In this week’s His Dark Materials, the Gyptians rescue Lyra and prepare to take their fight with Mrs. Coulter and the Gobblers to the North.
Last week on His Dark Materials, we learned, along with Lyra, the truth about who Lord Asriel is — as well as the depths of Mrs. Coulter’s evil. And just as soon as she escaped Mrs. Coulter’s clutches, Lyra was kidnapped by someone else.
This week’s episode of His Dark Materials starts with Lyra in the back of a van, screaming, “Let me go!” However, her captors are soon overtaken — Tony Costa and a band of Gyptians are at her rescue.
Over in Oxford, Mrs. Coulter descends on Jordan College with the Magisterium in a craze due to Lyra’s escape. She marches into the Master’s study, ripping pages out of books, and demands to know where Lyra is, who cattily retorts he left Lyra in her care.
A fascinating exchange between Mrs. Coulter and the Master about scholastic sanctuary gives us our first glimpse at the religious conspiracy that underpins all of His Dark Materials (that isn’t the very confusing idea of Dust). While the Master maintains they must protect the mere idea of thinking, Mrs. Coulter argues that he is abusing his privilege, having found a book on alethiometers, which are only to be used by the Magisterium.
The Master admits that Lyra has one and Mrs. Coulter growls, again wanting to know where she is, threatening to destroy everything if he doesn’t tell her. He reminds her that she was left in his care, saying, “You lost her. You’ve already done your worst.”
Tony takes Lyra back to the Gyptians, and Lord Faa insists on keeping Lyra in their care to protect her. Lyra is, of course, a bit gun shy at this point, and is understandably suspicious. Farder Coram tells her they’ve known her since she was a baby, even if she doesn’t know them, and that Lyra doesn’t have to stay but they will keep her safe.
Ma Costa takes Lyra in and teaches her their ways, disguising her as a Gyptian and keeping her on their boat. Lyra throws Gyptian powder with her, sparking fire on the stove and Ma Costa tells Lyra she can be whatever she wants.
It’s a sweet scene, as Lyra finally has a sincere mother figure, and Ma Costa has someone to distract her from the loss of Billy. But despite being comfortable with Ma Costa, Lyra is still unsure of what to do and whether she should stay.
Meanwhile, Boreal goes through the window once again to talk to Thomas, the man he’d asked to look up information on Stan Grumman. It turns out, in this world, his name is John Parry (played by Andrew Scott, Fleabag‘s Hot Priest!) and he is a former colonel.
Additionally, Thomas tells him that Parry/Grumman was born in this world, not Boreal’s, despite the fact that he has a dæmon. He also has a wife and a son, Will, (who becomes central to the story in book two, The Subtle Knife).
Sidebar: As a reminder, Boreal’s intrigue has to do with the fact that Parry/Grumann was studying Dust, like Asriel, which is considered to be heretical by the Magisterium.
This is a huge, huge piece of information from the books here. Boreal’s whole storyline isn’t really this in depth in The Golden Compass, but I think it’s wise to begin to weave together all of the pieces of the overarching stories so we can get the big picture as we go, because the picture is big.
Of course, Boreal takes all of this information to yet some other contact he has in “our London” and tells them to keep an eye on Will and his mother, Parry/Grumman’s son and wife.
Back on the boats, Lyra is telling the Gyptians about her time with Mrs. Coulter just as alarms sound and the Magisterium begin searching their boats. The Gyptians quickly hide her and do everything they can to distract the Magisterium as they search.
A big scary dog searches the boat as Mrs. Coulter’s manhunt for Lyra ensues. (Between His Dark Materials and the new Lady and the Tramp, I’m starting to think it’s impossible to do a good CGI dog. All the other CGI animals on this show look great!)
When Ma Costa gives Lyra the all clear, Lyra bursts out of her little hidey-hole in a rage of fury, fearing she’ll never be safe, and not knowing whether to trust the Gyptians when they won’t tell her the truth anyway.
