His Dark Materials Season 3 Will Differ From The Books In One Important Way

HBO's "His Dark Materials" TV show was mostly faithful to Philip Pullman's original novel trilogy in its first two seasons, focusing on Lyra (Dafne Keen) and Will (Amir Wilson) as the two young heroes from, quite literally, different worlds, as they began to uncover the truth about their respective fates as the prophesied child and the wielder of The Subtle Knife. Season 2 also saw Lyra's mother, Marisa Coulter (Ruth Wilson), continue to doggedly pursue her daughter, even as Lyra's father, Lord Asriel (James McAvoy), bumbled about doing goodness-knows-what before recruiting some renegade angels to aid him in his war against the Authority.

With so much of Marisa and Asriel's doomed romantic relationship and conspiring having either transpired off-screen or been relegated to little more than expository dialogue, it's left us as viewers eager to see more of Lyra's deeply flawed yet equally compelling parents in person (and not just because they're both very hot, though I won't deny that it helps). Initially, head writer Jack Thorne intended to address this by including an extra episode in season 2 — one not based on any previously-written material by Pullman — focused on Asriel and revealing what he'd been up to during Lyra and Will's adventures in Cittàgazze. Alas, the pandemic led to the episode being abandoned, leaving us to only imagine what went down instead.

Thankfully, season 3 (which adapts the third and final book in Pullman's trilogy, "The Amber Spyglass") hopes to remedy this by actually showing us what both Marisa and Asriel get up to when they're away from Lyra. This will also mark an important change from its source material, which follows the first two "His Dark Materials" novels in mostly alluding to Lyra's parents' machinations whenever she's either not around or not in their immediate crosshairs.

Making good on the promises of earlier seasons

Season 3, on the off-chance you couldn't tell from its trailer, is by far the most ambitious outing for "His Dark Materials" yet. That's only befitting of the series' final season, given that it sees Marisa and Asriel waging war on, essentially, God, with their daughter and Will caught up in the middle of a worlds-spanning battle involving angels, witches, and talking polar bears (not to mention ghosts of some kind). "We had to make good on all the promises of season 1 and season 2 and show the stuff that Coulter and Asriel do," McAvoy told Entertainment Weekly. Specifically, he means obeying the classic rule of visual storytelling ("Show, don't tell"):

"In the books, you don't really see it. You're told about it a little bit or in hindsight 'hey, there are other things happening over there in the Republic of Heaven with Asriel,' and we had to show a lot more of it. And it was just about making sure that we were still true to who he is and his drives and his impulses and his objectives still bear the actions of what we end up choosing to create in season 3."

Trying to live up to (much less exceed) Pullman's writing is no small task, but McAvoy seems confident the show can do it. "You're gonna be held up against his invention, held up against his creation and his imagination and his penetration of themes and ideas. And that's a very high bar that I think we all were collectively aware of," he added. Again, it certainly helps that the actor's silver-streaks are working wonders for him in the glimpses we've gotten of Asriel so far.

"His Dark Materials" season 3 premieres on HBO on December 5, 2022.