The finale's final seconds glimpse a central location for season 3.

By Nick Romano
December 28, 2020 at 09:50 PM EST
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Credit: HBO

Warning: This article contains spoilers for the season 2 finale of His Dark Materials and Philip Pullman's The Amber Spyglass.

A voice emerges from the darkness. At first it's faint, difficult to make out. Then it becomes clear. "Lyra." A boy is calling out to Lyra Belacqua (Dafne Keen), the girl who traversed realities in pursuit of her father, Lord Asriel (James McAvoy). "Lyra." There's that voice again. Soon the black of the screen begins to lighten. It's blurry, as though a fog is lifting. And then, there he is.

"Lyra, help me!" Roger (Lewin Lloyd), Lyra's best friend from Oxford whom Asriel sacrificed in order to open a portal to the world housing Cittàgazze, appears. Lyra answers, "What is this place?" For viewers of His Dark Materials who haven't read the source material, they probably asked themselves the same question as this post-credits scene played out after the season 2 finale Monday on HBO. Those who have read the Dark Materials books, particularly the third installment of the trilogy, The Amber Spyglass, know the location well.

In the brief seconds we have with Roger, we get our first hazy glimpse at the world of the dead. It's yet another of the parallel worlds imagined in the story of Lyra and her daemon, Pan, and marks the place where ghosts go when their lives end.

The world of the dead is a central location in The Amber Spyglass, which will be adapted in the third season of the show, which set to start filming its final batch of eight episodes in the new year in Cardiff, Wales. When ghosts arrive, they are ferried over by a boatman in a very Hades manner to the Land of the Dead, which is ruled over by the Authority (i.e., God) and guarded by harpies. Souls — those include daemons — aren't allowed to enter the Land of the Dead.

"Everything was just as clear as in full daylight, but there was less light to see it by, as if all the strength were draining from a dying sun," Pullman describes the transition to this space in the book. "What was happening now was like that, but odder, because the edges of things were losing their definition as well as becoming blurred." The color, he adds, "was slowly seeping out of the world" until the sky became "as dark as if a mighty storm were threatening, but there was none of the electric tension that comes ahead of a storm."

Credit: Alex Bailey/HBO

Just as this material proved ripe for Pullman to explore further facets of his characters, so too is it proving for showrunner Jane Tranter and writer-executive producer Jack Thorne on the show. "Understanding how important daemon and human separations is a theme in Philip's work" was crucial to cracking the adaptation, Tranter tells EW. "We lean into that in episode 6 for sure," she says in reference to how Mrs. Coulter is able to move about Will's world while keeping her daemon at Boreal's house. "And we’re definitely leaning into that in our adaptation of The Amber Spyglass at the moment." As the narration in the post-credits scene confirms, Lyra arrives in the World of the Dead. In the novel, she and Pan are forced to separate as she crosses over. What it means for their connection has big implications that Pullman is still unpacking in his sequel book trilogy, The Book of Dust.

The Land of the Dead has also been turned into a prison by the Authority, whom Asriel is hell-bent on taking down. Prior to the post-credits scene, Asriel is seen making his case to the angels, who agree to join his cause in fighting a war against Heaven itself. Then there's the obvious implication of Roger's return on the show: Other characters who have died can still have a part to play in season 3. Lee Scoresby (Lin-Manuel Miranda) and John Parry (Andrew Scott) both met tragic ends in the finale episode.

In an interview with EW, Miranda agreed that there's potential for a Lee return in the World of the Dead, though he only recently found out His Dark Materials was renewed for season 3. "That's really exciting news and I'm glad they get to finish telling the story," he said. "The final scenes… No, I'm not gonna say that because it’s a spoiler. But, yeah, my answer is I serve at the pleasure of Bad Wolf Productions. If there’s a call for Lee in a corporeal or non-corporeal form, I would be there. My family would love to go back to Wales."

His Dark Materials has become more a companion piece to the original novels by turning the camera to focus on other characters and what they were doing beyond what was printed on the page. In that spirit, Roger's story, in season 1, was expanded to show what happened to the children after they were kidnapped and their journey to Bolvangar. Now, the boy, Thorne told RadioTimes in the U.K., "is so important for what comes next," perhaps a clue to a larger role for Roger moving forward.

In a previous interview with Thorne, timed to the season 1 finale, the writer told EW he always connected with Roger on a personal level. "If I'm anyone in these stories, I'm Roger," he said. "The moment I always think about is the moment in the Land of the Dead when Roger meets Will and just his face sinks because he realizes this girl that he's held a candle for very gently for a whole number of years has found someone better for her than he could've ever been. I love Roger for that. Roger was one of my projects in the show. In the books, he doesn't have too much to say. He's a character that Lyra thinks and talks about a lot, but he doesn't talk to him much. So, beefing Roger up and giving him a little bit more to say felt important in terms of that final [season 1] moment."

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