His Dark Materials ending explained: What happened to Lyra and Will?
How did it all end for Lyra and Will? *WARNING - Contains full spoilers for His Dark Materials season 3.*
Christmas has come early for those of us who couldn’t wait to be transported back to the world of His Dark Materials, as the BBC has dropped the entire third season on iPlayer as a box set for us to binge between gift wrapping and eating too much Quality Street.
For the more patient among you, episodes will also be released weekly every Sunday on BBC One, in case you prefer to space out your viewing (or just can’t bear to leave Lyra’s world behind so soon).
For those of you new to the series, the general outline is as follows: His Dark Materials (based on Phillip Pullman’s trilogy of novel of the same name) follows Lyra Silvertongue (Dafne Keen), a young girl from an alternate reality where each person is born with a shapeshifting animal companion called a deamon, which acts as an extension of their own soul. Lyra’s world is governed by the Magisterium, a mysterious theocratic body that rules through both political and religious means.
In season 1, Lyra is pulled into a conspiracy involving her Uncle Lord Asriel Belacqua (James McAvoy) and the cruel Marisa Coulter (Ruth Wilson) – later revealed to be her estranged mother and father – surrounding a mysterious substance known as ‘Dust,’ the existence of which the Magisterium supresses as they believe it is the physical embodiment of original sin, but whose true nature is unknown.
On her journey, Lyra is joined by a variety of companions who help her in her quest including, best friend and kitchen boy Roger Parslow (Lewin Lloyd), charismatic aeronaut Lee Scoresby (Lin Manuel Miranda, in a rare non-musical role), and armoured bear Iorek Byrnison (Joe Tandberg, who provides voice and motion capture for the role). She also uses a device called the alethiometer to harness the power of the Dust, which helps guide her on her way.
Parallel to her own adventure is that of Will Parry (Amir Wilson), an unremarkable boy from our own reality who begins to be drawn into the conspiracy due to the involvement of his late father Colonel John Parry (Sherlock’s Andrew Scott).
After journeying to meet him at the North Pole, Lyra is ultimately betrayed by her father, who severs Roger from his daemon (effectively killing him) to open a rift between realities, allowing Will and Lyra to finally meet. They team up in season 2 in order to to try and uncover their role in the conspiracy. Together they must determine the fate of not only their own worlds, but of all worlds.
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How did season 2 end?
By the time season 2 had concluded the status quo of the His Dark Materials universe(s) had been irrevocably changed.
Will Parry had become the bearer of the Subtle Knife: a magical object (after which the second book is name) that can cut the fabric between world and allows the holder to travel freely between them.
The two were pursued by both Lord Boreal (Ariyon Bakare), an agent of the Magisterium who wished to take both the alethiometer and the knife for himself, and Mrs Coulter, who wanted to reunite with her daughter.
Lee Scoresby formed an alliance with John Parry – ignorant of his significance to Will – and the two united to try and help Lyra.
As the season drew to a close, Coulter fatally poisoned Lord Boreal after pretending to ally herself with him, breaking away from the Magisterium entirely once she realised they intended to kill Lyra. She later drugged and kidnapped Lyra to protect her, causing Will to vow to locate his new friend.
Lee Scoresby and John Parry were both killed in a battle against the Magisterium’s forces, but not before Parry was able to reach out psychically to Will and tell him to fulfil his destiny by stopping Lord Asriel.
Asriel – who did not appear all season – revealed himself in the last episode’s final minutes, asking a race of angelic being to pledge their support to him in the war against an entity known as the Authority.
In a post-credit scene, Lyra dreamy that her late friend Roger was reaching out to her from an unknown location.
Where was Roger?
One of the most pressing questions going into season 3 was how exactly the deceased Roger was able to reach out to Lyra? Was it in illusion caused by Mrs Coulter drugging her? Or was there something else at play?
In season 3, Lyra continues to dream on Roger, eventually realising that she and Will must travel to the Land of the Dead in order to rescue him.
Unfortunately, in order to reach the Land of the Dead, Lyra must first sever herself from her daemon Pantalaimon – an act which leaves both in great pain, and causes Pan to feel betrayed by Lyra.
Once they arrive, they track down Roger, as well as a number of lost souls who reveal that the Land of the Dead is a form of purgatory, and they wish to pass on for real.
They also find Lee Scoresby, with whom Lyra reconciles, and who leads Will to his father John Parry so that he can say one final goodbye.
In a heartbreaking scene, Will opens a portal from the Land of the Dead, and the deceased pass through it knowing full well that once they do, their atoms will dissipate and they will become one with the universe, finally allowing them to find peace.
What happens to the villains?
Questions of morality are central to His Dark Materials, and as such the lines between heroes and villains are sometimes pretty blurry.
That being said, the penultimate episode brings together the loose plot strands of the characters who have acted most clearly as the show’s main “villains”, and ties their fates together in the series’ climax.
Towards the end of the season, Mrs Coulter allies herself with Asriel who reveals that his plan is to wage war against the Authority – the first being to emerge from Dust and name itself as God. While the Authority has weakened over time, his archangel Metatron intends to overthrow him, making him the series’ late-stage main antagonist.
Asriel and Coulter find themselves face-to-face with Metatron, who reveals his intention to rule over everything. While Coulter first seems to betray Asriel and ally herself with their new foe, she later reveals this to be a ruse to catch him off guard. Lyra’s parents sacrifice themselves by grabbing Metatron and leaping into an abyss, where the three will fall for all eternity, ultimately redeeming themselves in the eyes of their daughter.
How does the show leave Will and Lyra?
As the seasons of His Dark Materials marched on, it became clear with time that Lyra and Will were quickly becoming more than just friends.
Those hoping for a happily after, however, will be sorely disappointed, as the show leaves the fates of the two leads fairly unambiguous.
In the final episode it is revealed that by eroding the spaces between worlds, Will has been allowing Dust to escape, weakening life throughout the universe. In order to remedy this, all portals between world except one must be closed.
The two realise that they must return to their worlds, and that the only portal that can be allowed to remain is the one in the Land of the Dead, which the deceased need to help them pass on.
The two confess their love for each other and kiss, creating a storm of Dust and fulfilling the prophecy about Lyra. They then depart to their respective worlds, before agreeing to "meet up" once a year by sitting on their universe’s version of a specific bench in their own versions of Oxford. A final montage plays, showing the two staying true to their word.
However, don’t despair just yet: a final title card is shown at the very end of the series, which states the following:
"Will and Lyra continued to return to the bench at the same time, every year.
"They kept their promise to each other, going on to live full lives in their own worlds.
"Will became a medical student and later, a successful surgeon.
"Lyra went on to be educated at St Sophia’s College in Oxford, where she was taught how to once again read the alethiometer…"
While the result is maybe not what most fans were hoping for, the show does leave us with a glimmer of hope in the form of one final title card:
"Which would come in useful one day, when Lyra and Pan would go on to have a further great adventure."
For more about what could come next for Lyra, check out our article about the His Dark Materials spin offs and sequels.
His Dark Materials seasons 1-3 are available to stream in full on BBC iPlayer now.
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