His Dark Materials' Dafne Keen Explains Lasting Impact Of Lyra's Heartbreaking Loss, Plus Kit Connor's Role

Dafne Keen looking sad as Lyra in His Dark Materials Season 3
(Image credit: HBO)

Warning: MAJOR SPOILERS are ahead for Episode 3 (“The Intention Craft”) and Episode 4 (“Lyra and Her Death”) of His Dark Materials’ third season.

His Dark Materials has officially hit the halfway point of the third and final season, and Lyra and Will’s mission to find Roger in the land of the dead has already cost them dearly. Even after getting a win in persuading Iorek to repair the all-important subtle knife in “The Intention Craft,” the price to cross to the land of the dead was separation from their daemons, which meant leaving Pantalaimon on the shore and Will losing something he didn’t even know he had. Dafne Keen, who plays Lyra, spoke with CinemaBlend about how this loss will continue to affect them, and the impact of Kit Connor’s performance as Pan.

How Lyra Lost Pantalaimon

But let's start with what happened! Perhaps even fans who haven’t read Philip Pullman’s The Amber Spyglass before the adaptation could have guessed that something tragic would happen in an episode called “Lyra and Her Death,” but meeting her death ultimately wasn’t what caused the immeasurable pain. Lyra and Will learned from the boatman who was the only means of getting to the land of the dead that daemons could not cross, and Lyra had to say a heartbreaking goodbye to Pan (voiced by Heartstopper’s Kit Connor) while Will tried to convince the boatman to break the rules. 

Despite Pan desperately trying to talk her out of it, Lyra tearfully went onto the boat with Will… and without her daemon. The episode ended with Lyra screaming in agony about her heart as they were separated, Pan standing at the edge of the dock while she crumpled into Will’s arms. Fans have seen what can happen when people from Lyra’s world are forcibly cut from their daemons; she still seemed aware of her surroundings even while she was in pain, but that doesn't mean she won't be changed.

Dafne Keen Shares Thoughts On Lyra's Decision And Working With Kit Connor

So, moving ahead into the second half of the season with an exciting two episodes per week, how will losing that bond with Pan affect Lyra in the land of the dead? And how will Will be affected, since the boatman said he’d lose something as well, even without a visible daemon like Lyra's? Is this a pain they’ll continue to deal with, or move past the initial pain like ripping off a bandage? Dafne Keen weighed in:

The idea is that they feel the separation the entire time until they're reunited again. They can feel the pull. It was a very, very fun scene to do. I got to do it alongside Kit Connor, who's a brilliant, brilliant actor, so it was a huge honor. Lovely guy as well. Really lovely guy.

While the split between Pan and Lyra certainly wasn’t fun for either of the characters, Dafne Keen revealed that it was a “very, very fun” scene for her as an actress. Viewers can evidently expect to keep seeing the effects of the separation on Lyra, and feeling a pull may be the last thing that she needs while in the land of the dead. Interestingly, “Lyra and Her Death” gave Keen the opportunity to actually work with Kit Connor for the first time.

Connor has been voicing Pantalaimon from the very beginning, before he became a big streaming name due to Netflix’s Heartstopper, which has been renewed for Season 2. That said, prior to Season 3 and the scene of Lyra and Pan being split, the actor was never actually on set to work with Dafne Keen. She confirmed that it was a first, and explained how his on-set performance affected her in the pivotal scene: 

It was really really helpful, actually… [Many times] they were like 'We're gonna bring Kit on set,' and they never brought Kit on set… I went to the producers and I was like, 'If Kit isn't in this day, I don't know what I'll do with myself. I'll probably do a really bad scene.’

I think fans can agree that she definitely didn’t do a bad scene in the break between Lyra and Pantalaimon. Even though Kit Connor didn’t appear on screen as Pan, his voice performance was heartbreaking as Lyra’s daemon had to deal with the sense of betrayal that she was willingly leaving him with no guarantee of a return. 

At this point, it’s almost hard to imagine what their reunion could be like, assuming Pan even believes it could happen. Nobody other Lyra and Will themselves seem at all confident that they’ll return from the land of the dead. Readers of The Amber Spyglass have an idea of what’s next after the split, although the show already made changes to a traumatic event for Will, so nothing is guaranteed.

Of course, Lyra being split from Pan (and however the journey will affect Will) is only part of the larger conflict of Season 3, with Asriel getting ready to start a war with the Authority and the relationship with Mrs. Coulter only getting more complicated. Still, there’s a reason why the executive producers wanted to wait until Dafne Keen and Amir Wilson were older for some more “adult” stories for Lyra and Will, so be sure to keep tuning in! 

His Dark Materials returns with two new episodes on Monday, December 19 at 9 p.m. ET, with the entire series so far available streaming with an HBO Max subscription

Laura Hurley
Senior Content Producer

Laura turned a lifelong love of television into a valid reason to write and think about TV on a daily basis. She's not a doctor, lawyer, or detective, but watches a lot of them in primetime. CinemaBlend's resident expert and interviewer for One Chicago, the galaxy far, far away, and a variety of other primetime television. Will not time travel and can cite multiple TV shows to explain why. She does, however, want to believe that she can sneak references to The X-Files into daily conversation (and author bios).