His Dark Materials Stars James McAvoy And Ruth Wilson Open Up About Asriel And Mrs. Coulter's Complicated Relationship

War is coming to His Dark Materials in the third and final season with Lord Asriel amassing his forces to fight the Authority, while Mrs. Coulter was last seen going on the run after kidnapping her daughter. While Asriel and Mrs. Coulter haven’t actually shared any scenes since the end of Season 1, the two characters are linked as Lyra’s parents who may or may not still love each other. Now, with Season 3 premiering in less than a week, stars James McAvoy and Ruth Wilson opened up about Asriel and Mrs. Coulter's complicated relationship in HBO’s adaptation of Philip Pullman’s The Amber Spyglass

McAvoy and Wilson (as well as young stars Dafne Keen and Amir Wilson) spoke with CinemaBlend about their characters’ priorities in the final season. McAvoy cited “multiversal domination” as Asriel’s #1 goal when His Dark Materials returns, while Wilson shared that Mrs. Coulter’s goal is now to "keep hold” of Lyra, who has a knack for escaping. After noting that their characters' priorities aren’t exactly in sync, I asked the two actors if there is any common ground left for Asriel and Mrs. Coulter. Ruth Wilson immediately said that Lyra will “eventually” be their common ground, and James McAvoy elaborated:

Ruth [as Mrs. Coulter] spends a lot of time trying to convince [Asriel] of that, and I ain't buying it. Because I've got this lofty goal, this righteous goal, and I'm right to be following it and any means are justified in the pursuit of it. So forget the girl! When he realizes that the girl is everything, that's when he becomes a father. But she's been trying to tell him that the whole season.

After two seasons, the closest that His Dark Materials has come to portraying Asriel as a caring father was him preferring to murder Roger over Lyra in order to open the door to another world. Based on what the IT Chapter Two alum had to say, Asriel will still be focused on the war that he was ready to begin at the end of Season 2… to start, at least. 

Asriel still has time to step up and become a father in some way or other, and Lyra may need all the help she can get with multiple powerful people believing that she’s Eve. Ruth Wilson – whose character has tried to step up as a mother in her own twisted way – weighed in with her own thoughts:

I think it's also like, he will achieve his aim if he lets [Lyra] do it. Both of us have to let her do it, and get out of her way or support her, and... direct our efforts to supporting Lyra or protecting her. That's what the journey of the season is, really. Get out of the way of this destiny.

Mrs. Coulter’s focus has been on her daughter rather than anything multiversal from almost the beginning of the series, and for two seasons, that involved trying to hold onto Lyra (whether Lyra liked it or not) rather than getting out of her way.

The absentee Asriel, on the other hand, might finally have his interest in his daughter piqued if he discovers that her destiny is the one that truly matters. After agreeing with Ruth Wilson’s point, James McAvoy explained how Asriel’s belief in his own importance is going to be a problem:

I think the greatest barrier to doing that is our own personal egos. You've spent three seasons getting over yours, but you kind of come to Asriel in Season 3, and suddenly he's in the middle of fighting this war. And they say, 'Hey, you're not the Messiah, your kid is. So she's gonna do it.' And he's like, 'No, no, no, no, no!' [laughs]

If Asriel having a serious ego wasn’t clear by the end of the first season, could he really have made a grand speech to recruit angels to join his cause at the end of Season 2 if he didn’t fully believe in his own importance? McAvoy did previously say that “complete subservience of everybody” would be Asriel’s second priority after multiversal domination, after all! Maybe Mrs. Coulter would have been on board with Asriel’s ideas once upon a time, but Ruth Wilson previewed how Asriel’s ego will affect her character: 

I think it's only coming into action with [Asriel] that she really understands. It's like, 'Oh no, that's what we both were fighting for – power.' Both were wanting to be the center of the universe at some point, and actually, now I [as Mrs. Coulter] see clearly, that's not right anymore, because he's still on that journey and I'm slightly off it now. I think actually the combination of the two is really useful for both of them to sort of work out what their true purpose is.

All things considered, it seems that His Dark Materials fans should prepare themselves for a pretty intense final season! Executive producer Dan McCulloch already revealed how the show had to plan ahead to make Season 3 more “adult” for Dafne Keen and Amir Wilson as Lyra and Will. It remains to be seen whether the show will incorporate all of the most notable moments from The Amber Spyglass, but the wait is almost over. 

Season 3 of His Dark Materials will premiere on Monday, December 5 at 9 p.m. ET on HBO with the first of the final eight episodes. The season will end before the conclusion of the 2022 TV schedule as well, as fans can look forward to two episodes per week until the series finale on December 26. If you need a refresher on where Season 2 ended (or just want to revisit how the other two seasons adapted Philip Pullman’s books), you can do so 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).