His Dark Materials season 1 finale review: Into another world

Photo: His Dark Materials.. Courtesy of HBO
Photo: His Dark Materials.. Courtesy of HBO /

This week’s episode of His Dark Materials finds the complex threads of the season coming to a head as Lyra ventures into another world.

Last week’s episode of His Dark Materials saw the long-awaited epic battle between armored bears Iorek Byrnison and Iofur Raknison, an event that allowed Iorek to reclaim his title as King of the Bears and Lyra to find her father. However, once Lyra found Asriel, it was not the happy reunion she hoped for…

Asriel essentially tells Lyra that he doesn’t want her there and asks why she came, somewhat impressed she garnered favor with an armored bear. But Lyra says she won’t say why she’s come until he tells her why he lied about being her father. “I would have been so proud,” she says. The show does a great job at reminding us of the absolute terrible people that Asriel and Marisa are while grounding them in their personal missions and humanity.

When Asriel tries to tell Lyra about his relationship with Marisa, she says, “Your taste in women is as bad as your taste in bears.” He actually laughs! And thus has to end the conversation — it’s getting too emotional. A hurt and vulnerable Lyra tells him she’s Silvertongue now.

She gives him the alethiometer and tells him she’ll leave, but he won’t take it. A frustrated Lyra, who believes she was supposed to bring him the alethiometer, says she’ll leave in the morning.

Later that night, Roger and Lyra eat under a tent. Roger points out that Lyra’s here because of him and he’s here because of her; they changed each other’s lives. It’s such a sweet scene that only makes what happens next all the more heartbreaking…

Meanwhile, Boreal’s plans for Will Parry are still churning. At the Magisterium, he’s finally gotten his answer from the alethiometer for the question, “What did Grumann find out?” It turns out, there is a knife in a tower surrounded by angels and Grumann’s son will lead him to it. With pressure from Boreal, one of the thugs (who turns out to be a cop) reports Will as a missing person.

With the threat of looming police everywhere searching for him, Will is on the run more than ever with nowhere to hide.

Later that night, Asriel wakes up Lyra like a total creeper in the middle of the night to talk with her about Dust. There’s a lot of discussion about Adam and Eve and original sin, but the best summary Asriel gives is that the Magisterium believes Dust is physical sin “raining down on us from the heavens.”

However, based on his scientific experiments, Asriel has proof that it’s simply a particle (one with a lot of power). He shows Lyra the photograms of the aurora with another city made of Dust and explains that he believes he could use Dust to travel into another world.

Lyra seems reticent and not quite on board with all of it — which, fair enough. Her dad doesn’t really give two craps about her, but wants her to be all gung ho about some particle. Finally, Asriel tells her that he’s glad she came.

Even later that night, Lyra wakes up and Thorold is packing — the Magisterium are on their way. She sees that Roger is gone and realizes that Asriel is going to cut away his dæmon for energy to open another world. She runs out and calls for Iorek to track her father, who brings the bears with him.

Marisa shows up with the Magisterium right after they leave, but Thorold gets the jump on her and aims a rifle at her. Of course, she talks her way out of it. She tries to get him to tell her what Asriel’s plan is, but he’s stunned into silence. (Who wouldn’t be?)

In the midst of all this, Asriel gets Roger to the top of the mountain, telling him he has a surprise for Lyra. The Magisterium sees them and begins to shoot from planes in the sky and drop soldiers out of airships, trying to stop Asriel at any cost. Understandably, Lyra gets overwhelmed and scared of the gunfire, (again, this kid goes through so much), but Iorek saves her and carries her up the mountain.

They reach the top and there’s a narrow ice bridge where Iorek cannot cross. He takes off his helmet to say goodbye. She hugs his head and kisses him on the nose and it’s the sweetest thing. Iorek Byrnison is better than every engineered-for-cuteness Coca Cola polar bear combined.

Once Lyra crosses the bridge, she has to scale the side of a mountain, and it is grueling, cold, dark, and windy. As she climbs, Asriel grabs Roger and throws him in a cage like the ones at Bolvanger. Roger cries out for her, and Asriel tells him that Roger is dying as part of a sacrifice in a great war.

Asriel begins to lower the guillotine, and if you’ve read the books, you know what happens next. But it’s a breathtaking, heartbreaking moment regardless as Lyra reaches the cage just in time to touch Roger’s hand through the cage right before he dies and his dæmon disappears.

There’s an immense burst of energy that shoots up to the heavens, and Lyra is knocked away in the blast. But Marisa arrives just in time to take in Asriel in awe of the new bridge he’s opened up — and they’re both armed.

We finally get to see Marisa and Asriel together, and the chemistry pops right off the screen. While Marisa tries to resist, it’s like they’re pulled magnetically together. Even as she tells him he’ll never succeed in the background, their dæmons nuzzle in the foreground.

Asriel and Marisa are drawn to each other more than anything because of a shared ambition. He doesn’t want to take down just the Magisterium. He wants to take down the Authority — God himself — and restructure heaven itself.

And finally, after seven episodes, they give the people what they need, and we get to see Ruth Wilson and James McAvoy kiss!

But there’s only so much time, unfortunately. Marisa resists Asriel because, unlike him, she actually cares about their child. (This is an interesting choice, by the way, to make her feelings and motives so explicit, something that is never quite clear for either of them in the His Dark Materials books.) She tells him goodbye and he steps through the bridge, which visually looks amazing, a clear dividing line between Lyra’s world and a curved page of light into something else.

Lyra wakes up and sees her mother, who has discovered Roger in the cage and is obviously wondering about her daughter. But unsure of what part her mother, who is clearly pro-separation, had to play in all of it, Lyra hides until Marisa and the golden monkey go back down the mountain to pull her dead best friend out of the cage.

Lyra has grieved a lot in her 11 short years. This season alone, she began as an orphan, someone who thought her parents were dead, only to discover they had abandoned her. Then she went on to grieving Billy Costa and losing Roger at the hands of her father, all despite her best efforts to help and save them.

Dafne Keen plays the scene beautifully, and it’s shot well, too, as the loss is felt. Pan suggests they look for Dust to protect it and make sure that his death is not in vain. And so Lyra follows behind her father.

Just as Will, in his own world, sees a cat disappear into a shimmering window and does the same…

Next. His Dark Materials season 1 episode 7: Meet Lyra Silvertongue. dark

What did you think of the His Dark Materials season finale? What do you think will happen in season 2?