One of the most toxic couples on television at the moment is a woman and her monkey: Mrs. Coulter and her daemon in His Dark Materials.
We've seen one of fantasy literature's most complex villains, brought to life on the HBO drama by actress Ruth Wilson, physically abuse and demean the golden monkey, which means she's effectively harming herself. (A daemon is the manifestation of a person's soul in the alternate reality where Coulter resides.) All the hits, all the bruises she leaves behind Coulter feels too.
That won't be the case so much in the third and final season of the show, premiering today in the U.S. on HBO and HBO Max. "In the book, [author] Philip [Pullman] always seemed to suggest that they come together by the end," Wilson muses in an interview with EW. "Their fractious, pretty abusive relationship seems to be reconciled by the third season. Certainly in the book, they work together in the final moments. They are a great team and they read each other's minds and they're working for a greater good."
HBO Ruth Wilson's Mrs. Coulter may find redemption in 'His Dark Materials' season 3.
According to Wilson, the monkey finally speaks in the third season. However, a source later clarified to EW that while she was correct and this moment was in the scripts, it did not make the show.
Most daemons have a close bond with their human counterparts. Lyra (Dafne Keen) is always conversing with her daemon, Pan (Heartstopper's Kit Connor). Most daemons also have names. The monkey, however, remained voiceless throughout the first two seasons as a reflection of Coulter stifling her own voice.
In a more general sense, Wilson says, "The monkey's no longer silenced. It means that there's some reconciliation between them, some kind of forgiveness that's happened between them — and also for Mrs. Coulter. Because the monkey is herself, she has learned to in some way love herself and accept who she is. She's able to then kind of redeem herself in the last moment."
She notes, "Our final moments are very moving."
Season 3 of His Dark Materials adapts the events of Pullman's novel The Amber Spyglass, which sees Lord Asriel, Lyra's absentee father, assembling his own army of humans, witches, pint-sized Gallivespians spies, and rebel angels to wage war against the Authority and the Kingdom of Heaven. Lyra, still in the clutches of her mother, Mrs. Coulter, at the start of the season, will eventually traverse into the Land of the Dead, a parallel dimension where the souls of the deceased reside, guarded by vicious winged harpies.
HBO Mrs. Coulter's monkey will finally speak in 'His Dark Materials' season 3.
The start of the final run of eight episodes, dropping in pairs for four weeks starting tonight, sees Coulter keeping Lyra in a drugged slumber for protection after the events of season 2.
"The only way this woman could really be close to her child was by keeping her asleep, and that's very sad," Wilson remarks. "She knew that there was no way they could actually exist together, both awake. They couldn't find that dynamic. So it was only in the repression of the child could she be near her. It's really brutal, it's quite intense. "We had to get to a place [where you're] feeling for Mrs. Coulter [who has] to slowly let go of her child and fight for her in her own way.
"She's still horrific," Wilson adds with a laugh. The actress admits it's harder to play Coulter as a goodie in the aftermath of scenes where she tortures a witch for information and, basically, kills kids by severing their daemon souls from them. But it makes her so much more complex and interesting.
That's what Wilson ultimately finds is different about the final season. If the second season was quite personal, season 3 "really stimulates the brain," she says. "It makes you work a bit."
Correction: An earlier draft of this article stated that the golden monkey speaks in His Dark Materials season 3. While Ruth Wilson was correct that the moment was in the scripts, a source clarified after the fact to EW that this didn't make the show. The story has since been updated.
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