How His Dark Materials Planned Ahead For A More 'Adult' Final Season For Dafne Keen And Amir Wilson As Lyra And Will

His Dark Materials will return to HBO for the third and final season nearly two years to the date since the Season 2 finale aired back in 2020. Like many other shows that year, production was affected due to the COVID pandemic, which resulted in the planned Asriel standalone episode for James McAvoy being cut from the second season. Now, two years later, executive producer Dan McCulloch opened up to CinemaBlend about how the show always planned to start Season 3 after a longer break so that young stars Dafne Keen and Amir Wilson would be more adult.

The cliffhanger of Season 2 for the two teens saw Lyra hidden in a trunk after being kidnapped by her mother and Will with a new mission based on his father’s dying wish. When CinemaBlend recently spoke with Dan McCulloch for the His Dark Materials press day, I asked if there is any kind of time jump in Season 3 due to the long break from filming. The executive producer shared: 

We always intended for the show to go out in 2022. It was always a kind of planned hiatus, and that was because the third book had a more adult feel, and we wanted Dafne and Amir just to grow up that little bit more, so we could really tackle those quite more difficult, darker themes that are in the adaptation. I think COVID has made it feel like a much longer time for everyone. I think that it feels like twice the amount of time, and there is a small passage of time between the end of [Season] 2 and the start of 3.

Even though Season 2 lost an episode due to COVID, the wait until 2022 for Season 3 was always part of the plan and not due to the pandemic. In fact, a first look at the third season revealed that the two young stars were filming the premiere back in May of 2021. Plus, readers of Philip Pullman’s The Amber Spyglass likely have a pretty good idea of why the executive producers would have wanted to let Dafne Keen and Amir Wilson “grow up that little bit more” before tackling Lyra and Will’s final adventures on His Dark Materials

The trailer shows that both actors look noticeably older than they did when viewers last saw them, and that the passage of time in real life was deliberate. Dan McCulloch continued:

At the end of [Season] 2 we see Lyra's been taken off in a box and kidnapped by Mrs. Coulter, and we know that Will has been searching for Lyra to no avail. We start by catching up with Asriel, who has leapt way ahead of any of the other storylines and started to amass an army, a republic, and an ideal. We now kind of fully understand the task ahead of him and how far he's already gotten with that, in his desire to take down the Kingdom of Heaven.

The executive producer’s comments are particularly interesting in light of what Dafne Keen, Amir Wilson, James McAvoy, and Ruth Wilson said about their characters’ priorities when Season 3 picks up. While Lyra and Will’s priorities in this more adult season will be each other, according to Keen and Wilson, McAvoy shared that “multiversal domination” is on the top of Asriel’s list. 

Asriel’s big speech at the end of Season 2 proved that he had his eye on a much bigger picture than the other characters, and based on Dan McCulloch’s comments, fans won’t have to wait too long into Season 3 to get to see what Lyra’s father has been up to. Between his war with the Authority, Mrs. Coulter’s mission to protect Lyra, and WIll and Lyra seemingly caring more about each other and their goals than any republics or kingdoms, the stage is set for what could be an intense final season. 

Fortunately for fans in the U.S., the wait for the first episode in almost two full years is almost over in the 2022 TV schedule. Season 3 of His Dark Materials premieres on HBO on Monday, December 5 at 9 p.m. ET. Two episodes will air each Monday until the series finale on December 26.

Hopefully viewers will still be feeling some holiday cheer before the December 26 finale, because – based on The Amber Spyglass and some book moments that I hope aren’t cut – I think it’s safe to say that the end of the story will be emotional! If you want to revisit the first two seasons ahead of the premiere, you can find all the episodes so far 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. Resident of One Chicago, the galaxy far, far away, and Northeast Ohio. Will not time travel, but will sneak references to The X-Files into daily conversation.