Spoilers ahead for Episode 4 of His Dark Materials Season 2 on HBO, called "Tower of the Angels," and for Philip Pullman's book trilogy.
His Dark Materials finally delivered the event that the entire second season has been building toward with the battle for the all-important subtle knife. As any viewers who had read the Philip Pullman trilogy of novels already knew going into "Tower of the Angels," Will managed to defeat the boy who stole the knife bearer and become the new bearer, but not without losing a couple of fingers in the process. Lee Scoresby joined forces with Dr. Grumman, a.k.a. Will's dad John Parry, and Boreal crossed worlds with Mrs. Coulter to continue the search for Lyra. It was a great episode, but it left me wishing I hadn't read the books.
"Tower of the Angels" wasn't the first time this season that I found myself regretting my binge-read of The Golden Compass (covered in Season 1), The Subtle Knife (currently being covered in the shorter-than-expected Season 2), and The Amber Spyglass (to eventually be covered in Season 3), and it's actually mostly due to the dynamic between Lyra and Will, as one example. Their friendship is becoming the cornerstone of the season, especially now that Will has the subtle knife. Amir Wilson has joined Dafne Keen in the opening credits to share the top billing with her, and Will and Lyra are basically the hope in a series that can feel hopeless at its worst. Yay, right?
Not-so-yay if you've read the books and can't stop thinking about the endgame! Knowing that these two heroes are going to become incredibly close and then be ripped apart forever is adding some serious bitter to go with the sweet of their bonding scenes. Their nice moment on the bench last week? Foreshadowing their heartbreaking solo visits to the bench in each of their worlds. Pan reaching out to comfort Will this week, which is clearly not something usually done? Not actually a sign of a lifelong friendship in its early stages. Although Pan in the form of an adorable red panda really makes anything at least a little bit better.
Even seeing Lyra's incredibly close bond with Pan isn't as sweet as it could be if I didn't know what is probably in store for them when Season 3 starts telling the story of The Amber Spyglass. Admittedly, it's been 10+ years since I read The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass, so I can't claim to know every little thing that the show does the same or changes from the novels. And knowing that they're going to succeed and the heroes are going to win is an upside to watching the two leads forging their doomed friendship.
And the books are actually great. I've recommended them before and probably will again. In fact, I'm probably going to reread them once Season 2 comes to an end in a few weeks, because Philip Pullman did a remarkable job in building a fantasy world, and it's not like I can spoil myself any more than I already am.
I just think I'd enjoy the hopeful parts of His Dark Materials a lot more if I didn't know the tragedies on the way, so I can't help but regret what I already know as I watch the episodes. After all, the show can (and does) change details from the book, but I can't imagine that the iconic elements of the story won't happen on screen the way they did on the page.
Now that I've quite possibly rained on the parades of any who have both read the books and are watching the show, I will say that I'm looking forward to seeing the story of The Subtle Knife continue to unfold on His Dark Materials, both in the ways that it sticks to the events of the book and the ways that it departs. Be sure to check out HBO on Mondays at 9 p.m. ET for new episodes of His Dark Materials, and check out our 2021 winter and spring premiere schedule for what's on the way in the new year.