‘His Dark Materials’ Season 2 Finale ‘Æsahættr’ Recap: The Mother Of All
BY Stephanie Larson
Published 2 years ago
Farewell to heroes and old friends.
Each book of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy ends in a heartwrenching tragedy. And although this might be the only thing we didn’t want the HBO series to be loyal to, it must be done. In this season 2 finale of His Dark Materials, we’re saying goodbye to old and new friends, a few more of the first casualties of the building war.
As all the players in the game present in Cittagazze draw closer to each other, they are forced to choose sides, take on enormous responsibilities, and face the final obstacles to their journey. The witch queen Ruta Skadi (Jade Anouka) discovers the only weapon that can help Lord Asriel (James McAvoy) win the war against the Authority and solidifies her allegiance to him. Meanwhile, Mrs. Coulter (Ruth Wilson) discovers Lyra’s true identity and decides what she must do to protect her daughter. Last but not least, Lee (Lin-Manuel Miranda) and Jopari (Andrew Scott) are forced to run for their lives as the soldiers of the last airship chase after them as they race to find the knife bearer and Lyra (Dafne Keen).
Now, without further ado, let’s get into the events of His Dark Materials “Æsahættr.”
This Is Our Journey Now
The night after the spectres almost claimed one of the witches, Will (Amir Wilson) finally let his tough act down around Pan and admits that he was afraid. In response, Pan tells him that Lyra can’t see that fear and that she regards him as one of the bravest warriors she knows in the rank of Iorek Byrnison. Coincidentally, that’s how Will sees Lyra too. And amidst all these dangers, both of them have found best friends in each other.
After the attack, however, Will thinks it’s best for them to continue on their own, without the witch’s protection. The witches are vulnerable to the spectres and they need to find his father fast. Lyra is hesitant, afraid that she’ll disappoint Will like she disappointed Roger. However, Will won’t budge and recognizes that from that point on, it’s their journey forward.
Meanwhile, in another corner of the mountains, Mary (Simone Kirby) successfully gets Angelica (Bella Ramsay) and Paola (Ella Schrey-Yeats) to the camp of the adults. And there, they part ways with Mary relying on her I-Ching to guide her way.
Taking Up Responsibilities
On the other hand, on her way to Lord Asriel, Ruta Skadi overhears some cliff ghasts talking about the war Lord Asriel is planning to wage on heaven and on the Authority himself. While there have been wars like this in the past, the cliff ghasts, who have lived through it, wager that this one is even bigger.
Asriel’s army is growing bigger and bigger with creatures from all other worlds who are growing angry at the injustices committed by the agents of the Authority joining the cause. Unfortunately, despite their growing numbers, Asriel will still lose without one weapon: the Æsahættr, or what they don’t realize yet is the subtle knife that Will holds.
Ruta takes back this information with her to Serafina Pekkala (Ruta Gedmintas) and urges her sister witch queen to join her in uniting the witch clans to pledge allegiance to Asriel’s cause. However, Serafina is firm on her duties: to protect Lyra. She does, however, give her blessing and good wishes to Ruta before she takes off.
The Original Sinner
Later on, Serafina sends two of her witches to scout the spectres’ locations, Reina (Sasha Frost) to the forest and Lena (Remmie Milner) to the city. Down in Cittagazze, Lena stumbles upon Mrs. Coulter clutching Lyra’s old coat close to her back in their old hideout. Not realizing who she is, she warns her of the spectres. But Mrs. Coulter only responds by asking her where Lyra is.
Once Lena realizes who she is, she immediately lies. But it’s too late. Mrs. Coulter and her golden monkey pounce on them at the same time. As the monkey holds down the witch’s daemon, Mrs. Coulter pins the witch to the barrister, forcing her to watch as the monkey dangles her daemon in front of the spectres.
In her terror, the witch finally tells Mrs. Coulter about their prophecy of Lyra’s true identity. It’s the same one the Magisterium uncovered last week which sent them on a manhunt for the girl as well.
Lyra is Eve, the mother of all.
After killing the witch though, Mrs. Coulter realizes, Lyra is Eve before the fall. Her story has yet to be completed. This revelation clears up why Lyra is so important to the witches and why the dark particles gave Mary the title of The Serpent, the one who tempted the original Eve to eat of the apple and open humanity’s eyes to the truths around them.
As her daughter’s role becomes clearer to Mrs. Coulter, she makes a decision to protect her child at all costs even if it means going against the Magisterium. She must prevent the fall. And even when her daemon is fearful, she steels her resolve and convinces them both that they must do everything to protect Lyra. With that, she calls on the spectres to help her locate her daughter.
Giving Up The Skies
On the other hand, Lee and John Parry/ Jopari safely made it to the ground. As Lee wistfully stares at his fallen balloon, he says, “I’m no longer an aeronaut.” Unfortunately, their safety is only for but a moment. The soldiers from the last airship they didn’t manage to blow up are hot on their heels. And soon, they were running away from a volley of bullets.
In that first attack, a bullet got Lee on the ankle and although he can still run, he and Parry knew that running was hopeless. One of them needed to stay and hold off the soldiers while the other escaped. Parry immediately volunteers but Lee had already made up his mind. He was a better shot and he had more chances of holding them off.
Before Parry leaves, Lee makes him promise one thing: Make sure Lyra is protected by the knife and its bearer. “I love that girl like a daughter,” he tells Parry. Solemnly, Parry promises and tells Lee he is a good man. With one last handshake of agreement, the two part ways.
