In this week’s His Dark Materials, two huge characters from the book make their first appearance: Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Lee Scoresby, and Iorek Byrnison.
In last week’s episode of His Dark Materials, Lyra and the Gyptians galvanized their fight and went North, aiming to end the Gobblers once and for all and rescue the stolen children.
This week’s His Dark Materials kicks right off with Lee Scoresby, as we should — Lin-Manuel Miranda’s been so hyped up at this point, it’s only fair to begin the episode with him, and singing no less.
And Hester (voiced by the great Cristela Alonzo), his hare-y dæmon, is here, too, as they soar through the clouds in his hot air balloon on their way to look for Iorek Byrnison. But they soon notice a ship headed the same way: the Gyptians, who are headed to consult with the witches.
Once they land, Farder Coram takes Lyra to meet with the witch liaison, Dr. Lanselius, trusting that somehow the little girl and her alethiometer will be important to the witches.
At first, Dr. Lanselius tries to insist that the witches shouldn’t be involved; it isn’t their fight. Farder Coram argues that when children are being kidnapped, it’s everyone’s fight, and the witch Serafina Pekkala will want to be involved.
Lanselius asks Lyra about the alethiometer, wanting her to prove she can read it. He asks her to point out which sprig of cloud pine belongs to Serafina. She correctly identifies it and he gives her a piece, promising she can use it to call Serafina when they need her.
Lyra asks Dr. Lanselius what question they should be asking him but aren’t. He tells her they have heart but are weak and need more muscle, recommending the services of an armored bear called Iorek Byrnison.
It doesn’t take long for Farder Coram and Lyra to find Iorek working on the streets, binding and lifting metal, but he’s naked, without his armor.
Farder Coram tells him he could be proud and free on the ice, but Iorek refuses, even though he knows of the “child cutters” they’ll be fighting. Lyra calls him a coward and Iorek growls at her, but he maintains he doesn’t want to go.
Meanwhile, Marisa arrives at the Magisterium, the only color in a sea of black. They try to fire Marisa for attracting too much attention to the project, but she gives them an excellent solo slow clap and tells them they won’t fire her because she has Asriel, who is currently in a cage under the control of armored bears — all of whom answer to her.
She says she will give Asriel to them in exchange for being allowed to pursue the project to the end and being allowed to ask the alethiometer one question. The cardinal initially says it’s a high price, but she coolly responds, “For Asriel, it’s cheap.”
Anytime she interacts with the authorities in the Magisterium, it is abundantly clear that Marisa Coulter is so specifically a woman who wants all the power of the Magisterium with none of the rules or hierarchy that come along with it.
Back in Trollisand, Lyra asks Farder Coram about the witch, Serafina Pekkala. Hetells Lyra he was in love with her a long time ago and they had a child together, but that he died from an illness.
“I haven’t seen her since… after we buried my boy,” he chokes through tears. If James Cosmo’s performance doesn’t bring tears to your eyes, you’re heartless.
Concurrently, Lee and Hester continues their search for Iorek at a local bar. He starts rabble rousing and asking about Iorek, but soon gets into a bar fight. Hester helps him out, but also subtly ribs him the whole time, and audiences will soon understand why the pair are such a fan favorite. Regrettably, no one is willing to talk about Iorek.
As much as I love Lin-Manuel Miranda, and as good as he is, I’m still not 100-percent sold on him as Lee Scoresby. He may be a little too New York and not quite Texan enough (the accent comes and goes). He’s also certainly younger than the beleaguered Scoresby is supposed to be, and a bit meaner and gruffer.
Lee goes out on the street and yells about Iorek when Lyra and Coram come up on him. He realizes Lyra knows where Iorek is, but Lyra won’t tell him. So Lee tries instead to ask Farder Coram, but Coram cutely says he’s following Lyra’s lead.