After screaming at Ma Costa, the woman finally yells back at her that Mrs. Coulter is her mother. That’s the truth everyone has been hiding from her. She tells her that Mrs. Coulter and Lord Asriel met and fell in love after the former was already married — meaning Lyra was born out of wedlock. Mrs. Coulter’s husband was unhappy, of course, so Lord Asriel hid her with a Gyptian nurse to keep her safe: Ma Costa.
But Mrs. Coulter’s husband wouldn’t stop looking for Lyra, and Asriel eventually fought and killed him. He then took Lyra to a nunnery, then to Jordan College during the Great Flood.
Ma Costa tells Lyra she held her all night long and tried her best to keep her safe. “I didn’t manage it before. Let me manage it now,” she says and squeezes Lyra’s shoulder. It is heartbreakingly sweet when you know that all Ma Costa wants is to keep her children — Lyra included in a way — safe.
That night, the Gyptians all meet and discuss what to do. Many of them fear they’ll only lose more people if they go North, and some even think they need to kick Lyra off the ship as she might be putting them in danger.
A very brave Lyra speaks up and tells them that as frightened as she is, Billy and Roger are more frightened, and Mrs. Coulter won’t stop until she’s done doing whatever it is she wants to do. Using her as a catalyst, Lord Faa whips the crowd into a frenzy as they decide to go North and bring back their children.
Later that night, Benjamin and Tony go on a rogue mission to get more intel and break into Mrs. Coulter’s apartment while Lyra waits up and studies the alethiometer. She sees Tony leave and tells him where to look for the papers. While waiting for him to return, she’s tired enough that her mind goes blank and the alethiometer moves.
At Mrs. Coulter’s home, the monkey watches from the air vent and attacks them in the study, screeching alarm just as they get papers from her desk. Tony runs into Lyra’s room and escapes out the window as Benjamin runs for the elevator. Mrs. Coulter shoots Benjamin, and she attacks him as the monkey attacks his dæmon.
It’s another terrifying scene that showcases how truly terrible Mrs. Coulter is as her monkey chokes Benjamin’s bird, which causes Benjamin to choke, as she demands to know who sent him. Finally, he escapes her grasp and says, “I betray my family for no one,” then falls down the elevator shaft, his dæmon evaporating into Dust.
Meanwhile, Ma Costa and Farder Coram have woken up and learned about Tony and Benjamin’s mission. Lyra feels guilty and takes the blame as Ma Costa waits for Tony to return.
Lyra realizes Farder Coram forbade Tony and Benjamin from going to Mrs. Coulter’s in an effort to protect her, and decides she can trust him. She shows him the alethiometer. The very helpful and wise Farder Coram explains how he thinks it’s supposed to be read, but says it takes years to learn and books to understand what the symbols mean.
Once she’s alone again, Lyra still does her best since it’s the only way she can help. She asks a question about Tony and it lands on the symbol of the hourglass with the skull on it.
Knowing that Benjamin is dead, and Tony is in danger, Lyra runs above the ship to tell Farder Coram, and just as he screams to tell her to get back down, two buzzing spy flies find them. Lyra kills one and they capture it, but the other one gets away.
As soon as a heartbroken Tony returns with a list of all the kids’ names (including Billy’s), they decide they have to leave for the North at once. Farder Coram tells John Faa that Lyra will be the most valuable soldier they have — she can read the alethiometer — and everyone believes him.
The other spy fly returns to Mrs. Coulter and lands in her palm. We’ve learned throughout the episode that they can’t talk, but are just made up of dark magic — which begs the question: What will Mrs. Coulter do with it? And does this have anything to do with why her dæmon can be so far away from her? (Readers of the books know what theory I might be hinting at here…)
As they sail North, Ma Costa tells Lyra they have a huge journey ahead, and Lyra says she’s ready to fight. Next week promises to be the beginning of that fight as Lyra seeks out Lee Scoresby and an armored bear…