WARNING: MAJOR spoilers for the third book in the His Dark Materials trilogy, The Amber Spyglass, follow. The second and third episodes have focused on Mrs. Coulter and heights; in episode two she tells Lyra she could “never get away from the urge to jump” when she’s in high places, and in Episode 3 she drunkenly walks across the ledge on her roof and nearly falls.
All of this feels like foreshadowing for Mrs. Coulter’s eventual fate — she, along with Lord Asriel, sacrifices herself to kill the corrupt Lord Regent of God’s angels, Metatron. How do they kill Metatron? By dragging him into The Abyss, a bottomless cliff. So Mrs. Coulter, who could never get away from the urge to jump, dies by jumping into an endless abyss. Ironic, isn’t it?
The first big reveal
In the book it’s Farder Coram, not Mrs. Coulter, who tells Lyra about her parentage. Having Mrs. Coulter reveal to Lyra that Lord Asriel is her father was a definite change from the books, even though it didn’t happen all that much earlier (in terms of book chapters, it’s just one earlier). That said, in this writer’s opinion, it’s better this way; there’s some serious irony in Mrs. Coulter being the one to make this big reveal, and then refusing to tell Lyra she’s her mother.
The second big reveal
The show also changed who Lyra learns about her mother’s identity from, shifting the revealer from Farder Coram to Ma Costa. This is another change that makes sense — Ma Costa took care of Lyra for Lord Asriel and even protected her from Edward Coulter when he tried to take his revenge on both Asriel and his infant daughter.
Mrs. Coulter’s necklace
Mrs. Coulter’s necklace is compass, and it’s made of gold. This is a neat nod to the American title for the first book in the trilogy, The Golden Compass, and Lyra’s alethiometer.
Lord Boreal in the modern world
At least so far, this is the biggest change from The Golden Compass to the HBO show. In the books, no one’s crossing words this early; or at least if they are, it’s not part of Lyra’s story, so the book doesn’t mention it. This modern world plays a bigger role in the second and third books in the trilogy because it introduces readers to Will Parry, who becomes Lyra’s friend and companion in her adventures. It seems we’ll be meeting Will sooner than the end of Season 1 on the show, considering he’s already been cast and the man Boreal is looking for is his father.
Mrs. Coulter and Lord Asriel’s backstories
We still don’t know a whole lot about Asriel, but the show has given viewers a little more than the books regarding why Mrs. Coulter is as ice-cold as she is. According to Ma Costa, after Edward Coulter was killed and news of her affair spread far and wide, she became a pariah. In order to claw her way back into society, she had to become ruthless — well, more ruthless than she already was. The series’ showrunner has promised more intel on Mrs. Coulter and Lord Asriel’s backstories next season, which will give their characters something to do (neither of them played a major role in the second book, The Subtle Knife.)
The opening scene
Lord Asriel taking Lyra to Jordan College during the Great Flood didn’t happen in the books… or at least, not in the book on which most of Season 1 of His Dark Materials is based. This scene does happen in Pullman’s universe, but in one of the companion novels, titled The Book of Dust. In the show, he takes her to safety alone; in the book he’s accompanied by two teenagers named Malcolm and Alice.
At last, HBO has given fans of the His Dark Materials trilogy the book-to-screen adaptation they deserve.
Was everything awful about the 2007 movie? Absolutely not, despite what some might say. (You've gotta at least admit it was well-cast, if little else.) Is the television show perfect? No — but at least in this writer's opinion, it's close enough. So far, His Dark Materials has done a miraculous job of translating a complex, controversial and dark story to screen, and it has made a complicated fictional world accessible to both fans of the books and those entering Lyra's world of daemons, Dust and armored polar bears for the very first time.
From various prequel series to Jean-Luc Picard's 'Star Trek' return.
That said, there are certain things that those who have read the source material will pick up on that might go over non-readers heads. Here are seven things fans of the original book trilogy — and its spinoff novels — probably picked up on in the first three episodes.