That night, Farder Coram tells Lord Faa that he thinks Lyra is more important than they realize, perhaps the child they have heard of in a prophecy from long ago. As they talk, Serafina’s bird dæmon comes to them. (Witch dæmons have the ability to separate from them for long distances without pain.)
Her dæmon, Kaisa, tells them the Gobblers are going to a place called Bolvanger and that Serafina will support Coram wherever he goes, bringing tears to the man’s eyes.
Meanwhile, Lee and Hester finally find Iorek, who’s clearly a bit butt-hurt after all he’s been through. It’s been three years since Lee last saw him and he’s drunk, swaying and stumbling as he walks toward Lee.
Lee says he wants to help him but, Iorek is ashamed and embarrassed without his armor and at his unbear-like behavior. He asks Lee to go.
Lee realizes Iorek needs his armor back to be whole again. The next day, he goes into the main Magisterium cop’s office and goes full-blown freshman year student government nerd on the guy, telling him that the armor actually belongs to him and thus was wrongly confiscated. The cop clearly doesn’t know how to respond to this, and finally pulls a gun on Lee to get him to stop talking. Lee throws one last punch, telling him, “He’s a bear. He can’t be a slave.”
Meanwhile, the Gyptians begin to pack up, having gotten word about Lord Asriel’s captivity. While Lyra wants to help her father, she also insists they need Iorek. John Faa tells Lyra they don’t want Iorek because he was arrested for tearing up the town (basically being drunk and disorderly). Lyra checks the alethiometer which says that he was tricked into drinking and lost his armor, but Lord Faa says he will choose who he fights with.
Back at the Magisterium, Boreal corners Fra Pavel wanting to know the question Marisa asked the alethiometer. (She wanted to know, “Who is Lyra Belacqua?”) Fra Pavel recoils at the indecency, so Boreal pushes harder, wanting to ask his own question and calling him Ratty.
With a silky hand on his chest, Boreal threatens to out Fra Pavel if he doesn’t supercede the authority of the Magisterium and ask a very heretical question for Boreal: “How do I find what Grumann discovered?”
The gay twists and turns in this episode of His Dark Materials were certainly unexpected! I guess now we know why Boreal is so well dressed.
Over in Trollisand, Lyra won’t give up on Iorek and Pan reminds her of Lee. She finds Lee eating breakfast and tells him she represents the Gyptians and they want to hire him. As they talk, Lyra realizes Iorek can’t leave because the Magisterium has his armor. While Lee turns his head, Lyra steals his bacon mid-monologue and runs out the door.
Lyra finds Iorek and tells him she can find his armor. He growls, telling her he spent months looking for it. Lyra asks the alethiometer and tells Iorek it’s in the cellar of the Magisterium oratory.
Iorek runs through town, slamming into everything on his way. He’s owed vengeance. He bursts into the church and retrieves his armor, throwing the Magisterium guards like rag dolls as they shoot at him.
Iorek stands on the face of the cop who threatened Lee. Lyra asks him to let the cop go, pleading with him not to hurt the men in order to repay the debt he owes her for getting his armor back.
Lee shows up just in time to back up Lyra, telling Iorek this isn’t him and giving the cop a little wave. After one more big growl, he lets the men go and follows Lee and Lyra to the Gyptians.
The Gyptians packing the last of their and Lyra asks if they can use a little more help. Lord Faa is shocked to see Iorek and Lee, wondering how Lyra managed it.
When Lee introduces himself, Faa asks who he is, and there’s a hilarious exchange between Lee and Lyra. A clearly frustrated Lee thought that Faa had asked for him, but Lyra reminds him that she didn’t specifically say that.
This way with words and semantics will come to serve Lyra in the long run as we’ll soon see. Lee sighs and tells the Gyptian king he’ll need all the help he can get, and Faa reluctantly agrees. With that, Lyra and the Gyptians head to Bolvanger with a bear and an aeronaut, and the first season of His Dark Materials is halfway over…