is something of a bump in His Dark Materials. Veering slightly from the book, writer/showrunner Jack Thorne examines Philip
Pullman’s multiverse in greater detail – delivering a wider context. In many areas, these are welcome additions; in others, they’re more
like unnecessary appendages.
But although episode three is filled with claggy world-building
and prophecy-making, Thorne and co-writer Sarah Quintrell still dish up a
serviceably entertaining fantasy. In fact, this episode improves upon Thorne’s
consistent propensity to formulaic explanations – crafting absorbing
tension within interrogative dialogue.
best scenes in this episode lean toward those interrogations. This starts with
Lyra (Dafne Keen), in her alter-ego of Lizzie, being questioned by one of
Boreal’s goons, a detective for the bad guys. Keen devours these scenes as Lyra, revelling in her veiled sarcasm (‘What a wonderful moustache’) and cautiously
constructed lies. She’s the sort of kid adults love to hate: those too
smart for their own good.
But inevitably, Lyra screws up and goes on the run
again – to be eventually re-acquainted with Boreal (Ariyon Bakare), who’s also under the guise
of wealthy collector Charles Lattram.
Will (Amir Wilson) continues having enigmatic dreams about his parents,
the tower and the knife. It’s clunkily organised, adding a fantasy cliché that
Pullman didn’t bother with – likely shoehorned in to build up the magical
object of this series. Where series one had the alethiometer, series two has the
subtle knife, which will make its first physical appearance next week
Will looks at the Tower of the Angels, or the Torre degli Angeli, and
sees a shadow moving behind the stained-glass window. The mildly haunting and
quietly threatening Paola (Ella Schrey-Yeates) denies any presence in the Tower.
She takes a kind of sadistic satisfaction in reminding Will that his
encroaching adolescence will kill him, by means of being swallowed by the
panserbørne Iorek Byrnison (Joe Tandberg) makes a gruff and pointless appearance, his armoured bears also suffering from the impact of Asriel’s portal. He has an audience
with the witch Serafina Pekkala’s eagle daemon Kaisa (David Suchet), revealing the prophetic
details of Lyra. She will ‘end destiny’ (despite being locked into a specific
path) and bring back free will. The scene doesn’t add that much, trying to fill
the category of better additions, the meeting between Lee Scoresby (Lin-Manuel Miranda) and Mrs
Coulter (Ruth Wilson) is the indisputable zenith of the episode. Lee is imprisoned by the
Magisterium, after journeying to find the explorer Stanislaus Grumman. He
navigates a wintry Western existence, pushing into taverns and acting with Han
When he encounters Mrs Coulter, their conflicting
personalities and performances gel together. Wilson and Miranda create an
unnerving, immersive chemistry – not romantic, but cordial – despite being decent
representatives of good and evil. The morals of Lee and Mrs Coulter become
tangled in the fate of Lyra. Her chuckling threats vanish as Lee
finds a common trauma between them.
The evil of Mrs Coulter lies in her brief
sparks of humanity, and it’s where this series excels. If we had more of these moments,
there’d be fewer bumps along a generally brilliant road.
His Dark Materials, series 2, continues on Sundays on BBC One
|What||His Dark Materials, series 2, episode 3, BBC One review|
22 Nov 20 – 22 Nov 21, ON BBC ONE
|Website||Click here for more information|