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His Dark Material's Dafne Keen Explains The Duality Of Lyra's Relationships - Exclusive

Contains spoilers for His Dark Materials

In HBO's His Dark MaterialsJames McAvoy's Lord Asriel is a headstrong explorer and rule-breaking man of science in a land governed by a religious authority known as the Magisterium. Within the aurora borealis, better known as the northern lights, he discovers and produces photograms of what appears to be a floating city, further proving his theory that parallel dimensions do indeed exist. This doesn't sit well with the Magisterium, who label his controversial findings as heresy and will do anything to stop him from seeking answers — or, even worse, unveiling the truth to the world. Some fear this man's big ideas so much, one of his own colleagues at the Jordan College of Oxford even attempted to kill him with poisoned wine.

But those sneaky assassination plans are foiled by Asriel's daughter Lyra, the lead protagonist of the story. Fifteen-year-old actress Dafne Keen, better known to Marvel fans as X-23 from Logan, plays Lyra in His Dark Materials. During Looper's recent virtual chat session with the star, Keen had a lot to say about the many complex layers of Lord Asriel and his callous decisions. 

"I think Asriel truly does think he is the hero of the story and that he's the center of the situation — when in reality, he's really not," said Keen when Looper asked if she perceived Lord Asriel as a hero or a villain. "He's part of the plot, but he's not the hero. If you zoom out and you look at the greater picture, you realize he thinks he's doing all of these incredible things and he's going to go down in history and he's going to save the universe. He's not realizing how many people there are around him and how many lives he's ruining by doing that — which I think is what's quite beautiful about Lyra, [who's] just standing behind him, realizing and watching how this man is basically trying to save the world and ruining it at the same time."

Lyra is 'completely capable of forgiveness'

Like all children in the alternative world of His Dark Materials, Lyra is bound to a magical creature known as a daemon. Think of them as living, breathing spirit animals that are linked to the human soul. If your daemon dies, you die, and vice versa. These daemons shapeshift throughout a child's life, ultimately settling on a final form when the child reaches adulthood. Lord Asriel believes that the energy released when a child is permanently severed from their daemon will open a portal to this mysterious parallel world. But this experimental process, known as an intercision, doesn't bode well for youngsters or their lovable and often furry daemons — the grim result is death.

After a harrowing journey that leads them to the auroral zone of Svalbard, Lyra and her best friend Roger Parslow (Lewin Lloyd) finally reach Lord Asriel during the final moments of His Dark Materials' season 1 finale. Here, he finally puts his theory to the test. In a cold-hearted move, he sacrifices Roger in a cage-like device that performs these intercisions, instantly killing him and his ferret-formed daemon Salcilia. During the exact moment their deaths, a prism-colored rift tears through northern light sky, and Asriel is last seen entering a luminous gateway.

During the final tear-jerking minutes of Roger's life, Asriel truly believes that what he's doing is right and for the greater good. No matter how emotionally Roger begs and pleads for his life, Asriel is impenetrable — he only sees his scientific goal at hand. All he can do to console Roger is say, "I'm sorry that this is happening to you," and tell him that he is a merely a casualty of a war that will "free humanity forever." All this occurs while Lyra watches from afar in horror as her own father willingly takes the life her childhood friend all to prove he was right and to ultimately get back at the Magisterium.

"I think there's this duality because Asriel has been the only family she's had, ever," explained Keen as she further dissected the complicated relationship between Lyra and Asriel. "And she's just now basically found out that he's her father. If you've grown up an orphan and you've been told you're an orphan and then suddenly you discover that the only blood relative you have is actually your father and he's been lying to you and he's told you he's your uncle — and then he kills the person who is basically your family – it's just a lot."

She continued, "Even though he's not blood, he's always been there. Roger and Lyra, they met when they were like one or two years old, and they've been together ever since. And it's just this incredible conflict inside of Lyra where she goes, 'I love [Lord Asriel]. I'm here because of him. And at the same time, he's taken my only family away and I want to be able to love him, but I can't because I feel like he's betrayed me and he's betrayed Roger, essentially.'"

During season 2 of His Dark Materials, we have yet to see Lyra confront her father about Roger's sacrifice. That's something we likely won't see until season 3, when The Amber Spyglass is adapted (that's the third and final novel of Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy). But the question remains, will she ever be able to forgive him for his cruel act? 

Keen shared with Looper, "[Lyra's] got all of these really complex relationships around her where she wants to love people, but at the same time, she doesn't want to. And she does. And it's just very confusing. I think Lyra is completely capable of forgiveness. If she wants to, she would be able to forgive [Lord Asriel]. But I think that's something that's quite hard to forgive — basically killing your brother."

Catch all-new episodes of His Dark Materials on Mondays at 9 PM on HBO.