The following contains spoilers through His Dark Materials Season 2 Episode 3 on HBO.
Welcome, dear reader, as we continue to review season 2 of HBO’s His Dark Materials with S2E3, “Theft.” That theft, of Lyra’s alethiometer, finally gives the plot some forward momentum. Will and Lyra are now set on the path to finding the Subtle Knife, for which the second book in the trilogy is named. Faithful allies Mary Malone and Lee Scoresby are taking steps in the right direction as well. The Magisterium is on the back burner in this episode, barely showing up on the periphery of events. While Mrs. Coulter has an unexpected moment of character growth.
One thing that stood out in this episode was the dæmons. Likely as a result of post-production running into pandemic restrictions, it seems like the dæmons are getting a lot more screen time this season. The barmaid / innkeeper had a spider dæmon, which was interesting. Have we seen insect dæmons before? Dr. Haley’s lemur dæmon manages to be more menacing than Mrs. Coulter’s monkey. Speaking of, her dæmon takes out a sleeping guard by putting the whack on his snake dæmon, which was pretty cool. And Sarafina Pekkala’s dæmon Kaisa gets some important intel from Iorek Byrnison.
The improbable hero of this episode would hands-down be Lee Scoresby. I have to admit that I’ve been on the fence about Lin-Manuel Miranda’s casting as Scoresby. Sam Elliott’s portrayal in the movie version of The Golden Compass really nailed the image I had in my mind from the books. More of a rugged American cowboy type, with just the right amount of swagger to him. Miranda’s Scoresby is more like a guy who won his balloon in a game of chance (which of course he did) and has pretty much been sailing the winds of chance ever since. He always seems way out of his league and way out-classed by everyone around him.
We saw in the previews last week that there was going to be an interrogation scene between Lee Scoresby and Mrs. Coulter. Given how “very persuasive” she was with the young witch in S2E1, this did not bode well for Lee. Things started out well enough, with Lee finally tracking down a lead on Stanislaus Grumman. When the encounter with Dr. Haley at the observatory goes badly and turns into a shootout, Lee and Hester’s regret at seeing the man die before their eyes is palpable. This moment of humanity was just a warm-up for what was to come.
It’s Lee’s humanity that allows him to connect with Coulter, and see her truth as no one else in the series has been able to. He doesn’t try to dominate her or elevate himself above her, as all of the foolish men of the Magisterium tried to do. He brings her down to his level. Actually, that’s not quite right. He connects with her. He sees right through her tough as nails façade. In a way, he elevates her, giving her a humanity we were not privy to before this encounter.
All of this leads to the most heart-breaking moment of this episode (maybe that should just become a regular feature of my reviews). Still reeling from the revived memories after her exchange with Scoresby, Coulter takes a moment to collect herself, standing in the hallway, facing the wall. Her dæmon tentatively reaches up, waits for a moment to see if he will be slapped away, and then holds her hand. As we pan back and take in the scene, you feel more like you are looking at the hurt little girl she used to be, rather than the grown woman she is now.
In the last episode, Mrs. Coulter ripped into Cardinal MacPhail for daring to judge her. It seems at least part of her silent reverie during the interrogation of Dr. Lanselius was a consideration of her past choice to abandon Lyra. Judging herself, it would seem. When she took custody of Lyra in S1E1, it was more of a power play, to control that particular piece on the playing board.
Now though, it seems we’re witnessing the beginning of a redemption arc. She reflectively answers Lee “Of course I do” when he intuits “You love her.” Maybe she really means it, or is at least thinking about it more and more. When she receives the note from Boreal stating “I know where she is,” she is at least smart enough to know that it wouldn’t hurt to have another player out there with Lyra’s best interests in mind.
I could just take up the entire article talking about the amazing interaction between Mrs. Coulter and Lee Scoresby, but there were, after all, one or two other things that happened in this episode.
Lyra attempts to keep her appointment with Mary Malone, but ends up running into D.I. Walters and his “wonderful moustache.” That sends her running into the waiting safety of Lord Boreal’s car and the “theft” for which this episode is named. Frankly, the momentary panic that Pan wasn’t going to be able to keep up with the car threw me, and I didn’t even see it coming.
