His Dark Materials 2×07 Review: “Æsahættr”

Æsahættr His Dark Materials

All roads converge on Cittagazze in “Æsahættr”, the final episode of His Dark Materials season 2, and with it the conclusion of The Subtle Knife. Now that season 3 has been officially confirmed, I wasn’t quite as anxious going into this episode as I might have been if the fate of the show was still up in the air. Knowing that the story will get to see The Amber Spyglass adapted goes a long way towards soothing any fears.

“Æsahættr” is an episode where a lot needed to happen in a short amount of time, and I had my worries they wouldn’t be able to properly do the story justice, especially considering these episodes have seemingly not been as long as they were in season 1. Everything was moved into place in last week’s episode, but with only 50 minutes left in the season, how could they possibly accomplish everything that needed to be done? 

I’m conflicted about “Æsahættr” as a finale. Everything that needed to happen happened, but it lacked a lot of the scale I was expecting. It isn’t a terrible episode, but as a season ender, I just feel like they could have done a lot better. Some moments were really amazing, and some were not as great.

For example, it kind of bothers me that this show long ago abandoned any form of subtext and literally spells out every detail for its audience. (I would like to elaborate but I’m not sure how much would be spoilers and how much people have figured out.) The writing is often not very good. Also, I know the book is very back-heavy, and so the show would be as well, with a slow start and coming on in the last few episodes. But I do believe they could have made this episode longer so that specific moments would get the impact they deserved.

Also, some of the things they left out are kind of important in the future.

Let me tell you. I knew what was going to happen and I still was not prepared for it. It’s been a while since I’ve read the books but I remember the bones of the plot, and Lee’s death was extremely difficult for me to watch. When Hester started crying and saying it was all her fault, I started crying, and I really didn’t stop until the end of the episode. There were some moments from that scene they omitted from the books that I would have liked to have seen, but honestly, it was pretty perfect as was. “Don’t you go before I do.”

Please give Amir Wilson all the awards. He was phenomenal in “Æsahættr”. That scene happened a little differently in the books, but I’m glad that Jopari had a little bit of time to realize he was talking to his own son before dying. I do wish they had lingered a bit on Jopari’s death; Will’s entire journey so far has been about finding his father, and then he dies and it looks like Will just peaces out and lifts his dad’s coat in the process.

I also wish they had left in the scene where Will returns to their camp and discovers Lyra’s missing.

Æsahættr His Dark Materials

“Æsahættr” confirms that Lyra is indeed Eve, as in Adam and Eve, but as Marisa says, she is Eve before the fall. According to Serafina, Lyra is the child who will bring about the end of destiny and the return of free will. But if you remember from an earlier mention of the prophecy, she cannot know anything about what she is to do, or it won’t work. Free will is only free will if you believe you have a choice.

The war that is coming will be a global cataclysm and everyone is affected. They really do sort of shove it in your face, and though the scene of Ruta observing the cliff ghasts is in the books, it seems a little ham-fisted, a way of getting important information easily. I do like that it lends scale to the world and shows you the breadth of creatures who will be touched by the coming war, but I would much have preferred that we got to see what Asriel has been up to, even though I know there were circumstances outside of their control that prevented it.

Still, Asriel’s speech (which was originally meant to be in the Asriel-centric episode that unfortunately had to be cut) was quite stirring, and I love the appearance of the Angels. Their design is really quite something.

I have a question for anyone who hasn’t read the books. Are you grasping the importance of the Human/Daemon relationship? I sometimes feel that they aren’t doing a very good job conveying just what the significance is, and the Daemons just come across as sentient pets. This isn’t always the case – I think Lee and Hester’s last stand was quite well done – but I have to wonder if non-book readers are grasping the nuances of the way Mrs. Coulter treats her Daemon.

But I do love how they are fleshing out Marisa as a character. She is so incredibly nuanced in this, and Ruth Wilson naturally does a fantastic job at showing how conflicted she is about everything that she’s doing. I just wish they didn’t feel the need to insert her into every episode. Do they think we’re going to forget who she is if we don’t see her every week? A lot of her scenes lately have felt very repetitive and unnecessary, as much as I enjoy her performance.

It’s honestly the same with Mary’s scenes, especially in “Æsahættr”, although I do love how everyone is fighting Specters and soldiers and people are dying, and Mary is just sitting there reading books and out for a stroll in the forest. But then, perhaps the contrast is necessary for everyone to understand that Mary is protected. Then again, the Angel said she would be, and we’ve already seen that the Specters don’t affect her.

I can only hope that season 3 is either more episodes or the episodes themselves are longer. There is so much that happens in The Amber Spyglass and there is no way they can fit everything in with episodes as short as this season’s were.

Author: Jamie Sugah

Jamie has a BA in English with a focus in creative writing from The Ohio State University. She self-published her first novel, The Perils of Long Hair on a Windy Day, which is available through Amazon. She is currently an archivist and lives in New York City with her demon ninja vampire cat. She covers television, books, movies, anime, and conventions in the NYC area.

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