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How His Dark Materials changed this crucial character death

One key figure from the BBC fantasy series had a slightly different exit in the original Philip Pullman novels. *Contains spoilers*

His Dark Materials season 2
Published: Sunday, 20th December 2020 at 7:51 pm

The His Dark Materials season two finale was full of action, tragedy and shocking reveals, with more than one character meeting their maker as our heroes clashed with Spectres and the Magisterium.


However, one character death in the BBC fantasy drama was subtly but crucially changed from author Philip Pullman’s original text, casting a very different sheen on their exit from the story.

Read below to find out exactly what the TV adaptation changed and how, but beware – if you haven’t seen the His Dark Materials season two finale yet, look away now…

Of course, His Dark Materials has seen quite a few main characters die recently, with Ariyon Bakare’s villainous Lord Boreal poisoned last week while the heroic Lee Scoresby (Lin-Manuel Miranda) fell in a desperate shoot-out with Magisterium forces in the finale.

While sad, both these deaths unfolded more or less as Pullman tells them on the page of The Subtle Knife (the second book in the His Dark Materials trilogy, upon which season two is largely based) – but that isn’t the case for the subsequent death of Andrew Scott’s Jopari, aka John Parry, shaman and errant father to Amir Wilson’s Will.

John Parry
Andrew Scott in His Dark Materials season 2 (BBC)

In the books, Will and Jopari meet in the dark, with the latter realising that this is the knifebearer he’s been looking for. After a brief conversation within which Parry Sr. heals his son's fingers, the pair only just begin to realise who they are to each other… moments before Jopari is slain by a passing witch called Juta Kamainen, who had sworn to kill him after he rejected her romantic advances years before.

It’s a tragic end to what could have been a happy reunion – which might be why the TV adaptation does it differently. In the His Dark Materials season two finale Jopari and Will actually realise their connection almost immediately (helped by the scene taking place during daytime), allowing for a longer conversation about Jopari’s failings and their time apart.

“It’s really you. I thought you were dead,” Will tells his father. “Why didn’t you come back to us?”

Forced to account for his abandonment of Will and his unwell mother, Jopari explains that he was looking for “an end to tyranny,” that would benefit Will – but his son is having none of it.

“You chose these people over your family?” he asks.

His Dark Materials
Andrew Scott as Jopari and Amir Wilson as Will in His Dark Materials (BBC)

Generally, it’s a much longer and more in-depth exchange than the pair manage to have in the book, topped off by Jopari informing Will properly of his mission – to take the subtle knife to Lord Asriel (James McAvoy) and finally defeat the Authority (sort of His Dark Materials’ version of God) with it.

“If you’re the knifebearer, you have a task ahead of you,” Jopari says. “The fate of many worlds may rest on you.”

“There’s a war coming Will, the greatest war that ever was.”

He adds: “You’re a warrior, Will. You’re a warrior,” before agreeing that after this mission is over, the pair can finally “go home” for good. Time to cue up a deadly tragedy, we think… but even this is changed somewhat for the screen.

Instead of a vengeful witch, it’s actually a rogue Magisterium sniper who finally wings Jopari (shortly before Jopari's daemon Sayan Kötör takes the sniper out), allowing the unlucky shaman one final moment with Will before his daemon fades away.

John Parry
Andrew Scott as Jopari in His Dark Materials (BBC)

“The night is full of angels,” he says. “They will guide you now.”

Apart from being pretty cool last words, this statement also hints at what’s next for Will in His Dark Materials season three – but we won’t get into all that right now.

Instead, we’ll just note that in an adaptation known for adding and extending its source material rather than changing it outright, the death of Jopari is one of the most significant alterations in the finale. While we lose a little of the brutal tragedy of Will and his father coming so close without properly connecting, the TV version hammers home the loss and abandonment Will has faced, and the struggles he has ahead of him.

Though who knows? In a story of magic, talking bears and parallel worlds, it’s certainly possible Jopari hasn’t quite finished imparting wisdom to his son just yet.


His Dark Materials season two is now streaming on BBC iPlayer. Want something else to watch? Check out our full TV Guide.


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