His Dark Materials season 3: What to expect from this epic final season, who's returned to the cast and where it was filmed

Inspired by the works of Philip Pullman, His Dark Materials season 3 raises the stakes like never before as it brings the hit drama to a close...

His Dark Materials season 3 starring Dafne Keen as Lyra Belaqua and Amir Wilson as Will Parry
(Image credit: Bad Wolf/BBC/HBO)

His Dark Materials season 3 is finally here and the intensity of past seasons is being taken up a notch as an epic battle beckons. 

Inspired by British writer Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy, the hit BBC/HBO fantasy drama began as orphan girl Lyra Belacqua set out to find her missing friend in a world where humans are accompanied by a manifestation of their inner selves called daemons that take the form of animals. The story crosses between worlds as tragedy strikes and prophecy and secrets threaten to change the world forever. With all the intriguing complexity of the 1899 ending, creative characters, and ever-increasing intensity, the third and final season is set to bring the show to an unforgettable conclusion. 

But what is His Dark Materials season 3 based on specifically, what can fans expect from it and which of your favorite cast members have returned? We reveal what you need to know…

*Warning: Spoilers ahead!*

Lyra Belacqua (DAFNE KEEN), Mrs Coulter (RUTH WILSON)

(Image credit: Bad Wolf/BBC/HBO)

What is His Dark Materials season 3 based on?

As all die-hard Philip Pullman fans will already know, His Dark Materials season 3 is based on the bestselling author’s 2000 novel, The Amber Spyglass. Perhaps considered by many to be one of the best books of all-time, this is the third installment in the His Dark Materials trilogy following Northern Lights and The Subtle Knife. The Amber Spyglass won the 2001 Whitbread Book of the Year prize and was also the first children’s book to be long-listed for the Booker Prize. 

Opening up to RadioTimes.com (opens in new tab) last year as His Dark Materials season 3 began filming, the show’s executive producer, Jane Tranter, discussed how they embraced the challenge of bringing the complexities of The Amber Spyglass to life on-screen.

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“The Amber Spyglass is the most gloriously complex of Philip Pullman’s novels to adapt for TV but with our world class creative team in Cardiff no challenge is too daunting,” she declared. “This season is both an epic adventure and a story about love and truth. Jack, Francesca and Amelia’s scripts capture the brilliance of Philip’s worlds and we are joined by our much-loved existing cast and some exceptional talent new to the series.”

Meanwhile, fellow executive producer Dan McCulloch explained just how much thought went into adapting Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series - including mapping out each season. 

Mrs Coulter (RUTH WILSON), Cardinal MacPHAIL (WILL KEEN)

(Image credit: Bad Wolf/BBC/HBO)

He said, “The moment we started season one of His Dark Materials we had mapped out all three novels to know the direction in which we were heading. Every detail and character within this incredible work of fiction has been analysed and discussed for four years now, and to finally arrive in the many worlds of The Amber Spyglass is thrilling.” 

What can you expect from His Dark Materials season 3? 

Just like the Firefly Lane book ending can hint at what’s to come in part 2 of the final season, The Amber Spyglass itself can provide some clues about what to expect from His Dark Materials season 3. By the end of season 2 Lyra’s “Uncle” (AKA her biological father) Lord Asriel asked for help from the angels to bring war and overthrow religious tyrants. Meanwhile his former lover Mrs Coulter took their daughter Lyra to what she perceived as “safety”. 

If His Dark Materials season 3 closely follows The Amber Spyglass then we’d better prepare to travel across multiple universes. In the book Lyra has been taken to an isolated place by Mrs Coulter where she is drugged and kept in this state. 

Here she begins to dream of her late friend Roger who died in season 1. Meanwhile, her other friend/love interest Will is desperate to find Lyra and is approached by angels, Balthamos and Baruch who want to take him to Lord Asriel.

It emerges that Lyra is perceived by the ruling authority, the religiously-fanatical Magisterium, to be the next Eve and that has firmly placed a target on her back as they want to avoid another Fall of Mankind and original sin returning to the world.  Dr Mary Malone is apparently fated to take the role of the biblical serpent and tempt Lyra into sinning. 

But she also finds herself drawn into another world to discover more about the magical and mysterious Dust from creatures called the Mulefa. Viewers can also expect to see Lyra journeying into the Land of the Dead and a huge war of epic proportions involving both her parents, the Kingdom of Heaven and the Earth. 

Lord Asriel (JAMES MCAVOY)

(Image credit: Bad Wolf/BBC/HBO)

Of course, it’s possible that His Dark Materials season 3 could tweak some of the details or condense the various plot-threads given there are only eight episodes. But with major biblical themes and the highest stakes we’ve seen in the drama so far, wherever the episodes end up it looks set to be an intriguing and unforgettable journey for fans. 

Who’s returned to the His Dark Materials season 3 cast? 

His Dark Materials returning cast:

  • Dafne Keen as Lyra Belacqua
  • Amir Wilson as Will Parry
  • Ruth Wilson as Marisa Coulter
  • James McAvoy as Lord Asriel Belacqua
  • Lin-Manuel Miranda as Lee Scoresby
  • Ruta Gedmintas as Serafina Pekkala
  • Jade Anouka as Ruta Skadi
  • Simone Kirby as Mary Malone
  • Will Keen as Father MacPhail

It might come as no surprise to many people that the returning His Dark Materials cast members for season 3 are led by Dafne Keen as Lyra Balacqua and Amir Wilson as Will Parry. Lyra’s on-screen parents Mrs Coulter and Lord Asriel are once again played by Ruth Wilson and James McAvoy. Whilst Ruta Gedmintas has returned to His Dark Materials as witch Serafina Pekkala, alongside Lin-Manuel Miranda as Lee Scoresby, Joe Tandberg as bear king Iorek Byrnison, Simone Kirby as Mary Malone, Jade Anouka as Ruta Skadi and Will Keen as Father MacPhail. 

