His Dark Materials: Why The Subtle Knife Is So Important In Season 2

his dark materials season 2 episode 3 will and lyra hbo
(Image credit: HBO)

Spoilers ahead for Episode 3 of His Dark Materials Season 2, called "Theft."

Season 2 of His Dark Materials is based on the second novel in Philip Pullman's book trilogy of the same name, but the adaptation of The Subtle Knife had yet to put much focus on the actual subtle knife before "Theft." Will dreamed about the knife in "Theft" and continues to be drawn to the Torre degli Angeli in Cittàgazze, and Boreal name-dropped the knife before the end of the episode. Fortunately, one star broke down why the knife is so important for Season 2.

Andrew Scott, who will have a prominent Season 2 role (and deliver a Fleabag reunion) as John Parry, shared the importance of the subtle knife in a BBC featurette, saying:

It’s a knife that was invented by philosophers hundreds of years ago. Essentially the power of the subtle knife is that it’s the one weapon in all of the worlds that can destroy anything. So that’s why it’s so important. And that’s why who bears the knife bears such an important role.

"Theft" ended with Boreal tasking Will and Lyra with retrieving the subtle knife from The Guild's Torre degli Angeli in Cittàgazze. A visit to the tower has seemed all but inevitable even without Philip Pullman's source material, as Will has been drawn to the building and even came to the conclusion that there's somebody in there, despite protests that there's no way.

Whoever is up there and possesses a knife that can destroy anything likely won't give it up without a fight. Throw in the mentions that Will is close to being grown-up enough for the Spectres, and any missions in Cittàgazze will be far from safe. For His Dark Materials fans who have read the books, the upcoming debut of the subtle knife has pretty significant implications.

Spoilers ahead for Philip Pullman's The Subtle Knife. In the books, the knife does more than just destroy anything. The blade is so fine that it can cut through the fabric between the worlds, and there are more than just the three that have been visited on the HBO show so far.

Will becomes the bearer of the subtle knife, but not without sustaining a bloody injury in the process. His Dark Materials has made some notable changes and additions to the books, so it's hard to say how exactly Will becoming master of the subtle knife will go down, but the trailer that released over the summer confirmed Will's injury in an unexpected way.

A brief moment in the BBC featurette, which released ahead of the second season premiere, gives a look at the upcoming tussle for the subtle knife, presumably in the tower:

his dark materials subtle knife gif will tower

Assuming the subtle knife of the show can cut through the fabric between worlds like it does in the books, it will be a game-changer for whoever holds it at a given time. Boreal is a formidable foe for Will and Lyra, and they don't know enough about the knife at this point for them to think twice about trading it for the alethiometer, but perhaps that will change once they make it to the tower. The show might not follow the books to the letter, so readers as well as viewers will have to wait and see. End book spoilers.

The next episode is called "Tower of the Angels," so my money is on Will and Lyra making their way into the tower and perhaps even getting (most of) their hands on the subtle knife by the time the credits roll next week. For now, you can look forward to new episodes of His Dark Materials releasing on Mondays at 9 p.m. ET on HBO. For some viewing options once Season 2 comes to an end, check out our 2021 winter and spring premiere schedule.

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).