Late last year, the first season of His Dark Materials concluded its run, completing an eight-episode adaptation of Philip Pullman's beloved fantasy novel The Golden Compass. Even before the series premiered, we knew the story would end there, as the show was lucky enough to earn an early Season 2 renewal. That meant Season 1 could go all-out in its adaptation, and as a result it ended with a devastating loss and a major cliffhanger that sets the stage for new worlds, new threats, and new challenges in the sophomore season, which will begin the adaptation of the second novel in Pullman's series, The Subtle Knife.
During a Comic-Con@Home panel on Thursday afternoon, moderator Stacey Wilson Hunt was joined by executive producers Jane Tranter and Jack Thorne as well as stars 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) to talk about Season 1's impact and what comes next for the epic series. But before the discussion could even begin, Hunt revealed that everything would kick off with the first full trailer for the show's second season. Check it out.
The trailer reunited viewers with Lyra, now on the run in a new world as dark forces hunt her even while she conducts her own hunt for answers. The connective tissue between the characters from various worlds is getting stronger, as Lyra and Will form a connection, Lord Boreal continues his hunt for Lyra, and Lee Scoresby hopes to protect Lyra at all costs. Then of course there's Will's father, John, who reveals the Subtle Knife Pullman's second novel is named after — a knife that can cut through the fabric between worlds.
In discussing where the characters begin their journey in the second season, Keen emphasized the impact on the great loss that came for Lyra at the end of Season 1, and how that's created new emotional barriers for her that Will will hopefully be able to tear down.
"I feel like when you first meet Lyra, she's a very outgoing person, she trusts very easily. But going into Season 2, after having realized that the only things that gave her stability — which was the Alethiometer and Roger — are both gone, means that I can trust no one, I can trust nothing," Keen explained. "Which is what's so beautiful about Season 2, it's seeing how she starts off being closed and in her own shell, and Will just brings her out back into the world, and back into Lyra."
On the more villainous side of things, Wilson noted that we can also expect a deeper exploration of Mrs. Coulter's motivations moving forward, as she and Thorne dig deeper into what really drives this often malevolent character.
"You don't ever get to know who she really is, or it's a struggle to work out who she is, and she's constantly challenging me and confusing me, and her intentions are always mixed up and different from moment to moment," Wilson said. "And I think that what was really joyful in this season to play was to sort of get underneath her circumstances more, what she's had to deal with as a woman in a very male world, and the sacrifices she's had to make, and at what cost. Which is really the cost of losing her daughter, or choosing something over her daughter."
Of course, expanding the world also means adding new characters, and Scott will not be the only major force joining Season 2. Variety reported ahead of the panel on Thursday that legendary actor Terence Stamp, Peaky Blinders star Simone Kirby, and Cleaning Up's Jade Anouka will all be joining the cast in key roles for the second season. Stamp will play The Subtle Knife's original bearer Giacomo Paradisi, while Kirby will play Oxford researcher Dr. Mary Malone, and Anouka will play witch queen Ruta Skadi. During the panel itself, Scott announced that Fleabag and Solo: A Star Wars Story star Phoebe Waller-Bridge will also be joining the cast, as the voice of his character's daemon.
"I'm really thrilled about that, because it's all about companionship and friendship and loyalty, and that's what I feel about Phoebe in my real life so it's wonderful that that's happening."
Even before the panel on Thursday, we'd already seen snippets of Season 2 of the series, suggesting that it might not be delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic. In the panel itself, Tranter explained that the series actually had a strange stroke of luck in that regard. While the show was still filming one episode when production had to shutdown, the episode was actually a standalone story following James McAvoy's character, Lord Asriel, that was separate from the direct adaptation of The Subtle Knife.
"It was a standalone episode which Jack had written with the blessing and with input from Philip Pullman which looked at what Asriel had been doing between going through the anomaly at the end of Season 1 and where we see Lord Asriel at the beginning of book three, The Amber Spyglass. Because Asriel isn't actually in The Subtle Knife," Tranter explained. "He's very much talked about, his presence is very much felt, but he's not actually there. So we played kind of detective with The Subtle Knife and figured out what Asriel might have been doing."
That standalone episode remains uncompleted, though Tranter noted that Thorne and the rest of the creative team could revisit and complete it sometime later.
"But essentially, our adaptation of The Subtle Knife had been completed, so we were really lucky from that point of view," Tranter said, and noted that the show's post-production team is "completely on course" for the series to return this fall.
For more from the cast of His Dark Materials, including how they goofed off together during production and much more, check out the panel video above.
His Dark Materials returns for its second season this fall on HBO.
Click here for SYFY WIRE's full coverage of Comic-Con@Home 2020.