Lyra sneaking out on Will gives him a chance to have a run in with Angelica, catching her staring out a window at “Torre degli Angeli,” the Tower of Angels. Will very definitely sees someone walking around in the tower, and Angelica very definitely tries to steer him away from it. She’s just about as bad a liar as Lyra is in this episode.
Mary Malone attempts to interface with the Cave in the manner that Lyra did, but has no luck. Taking a break from the lab, she tries her I-Ching sticks at home, remembering that Lyra told her she would need them. As she is getting a rather vague answer, we see the Cave fire up back in the lab, mimicking her sticks on screen. It’s a start.
Lastly, though it’s actually shown first, we see Serafina walking through the devastation at Lake Enara. Apparently, I was wrong last week about the target being their holy land where the separation ritual occurs. As Kaisa puts it, they “destroyed our homes” and “killed our people.” Still, Serafina is more worried about Lyra and the “great war ahead” than in getting justice with the Magisterium.
A couple of quick takes on the rest of the episode:
- Boreal’s home has the same style of Escher-like staircase that Cittàgazze features in its architecture.
- One Reddit user speculated that the large piece of ship haul Boreal has on display in his collection room could be a piece of the Titanic. Given some of the other rarities he has gathered there (a NASA space suit, and potentially a hat from Napoleon?), it could very well be.
- Angelica calls the men of the Guild “cowards” because they ran away when the Spectres came. The implication being that she sees her parents as brave because they stayed to protect their children (and were killed right in front of her).
- Haley in the observatory comments to Lee that “you can’t control the weather.” But apparently his colleague Dr. Grumman did just that, sending winds to call Lee to him.
- Lord Boreal calls the world of Cittàgazze “a crossroads world.”
- The best scenes in this episode were not even part of the original novel. Those being the meeting of Mrs. Coulter and Lee Scoresby, Will talking to Angelica about the tower, and Kaisa finding Iorek on the move. The writers have been doing a great job staying true to the source material while fitting the story into the confines of an episodic series. Even making some clever choices that enhance the story.
- I loved Pan flying reconnaissance for Lrya as she runs through the streets of Oxford. What a brilliant idea.
Best lines of the episode:
- “Lee Scoresby. I call ye and declare ye now. Return!”
- “What a wonderful moustache.”
- “What is this?” “It’s popcorn.” “It’s disgusting! It tastes like wood shavings.” “Then stop eating it!” “I’m trying.”
- “It’s really bad for you, I promise.”
- “So Lyra’s a toy for your future, set on a course she can’t change.”
- “You know exactly who I am, don’t you? And I know who you are.”
- “It’s not enough, though, is it? Love. It doesn’t mean you won’t hurt her, doesn’t mean she’s safe with you. It doesn’t work that way.”
- “And it won’t break me, and you know it won’t, because it wouldn’t break you either.”
- “Because my life is worth one-tenth of hers.”
- “Resurrection comes in the strangest of forms.”
- “To the mind that is still the whole universe surrenders.”
In The News
Here I try to point you to a few of the more interesting and informative news items over the last week related to His Dark Materials:
- Den of Geek has a rather lengthy piece interviewing production designer Joel Collins and visual effects supervisor Russell Dodgson. There’s more info about building the city of Cittàgazze, but also some new stuff about the Tower of Angels specifically, designing the witches flying and fighting abilities, and Pan’s red panda form.
- The Mirror has a short article walking through many of the filming locations in Wales, Oxford, and Bristol.
- Comic Book Resources walks through the additional short stories Philip Pullman has written, set in the world of His Dark Materials. Just in case you’re worried that there’s nowhere to go after Season 3 does The Subtle Knife. There’s actually plenty more material to go through, if they choose to continue.
That’s all for this week. Please let me know your thoughts and feelings about this week’s episodes, and any theories you have on what’s to come, in the comments below. Remember that 25YL will provide continuing coverage of His Dark Materials throughout Season 2 and beyond.
All images courtesy of HBO