Following its successful opening episode last time out, His Dark Materials returns for a much more methodically paced episode, one that really shows off the symbiotic relationship between daemon and human, while showing off the two separate worlds already. Lyra continues to be an endearing protagonist here and Dafne Keen’s performance really nails the blend of innocence and steely determination from this young girl. All of this builds up to a climactic finale that leaves things wide open for next week’s episode.
We begin the episode with Lyra arriving in Oxford and looking on in awe at the wondrous apartment building. While she settles in, Roger meanwhile is brought before the other boys and girls who have been taken by the gobblers. Marisa takes Lyra out with her and promises to help her wield power in much the same way she does. In order to do that though, she tells her to keep her mind off Roger, promising that she has her best people looking for him.
Meanwhile, the Gyptians continue their journey, arriving in London as John Faa begins his crusade of rescuing the children, sweeping through abandoned houses to find them. They strike lucky too, and find Billy’s clothes in an old hangout spot for the Gobblers. They’ve been moved though but the question around quite what they need the children for remains to be seen.
While Lyra is groomed to Marisa’s liking, back at the college Dr. Carne comes under fire as he’s questioned around dust and Asrail’s mission by Boreal. This leads him into the crypts, and eventually outside, where he tries to find some answers around Grumman’s location. Instead, he finds a portal which leads to the bustling streets of present-day London, and a source that allows the conversation to turn toward Asriel.
While tension remains in the air, Lyra hears strange noises in the middle of the night and heads out to investigate. As she opens one of the doors, she sees Marisa’s daemon on the table. She questions her over how the daemon can be so far away, but she brushes this off as Lyra’s imagination. However, there’s clearly more going on here as Marisa shuts her door, furious at being spotted.
Father Father MacPhail, a man from the magisterium, arrives at the apartment building some time later prompting her to tell Lyra to stay in her room. She, of course, doesn’t listen and instead stands at the door eavesdropping as she hears the magisterium talking about dust. After they leave, a rift between Lyra and Marisa grows, prompting her daemon to go after Pan. Unfortunately, this fight causes Marisa to lose control and spills the secret that Asriel is actually Lyra’s Father, not her Uncle.
Retreating to her room, Lyra clutches the compass and asks it numerous questions before kicking it away in frustration when she receives no answer. However, while her eyes are shut, the compass pointer moves. Some time later, Lyra asks Marisa about Roger again, where she tries to convince Lyra that he’s not missing after all. It doesn’t work, of course, and Pan questions whether she’s even been looking for him at all. Determined to get to the bottom of this, Lyra begins searching through the ventilation shafts, during a time where Marisa is out with her daemon.
Lord Boreal, having crossed over to our world, meets with a man there who seems to know about the daemons and asks him to find Asriel. Given he’s been exploring multiple worlds too, he believes he may be in their world. As we soon learn, it turns out Marisa is involved with the Gobblers after all and heads in to greet them, applauding the children and announcing they’re going on a voyage. Talking to Billy and Roger, she makes them write letters to their families (Roger chooses Lyra of course), while Lyra herself breaks into Marisa’s study and finds plans to The Station, the place where the children are destined to be taken.
As Boreal returns to this world and heads to meet Marisa, whom we learn he’s working with, Lyra plays her part and hands out drinks to guests during a party. As the revelations continue, one of the guests, who happens to be a journalist, takes her aside and spills the truth about the gobblers and Marisa’s involvement. Lyra seizes the opportunity to leave and after grabbing the compass, heads outside while Boreal deals with the journalist, killing her daemon infront of her. As the episode closes out, the kidnapped boys and girls are led away on a trip to the North while Lyra finds herself snatched up in the street by a mysterious stranger.
His Dark Materials may have delivered a much slower episode this week, it does so whilst keeping interest going with its various characters. The revelation around Marisa being aligned with the gobblers is a nice touch and seeing Lyra leave at the end, only to be captured again, certainly poses interesting questions going forward. Having not read the book I can’t comment on how faithful this is to the novel but in terms of pacing, His Dark Materials feels much more natural and deliberately paced, like a book, compared to its film counterpart.
Visually, the show continues to impress too and the various different sets and locations are a great contrast to the gritty realism of London when Boreal crosses to our world. Quite what this means for the future though and how these multiple worlds are connected is still unknown but it certainly poses interesting questions for the rest of the season. Boasting decent acting and an interesting, well-developed plot, His Dark Materials is certainly standing out for the right reasons here. I just hope it can keep this up going forward for the full season!