The Botanic Garden

As they say, all good things must come to an end, and what a bittersweet ending we had! The battle was won, but the multiverse was closed and our heroes had such a sad parting. Yet we were uplifted and glad to be part of the journey just the same. We are talking about the series finale of His Dark Materials, S03E08 “The Botanic Garden”. It aired on HBO on December 26, 2022. It was written by Francesca Gardiner and directed by Harry Wootliff.

This is Episode 49 and contains our episode breakdown and analysis. To hear our last episode, which will be a series retrospective discussion with our feedback regulars, stay tuned for Episode 50.

Lyra and Will awaken in Atal’s world, and they explore it (and bathe!). While wandering, they meet the mulefa, and Atal encourages them to come with her. They do so and Lyra reunites with Mary Malone! Mary tells them about Dust leaving the world and not knowing what to do about it. Later, Mary shares a story with Lyra and Will about how and why she left the church. She met a special woman who helped spur memories of young love and living life to the fullest. Leaving the church allowed her to follow her heart and find purpose and meaning on her own terms. This conversation helps spur Lyra and Will to discover the love that has been growing between them during their adventures. The two of them spend much time together in an idyllic state of young love.

Serafina Pekkala comes to the world and she and Kaisa find Pan and Will’s cat-daemon, whom she names Kirjava. She tells the daemons they need to rejoin their people. Pan and Kirjava find Lyra and Will and have an emotional reunion.

Meanwhile, Father Gomez uses a spyfly to track Mary. He finds her scarf and eventually stumbles onto Lyra and Will. Just as he is about to kill Lyra, Balthamos appears and stops him. Gomez offers to show his devotion to the angels by killing Lyra, and instead, Balthamos snatches Gomez’s spider daemon and crushes her, killing him instantly. Then Balthamos dissipates.

Xapahania also arrives in this world and reveals to Mary that she was the one guiding her from her lab to Atal and then to Lyra and Will. She says it’s time to return everyone everywhere to their original worlds.

Then Xaphania meets Lyra and Will and reveals that in order to heal the multiverse, all the windows created over the centuries must be closed. In order to do so, the Subtle Knife must be broken, and then angels can close all the windows save one. The children soon realize that the only window that can remain is the one from the land of the dead that allows souls to rejoin the universe. After some time, they realize they must return to their worlds and be separated forever.

Lyra and Will are crushed, and Lyra refuses to believe they can’t stay together. After sleeping on it, they reluctantly agree to go. With Mary and Serafina, they leave Atal and her world and return to Lyra’s Oxford. In the Botanic Garden, Lyra and Will promise to come back to the same bench in each world at noon on midsummer’s day and spend an hour “together.” Then Will cuts a window into his and Mary’s world. After a heart-wrenching farewell, he and Mary step through and Will closes the window. At Kirjava’s urging, he thinks of Lyra and shatters the knife forever. He then reunites with his mother, and Lyra returns to Jordan College.

In a montage, we see Lyra and Will in the future. Year after year, they come back to the benches and sit together and worlds apart. We fade out on Lyra, alone on the bench on a beautiful midsummer’s day.

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