His Dark Materials, along with The Witcher, have been the more pleasant fantasy surprises this year. While I’m under strict embargo not to talk much about the latter until the 20th, His Dark Materials has been a really impressive fantasy offering – and one I can actually talk about. Combining some gorgeous visuals with a compelling narrative, this fantasy epic sets things up nicely ready for next week’s finale.
Mrs Coulter begins the episode struggling to contain her rage as she looks at the wreckage of the machine Lyra destroyed. Stepping outside, she asks where Lyra is but, thanks to the young girl’s quick wits and fake persona as Lizzie, no one knows who or where she is. Lyra, as fate would have it, survived the fall and after clutching her side, she creeps forward into the great unknown where a monstrous polar bear captures her, throwing Pan and her into a cell in the palace. Here, she comes face to face with a scholar. He talks about the history of the bears until she comes face to face with King Iofur himself.
As she and Iofur talk, Lyra tells him she’s Iorek’s daemon and, given he’s on his way there, tells him if he and Iofur fight together one on one, she will become his daemon. After tricking him with the help of the compass, Lyra goes on to turn him against Mrs Coulter and agree to her terms.
Boreal slips through the portal back into modern London and watches a video with John Parry mentioning writing letters. Boreal then returns to the house and lets himself in, confronting Elaine and mentioning the letters to her, as well as the possibility of finding John alive and well. She refuses to show him what she knows though, going on to ask him to get a warrant. After getting a glimpse of his daemon, Elaine backs away as Boreal leaves.
Iorek arrives at the palace and the bears fight in combat until Iorek wins. He calls her Lyra Silvertongue and addresses the rest of the clan, promising a new beginning away from the bloodshed. Back at the cave, Lyra meets back up with Roger and uses the compass to make sure Lee is okay. Despite crashing his balloon, he’s definitely still alive, especially given Serafina greets him and passes over a gun; a reminder that the fight is still to come. Mrs Coulter is en-route to Lyra’s position too and given Iofur is now dead, things appear like they’re going to be rocky from here on out.
As the episode closes out, the Magisterium prepare to strike while Will snatches up the letters after Boreal’s henchman break in and fail to find them. Lyra meanwhile comes face to face with Asriel and despite pleading with Lyra to leave, he looks at Roger with much interest.
Given this is the episode before the finale, outside the great bear fight most of the run-time sets things up ready for next week’s big finish. This growing suspense is something a lot of shows do and here, His Dark Materials follows suit. Given I’m not fully clued up on the books but do know parts of the story beats, HBO and BBC have done a wonderful job bringing the pages of this series to life. Although if I’m honest, Will and Elaine’s story still feels a little confusing against the entire Lyra arc but there’s enough here to put our heroine squarely in the limelight.
The fight between Iorek and Iofur was suitably grounded and a lot more realistic compared to the blockbuster extravaganza back in 2007 too. Although the film did feel a lot more epic and cinematic in scope, I actually preferred the more claustrophobic and gritty depiction of this struggle in this one. This changed emphasis may not be for everyone but I do think it adds a little more realism to proceedings.
Still, those disappointed by that have a lot to look forward to next week it seems. With the promise of fighting breaking out between the two sides, His Dark Materials looks set for a suitably dramatic finale and I’m looking forward to seeing how this one finishes.