Tower of the Angels
Episode 4 of His Dark Materials Season 2 begins with a fair amount of exposition as we’re graced with a history lesson surrounding the Subtle Knife and its origins.
300 years ago a guild of philosophers crafted this weapon that can cut through worlds. The knife is currently tucked away inside the tower following its seductive power. The Guild decided to use the knife for greed rather than good – which led to all the spectres being released. If the right person takes control of the knife though, it could save them all.
In the present, Lee continues his search for Grumman, heading deep into the sticky, dense swamp. On the way he runs into Jopari’s bird who tells him to follow. The bird leads him up to the top of a hill where a man named Jopari happens to be. This is simply an alias though as he reveals that his other name is actually Grumman.
Apparently he summoned Lee to this hut, thanks in part to a strange item Grumman has in his possession that belonged to Lee’s Mother. As he sits Lee down, Jopari talks about the knife and the war currently going on. There’s two forces lining up but for the right side to win, Asriel needs the knife. At least, according to Grumman anyway.
Eventually Lee agrees to hear him out and agrees to make a deal. If Grumman can guarantee Lyra’s protection then he’ll take the man wherever he wants to go. This seems to be a fair deal, as Grumman uses his strange shaman powers to move the balloon toward its destination.
Meanwhile in our world, Boreal heads in to see Mary Malone who’s fallen asleep at her desk. She’s obviously unnerved by his presence and when he mentions defence funding for her work, she immediately perks up and tells him to leave.
Instead, Boreal turns his attention to Mrs Coulter, whom he meets during dinner to discuss his plan. He reveals that Lyra is in Oxford – but not the Oxford she knows. He mentions the window and how she’s trapped in the other world.
Only, Coulter is all too familiar with Lyra breaking free from traps and casts doubts on his plan. Boreal is confident though, going on to tell her he has something precious of hers and she’ll definitely return. Smiling distastefully, Coulter agrees to go with him to that world.
Will and Lyra continue their search for a way into the tower, finding a matching angel insignia and busting through the door. When they do, the smoky tendrils of a spectre floats outside. The pair walk through the hallways together, coming across the entrance to the tower and ascending up the curling stairs until they find a man tied up and sitting against the wall.
As we soon learn, this man is The Bearer, or Giacomo Paradisi to be precise. A boy wandering around the tower happens to be wielding the knife too and he comes at Lyra and Will swinging the blade around maniacally. As they wrestle, the fight eventually ends with Will losing two fingers.
Will eventually wakes up in Giacomo’s quarters as the old man reveals that he too lost two fingers in a similar skirmish. This seems to be the mark of the bearer who has to carry the knife. Eventually Will is entrusted to carry this weapon, where we receive some exposition around exactly what this knife can be used for.
One half can cut through any material while the other end can pierce a hole in the world they’re currently in. In order to make it work, Giacomo tells Will he needs to focus his mind.
With training complete on how to open and close a portal, Giacomo fills Will in on the crucial rules to remember. The first includes never opening a window without closing it, the others include never letting anyone else hold the knife, not flaunting it and keeping it secret from all those around him.
Knowing that his part in this tale is over, Giacomo leaves Will and Lyra, accepting that the spectres will get him when he leaves. With Giacomo gone, Will recovers in a bath while Lyra apologizes for her part in all this, knowing from the alethiometer that he had an important part in this tale. Eventually he agrees to go back with Lura and steal the alethiometer from Boreal.
Meanwhile, the witches regroup and discuss their next move. With hundreds of witches gone, Serafina tells Queen Skadi where Lyra is and asks for her help in tracking down the girl and striking back at the Magisterium. Knowing they have a fight on their hands, she eventually agrees to do just that.
Back in Oxford, Mary communicates with the cave again while sat art her computer. “Ask a question,” A commanding voice booms as she closes her eyes. It’s the dust. Dust and Dark Matter are one and the same – and conscious too from the looks of it. Apparently angels are shadow-matter and confirm that they’re intervened in human evolution for one reason – vengeance.
As the word is spoken, we cut across to see a very visual, very impressive form of vengeance manifest. The witches fly past a whole series of airships, destroying and killing as they go, heading toward Asriel’s tear in the sky as the episode comes to a close.
The Episode Review
As all the different forces begin to converge closer toward Lyra’s position, most of this episode is taken up with exposition and details surrounding the subtle knife and how this blade works.
For the most part this works quite well, although there are a lot of exposition dumps through the 48 minutes that do slow the pace down slightly. That’s not necessarily a bad thing here though, especially given it helps to understand exactly what this knife is and why it’s so important.
However, it’s clear now what the end goal is and with both sides ready to fight to the bitter end over this, a war is certainly brewing on the horizon. Who will win in the end? We’ll have to wait and see of course but one thing’s for sure – this conflict is far from over.