Preparing For The Fight Ahead
His Dark Materials has been one of the more pleasant surprises this year. I’m always a little dubious when it comes to BBC dramas, especially after being let down by disappointing finishes to both The Capture and Bodyguard, but with the production duties shared with HBO this time around, it looks like they may have stumbled upon the winning formula with this fantasy epic. The great visuals and methodical storytelling extends to episode 3 too, which continues to build on the foundations of the plot so far with another decent hour of drama..
Following last week’s dramatic finish, we return to find Lyra saved by her kidnappers thanks to the Gyptians, who join together in massive numbers to find the missing children. John Faa asks Lyra about the gobblers but she remains tight-lipped, instead revealing she knows the truth about Asriel being her Father. Eventually she agrees to stay with them for the time being. Meanwhile, Marisa arrives before Dr. Carne and questions him over Lyra’s whereabouts. Getting nowhere, she and Boreal extend their search parameter after turning the college inside out in the process of looking for clues.
It doesn’t take them long to find out either, as Boreal learns that officers have been sent out to bring Lyra back from the Gyptians. This inevitably leads him back through the portal again where he arrives in our world. Driving his car, he arrives to a secluded spot where he meets his contact, learning there’s a possibility that the one he hunts could have travelled from our world across to the daemon world. With crucial intel gained, Boreal heads out again after thanking him.
Meanwhile, Lyra is shown the gobbler under strict interrogation but during their discussion, they’re interrupted by ominous horns that pierce the air, prompting magisterium officers to come aboard and begin searching for Lyra. Thankfully she manages to elude them, hiding behind the sink. With the threat passed for now, John Faa and the others gather the full strength of their numbers and debate over what to do with the Gobblers. Torn over how Lyra plays into this and given the Gobblers are travelling North to the land of the dark, the Western King tells them to prepare to fight and bring the children home.
In the middle of the night, Tony sneaks out to Marisa’s apartment, determined to get the schematics that link her to the gobblers. Unfortunately they’re caught in the office, prompting Marisa to head out of her room with a gun. Although Tony manages to slip away on the rooftop, Benjamin is not so lucky, committing suicide rather than give up information on the Gyptians’ whereabouts.
Meanwhile, Lyra shows Farder Coram the golden compass, believing she can trust him. He explains how the compass works and the numerous different symbols but goes on to tell her it takes years to master, given the intricacy and complicated nature of the contraption. Alone, she consults with Pan before deciding to heed that advice and try deciphering the compass herself. Using her intelligence, she matches up the different hands before seeing one of them swing freely across to a picture of an hourglass with a skull on.
Heading outside to tell Coram, she’s suddenly ambushed by two spy flies. While they manage to trap one of them, the other evades capture, prompting the Gyptians to hastily make their way North to avoid capture. Just before they do, Tony returns with the schematics, revealing the bad news to John Faa about Benjamin. He and the others head for the North, more determined than ever to find out what the Gobblers have been doing with the children.
The episode then closes out with Boreal visiting Marisa and asking what the Gyptians wanted with her. She cryptically tells him they still have a card to play but before they can continue, the spy fly appears and nestles itself in Marisa’s hand. The chase is on.
Setting the scene for what’s to come, His Dark Materials delivers another decent episode here, this time anchored around the Gyptians and their pursuit of the children. Seeing them all coming together toward the end is a nice touch and having not read the book, I’d imagine this slower pace is far more fitting for the novel than the fast-paced action some may be expecting if they saw the Hollywood film. Nevertheless, seeing the cat and mouse game between Marisa and Lyra is well worked into the plot and the way this converges with the Gyptians too certainly helps tie everything together.
It’s worth mentioning the musical score here too, and Lorne Balfe has done a great job composing a soundtrack full of orchestral tracks and a catchy motif for the show, as the intro weaves itself through various establishing shots in each episode. This, combined with some slick cinematography, help His Dark Materials feel like a big-budget fantasy epic. Intentionally avoiding the “next time on” segment, I can’t comment on what’s coming next episode but His Dark Material does feel like it’s starting to settle into the main plot line here which is great to see. Quite what the rest of the season has in store for us though remains to be seen.