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His Dark Materials: 4 questions we have at the end of season 1

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Sarah Shaffi
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His Dark Materials: Dafne Keen as Lyra.

Warning: this article contains spoilers for episode eight of the BBC’s His Dark Materials, so do not read on unless you are fully up to date…  

After waiting almost 25 years for Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series to come to the small screen, we feel a bit bereft now that the first season is over.

The BBC show introduced us to Lyra (Dafne Keen), a young girl living in an alternative Oxford with her dæmon, Pantalaimon. Left to grow up in Jordan College, Lyra is taken in by the glamorous Mrs Coulter (Ruth Wilson) shortly after we meet her.

But Mrs Coulter, while having a wardrobe we would all envy, is not a nice person. She works for the Magesterium, the religious body that controls Lyra’s world, and has a hand in the disappearances of several children. After she and Lyra clash, Lyra runs away.

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From there we met the Gyptians, who were trying to find one of their missing children, Billy Costa; a balloon pilot (Lin Manuel Miranda as Lee Scoresby); and a giant, armoured, talking bear called Iorek Byrnison.

In the first series, Lyra travelled north on the trail of Billy Costa and her missing friend Roger. With the help of her friends and allies she finally made it to where Lord Asriel (James McAvoy), a man she thought was her uncle but is actually her father, was carrying out experiments.

The first season of the show concluded with a heartbreaking, action-packed episode. Thankfully, the BBC has confirmed the show will return for a second season next year. While we wait, here are four questions we’ll be ruminating on.

His Dark Materials: Lord Asriel (James McAvoy) talks to Lyra (Dafne Keen).
His Dark Materials: Lord Asriel (James McAvoy) talks to Lyra (Dafne Keen).

Will Lyra and Will meet soon?

His Dark Materials has been a story of two Oxfords. There’s Lyra’s version of the city, a sort of steampunk Oxford, where we’ve spent most of our time. And then there’s “our” Oxford, where we were introduced to a boy called Will (Amir Wilson), whose father Colonel John Parry (Andrew Scott) had gone missing while exploring the north.

In Pullman’s books, we don’t meet Will until the second novel of the series, The Subtle Knife, so introducing him early was a bold move. It’s one that’s paid off; scenes with Will have been some of the most emotionally charged of the whole series, particularly when he’s interacting with and protecting his mum Elaine (Nina Sosanya).

But Lyra and Will have not yet met, which holds true to the books. However, will season two open with them coming face to face?

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In the final moments of season one, Will took shelter in a park, hiding from police he thought might be after him after he pushed a man burgling his house down the stairs (unbeknownst to Will the Magesterium is hushing this up). While there, he came across a strange “cut” in the world. Initially seeing what happened when he put just his hand through, Will decided to step forward completely into the portal.

Meanwhile, having lost Roger after Lord Asriel killed him to open a portal in her world, Lyra decided to step through the cut and follow her father to try and stop him.

Given that Lyra and Will chose to step through portals at almost exactly the same time (and given what book readers know!), we’re sure a meeting between the pair isn’t far off when the show returns.

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How much of a threat is Dust?

The word Dust was mentioned in the first episode, and since then it’s been a major preoccupation of Lord Asriel, Mrs Coulter, the Magesterium and Lyra. In the season finale, we finally got to hear a little more about why everyone is so concerned with it.

The Magesterium, Lord Asriel tells Lyra, thinks that Dust is “actual physical sin raining down from the sky, settling on humanity and infecting our souls with evil”. Dust only “begins to settle on humans going through puberty”, which is when dæmons settle on a form, instead of being able to transform into different animals. The Magesterium, the religious authority in Lyra’s world, has labelled Dust as original sin and has been using it as a means of control.

Lord Asriel is determined to pursue Dust at whatever cost, which is what leads him to betray Lyra and kill her best friend Roger; severing the connection between Roger and his dæmon provides enough energy to open a portal to the world he has seen in the Northern Lights.

Meanwhile, the Magesterium sees any exploration of Dust as a threat to its authority. We get a glimpse of how big the war could be between science and religion in the final episode of season one, when the Magesterium brings its soldiers to try and stop Lord Asriel.

They lose, but it’s clear that this isn’t the end, and there’s far bigger to come.

His Dark Materials: Mrs Coulter (Ruth Wilson) has been a driving force during the series.
His Dark Materials: Mrs Coulter (Ruth Wilson) has been a driving force during the series.

Are Lord Asriel and Mrs Coulter still in love?

Over the course of the series Lyra, who grew up thinking she had no parents, discovered that Mrs Coulter was her mother and Lord Asriel was her father.

It’s only in the final scenes of season one’s last episode that we see Mrs Coulter and Lord Asriel interact for the first time, and it’s full of tension and angst.

The pair meet at the top of a mountain in the north, where Lord Asriel has just killed Billy Costa so he can open a portal between worlds. As he stands in front of the shining white light, Mrs Coulter walks up behind him, carrying a gun strapped to her back.

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Lord Asriel initially turns his gun on her, but as the pair talk he lowers the gun and the two step closer together. It’s clear the pair still have feelings for each other (and lots of chemistry), something made clear when Lord Asriel, who tenderly addresses Mrs Coulter by her first name, Marisa, asks her to come with him through the portal on their next adventure.

As much as she clearly still has feelings for him, she refuses, saying that she wants to be a mother to Lyra and cannot leave the world her daughter is in.

But the connection between them has clearly survived the many years they’ve been apart, so we predict it’s not the end yet for Lord Asriel and Mrs Coulter.

His Dark Materials: when will we see Lee Scoresby (Lin Manuel Miranda) and Serafina Pekkala (Ruta Gedmintas) again?
His Dark Materials: when will we see Lee Scoresby (Lin Manuel Miranda) and Serafina Pekkala (Ruta Gedmintas) again?

Where are Lee Scoresby and Serafina Pekkala?

When we last saw them, Lee Scoresby’s balloon was ruined. Thinking his role in helping Lyra was over, Lee was surprised when Serafina Pekkala dropped in on him and told him he had more to do. Initially reluctant, Serafina persuaded Lee to pick up arms (she literally gave him his gun back).

But there was no sign of either of them in this episode. Where have they gone? And when will we see them again? That’s a mystery we hope will be quickly solved when the show returns for season two.

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Images: Bad Wolf/BBC

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Sarah Shaffi

Sarah Shaffi is a freelance journalist and editor. She reads more books a week than is healthy, and balances this out with copious amounts of TV. She writes regularly about popular culture, particularly how it reflects and represents society.

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