His Dark Materials has finally returned for its second season here in the U.S.! With new settings and characters along with a gorgeous new opening title sequence, season 2 is shaping up to be even bolder and brilliant than season 1. “The City of Magpies” introduces us to the world of Cittàgazze as Lyra finally meets Will – and a few other friends. Need a quick refresher on the season 1 finale before diving in? Check out our recap here. Read on to find out what happened in the season premiere.
We open with Lyra wandering around Cittàgazze with Pan after going through Asriel’s portal to another world. It’s an empty city that book readers will immediately recognize down to the last detail, and the production design team deserves a shout out for its faithful and imaginative construction. Lyra finds eerie images of angels everywhere that seem to match the angels near the clock tower at the city’s center. As Lyra and Pan explore, they bump directly into Will, who has found his way into the city after escaping his world. Lyra being Lyra, she immediately attacks him before begrudgingly letting him go when he establishes he’s not a threat. But the second he catches sight of Pan and hears him talk (and as Lyra realizes Will doesn’t have a daemon), Lyra runs away, remembering the children at Bolvangar and Roger.
While Lyra and Will explore their new world, Mrs. Coulter continues her quest to rule Lyra’s old world. Teaming up with the Magisterium and unaware Lyra has left her world, Mrs. Coulter charms her way into access to a captured witch. Mrs. Coulter wants to torture her for information on where Lyra is, and while the Magisterium at first wants to deny the existence of other worlds (difficult to do considering there is a massive tear in the sky), Mrs. Coulter is once again able to manipulate the Cardinal into letting her torture the witch for information.
Will manages to find Lyra and apologize, wanting an ally in this strange new place. Lyra relents as she realizes Will is just as lost as she is. They discuss their respective worlds, and Lyra attempts to tell Will about Dust. But they spot two other children as they talk, and the two run after them in hopes of finding out what is going on. The girls are Angelica and Paola (a change from Paolo in the books), two siblings who live in Cittàgazze. They tell Lyra and Will that there were once adults in the city, but when the portal opened between worlds it let in horrible wraiths called Specters. Specters eat the souls of adults, and now children are the only ones left. Pan hides from the girls as they realize the children in this world (along with Will) do not have daemons. Will, being older than Lyra, is in danger of being taken by the Specters if he reaches maturity too quickly.
Angelica and Paola leave, and Lyra decides she’ll take up residence in the same empty house Will is living in. This exasperates him as there are hundreds of empty houses around them, but as the night goes on they grow closer. Neither tells the other their secrets, Lyra hiding the alethiometer and Will hiding his letters. The next morning, the pair realizes Angelica and Paola might not be so innocent as they stop the girls from killing a cat, Pan revealing himself just in time to save the animal.
Meanwhile, Serafina calls an emergency witches’ council to find Lyra, since she is the focus of the witches’ prophecy. Lee Scoresby also wants to find Lyra and save her, proposing they work together. He wants to find the mysterious Stanislaus Grumman, who has a weapon that could protect Lyra. Serafina accepts this help and gives him a feather he can use to call her if needed. Queen Ruta Skadi enters, angry at Lee’s presence but especially upset that a witch has been captured by the Magisterium. Ruta wants to rescue her, but Serafina argues Lyra is more important to the prophecy. Frustrated, Ruta goes after Katja alone, but it’s too late. The witch has been tortured by Mrs. Coulter, begging for death as Ruta arrives. Mrs. Coulter managed to get the information that Lyra is important to the prophecy, but before she can say anything else, Ruta kills her, ending the torture and preventing her from revealing more information. Ruta also mortally injures the Cardinal on her way out.
Sensing the chance for a power grab, Mrs. Coulter goes to Father MacPhail. The Cardinal is near death from Ruta’s attack, and if she could kill him, it would look like a tragic murder by the witches. This would put MacPhail in line to replace him. She tempts him with power and even sweetens the deal by saying she’ll do the deed herself, sparing him having to commit a sin. Ruth Wilson is once again perfection, playing the seductiveness of Mrs. Coulter as well as her deadly, sadistic side. MacPhail agrees reluctantly.
Will and Lyra talk more about where they came from, and they realize they come from different versions of Oxford. Lyra is thrilled to know that there is no Magisterium where Will comes from. She hopes that if they go there, they can find a Scholar who knows about Dust. They know neither Oxford is safe for them, but Will, feeling the tug of his mother, agrees to take Lyra there. Lyra sweetly tells Will that even though he doesn’t have a daemon now, she knows he will soon. They go their separate ways for the night, Will rereading his father’s letters. Lyra consults the alethiometer, asking about Will. It tells her he is a “murderer,” but qualifies that he is a “good” murderer like Iorek. The alethiometer also tells her she and Will are connected to this city. Will sees a vision of a knife and begins to walk towards the clock tower, knowing his destiny is inside. But as he walks down a dark alley, the Specters begin to gather ….
His Dark Materials airs Mondays at 9 p.m. ET on HBO and HBO Max.