogue.

When we do find each other again, no one will be able to tear us apart. We’ll be joined so tightly, every atom of me and every atom of you. When they use our atoms to make new lives, they’ll have to take two — one for you, and one for me. We’ll be in the flowers and in the sunbeams. We’ll be joined so tight.

Lyra

Is it perfect? No. But it’s damned close. Nearly all the choices of alterations from the book improved and enhanced the storytelling here. As far as fantasy series go, few can compare.

I look forward to re-watching this series with my child when he is old enough, and again and again over the years, as I will re-read Pullman’s gorgeous books. What a gift this story is to the world.

How did you feel about the ending? Did you sob through the final hour as I did? Share your thoughts and feelings in the comments.

Mary Littlejohn is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.

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