Moving The Pieces
Halfway through this first season, His Dark Materials charges across the packed ice for its second half of the story, this time introducing another key player in the form of Will. With two timelines now running simultaneously, His Dark Materials feels like it’s gearing up for a dramatic conclusion to this first season but does so with an episode that progresses our characters with little in the way of action or excitement until late on.
In the bleak winter of the North, we begin with narration surrounding Lyra’s prophecy. As we soon learn, there’s a boy who shares her fate, a boy we catch glimpses of and seems to be connected to this world. As the Gyptians and the others head North, the ever opportunistic Lee lies on the remnants of his balloon as it’s moved up North, while Boreal watches the prophetic boy, William, from afar.
Lyra uses the compass to get a reading on the natives in the area before sensing danger ahead, thanks to an indulging vision that takes over of something lurking in the shadows. Consulting John Faa, she hesitantly remarks it may hold a ghost but needs to visit to be sure. He refuses, telling her there’s more pressing issues to attend to, prompting her to speak to Ma instead and ask her permission to leave. Needing to think over this proposal, she tells Lyra to give her some time.
Meanwhile William packs stuff into his locker while his Mum leaves her house. Boreal confronts her and spins a story about John, feigning grief for his loss. As she tells him about the expedition and how he was lost in the storm 13 years ago, the slimy Boreal clutches her hand and tells her how sorry he is. She’s clearly rattled by this too, and hurries off to Will at the boxing ring where he hurries after her and they discuss what happened.
Lyra sits with Ma and speaks to John Faa’s daemon regarding her instincts and what she should do. He mentions King Iofur and how things are stirring in the North, while John himself finds Serafina alone and asks her for help, knowing the impossible task that lies before him. After some cryptic talk of the aurora and Asriel’s great war, night turns to day and the group get moving again.
Riding on Iorek’s back, Lyra charges across the open snowy plains, determined to find answers, until they come across a cave, where they hide out for the time being. In the other timeline, Will speaks to his Mother about his Father. She tells him he’s extraordinary but her irrational behaviour extends to her believing someone has been inside their house. Eventually she calms down and as she does, shows him an envelope full of letters hidden away.
Lyra and Iorek look down upon the fisherman’s village in the grim light of the evening before finding Billy lying motionless on the ground without his daemon. Snatching him up, they charge back to camp and show the others. Lyra speaks to Lee about the removal of the daemons akin to that of destroying one’s soul and the true horrors of what’s going on with Gobbler operation is shown as Ma weeps for Billy as he passes away.
Meanwhile, prying eyes watch Will and his Mum from afar. Boreal begins to learn more about what’s happened with John and realizes he may be aware of the window to the other world. Given he may have left a paper trail with details on this, that plot reveal may well tie into the situation regarding the letters in the envelope.
In the dead of night, assassins infiltrate the camp and begin killing men one by one. However, as Lyra heads out to investigate, she’s snatched up and taken away where she tells her captors that her name is Lizzie. As her daemon flies away, the woman begins speaking in a foreign tongue before encouraging Lyra to enter a room where she’s prepped for immediate treatment.
As the woman opens the wardrobe, Lyra sees her future attire; the same jumpsuit Billy was wearing when he was captured. Whatever this place is, it certainly doesn’t appear to be good news as we close out the episode.
With no Mrs Coulter or overarching Magisterium politics this time around, His Dark Materials delivers a much slower episode, one that combines elements from the other books and combines them with Lyra’s story to mixed effect. The opening segments of this episode actually feel like the start of a book too and although I shamefully regret I haven’t actually read this trilogy, I am aware that this isn’t being told in chronological order.
The episode itself spends a lot of time introducing Will and his Mum, along with Boreal investigating him and his Father, which takes precious time away from Lyra’s ventures across the ice. Having said that, seeing what happens to the daemon-less kids is certainly an eye-opening worry though and the heartbreaking reveal of Billy at the end makes the wait worth it for this emotional finale. It also spells a lot of trouble for Lyra as she’s now deep in enemy territory and seemingly facing insurmountable danger.
The intertwined timelines have intrigued me though and I’m looking forward to finding out more about the connection between worlds. His Dark Materials has done well so far to set up the foundations for some dramatic set-pieces to follow but whether this deviation from Lyra’s story to share the spotlight with Will pays off remains to be seen.