Ruta Skadi (JADE ANOUKA)

(Image credit: Bad Wolf/BBC/HBO)

But it’s not just the actors appearing on screen that make His Dark Materials so special as the voice cast playing the daemons are every bit as crucial. Hearstopper star Kit Connor is back as Lyra’s daemon Pan and Poirot actor David Suchet has returned as Kaisa - the daemon of Serafina Pekkala. Lindsay Duncan also reprised her role as Octavia, Father MacPhail’s daemon.  

Who’s not back and who’s a new His Dark Materials cast member? 

Very sadly, there were a few His Dark Materials cast members who haven’t returned for season 3. The exceptionally talented late Helen McCrory passed away in 2021 and her role as Lord Asriel’s snow leopard daemon Stelmaria was played by Victoria Hamilton from season 3. Sophie Okonedo also hasn’t returned as Xaphania and this part is played by Chipo Chung in the latest season. 

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Ariyon Bakare’s Lord Carlo Boreal also passed away in season 2 and so he isn’t back in season 3 given his character’s death. New His Dark Materials cast-members for season 3 include Kobna Holdbrook-Smith as Balthamos, Simon Harrison as Baruch, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje as Commander Ogunwe, Jamie Ward as Father Gomez and Amber Fitzgerald-Woolf as Ama.

Where was His Dark Materials season 3 filmed? 

As was the case for the first two seasons, quite a bit of His Dark Materials season 3 was filmed in Wales. As reported by WalesOnline (opens in new tab), it was shot at Bad Wolf Studios in Cardiff and its six stages were used heavily for the show. Though Wales wasn’t the only place it’s understood to have been filmed as different areas in Spain were also used for some of the beautiful locations seen in the series. The region of Andalucia is understood to have been used a lot for filming, including at the Guadalhorce Valley. 

It’s said to be Oxford University’s New College that the scenes at the fictional Jordan College in Lyra’s home world were filmed. With so many different worlds and landscapes to bring to life in His Dark Materials season 3 using these meticulously-selected locations they certainly managed to create stunning, varied and believable backdrops for the intense action.

Asriel’s Republic in His Dark Materials season 3

(Image credit: Bad Wolf/BBC/HBO)

How to watch His Dark Materials season 3  

If you’ve been catching up on Philip Pullman’s book series or re-watching your favorite scenes from seasons 1 and 2 before diving into His Dark Materials season 3 then HBO at 9pm ET is the place to head for US-based viewers. Fans here got to see the first two episodes of the final instalment of this hit drama from December 5, with two new episodes dropping weekly on Mondays for people with an HBO subscription. You can also catch-up on all you’ve missed from the current season so far - not to mention seasons 1 and 2 - via HBO Max too. 

Iorek Byrnison

(Image credit: Bad Wolf/BBC/HBO)

Across the pond UK-based viewers were treated to the premiere of His Dark Materials season 3 on BBC One at 7:20pm on December 18 and all episodes have been made available to stream for free via BBC iPlayer. If you want to stagger watching the show to avoid leaving the worlds of Lyra and Will too soon then each episode is also airing weekly on BBC One on Sundays, with the exception of Christmas Day, where that week's episode will air a day earlier on December 24. 

But if you're on vacation abroad when the latest episode of His Dark Materials season 3 lands then sadly you won’t be able to watch as you usually would due to regional restrictions. 

Lyra Belacqua (DAFNE KEEN)

(Image credit: Bad Wolf/BBC/HBO)

Luckily there’s an easy solution and you can use a VPN to continue watching this hit drama. This is a handy bit of software that changes your IP address so that you can access on-demand content or live TV just as if you were at home.

Our sister site, TechRadar, has tested all of the major VPN services and they rate ExpressVPN (opens in new tab) as the absolute best. They say, “It’s compatible with all of your devices, supports most streaming services, and ranks among the fastest. You can even install it on devices like an Amazon Fire TV Stick, Apple TV, Xbox, and PlayStation. So for a one-stop-shop, you can’t go wrong with Express.”  

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If you've never installed a VPN before, don't worry, it's quick and easy. Just follow these three steps:

  1. Download and install the VPN following ExpressVPN's easy-to-follow instructions.
  2. Once you've installed your VPN, open the app and select your server location as anywhere in the UK.
  3. With your VPN installed and server location set to UK, you can now watch His Dark Materials season 3 online. 

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If you loved Philip Pullman’s trilogy then His Dark Materials looks set to deliver all the emotional impact you’d be hoping for from the show’s final season. And for anyone who has no idea what lies in store at the end, prepare yourself for an emotional journey you won’t want to miss! 

Emma Shacklock

Emma is a Senior Lifestyle Writer with six years of experience working in digital publishing. Her specialist areas including literature, the British Royal Family and knowing all there is to know about the latest TV shows on the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and every streaming service out there. When she’s not writing about the next unmissable show to add to your to-watch list or delving into royal protocol, you can find Emma cooking and watching yet more crime dramas.