His Dark Materials S3E5 & S3E6: Prophecy Fulfilled

“No Way Out” & “The Abyss”

His Dark Materials S3E6 - A bright light shines into a cave full of silhouetted people, as if a curtain has been drawn back to reveal the outside world

The following contains spoilers for His Dark Materials S3E5, “No Way Out” (written by Amelia Spencer and directed by Weronika Tofilska), and S3E6, “The Abyss” (written by Francesca Gardiner and directed by Amit Gupta).

Welcome back, dear reader, as we continue our coverage of the final season of His Dark Materials. Lyra and Will’s entrance into and exit from the Land of the Dead bookend the two episodes nicely. As part of that journey, we also get to see a lot of old friends: Roger (bloody) Parslow, Lee Scoresby, and John Parry. Several other major players make their permanent exit from the show: Commander Roke, Ruta Skadi, and Father MacPhail. Only two more episodes left in the entire series, and the whole second half of a prophecy yet remains.

Initially, when the HBO release schedule was first announced, it didn’t make a lot of sense. A lot of shows will dump a pair of episodes for the premier perhaps, but then transition to one episode a week through the finale. As Season 3 has played out however, these episode pairings make more and more sense. Culminating with Episodes 5 and 6, being the most strongly tied to each other in both story arcs and overall themes.

His Dark Materials S3E6 - An angry Iorek is face-to-face with Asriel on the ground and backed up into a pile of rocks
Iorek rips into Asriel, verbally


As Xaphania proclaims to Lord Asriel and Mrs. Coulter, the first part of the Prophecy is fulfilled: Lyra has defeated death. This is something Asriel boasted that he would accomplish back in Episode 1. Now, after multiple tongue lashings from all of Lyra’s former allies, he is finally coming around to seeing that Lyra is the point of the whole thing. She is to be their focus now, as Serafina directs.

Mrs. Coulter took a much more personal journey of self-reflection and growth spanning these two episodes. She very nearly manages to defeat the Magisterium, only to have her victory snatched away by a higher power. After that, she hits rock bottom, to the point of trying to commit suicide by witch. Instead of killing her, Serafina helps her see how she has been transformed by her love for Lyra. With that revelation, Mrs. Coulter reconciles with her daemon and is ready for action again when they find out Lyra is alive.

His Dark Materials S3E5 - Father MacPhail and Dr. Cooper are speaking face-to-face while Mrs. Coulter sits strapped to a metal chair in the background
MacPhail imparts final instructions to Dr. Cooper


These episodes are where author Philip Pullman takes off the kid gloves and lets religion really have it. In his retelling, a lot of the foundational stories of western religion are actually lies. Some of these are attributable to history being written by the victor, as in the Authority declaring himself the Creator and making the rebelling angels out to be the bad guys.

Other lies are completely fabricated stories, such as the promise of Heaven or Hell as humanity’s two possible destinations in the afterlife. As Asriel tells Mrs. Coulter, “The Authority cows us with the threat of heaven or hell. But even that was a lie. It’s all purgatory.” One of the dead trapped in that purgatory laments to Lyra, “When we were alive, they told us that when we died, we’d go to heaven. That’s why so many of us gave our lives and spent years in prayer and silence, while all the joy of life went to waste around us.”

Mrs. Coulter is also discovering another of the foundational lies of the Authority, the concept of Original Sin. She was taught by the Magisterium to believe that “Eve was guilty of something shameful.” Serafina corrects her that, “The Magisterium teach the Fall is the birth of sin because they fear the unknown. All Eve did was dare to experience. It’s an act of bravery. Of great beauty.”

His Dark Materials S3E6 - Mrs. Coulter reaches out her hand open-palmed to her golden monkey daemon
Mrs. Coulter reaches out to her daemon


While Lord Asriel and Mrs. Coulter are uncovering those lies, their daughter is discovering the power of story. True stories, that is. Lyra revives first Roger and then the rest of the dead with her stories about Jordan college and the adventures she had since leaving. Her stories—their stories as Roger and Lee join in—literally bring the color of life back into the pale ghosts.

The harpies also discover the power of story. True stories are nourishing. They feed the harpies in a way that lies and wickedness could not. They agree to allow the dead safe passage out of the Land of the Dead, in exchange for their true stories. “Liars cannot pass!” the newly named Gracious Wings declares. The harpy wants Lyra to get out so that she can tell the story of its name.

