Warning: LOTS OF BOOK SPOILERS AHEAD for Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy.
His Dark Materials fans got some very good news from HBO with the announcement of a Season 3 renewal, which means that the ambitious series will be able to adapt all three books of Philip Pullman's novel trilogy. Season 1 covered the events of Pullman's The Golden Compass and Season 2 tackled The Subtle Knife, and only The Amber Spyglass has yet to make it from page to screen. The tricky part of the renewal is simply that The Amber Spyglass that finishes the trilogy is more than a hundred pages longer than the first two books, and Season 3 will run for just eight episodes.
The Season 3 renewal was confirmed as the final season, with the episode count matching Season 1 and the plan for Season 2 with eight. His Dark Materials has had to cut significant portions of The Golden Compass and The Subtle Knife. The Amber Spyglass is longer, denser, and more complicated with plenty of new characters. A lot is going to have to be omitted for the book-to-screen adaptation, and there are some moments that I would argue had better not be cut.
There are of course the moments that are so big that I don't think readers need to worry will be cut. Lyra and Will being tragically separated is almost certainly going to happen. They'll almost certainly travel to the world of the dead and leave their daemons behind. Mrs. Coulter and Asriel will likely kill Metatron. The Authority is probably going to be destroyed. The bench that already made an appearance on the show will undoubtedly be back. I'll probably cry, but that's neither here nor there.
There are other smaller but still key scenes in The Amber Spyglass that I'm afraid might not make the cut for the eight-hour adaptation. I know sacrifices will have to be made. I'm already guessing that Mary's plot with the mulefa will be seriously condensed, and I can even see the Gallivespian spies being cut for time and Will and Lyra simply handling things themselves. The intention craft and a lot of the scenes of Asriel scheming at his fortress might not be essential, and I doubt the battle will be on a Game of Thrones scale.
Here are some of the key book moments that better be included, and why they matter enough to make the cut.
Lyra doesn't actually do much in the early chapters of The Amber Spyglass thanks to Mrs. Coulter keeping her (and poor Pan) drugged and captive, which will likely be set up in the Season 2 finale. While drugged, though, she dreams of the world of the dead and speaks to Roger again, ultimately promising that she and Will will come and find him. Her dreams actually keep her in the story during the long spans of time when she's unconscious, and they set up the journey to the world of the dead that is bound to happen on the show.
Balthamos Saving Will
The angels Balthamos and Baruch actually debut in The Subtle Knife to try and recruit Will to bring the subtle knife to Asriel. Instead, Balthamos ends up on the journey to help Will find the kidnapped Lyra in The Amber Spyglass. Quite aside from the comedic potential of a sarcastic angel begrudgingly following Will around on a side quest to his grand angelic mission, Balthamos suffers a terrible loss and abandons Will. He redeems himself by saving Will (and Lyra) at the end to neatly (if tragically) wrap a unique arc, and it should be included in the show.
Mary And The Mulefa
As much as I'm guessing that His Dark Materials will cut a lot of Mary Malone's Amber Spyglass arc (although hopefully not the part with the actual amber spyglass), the mulefa and their world are key to the resolution of the whole series. In the safety of their society, Mary as the serpent unintentionally tempts Lyra as Eve, and in doing so saves everything. Answers about Dust come from her story as well. I could see His Dark Materials handling Mary and the mulefa like Will in Season 1: brief glimpses to set up what's to come.
Will Tricks Iorek
Iorek Byrnison returns in The Amber Spyglass when he leads the bears away from the melting ice of the north via ship, and he happens upon a wandering Will Parry. Trying to defuse an ugly situation with townspeople, Will challenges Iorek to single combat and shows Iorek that the knife can cut anything, winning the fight before it even starts. Iorek invites Will to join their journey, which gets Will where he's going a lot faster and adds a powerful ally in the fight to get Lyra back, both of which would be helpful for the show in a time crunch
The Knife Breaking (And Being Fixed)
Will accidentally breaks the subtle knife in The Amber Spyglass after Mrs. Coulter distracts him, and he and Lyra have to convince Iorek to fix it despite his misgivings about what it could do that they didn't even know yet. How the breaking happens might have to change, since Will already encountered Mrs. Coulter on the show in Season 2, but Iorek's deliberation on whether or not to fix the knife is packed with foreshadowing to the heartbreaking ending. Plus, how cool would it look to see Iorek working his metal magic?
