Last year, the BBC and HBO teamed up to produce a new adaptation of Philip Pullman’s classic fantasy trilogy His Dark Materials. Season 1 debuted in November, covering the events of The Golden Compass, and today at San Diego Comic-Con, the networks unveiled the first trailer for the show’s second season.
The series is set in an alternate world where people are accompanied by daemons—their souls manifest as shape-shifting animals. The first novel and first season of the show, follow Lyra, a mischievous and headstrong girl who begins searching for her friend Roger, who was kidnapped by the Magisterium, a domineering and controlling Church.
Ahead of the show’s debut last November, the BBC and HBO announced that they had renewed the series for a second season, which will presumably cover the events of the second novel, The Subtle Knife. The show hasn’t been renewed for a third season yet, but there were some rumblings that the producers are already thinking about it, and that they might split the final book, The Amber Spyglass, into two seasons.
The panel discussion included actors from the series—Dafne Keen (Lyra), Ruth Wilson (Mrs. Coulter), Ariyon Bakare (Lord Boreal), Amir Wilson (Will Parry), Andrew Scott (John Parry), and Lin-Manuel Miranda (Lee Scoresby)—as well as the show’s executive producers, Jane Tranter and Jack Thorne.
First up, the trailer: Lyra and her Daemon Pantalaimon end up in a new world, where they meet Will Parry, a teenager who lives in our world. While Lyra’s lost, agents of the Magisterium are after her, as well as aëronaut Lee Scoresby, who runs into Parry’s long-lost father, John.
Along the way, Lyra uses her truth-telling alethiometer to track down an Oxford physicist named Dr. Mary Malone, who might be able to help her. Along the way, we see the Magisterium working to concentrate its power in Lyra’s world, and witches, and a peculiar object: a knife that can cut through the walls between worlds.
During the panel, we got a better idea of what to expect in the upcoming season. Here’s what we learned:
- Keen noted that after the end of Season 1, Lyra is in a different place going into Season 2: she started Season 1 as an optimistic person, but after everything she went through, she’s far more cynical.
- Amir Wilson explained that while his character wasn’t in The Golden Compass, he had a bit of freedom to start off the character a bit earlier with a couple of appearances. As we saw in the trailer, he’ll have a much larger role. He and Keen bonded ahead of production over things like how much they hated school. The production also imposed a bit of a barrier between the two actors, reinforcing the fact that their two characters are from different worlds.
- Ruth Wilson — no relation to Amir — spoke about how she approached the role of Mrs. Coulter as a character that you really can’t understand, and who’s constantly making the audience question what her motives are. This season, Wilson explained that she’ll be working at exploring a bit more about where she came from and how she became the person she is when we first see her in Season 1. “She does such horrific things,” Wilson says, “you need to sort of balance that with reasons why, or potential reasons why. We know that by season 3, we see her as a completely different person.” She also hints that Mrs. Coulter and her daemon will be on their own a lot.
- Miranda explained that the book series has a particular place in his heart: he and his wife read the books when they first met, and he likened the novels as being like “their song” as a couple. He also noted that he missed working with Keen, because their characters are separated for much of the season, and would have to go from the set of one world to another to say hello.
- Bakare noted that his character’s central drive is ambition, and he’s a “megalomaniac” who has no qualms about stepping over anyone to achieve power. Tranter broke in to note that as Thorne was writing the first season and trying to figure out how to work in Will Parry’s story, it was Bakare’s performance as Lord Boreal that helped bridge that gap.
- Scott pops up in the trailer alongside Lee Scoresby. He praised the theme of companionship that runs through the season, and revealed that his daemon will be voiced by an actress that he’s appeared with before: Phoebe Waller-Bridge, who he worked with on Fleabag.
Among other revelations from the panel, Tranter and Thorne noted that they have been able to keep on track with production throughout the lockdown prompted by the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, despite having to shut down production. While they were able to keep working on the show in post-production, they did have to cut what Tranter described as a “standalone episode” that they had yet to film, which would have been about Lord Asriel (played by James McAvoy), but which wasn’t a story from the books.
Written with input from Pullman, it would have followed Asriel and his adventures between seasons 1 and 3 — he otherwise doesn’t show up in Season 2. “We played detective with The Subtle Knife,” Tranter said, “and figured out what Asriel might have been doing.” She didn’t rule out the possibility that they might return to it somewhere down the road, so we might end up seeing that at some point. Otherwise, the entire adaptation of The Subtle Knife is complete.
Other news about the season broke today as well: while it wasn’t in the panel, we learned from Deadline that Terence Stamp, Jade Anouka and Simone Kirby will join the series. Stamp will play Giacomo Paradisi, who initially holds the Subtle Knife in the city of Cittàgazze; Anouka will play the witch queen Ruta Skadi who joins the fight against the Magisterium; and Kirby will play Mary Malone, whom Lyra teams up with.
The trailer doesn’t reveal a release date, but it did say that it won’t be long before we get to see it: it’ll debut sometime this fall.