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James Cosmo and Dafne Keen in His Dark Materials (2019). Image via IMDb.

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Air Balloons, Bears and the Northern Lights: A Review of ‘His Dark Materials’ Season One Episode Four

Warning: Spoilers are included in this review.

Throughout “Armour“, we follow Lyra’s events and challenges now she is with the gypsies. Specifically, we are introduced to a new set of characters including Lee Scoresby and Iorek. We begin with clouds upon clouds. The scene consists of light jolly music that matches the bright pink-orange color scheme of the clouds. Following this, we hear country-like singing by an Aeronaut in an air balloon. As promised, we have finally been introduced to Lin-Manuel Miranda‘s character, Lee Scoresby- the Aeronaut. Turns out this character has some form of connection with the infamous bear, Iorek. Though we are yet to fully know how he is connected, and of what use he will be to Lyra. Moreover, throughout the episode, it is understood that his character will provide a comedic aspect to the show, alongside being a family-like figure to Lyra, that comforts her through rough times. The scene then switches to Lyra running along the boat. At this point director, Otto Bathurst, uses a follow shot, which implies how the series is centered around her, as we are physically following her every move. Moreover, continuing with the cinematography Bathurst’s use of mise-en-scene shows Lyra at the front center of the boat. As a result, depicting and foreshadowing how much is physically but emotionally coming before her.

Moreover, regarding the plot, it is revealed that Ms. Coulter has Lord Asriel. Specifically that he is under the control of armoured bears, that Iorek had previously been exiled from. Turns out Ms. Coulter had previously joined forces with the now King Iofur to rid of Iorek, thus their returned favour was finding and imprisoning Lord Asriel. As a result, within the episode the plot reveals the different characters siding together in order to make their own armies, including Lyra teaming with Lee Scoresby, Iorek and the gypsies to defeat the Gobblers, and Ms. Coulter teaming with the armoured bears and the Magisterium to get what they want. A particular scene that I feel presents the hierarchical balance regarding Ms. Coulter’s persona is when she goes to the Magisterium and discusses her potential punishment. The music in the scene, in particular, consists of eerie strings that remain quiet, thus demonstrating how her voice overpowers all. We discover that Iorek was tricked resulting in his armour being taken. In particular, we discover the significance of a bear’s armour is that it is like a bear’s version of a daemon. As a result, I believe this explains Iorek’s depressive state whilst being at Trollesund.

Moreover, a key scene that I thought allowed the audience to build a better relationship with the protagonist involved Lyra looking at the Northern Lights. During this intimate moment, she reflects on where Roger and Billy Costa could be. Moreover, whilst looking at the Northern Lights, she thinks she can see a city, as Lord Asriel had previously suggested in the first episode. This whole moment remains intimate due to only herself and the CGI manipulated Daemon being in the shot, alongside the use of calming music that helps shape a theme of longing and wonder within the scene. However, the music is brought to an abrupt stop when Tony enters the scene, showing that her thoughts are interrupted. Finally, the episode ends with dramatic music marking the start of their journey on foot, providing a mood that foreshadows the battle that is yet to come.

Overall, this episode successfully reached an 8.7/10 on IMDb, marking it as the most successful episode yet. Arguably, this success is due to the episode diving into two different narratives, providing a variety of moods and tones from characters, and exploring different creative mise-en-scene elements. Regarding the plot, I realized that Ms. Coulter’s daemon has never been named. Moreover, he is one of the only daemons that remains mute. Perhaps, as a result of trying to separate Ms. Coulter’s Daemon from herself resulted in a lack of attachment to her daemon, and her daemon becoming mute. However, this lack of revealed information is arguably a limitation of the last few episodes, as it remains unclear and unexplained despite Ms. Coulter’s daemon being a main character. From next week’s promo, the scenes contain a range of dark colors, suggesting a gloomy atmosphere. Moreover, there are mentions of ghosts, and potentially something worse to come, creating anticipation that the next episode will be filled with tension.

His Dark Materials will air next Sunday at 8 pm BBC One.

Featured Image via IMDb.

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