The City Of Magpies
One of the bigger surprises from BBC’s line-up of content last year, His Dark Materials (a co-production with HBO of course) delivered a thrilling 8 episode season, one that blended elements of the first two books together nicely.
With the foundations set for a thrilling follow-up season, His Dark Materials wastes absolutely no time getting right to the heart of the drama.
Episode 1 of His Dark Materials Season 2 begins with a grief-stricken Lyra adjusting to life on the other side of the portal. While she does, angels fly ominously across the torn skyline. Asriel’s portal has started this new prophecy – one foretold by the witches.
Down on the ground though, a sobbing Lyra is comforted by Pan, who kindly encourages her to carry on, especially given they can’t go back now.
Roger’s death continues to weigh heavy on Lyra’s mind though, who wonders aloud whether he would have even died had it not been for the alethiometer. They press on together, looking out across the horizon as they see the city from Asriel’s photogram.
When they get there though, the place is eerily quiet and it looks like everyone left in a hurry. Lyra finds a bar but inside, stumbles upon Will Parry who also happens to be there. Pan asks where his daemon is but obviously he doesn’t know. Lyra remains distrusting and hurries away from him, despite Pan’s insistence that she needs to think over her options.
Realizing he’s not from her world, the two start talking about dust (obviously Will is a bit incredulous by this statement given what dust is in our world) until they hear a noise coming from the bar.
Hurrying back, they uncover two girls Paola and Angelica who confirm the town was quickly abandoned after specters arrived. Apparently only adults can see them and they seem to be a sort of dementor – taking away everything good inside a person and leaving them a shell of what they once were.
When the duo leave, Will and Lyra talk and eventually decide to join forces.
Meanwhile, Cardinal remains in denial about the existence of other worlds and calls it heresy. MacPhail patiently encourages him to look outside but he refuses. Instead, the ministers try a different tact which sees Mrs Coulter talking to the witch they’ve captured for intel.
Elsewhere, Lee heads off in search of the witches. He’s intending to find out if they can help with the Lyra situation. After Serafina introduces him to the group, they agree to band together and help Lyra and the prophecy.
Only, they hit a road block when Queen Skadi enters the fray with more pressing concerns. The magisterium have taken one of their own, a witch named Katya, and they have no choice but to free her. This causes a rift between the two sides – one that eventually sees Skadi heading out alone to help her.
At the Magisterium, Mrs Coulter heads down to the basement with murderous intent. The witch has been strung up with its demon in an adjacent cage. She remains stone-faced until Marisa plucks forth the thin branch wedged in her back – something which allegedly allows her to fly.
As she continues to interrogate Katya, Coulter asks about the different worlds and what she’s told Asriel. She tells Mrs Coulter the prophecy has begun but she cannot stop it.
As Queen Skadi races through the storm clouds, Katya calls out for help, unwilling to betray her own kind and deciding suicide is a more noble exit from this world. On the way out, Queen Skadi stabs the Cardinal and makes a dramatic exit.
This is actually a blessing in disguise for Mrs Coulter, who toys with the mutinous idea of ridding herself of the Cardinal and using a puppet in his stead to help her.
Lyra eventually decides to eventually open the alethiometer but is interrupted by Will heading up, encouraging her to search the area with him.
There, they find a taste of what these specters can do, as a man stands at a well. Lyra encourages him to head home before turning her attention to Angelica and Paola, who have a cat cornered.
They save the feline, shoo the kids away and head off alone together. There, Will and Lyra discuss the differences – and similarities – between their two worlds. As they both realize there’s two Oxfords where the windows are located, they decide to team up and head there in the morning.
Before that though, Lyra uses the alethiometer with the intention of asking about Will. As the symbols turn, the alethiometer shows that he’s a murderer – the good kind though like Iorek. As she continues on, Lyra realizes that Will is connected to this world in some way.
As she talks, the scene cuts across to Will, as something dark and sinister manifests itself behind him.
The Episode Review
Finally Will and Lyra are together and now the prophecy looks like it’s starting to take shape. Quite what the duo need to do in this world remains to be seen but there’s no doubt that things are starting to heat up – especially with the prospect of all-out war looming on the horizon.
There looks to be no sign of the show slowing down or skimping out on the excellent production any time soon, with a foundation-setting opener that eases you back into this world (or worlds I guess!) nicely.
Of course, book lovers may look at some of the differences and be a bit disappointed but to be honest, there’s enough here to enjoy nonetheless. The light bites of mystery in this strange new world continue to intrigue while the issues in Lyra’s world look like they could be the deciding factor – especially with Mrs Coulter looking poised to control the magisterium at any moment.
So far so good though, His Dark Materials gets off to a great start!