Are you ready to go back to the Magisterium? The HBO/BBC adaptation of Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials returns for a second season later this year. On the His Dark Materials ComicCon@Home panel, cast members Dafne Keen (Lyra), Ruth Wilson (Mrs. Coulter), Ariyon Bakare (Lord Boreal), Amir Wilson (Will Parry), Andrew Scott (John Parry), and Lin-Manuel Miranda (Lee Scoresby), along with show executive producers Jane Tranter and Jack Thorne, shared some hints of what to expect in His Dark Materials Season 2 — which included a surprise casting announcement.
Based on the second book in the trilogy, The Subtle Knife, the second season will see everyone on the hunt for Lyra. Lee Scoresby’s looking to protect her; the Magisterium wants her secrets. Lyra’s even on the hunt to find herself again as she and Will Parry end up in Cittàgaze, without anything or anyone from their past lives. The panel also debuted a teaser trailer for the season, which featured a look at some new witches and Dr. Mary Malone. The teaser makes it clear: this is not going to be pretty.
While the cast members and writers were tight lipped about exactly what to expect, they shared some reflections with us about the first season and dropped some subtle Season 2 hints. For Dafne Keen’s Lyra, Season 2 will be all about trust. Keen explained that everything Lyra knew up to this point in her life is a lie, so she retreats back into herself and puts on her blinders. But over time, those blinders will come down and she rediscovers herself. And like mother, like daughter: Mrs. Coulter is also on that same journey, Ruth Wilson explained, and she’s finding her place as a woman in a very male-driven world.
Anytime a book is brought to screen production, its a question of whether the adaptation will properly honor the source book properly. For this adaptation, one of the trickiest aspects was introducing Will Parry in Season 1, according to the cast. That first season was based on the trilogy’s first book, but Will doesn’t make an appearance until the second. But moving up Will’s introduction served to inform audiences that there are multiple worlds, making his starring role in Season 2 easier to understand and appreciate. Fortunately, fans and Sir Philip Pullman loved that, as well as the overall vision that executive producers Jane Tranter and Jack Thorne brought to the screen. If anyone in the cast understands that bond between reader and book, it’s Lin-Manuel Miranda. He revealed that the trilogy was the first series he and wife Vanessa Nadal read together while dating.
The cast revealed that one person we will meet in the second season is Will Parry long-absent father, John Parry (Andrew Scott), the one who will introduce the titular knife that cuts between worlds. If you’re a Fleabag fan, that name should sound familiar. And you might be sweating under the collar a bit, since he was Fleabag’s iconic “hot priest” love interest. Scott revealed during the panel that Fleabag herself, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, will also voice Parry’s daemon (the manifestation of your soul outside your body). “It’s all about companionship and friendship and loyalty, and that’s what I feel about Phoebe in my real life,” Scott shared. Sounds like perfect casting to me. (It’s not clear what the daemon will look like, though in the books, Parry’s daemon is an osprey.)
All the episodes related to The Subtle Knife were filmed several months prior to the COVID-19 production shutdown, but according to Tranter, there was a standalone episode that just missed that cutoff. Written with Pullman’s blessing and input, the episode explored what happened to Asriel in the time between his entrance into the Anomaly and his appearance at the start of the third book, The Amber Spyglass. The shutdown “meant that we could continue post-production on the seven episodes that make up The Subtle Knife, and just put the Asriel standalone episode to one side and maybe in the future we can revisit it as a standalone,” Tranter shared. So though the season will be just one episode short for now, at least we know the cast and crew got to film the whole story they set out to tell.
The seven episode His Dark Materials Season 2 will debut on HBO and the BBC this fall.