Episode 5 of His Dark Materials Season 2 begins with Mrs Coulter arriving in our Oxford with Boreal. With no Daemons around, she finds herself watching as the humans indulge in an age of consumerism.
They make it back to Boreal’s house and he shows her his collection of trinkets and antiques down in the basement. It;’s quite an ironic scene, especially after his previous statements about consumerism and one that Coulters see straight through. Starting to lose patience, she asks to see the alethiometer.
It turns out Boreal has a plan and with CCTV footage covering every angle of the house, Lyra and Will could be walking straight into a trap.
While the pair wait, Boreal discusses what’s transpired in this Oxford so far with Mrs Coulter. Specifically, he mentions Mary and her studies surrounding dark matter. Telling her she’ll like it in this world, Boreal encourages her to don a more human-like outfit while roaming around in this Oxford.
Dressed in smart attire, Coulter decides to meet Mary Malone and introduces herself as Lyra’s Mother. Mary heaps praise on Lyra before questioning Coulter on her story and her academic achievements. This seems to strike a chord with her as Coulter suddenly turns and disappears when Mary has her back turned.
Sensing something isn’t quite right, Mary researches Marisa online but finds no trace of her. Instead she questions the dust computer, which tells her to start her journey at Hornbeam, find the entrance and save the boy and girl. This, of course, seems to hint toward Lyra and Will but is this directed toward the trap they’re about to walk into?
Meanwhile, Will and Lyra concoct a plan to get the alethiometer back from Boreal. With the knife in hand, Lyra helps Will channel his powers and conjure more accurate portals to jump across to Oxford. With things looking promising, Will and Lyra decide to wait for sun-down before making their move.
Anyway, before they go Will and Lyra are berated by the kids who question just what he’s done to Tullio. This, of course, was the boy they fought up in the tower during the previous episode and now he looks like a shell of the person he once was. Despite apologizing, Will feels guilty for what’s transpired.
At the Magisterium, the Cardinal hears that the witches have hit back and killed 24 of their men. Given they need more soldiers to hold the front, MacPhail blames Father Graves for his lack of faith and sends him off to the cells for this. He’s incredulous at the accusation, dragged away by the authorities while MacPhial tasks the others to find Coulter using their alethiometer.
The time of the big operation arrives and both Will and Lyra ready themselves to travel across to Oxford. With the knife cutting deep, the pair work out the layout of Boreal’s house and try to find a way into the basement.
While they do, Mrs Coulter and Boreal discuss what happened in Mary Malone’s office. Coulter opens up and talks about the unfair sexism existing in her world and even admits she’s written several papers in the past. Unfortunately the only way for her to have these published was actually under a male pseudonym.
Coulter’s resentment and distrustful nature runs deep, so deep in fact that she sees through Boreal’s façade and various trinkets. Before they can discuss this further, Lyra appears at the door. While she distracts Boreal, Will opens a portal into the basement and tries to evade Mrs Coulter in order to bring the alethiometer back. Unfortunately this plan goes awry when Coulter’s daemon pops up and grabs it, blindsiding the boy.
Lyra follows the cries and scrambles down to the basement where she comes face to face with Mrs Coulter. Lyra and Coulter’s daemons both square off while Will and Boreal fight too. Will manages to get the alethiometer and knife, opening a portal and taking Lyra with him before it’s too late.
While Boreal and Mrs Coulter lick their wounds, Will and Lyra try to work out their next move and how to get to Will’s father. Mary Malone meanwhile, heads up to the area holding the portal under the pretense that she’s Mrs Coulter and manages to find a way across to Cittàgazze. Only… obviously the spectres are there and this looks like it could cause big problems going forward.
The Episode Review
With little in the way of action this week, His Dark Materials slows down slightly as we see Will and Lyra breaking into Boreal’s basement and stealing the alethiometer back. This works really well to show off the tenacity and quick thinking of the kids while also showing that Boreal can be defeated – and that Mrs Coulter has a weakness.
In fact, Coulter’s vulnerability across this episode really helps to paint her in a slightly different light to what we’ve seen before. The conversation about her papers not being published for being female and the sexism that clearly exists within the magisterium and her world is a nice inclusion and it’s clear she sees some of herself in Mary Malone.
This is, of course, only backed up by the end scene where Mary used her quick wits to pose as Mrs Coulter and head across to Cittàgazze. And what of this world between worlds? Given spectres operate there, it’s clear that Mary is in danger unless she can get to Lyra and Will before it’s too late.
While not the most exciting episode of the season, His Dark Materials continues to deliver a decent adaptation of The Subtle Knife.