‘His Dark Materials’ season finale recap 1×08: “Betrayal”

Season one ends with a terrible betrayal

His Dark Materials 1×08 “Betrayal”,” Aired Dec. 23, 2019

The His Dark Materials’ finale is an exciting and emotional episode packed with action, loss and promises of exciting possibilities for season 2. While the HBO and BBC adaptation is not without its faults, this season finale highlights the strengths of this season.

The most frustrating part of  the 2007 film adaptation of The Golden Compass was the ending  and by that I mean, the decision to cut out the ending of the book.  More infuriating is the fact the ending was filmed, but the decision was made to not include it until the sequel that never happened.

His Dark Materials delivers that ending and it sticks the landing. In the first episode of the season, the Master of Jordan College discussed how Lyra’s journey included a great betrayal. Now we’ve seen this betrayal and all the heartbreak that comes with it.

Lord Asriel opens a bridge to a whole new world, but it costs Lyra the person she cares the most about: Roger. Let’s break down everything that leads to Roger’s devastating death at the hand of Lyra’s father.

A (not so) happy reunion

Right from the start, things with Asriel are not going great. Lyra is happy to see Asriel and reveals that she knows he’s her father. Lyra doesn’t understand why he didn’t tell her the truth, as she would have been proud to be his daughter.

Asriel a man who defines himself by his failures and disappointments is baffled by Lyra’s confession. In this aspect, it’s easy to see how Asriel and Mrs. Coulter are alike. Their doomed loved story cost them everything and continue to be motivated by their work and their ambition.

Honestly I think when Asriel looks at Lyra, he can’t help but see what her birth cost him. He is brutal in their first conversation, shutting down any moment of connection as too sentimental. He does not want the alethiometer that she brought for him and when Lyra gets mad, he reminds her he has never called himself a father.

Lyra, in return, shocks him when she renounces the one thing he’s ever given her, his name. She is no longer, Lyra Belacqua. She is now Lyra Silvertongue.

Orphans together

This season did a fantastic job at portraying the friendship between Roger and Lyra. After Lyra’s less than stellar reunion with her father, Roger goes to find Lyra. He tells her how spooked he is about how Lord Asriel reacted when they arrived.  Basically he’s got a bad feeling about this.

In fact, all the scenes between Roger and Lyra were very well done, showing the love and acceptance they have for each other. Roger tells Lyra that, “parents are more trouble than they’re worth” and makes a very enticing proposal that they just go back to being orphans together.

And maybe there’s a world where Lyra and Roger do just that. They leave right then are there and no more bad things happen to them. Instead, they make plans to leave in the morning. They basically make a blanket fort and reflect on their experiences so far. In stark contrast to to the scene between Lyra and Asriel, this a moment full of love and self-reflection as these two reflect on how they’ve changed each other lives.

Dust = sin

Asriel wakes Lyra up for another, less hostile conversation. In hindsight, it’s Asriel’s lame attempt to explain himself to Lyra before enacting a huge betrayal. He lays out to Lyra the importance of his experiments on Dust. Asriel explains to Lyra that the Magisterium thinks that Dust in Sin. Lyra puts together that Mrs. Coutler’s wicked experiments are her attempt at preserving sinless souls.  As they talk about the bond between humans and their daemons, Asriel says that when the link between a person and their daemon is severed an immense release of energy occurs.

Asriel explains to Lyra that Dust makes the alethiometer work. This time when Asriel turns down the alethiometer brought him, he’s more gentle and tells Lyra that it’s hers. Asriel is a fascinating character, he’s a brilliant, selfish, self-serving man, but he does want to protect Lyra. And yet even the few moments he allows himself to show emotion like when he tells Lyra she’s the product of something extraordinary are tainted by what he is about to do.

When Lyra wakes up the next day, Roger and Asriel are gone. Lyra quickly figures out what is going on, that Asriel has taken Roger to cut his daemon away from him and use that energy to open his portal to other worlds. Lyra runs out and calls for Iorek’s help, and they rush to the mountain to save Roger.

A bridge to the stars

Lyra is right about Asriel’s plan. Roger followed Asriel up the mountain under false pretenses. When they get there, Asriel puts Roger and his daemon Salcilia in separate cages intent of severing the connection between them.  Asriel tries to justify himself to the frightened child, basically calling Roger a casualty of war.

Lyra manages to find Roger, but she’s too late. As she screams Roger’s name, he is severed from his daemon, and there a huge blast. A surge of energy that, as Asriel predicted has opened a way to a new world. Before Asriel can walk through, Mrs. Coulter arrives. 

Asriel tries to convince her to come with him. He gives her a list of reasons to follow him, he tries to appeal to her ambition, stressing the end of the Magisterium and their suppression of knowledge. Mrs. Coulter turns him down because of Lyra. Asriel, father of the year, is baffled by her choice. She sends him off with a kiss.  

Lyra hides from Mrs. Coulter and climbs back up the mountain. She gets Roger out of the cage, but it’s too late. Salcilia is gone, Roger is dead. Lyra is shattered, blaming herself for Roger’s death. Pan tries to offer some comfort, they didn’t mean this to happen but that won’t stop Lyra’s guilt. Roger, the only person she had in the world, is dead and it’s because she brought him to Asriel. Lyra will never to say goodbye. She will never get to apologize. 

Roger’s death is a game-changer, the stakes have never been higher and Lyra knows this. Pan thinks they need to find Dust before Asriel does and Lyra agrees.  They decide follow Asriel and step into this new world. 

Final musings of the season:

  • Will update: Boreal finally hears back from the Magisterium about the question he asked the alethiometer. One thing is clear: He needs Will. Too bad he has no idea where Will is and his attempts to find him fail. Where is Will? Wandering the streets, panicked about what happened at his house. By the end of the episode Will has found the tear in the world.
  • Daemons playing around! More of that! I loved it!
  • Asriel is surprised at any hint that Mrs. Coulter has motherly feelings towards Lyra. We see this first when Lyra tells him about how Mrs. Coulter stopped her from being damaged at Bolvanger. Then again when Mrs. Coulter choose Lyra over going on this journey with him. Mrs. Coulter seemed like the worst parent of the two, but Asriel just murdered Lyra’s best friend, so…yeah, parents of the year, these two! 

Season 2 of His Dark Materials has been confirmed. See you then! 




Gabriela Acevedo

Gaby is a TV-obsessed fangirl and writer. Television is her true love, but movies and books aren't far behind. Currently living in Los Angeles, she's originally from Puerto Rico, which is still her favorite place in the world. Find her on twitter @gabsteramy.

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