His Dark Materials S3E6 - Roger stands in the window to the outside world and looks back with a smirk on his face
“You’ve saved your best friend.”

Dust to Dust

Pullman has turned our understanding of traditional religion on its ear. He has set up a world in which angels are bad and daemons are good. The stories upon which religion is built—Original Sin, Heaven and Hell, and our separation from the universe in general—are lies. Lies that lead directly to the oppression of women and the abuse of children. However, Pullman has not closed the door entirely on religion, despite what one may initially suppose.

The Authority is only an angel. He came into being in a pre-existing universe and tricked his fellow angels into thinking he created it all. This then leaves room for a true Creator. The one who, it would appear, intended for humans to have the gift of Dust, and the free will it enables. In setting up the prison camp-like purgatory for dead humans, the Authority usurped that ordained natural order. Upon death, humans were supposed to drift apart and reconnect to everything living in the universe. “For dust you are and to dust you will return,” as it is written in Genesis. So perhaps it’s not all lies.

His Dark Materials S3E6 - Mary holds a flat disk of amber in her hands looking through it
Mary discovers amber

Quick Takes

A couple of quick takes on the rest of the episode:

  • Perhaps now that he has been properly, and repeatedly, abashed, Lord Asriel won’t be such a schmuck in these final two episodes. Nah.
  • John Parry warns Will “don’t try to live in a world that’s not your own,” laying down the foundation for a less than perfectly happy ending in the final two episodes.
  • Parry has directed Will’s daemon to Asriel’s new Republic. Serafina has sent her Kaisa out to find Lyra’s daemon Pan. Should be a lot of daemon-centric action next episode.
  • Will has spent all season believing he let down his father, when in fact he surpassed his father’s wildest expectations.
  • It looks like the paradise that Will’s cut opened up onto is the same world where Mary has been camping out with the mulefa.
  • I love how they showed the process of Mary learning the mulefa’s language through the subtitles, initially showing the words she could pick up here and there. Really well done.
  • Kind of funny seeing Father Gomez admonish Father President MacPhail for reaching out to touch another’s daemon when he himself was intimating to do the same thing to Fra Pavel’s daemon earlier in the season.
  • Lee falls back to try something to summon Jopari, and yet they end up ahead of Will and Lyra, waiting for them. Huh?
  • I think just about everybody cheered when Iorek knocked the overconfident Asriel on his butt.

Best lines of the episodes:

  • “What am I doing? I’m following a talking elephant.”
  • “I’ve told you I’m not eating your putrid food and if you try to force me, I’ll bite your fingers off.”
  • “Do I have to remind you to whom it is you answer?” “I answer to the Authority.”
  • “And the word is out, some crazy kid’s got a plan to break us out of here.”
  • “I’m going to be with my Hester.”
  • “She is everything you are not.”
  • “Love makes us fragile in ways we cannot fathom.”
  • “Could you tell us, please…Gracious Wings…are we going the right way?”
  • “Liars cannot pass!”
  • “I think you were wrong. I hate fighting. I’m not who you want me to be.” “No. No, you’re so much more.”
  • “It was you…all along.”
His Dark Materials S3E6 - Ogunwe holds Ruta as she stares out and grimaces in pain
Ruta Skadi cries out for her death

In The News

Here I try to point you to a few of the more interesting and informative news items over the last week related to His Dark Materials:

  • Collider has an interview with Dafne Keen (Lyra) and Amir Wilson (Will) discussing their thoughts looking back on the series now that it has wrapped up.
  • Collider also interviews executive producers Jane Tranter and Dan McCulloch along the same vein, but from a more behind-the-scenes perspective.
  • James McAvoy (Lord Asriel) and Ruth Wilson (Mrs. Coulter) have their turn at the post-season interview with Georgina Lara Booth on YouTube, which is a little more fun and raw, being able to see them talk and react in person.

That’s all for this week. Please let me know your thoughts and feelings about this week’s episodes, and any theories you have on what’s to come, in the comments below.

All images courtesy of HBO

Written by Brien Allen

Brien Allen is the last of the original crazy people who responded to this nutjob on Facebook wanting to start an online blog prior to Twin Peaks S3. Some of his other favorite shows have been Vr.5, Buffy, Lost, Stargate: Universe, The OA, and Counterpart. He's an OG BBSer, Trekkie, Blue Blaze Irregular, and former semi-professional improviser. He is also a staunch defender of putting two spaces after a period, but has been told to shut up and color.

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