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Spoilers ahead for the Season 1 finale of HBO's His Dark Materials and slight spoilers for events in Philip Pullman's The Subtle Knife novel.
The first season of His Dark Materials wrapped with an episode that seemingly closed the book on Lyra's stories with the bears, Lee, and Mrs. Coulter for the time being, but opened the story up to some exciting new directions thanks to two young heroes entering respective portals to reach the same parallel world. Will Parry will presumably soon join Lyra Silvertongue for the next stage of their adventures, and readers of Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy have an idea of what's in store as the plot moves into The Subtle Knife territory. But will one key plot point related to Will be left out?
Will is arguably the biggest variable when it comes to the adaptation at this point. In Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials book trilogy, he doesn't appear at all in Northern Lights/The Golden Compass, which started the whole series. He debuts in the second book: The Subtle Knife, and is a major character through to the end of The Amber Spyglass as the third and final book. His appearances in Season 1 of the HBO series mean that viewers won't have to accept a brand new character as a co-lead right off the bat in Season 2, and also lead me to wonder: will Will on the show manage to avoid the major injury he sustains in The Subtle Knife?
In The Subtle Knife, Will is tasked with tracking down a mysterious knife, but the effort to get his hands on it takes a toll on... well, his left hand. To be precise, the little and ring fingers of his left hand are cut off. The loss of these fingers are the "mark" that signify Will should be the next bearer of the knife, so the injury is pretty significant to the book, and Will does continue to face complications from the injury.
So, it would seem like there's no question about Season 2 cutting off poor Will's fingers, just as the struggle for the knife goes down on the pages of The Subtle Knife. The problem is that while Philip Pullman could remove a couple of his character's digits without any trouble, it's a little more complicated when it comes to screen adaptation. Practically-speaking, how would the HBO series go about selling Will injured for half the series? It's an injury that's both minor enough that Will can function but significant enough that readers might protest if it's cut.
Admittedly, His Dark Materials demonstrated some remarkable effects with everything ranging from the armored bears to the daemons to the dust, and it does air on the network that pulled off Game of Thrones' effects. That said, using TV magic to remove Will's fingers wouldn't be just a one-off move, unless Will keeps his left hand just out of frame for most of the series after the knife incident. The series would have to keep it up.
It would take a lot of work to take off two fingers; would HBO and His Dark Materials deem the work and even the cost to be worth remaining faithful to the source material? The Walking Dead ignored its source material chopping off Rick Grimes' hand for practical reasons, so it's not unimaginable that His Dark Materials would do the same. Then again, His Dark Materials could always chop off Will's fingers, cover his hand with a bulky bandage for an episode or two, and then have a witch magically give him some new ones.
At this point, we can only speculate as to whether the key book plot point of Will's injury will make it into the second season of His Dark Materials, which has already filmed. Hopefully the early renewal and filming means that the gap between seasons won't be nearly as long as those fans of other HBO series have had to deal with.
For now, you can rewatch His Dark Materials Season 1 on HBO NOW, delve into Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials book trilogy, and/or check out our 2020 winter and spring TV premiere schedule to figure out how to pass the time during the hiatus before Season 2. You could also watch the first attempt at adapting His Dark Materials for the screen, but there's a reason why The Golden Compass film was never followed up by The Subtle Knife and Amber Spyglass films.