As the plot of His Dark Materials hurtles towards the third season (and thus the third and final novel in the original trilogy), the season 2 finale had a lot of ground to cover. “Æsahættr” delivers a moving and action packed episode that will thrill book readers and new viewers alike. From grief stricken goodbyes to prophecies revealed, this episode packs a punch. Read on to find out what happened in the season 2 finale of His Dark Materials.
We open on Will and Lyra debating about whether it is safe for the witches to continue to help them in their quest to find Will’s father, given the way Reina Miti was attacked earlier. Serafina adamantly wants to stay with Lyra, seeing it as her destiny to protect her. Will doesn’t want others to die or be hurt on his quest, especially with his dreams of his father growing stronger. He’s scared, and when the pair go to sleep that night, Pan tries to offer Will comfort as Lyra sleeps. He tells Will that Lyra believes in him and sees him as her best friend, a sentiment Will echoes. Lyra wakes, revealing she was pretending to sleep the whole time, and tells Will that she wants to help him find his father. But like Will, she’s scared: she remembers what happened with Roger, and she can’t lose another friend. The group finds they can’t go much further, concerned about the threat of the Specters. Lena, another witch, hears that an adult woman with a daemon has been spotted. Wanting to save her from the Specters, Lena leaves to help while Serafina stays with Lyra.
But of course, the woman is no helpless victim but Mrs. Coulter. As Lena warns her to leave, Mrs. Coulter attacks. As a Specter drifts into the room, going after Lena’s daemon, the doomed witch tells Mrs. Coulter that Lyra will be “Eve” in this prophecy – her fall will be the cause of everything that is to come. The witch dies as Mrs. Coulter unleashes the Specter. She now has a valuable piece of information, and determined not to let Lyra “fall,” she decides to go after her to protect her from her destiny. Back with the witches, Ruta arrives to talk to Serafina. She tells Serafina that according to Asriel, the coming war is not just against the Magisterium but with The Authority himself. Asriel needs the witch clans to stand with him. Serafina, fiercely devoted to Lyra, refuses to leave her. Ruta argues that Asriel needs the Æsahættr (the knife) in the coming battle, and Serafina tells her that Ruta should find the knife if Asriel needs it that badly. But Serafina is staying with Lyra.
The focus shifts to Lee and Jopari as they wander through the forest. But suddenly, the Magisterium is upon them. In a heart wrenching sequence that book readers have dreaded, Lee realizes they are outgunned and utterly lost. With just thirty bullets left in his gun and suffering from an injury, Lee makes the choice to make a last stand, giving Jopari the chance to escape and find the knife bearer. Lee makes Jopari promise that he will use the knife to protect Lyra, which he does. Lee and his daemon Hester comfort one another for the last time as Lee manages to slow down the oncoming attackers. In a last ditch effort, he summons Serafina with the pine she gave him earlier. But Serafina comes too late to save him. With his dying breath, Lee begs Hester not to leave him alone as he faces the end, saying, “don’t you go before I do.” Hester crawls towards him, whispering “we’re a-helping Lyra” as she snuggles next to him (don’t mind my sobbing). He dies with Hester by his side knowing he has helped save the child he adores, and Hester vanishes into the wind when he does.
If that’s not enough of an emotional punch to the gut, the next scene brought out even more tears. Will, sensing his father is nearby, leaves camp as the witches and Lyra sleep so he won’t put them in danger. When he leaves, Coulter arrives. She uses her Specters against Reina, kidnapping a startled Lyra. Meanwhile, Will finds his father – Jopari, or John Parry. Both are shocked, with John remembering the boy he left behind. He’s devastated to discover it is his son who is destined to be the knife bearer, knowing this will not be a happy end for him. Will reassures John that his mother is safe but is shocked to discover his father has a daemon. This brings out the anger that Will has at his father for abandoning their family. John argues that he needed to help humanity, but Will just wanted his father home with him. John tries to tell Will how important Will is to the prophecy, that the fate of worlds rest on him joining Asriel to fight The Authority. Will doesn’t want to hear it. He tells his father he’ll only agree if they both return home to his world when it’s over. John knows his destiny, but lies to his son, telling him he will return with him to both comfort Will and get him to play the role he needs to play in the coming fight.
But like Lee, John’s story ends here. A Magisterium soldier spots them, and John takes the bullet to save his son’s life. As he dies in his son’s arms, John tells Will that he has angels protecting him now. Distraught, Will returns to the camp, but finds Lyra and the other witches gone. We see glimpses of the other characters as a voiceover from Lord Asriel urges an unknown entity to join the fight. We see that Coulter is smuggling Lyra away in a trunk, stroking her hair as she tells her daughter that she will protect her. Will appears to embrace his destiny without Lyra by his side. In a surprise, we then see Asriel himself (an episode centering around Asriel was cut due to COVID-19, with the creative team stating that he would not be in the season as a result). It turns out Asriel was appealing to the angels to join him, and after a moment of silence, we see the sky fill with angels as they join his cause. In a post-credits scene that foreshadows darkness to come, Roger’s ghost calls out to Lyra from the grave. Lyra asks him where they are, but he does not reply, setting up the final arc laid out in the third book, The Amber Spyglass.
The first two seasons of His Dark Materials are available now on HBO and HBO Max, with no word yet on when the forthcoming third and final season will premiere.