Reunions In The World Of The Dead
The journey into the world of the dead starts tragically with Lyra and Will's separations from Pan and Will's unseen daemon, but does reunite Lyra with Roger and Lee, and Will with his father. Assuming both Lee and John die in the Season 2 finale, His Dark Materials could technically adapt the world of the dead story without bringing back Lin-Manuel Miranda as Lee Scoresby and Andrew Scott as John Parry, but John drops some anvils that are worth including, and it's an overall pretty cool sequence.
Lyra And Will Almost See The Specters
In the midst of the great battle after they leave the world of the dead, Lyra and Will discover that they can almost see the Specters, and the Specters start attacking their daemons, proving that the kids are growing up. This could be key for Season 3 to deliver a reminder of how terrible the Specter threat is even beyond Cittàgazze, and especially useful with the reveal on the way about the connection between the subtle knife and Specters that forces Will and Lyra to make their impossible decision.
Lyra And Will Killing The Authority
The death of the Authority is such a big deal in The Amber Spyglass that I can't imagine it won't be incorporated into Season 3; I'm just not sure that the TV show will let its two teen protagonists be responsible for killing His Dark Materials' God when there are plenty of adults who are all about murder. That said, Lyra and Will don't murder the Authority in The Amber Spyglass so much as free him from captivity without knowing that he'd disintegrate, so I say the kids should get to do the deed.
Mrs. Coulter Seducing Metatron
Mrs. Coulter managing to seduce Metatron in The Amber Spyglass always struck me as one of the most outlandish twists in a pretty outlandish series, but I mostly want to see it in His Dark Materials Season 3 because Ruth Wilson would absolutely crush it. Besides, Mrs. Coulter seducing Metatron makes her final reunion with Asriel all the more powerful. Seriously, though, I want to see Ruth Wilson play Mrs. Coulter seducing Metatron as the bizarre beginning of the end of His Dark Materials' big bad.
Lyra And Will Grab The Wrong Daemons
Well, you can't tell a coming-of-age saga about two kids without those kids eventually coming of age, and that happens with a vengeance with Will and Lyra in The Amber Spyglass when their friendship turns into an intense romance. The big moments of their doomed love story are bound to be adapted into Season 3 somehow, but I'd also like His Dark Materials to include when Will accidentally grabs Pantalaimon and Lyra accidentally grabs Will's daemon when they're trying to flee to another world. It's a moment that sets up what could otherwise seem like an abrupt turn to romance, and Season 2 arguably foreshadowed it when Pan touched Will.
The Marzipan Story
Mary Malone unintentionally sets up Lyra's "fall" as the second Eve when she tells the story of falling for a boy who fed her a piece of marzipan as a girl, and how the reminder of that moment changed the course of her life years later when she was a nun. The significance of the marzipan story and Lyra's temptation with knowledge (and newfound awareness of Will) might be lost somewhat from page to screen without an internal monologue, but I think Dafne Keen could pull it off, and it's a game-changing part of The Amber Spyglass, even if not the most flashy.
I know that a lot of The Amber Spyglass will probably have to be cut or at least condensed for the eight-hour third and final season of His Dark Materials, and some (or perhaps even most) of these moments might not make it. Still, we can always hope that our favorite parts make the cut! For now, you can look forward to the Season 2 finale of His Dark Materials on Monday, December 29 at 9 p.m. ET, and the rest of the episodes so far streaming on HBO Max.