Sure enough, Lee holds his ground quite well, picking off one soldier after another with only 30 bullets left at his disposal with Hester’s help. Unfortunately, there were just too many soldiers even for a marksman as good as him. First, a bullet grazed his scalp then next, one hit him on his shoulder. Weakened, both he and Hester lay on the ground when suddenly, Hester remembers the cloud pine Serafina gave Lee in case he needed help. Holding it in his hands, Lee utters a short call to her.
Farewell to the Man of the Skies
When Lee called, Serafina and the others were in the midst of their journey. Serafina immediately senses Lee’s presence nearby and she knows he is in big trouble. She’s hesitant to leave Lyra, however, fearing for her safety. But Lyra assures her. It’s Lee Scoresby, the man and friend who was even more of a father to her, albeit in a very short amount of time, than her own father was. Where he was concerned, Lyra was ready to help in any way she can. So, Serafina flies off.
At that moment, however, Lee picks up his gun again. He’s going to fight as long as he could because as he told Hester, it wasn’t “us or them.” It was “Lyra or them.” While he never had a family of his own, Lee felt the love of one with Lyra. In the books, when he met Serafina Pekkala and Ruta Skadi, he vowed to them that he would care for Lyra as a parent would if they ever were reunited noting that Lyra drew the bad luck of the lottery when it came to her own biological parents. This is part of the reason Serafina Pekkla trusted him so much.
In a way, this is how he and Mrs. Coulter are also alike more than their tortured pasts. They found the kind of love they never felt anywhere else with the child. And they have vowed to do everything in their power to protect her.
At that moment, when the bullet that ends his life finally finds its way to Lee’s chest, all he and Hester could think of were that they were helping Lyra live on. As Hester uses the last of her strength to crawl closer to Lee, she tells Lee that they held the soldiers off. “We held out,” she whimpers as if for assurance. With her last words, she tells Lee, “We’re a helpin’ Lyra.”
Sadly, Serafina arrives just a few seconds later.
A Father’s Sacrifice
Meanwhile, Parry makes it out safely and nears where Will and the others were. On the other hand, fueled by visions of his father in his dreams, Will wanders away from the camp to look on his own. They meet on a path and at first, they don’t recognize each other. But as they come closer, the father and son finally realize who the other is.
While Parry is overjoyed at seeing his son, Will demands answers. And his father explains to him that after failing to find a way back, he stumbled upon knowledge that could help people and he realized, in turn, could help Will. With that knowledge though came the awareness of his duty to tell the knife bearer of his duties.
So as much as they want to continue their teary reunion, Parry tells his son that he needs to help Asriel win the war. It’s fate and the fate of all the world’s rest on him as the knife bearer. But Will immediately rejects it. He doesn’t want the responsibility and he doesn’t think he’s strong enough. His father assures him, however, that they were brought to that world for a reason.
As much as he laments not being there for his son, Parry also sees that Will has become his own person, a warrior, all on his own. And even without saying it, he’s proud of his son. At last, Will slowly seemingly accepts his role.
Suddenly though, a lone surviving soldier that has followed Parry appears on the path. He raises his gun and though Parry’s daemon warns him, she’s a little too late. Parry puts his arm around Will and spins him, taking the bullet for his son as his daemon snaps the soldier’s daemon’s neck.
As Parry lay dying, he takes a last look at Will and tells him that the angels will guide him now.
Later on, as Will leaves, he takes his father’s jacket with him.
A Mother’s Protection
Meanwhile, Mrs. Coulter arrives at Lyra’s camp. With the help of the spectres, she takes out the guard witch and kidnaps Lyra. The next time we see them, they’re sailing across the ocean with Lyra and Pan sleeping deeply in a box.
In another world, Asriel continues to gather his forces. “I fight for freedom of knowledge and in place of deceit, intolerance, and prejudice, I fight for the possibilities of understanding, truth, and acceptance,” he announces to the angels he is trying to sway for his cause. “Let us be united in heart, soul, and deed and together we can build a republic of heaven above and a republic of ideas below, worlds in which the scars of history can be healed, better worlds where the privilege of freedom becomes the right of all peoples.”
Suddenly, out of the brightness of the skies, the angels appear, featureless but powerful. “We stand with you Asriel Belacqua.”
‘His Dark Materials’ Season 2 Finale Overall Verdict
Much like the first season finale of His Dark Materials, this series finale is not lacking in heartwrenching and tear-jerking moments of sacrifice and reunions. And while those who have read the books have been looking forward to Lee’s death ever since this season began, it doesn’t make it any less painful.
Ever since he first appeared, it was obvious Lin-Manuel Miranda’s character had so much of the soul of the show. He was a shining light in every scene he appeared in and I wish we saw more of him. What breaks my heart more is the what-if of his tragic demise. If he survived until the end, if he reunited with Lyra, could they have been a family? Lyra deserves a father like him.
Then, there’s Will and John Parry, separated for so long and reunited only to be ripped away from each other again, permanently. Will’s unstoppable tears even while he’s angry at his father was enough to bottle up just how painful the entire thing is.
On the other hand though, we wouldn’t be calling this entire season of His Dark Materials magnificent without those. From the streets of Jordan college to the icy planes of Bolvangar and now to Cittagazze, His Dark Materials have not yet failed us and the books. It has honored Pullman’s worlds and tales and the fans every step of the way and that is a rare feat to achieve.
It instills excitement, awe, and wonder but it doesn’t just stop there. Much like what its characters are fighting for, it also stimulates thought because, at the end of the day, the books and the show do mirror our world in a lot of ways.
Much like the first, this second finale in the His Dark Materials series promises something greater. Now, we’re absolutely confident that it will deliver. For now, however, we’ll have to keep counting the days until daemons, angels, mulefa, and other worlds come to trap us again in wonder.