There were high expectations going into the second season of His Dark Materials, and it’s safe to say that the Philip Pullman adaptation well and truly delivered, with another spellbinding run culminating in an epic finale.
The final episode perfectly sets up the third season of the show, which will be adapted from Pullman’s third novel in the series, The Amber Spyglass – and fans are desperate to know what to expect.
Luckily, the creative forces behind the show have already dropped a few hints about forthcoming episodes, with executive producer Joel Collins telling RadioTimes.com, “Basically we are in the early stages of development, which will quite quickly go into the latter stages of development for us to make the show.
“There’s very few of us in a very secret group doing early work, which is exciting and complex. We’re trying to solve the puzzle away from all the eyes and the noise.”
And while the development might still be in early stages, we know for sure something that won’t be happening in series three, with showrunner Jane Tranter revealing that the planned series two Lord Asriel episode, abandoned due to pandemic-related logistical issues, will not be revisited in the third season.
“If we were to ever look at that episode again, it would be a complete one-off special,” she told Entertainment Weekly. “I don’t know if, by the time we’ve done The Amber Spyglass, what the appetite would be for that the further away you move from The Subtle Knife. It’s very intwined with all the mythology of that world.
“It felt like a subtle way of answering all the questions the audience had about Cittàgazze, about spectres, about some of the mythology. So, I don’t know.”
In late December the BBC confirmed that His Dark Materials season three will be filmed in Cardiff in 2021.
“We are working on six out of the eight scripts at the moment and have good outlines for seven and eight, and it’s just very, very exciting,” Tranter said.
“I have to say, Amber Spyglass is my favourite out of the three novels.”
But when will His Dark Materials season three come out, what will happen and which cast will be returning? Find out everything you need to know below.
His Dark Materials season 3 release date
The BBC confirmed that His Dark Materials will be returning for a third season, with The Amber Spyglass forming the foundation of the narrative, scheduled to film in Cardiff in 2021.
“I’m currently rewriting it,” Jack Thorne told the Guardian in early December.
“We’re pushing ahead with the scripts because we need to be ready to film next summer.”
Meanwhile, Tranter has suggested it could film “next Spring, early summer”– and given this timeline and how long it took to shoot the first two seasons, it seems likely that His Dark Materials could take a year off in 2021, before returning to the BBC in autumn 2022.
On the other hand, if the team were able to shoot quickly it’s certainly possible the series could be back for winter 2021, without having to miss a year.
It also seems likely season three will stick to having eight episodes, even though executive producer Jane Tranter had previously angled for a series four to properly tell the whole story.
“I wanted to split it in two, but we’re doing it in one,” Tranter told Deadline. “You can’t always have what you want.
“The Amber Spyglass is quite right adapted into eight episodes and I will fully and humbly admit I was completely wrong.”
His Dark Materials season 3 cast
Series regulars Dafne Keen and Amir Wilson look set to continue their lead roles as Lyra and Will, along with Ruth Wilson’s Mrs Coulter, Simone Kirby’s Mary Malone, Ruta Gedmintas’ Serafina Pekkala and Will Keen’s Father (or rather, Cardinal) MacPhail.
“She goes on a great journey in season three,” Wilson said of her villainous character. “I can’t wait to get back into Mrs Coulter’s boots.”
James McAvoy is also expected to return as Lord Asriel after being largely absent from season two (barring a surprise cameo in the final episode), with his character playing a larger role in the book the next season is based on. Similarly, Joe Tandberg’s bear-king Iorek Byrnison will probably return for a larger part after sitting out most of season two.
The season two finale also hints at a return for season one star Lewin Lloyd (who played Lyra’s friend Roger) despite the character’s death.
Sadly, series regulars Lin-Manuel Miranda, Ariyon Bakare and Andrew Scott will presumably not return following each of their character’s deaths in season two – though Roger’s comeback does hint that death isn’t always the end in the world of His Dark Materials.
Currently, new castings or characters have yet to be announced, though The Amber Spyglass does introduce some key new characters (including several voice roles) that will need to be introduced.
His Dark Materials season 3 plot
We already have a pretty good idea of what happens in His Dark Materials season three, as it’s adapted from a book that’s been out for decades.
In The Amber Spyglass we see Lord Asriel’s war against religious tyranny (and the leading figure The Authority at the head of it) escalate, pulling in creatures and forces from different worlds and even calling some angels to his side.
Meanwhile, Lyra is captured by Mrs Coulter while Will searches for her (accompanied by two angels who want to bring him to Asriel), and Mary Malone steps into a new world to learn more about Dust from creatures called the Mulefa, where she’s pursued by a Magisterium assassin.
Will and Lyra eventually reunite to head to the Land of the Dead to seek out Roger, while Mrs Coulter joins forces with Asriel to battle the angels, and the whole thing culminates in a huge spectacle as the forces of the heavens and the earth clash, leading to one final tragedy (which we won’t spoil here).
All in all, it looks set to be a massive series, and executive producer and production designer Joel Collins says the team are relishing the challenge.
“It’s all complicated, but I utterly have an idea of the Mulefa and what their world is, Asriel’s Republic [of Heaven] is an amazing place,” Collins exclusively told RadioTimes.com.
“We obviously go to the land of the dead, and what an exciting thing to think about and journey through. It’s literally a huge, complicated and brilliantly fun puzzle. I’ve got loads of ideas.”
And Jane Tranter has confirmed that fans can expect to see lots more of the angels, who appeared briefly in the second season, telling Entertainment Weekly that they “are a very, very significant presence” in the third run.
“We trail them [in season 2] so that they are a forthcoming attraction,” she explained.
His Dark Materials season 3 filming
The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has affected TV production around the world, with His Dark Materials season two luckily dodging major delays thanks to early filming in late 2019.
However, Tranter and the team say that they’re already working out how to work around the pandemic when filming returns.
“I think it will be easier next spring/summer than it is now,” she said.
“We’re very blessed that we have Wolf Studios to film season three in. And so I think we’ll be able to do that mix of filming in a studio and visual effects work, maybe filming on location but doing builds on location.
“Oh, there’s the most amazing location for Mrs Coulter in the first couple of episodes, which I can’t talk about but it’s just amazing. So I think we’ll do a mix of building in remote places on location and building in the studio.”
Is there a trailer for His Dark Materials season 3?
Given that the series hasn’t even filmed yet, it’s no surprise that the BBC haven’t managed to create a trailer yet – but we’ll update this page when the teasers start to arrive.
Read more about the His Dark Materials cast, James McAvoy’s cut episode, the His Dark Materials release schedule and the His Dark Materials age rating, plus find out where His Dark Materials is filmed, including the scenes set in Cittàgazze. And why not look at our latest His Dark Materials review?