His Dark Materials: 2.07 Æsahættr
His Dark Materials delivered its strongest episode yet; reunions, revelations and several shocking deaths saw the show deliver on its potential as the impending war with the Authority begun to unfold. Æsahættr brought about some sweeping change to the format, not least in breaking Will and Lyra up thanks to the actions of her mother Mrs Coulter, who was on full-on villain mode this week.
Lyra, it seems, is Eve, the person who will bring about the end of destiny and restore free will. Meanwhile, Will is poised to a big player in a war with the Authority, while Asriel made a brief appearance (his solo episode cut due to the Covid-19 pandemic), allying himself with the angels after they answered his call. The stakes for the third season are certainly high; while not officially greenlit, script are underway for an adaptation of The Amber Spyglass, which will see the war unfold. I certainly hope that third series of His Dark Materials happens after the two series of epic world building.
With her ability to control the spectres, Coulter was a dangerous rogue presence this week; the cold ruthlessness in which she used her demon to attack the witch's demon in the Cittàgazze, before feeding it to the spectre saw just how powerful she had become. Using the spectres, she quickly closed in on Lyra's path, using the monsters to kill a second witch before kidnapping her. I'm not sure locking Lyra in a box is going to win her best mother of the year, but it in taking her daughter out of the equation, Coulter seems to be protecting her, in her own way. Ruth Wilson sold every moment.
There were two major deaths in this episode (and a warning of big spoilers from here on). The last stand against the Magesterium soldiers was tense and emotional, bringing to an end Lin-Manuel Miranda's time on the show. Lee Scoresby certainly proved his work, taking out a number of soldiers before he succumbed to his own wounds. It was a brutal sequence, Lee getting struck several times as he fought off the enemy to give John Parry enough time to reach the knife bearer. His death was certainly emotional, a final last moment to reminisce with his demon Hester before she faded before his eyes.
Lee's death was tragic in many ways. Not only did Serafina heed his call too late, arriving to find his dead body in the woods, but he made his last stand to get John a chance to escape. John's reunion with Will was cut tragically short; there was enough time for John to stress the importance of Will's destiny as bearer, and for Will to process that his father was in fact alive, before a Magisterium soldier cut their reunion short. John dying to save Will was noble, though I have to wonder what his purpose was. He was never really able to impart the knowledge as mentor he was supposed to give. While I appreciate the irony that John's didn't followed his predestined path, he didn't make that much of an impact overall. I presume this narrative was the same as Phillip Pullman's book, but it feels like a storyline that won't make that much of an impact to Will's journey moving forward.
After holding much promise in her early episodes, it still feels as if Mary's role is still yet to be fully defined. We left her heading into the mountains in search of answers; I expect her path will converge with Asriel's in season three, but it hasn't really gone anywhere since she made contact with the angels a few weeks ago.
Æsahættr was a strong finale that delivered plenty of shocks and twists. It also looked stunning; the forested mountain location above the Cittàgazze made for a beautiful, epic set piece for these dramatic events to unfold. The teases of Lyra's prophesised purpose and upcoming war with the Authority promises a thrilling third (and presumably) final series, which is likely to commence filming next year, while that post-credit tease is certainly interesting. Just where are Lyra and Coulter going? There were a few too many loose ends to make it the perfect finale, but it was certainly a strong conclusion to the second series. It will be a long wait now for His Dark Materials series three...