His Dark Materials ended its second season on heartfelt reunions, sinister plots, and a hero’s journey into a land of angels. Lee Scoresby’s story was a battle he’d been preparing for his whole life–one that actor Lin-Manuel Miranda knew was coming thanks to Philip Pullman’s books couldn’t quite prepare himself for regardless.
Season two’s finale “Æsahættr,” is a story of beginnings and ends. Will Parry (Amir Wilson) is reunited with his father Jopari (Andrew Scott), Mary Malone (Simone Kirby) finds herself on the precipice of another new world, and Mrs. Coulter (Ruth Wilson) succeeds in tracking down and abducting her daughter Lyra (Dafne Keen). Then there’s that final scene with Lord Asriel (James McAvoy) talking shit to a bunch of fallen angels about the coming war with The Authority, which is His Dark Materials’ version of God.
But sadly, not everybody makes it. Jopari sacrifices himself to save Will from a soldier’s bullet, cutting their reunion far too short. Another key loss is Lee Scoresby, who holds the line against the Magisterium troops just long enough for Jopari to be able to reach his son. Lee and his dæmon Hester call it their “Alamo,” (named after an alt-reality version of the famous Texan battle) and it’s one of the most memorable and tragic deaths in His Dark Materials. It was also something Miranda told io9 he knew was coming long before he signed on to star in the show.
Miranda told us Lee’s death scene was “one of the things that excited me about doing the role in the first place”—not only because of how impactful it is as a whole but because of how unique portraying it onscreen would be.
“The thing is about every death of His Dark Materials, that is so moving, is it’s always two deaths, right? Like, we’ve not just gotten to know Lee, we’ve gotten to know Hester. We’ve gotten to know their relationship. So it’s like the extra twist of, ‘Oh shit, we lose Hester too!’ And the way in which they love each other and have a real camaraderie makes it all the more heartbreaking,” Miranda said. “I think that’s the line that I always remember from the second book is, ‘Don’t you go before I do,’ that Lee says to Hester. It’s beautiful and it’s incredibly sad. I think I first read these books in 2006, 2005? It has stuck with me even since then.”
Sadly, co-star Cristela Alonzo was not on set voicing Hester during the week they filmed Lee Scoresby’s final battle. In fact, Miranda said he and Alonza never worked together in-person during their time on the show. Instead, Miranda worked with the puppeteer who play-acted Hester (before she was replaced with CGI in post-production), someone he built a strong relationship with over the course of the series.
Miranda did get a lot of time with Scott, as the two of them spend much of season two traveling together (while sharing goofy videos on Twitter). Miranda noted how cold, rainy, and dreary much of the battle’s filming was, and that Scott gave him some helpful advice to handle the shoot based on his experience on Band of Brothers. However, Miranda said in all the hoopla, even though the two of them bonded quite a bit on set, they never commiserated on the fact that both their characters die in the same episode.
“From my perspective, I never thought about it. I just thought, ‘I’m going to die so he can keep moving!’ That’s the extent to which I thought about it, sort of conveniently forgetting that he doesn’t last much longer than me,” he said while laughing.
Of course, Lee Scoresby and Jopari’s deaths aren’t necessarily the end of their stories. Without spoiling events from The Amber Spyglass, let’s just say mechanisms are in place for Lee and others who’ve perished on the show to return in the third and final season, which was announced last week. Our talk with Miranda happened just a few hours after the third season was confirmed so we asked whether he’d be coming back. He was cagey about confirming anything but noted that he’d happily do so if the opportunity arose.
“If they deem it possible, I’ll drop everything,” he said. “If there was an opportunity for Lee to appear, I would, of course, welcome that. But nothing has been said so far. I just very happy about the news today that they will get to finish out the story.”
His Dark Materials seasons one and two are available to watch on HBO and BBC. Season three is set to start filming sometime in 2021.
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