His Dark Materials season 3, episodes 3 & 4 recap – what happens to Pan?

By Jonathon Wilson
Published: December 13, 2022 (Last updated: January 26, 2024)
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His Dark Materials season 3, episodes 3 & 4 recap - what happens to Pan?


This week’s double bill of His Dark Materials is as emotionally resonant as the show has ever been, finding a human power in amongst all the fantasy trappings.

This recap of His Dark Materials season 3, episodes 3 & 4, “The Intention Craft” and “Lyra and Her Death”, contains spoilers.

It’s cheating using animals, isn’t it?

In Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials universe, a person’s daemon is their soul; the external, physical manifestation of their core essence. It’s always an animal and depending on the character, usually a cute one. Perhaps this is a commentary on how all of us are fundamentally pure and untamed, but the likelier explanation is that it’s easier to care about animals than people. The daemons are a shorthand for a character’s moral alignment. Mrs. Coulter’s is a nasty-looking orange monkey. Lyra’s has been various things, since the daemon of children in this universe change forms constantly until, during adolescence, they finally settle into the form that most closely resembles their human counterpart. Usually, though, Pan has retained his typical cute, furry, pine marten form.

His Dark Materials season 3, episodes 3 & 4 recap

Now, imagine him whimpering at the end of a pier as Lyra sails away into the mist, his final thought abandonment, believing that Lyra has chosen someone else over him. Imagine him whining into the gloom until, eventually, he dies from the shock of being pulled apart from his companion.

That last bit doesn’t happen. Anyone who has read The Amber Spyglass knows this, and anyone who has ever seen an episode of television could probably figure it out too, but that isn’t the point. The point is the weight of the decision that Lyra makes at this moment, her resolve to find Roger even at extraordinary personal cost. This is a fantasy story full of all the usual fantasy trappings, but it’s also, fundamentally, a story about children figuring out who they are.

This is why almost every adult character in the story is awful. Asriel and Mrs. Coulter get a lot of time in “The Intention Craft” because he took her prisoner in Episode 2 and here wants to figure out whether he should make her a part of his wartime council. There’s a ton of sexual chemistry and revelatory dialogue, but neither comes off well. Asriel has long since hidden his poor parenting behind a self-appointed world-saving, religion-destroying quest, while Mrs. Coulter’s motherly instincts are necessarily tempered by all the deeply terrible things she has done until this point. Mrs. Coulter’s “escape” is facilitated by Asriel taking a self-aggrandizing moment to torture an angel to death.

This having been said, Mrs. Coulter strutting around the Magisterium and leveraging Father President MacPhail’s super obvious attraction to her was a riot. His Dark Materials doesn’t want you to like any of these people, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun as they torment, manipulate, and ultimately destroy one another.

But the future really rests in the dainty hands of children, and this is no secret. It’s no accident, either, that Lyra and Will show more understanding and emotional maturity than the people who sired them, or who’re responsible for their protection. They work through their problems more adroitly. They have more empathy. And the irony is that they’re being presented with the tougher choices, and are still able to work their way through them. If nothing else, His Dark Materials is as hopeful a portrayal of the next generation as one could imagine.

To make this point, these two episodes often have the kids – and even though they’re technically young adults now, they’re still really children – break through the cynicism of older, more hardened characters, with the light of their idealism breaking through every time. Lyra convinces Iorek to repair the Subtle Knife so she can travel to the Land of the Dead, despite him thinking it’s a terrible idea. In the bureaucratic nightmare realm of the waiting area, Lyra persuades her own Death, a companion who has always been silently and invisibly with her, to help her break all the rules of the realm. Again and again, youthful enthusiasm trumps the natural order. Every long-held rule can be broken if it is merely questioned with enough earnestness.

Well… almost every rule. The boatman whose job is to ferry Lyra and Will to the Land of the Dead proper is having none of it. The one rule that can’t be bent or broken is that traveling there requires that all passengers leave their daemons, their souls, behind. Even the most well-intention of kids never have it totally easy in life. Eventually, the pain gets us all.

You can catch His Dark Materials season 3, episodes 3 & 4, “The Intention Craft” and “Lyra and Her Death” exclusively on HBO and the BBC.

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