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Thieves, Traumatic Childhoods and More Reunions: A Review of ‘His Dark Materials’ Season Two Episode Three

In this week’s episode of His Dark Materials, there is a lot of conflict caused for different characters. Starting off with the witches. I loved the blue and black color palette within this season, which arguably reflected the theme of the death of Serafina’s family and friends and the loss of her home. Leanne Welham‘s use of opening with this tragic scene definitely brought a tense atmosphere for this episode. This episode as a whole was extremely negative than usual, mainly due to the character’s lack of success within their actions. Unfortunately, this meant that the usual use of light-hearted humour to break free from tension in His Dark Materials lacked within this episode. Nonetheless, the writer’s did extremely well to delve into some serious topics and character arcs.

One of my favourite aspects of this episode was the further insight and character development shown in Mrs. Coulter. Throughout the show, Thorne has presented Coulter as being cold-hearted, unpredictable and malicious. Despite this evil nature, she also holds a conflicting motherly care for Lyra, which makes us distrust her even further. However, her persona has always intrigued me in that it made me wonder what happened to her to make her like this. Luckily enough writers Sarah Quintrell and Jack Thorne decided to focus on this finally! This scene was quite a big turning point in the show, as we see Mrs. Coulter lose power for one of the first times and find out her weakness. Interestingly enough, it is through Scoresby she loses power to – her words and violence don’t work on him, as he has learned to live with it growing up. This made the scene just the more tragic, as a thought-to-be jolly character is in fact one that has experienced child abuse. To further make things worse, it turns out that Mrs. Coulter too witnessed some form of child abuse.

Jade Anouka and Ruta Gedmintas in His Dark Materials (2019). Image via YouTube.

It was definitely interesting to see the stark contrast between these two characters, and yet see how much they relate. It is interesting how both characters put up a front to disguise their past, but in entirely opposite ways: Lee Scoresby seems to use his light-hearted persona as a shield, whereas Mrs. Coulter uses her cruelness. Furthermore, I think it is interesting how Scoresby is quite open about this abuse by directly telling his stories to Mrs. Coulter. In contrast, Thorne is sure to make a point that Mrs. Coulter is still suppressing this past through her lack of elaboration on the subject. Similarly, I loved Welham’s use of having Mrs. Coulter crying silently with her face against the wall, and Ozymandias holding her hand. It is this positioning that we see her as a little girl holding a “toy” monkey. This is specifically emphasised through her costuming. Initially, her red outfit represented her power, but now it seems to reflects a little girl’s outfit, again emphasising her childhood traumas. Moreover, I think this is one of the first episodes that has allowed us to understand why Ozymandias is mute – he is a reflection of her suppressed trauma.

Moving on, in this episode, we see Lyra’s stubborn nature backfiring for once. This time, it causes her to lose the althiometer – the one thing Will was relying on to get his father back. I do feel bad for Will. In some ways, he is in the exact same position as Lyra. In particular, he is going through what Lyra went through in the last season, when she was searching for her father. However, Lyra seems to lack empathy for his situation, despite her own past experiences. I definitely found this frustrating as it showed just how self-centered and stubborn these characters can be at times. However, it is in these areas that Thorne does so well to demonstrate just how immature and imperfect these younger characters can be, despite being the main protagonists. Now that the althiometer is in Boreal’s hands, the two are in charge of finding a wanted knife to exchange with him. This may just be the way in which we find Will’s father, though not as we may have expected.

Ruth Wilson and Lin-Manuel Miranda in His Dark Materials (2019). Image via YouTube.

Overall, this was a really well-done episode, though very negative and psychological at times. This episode dealt with a lot, but there were a lot of questions that arose after the episode including:

  • Will we see further insight into Mrs. Coulter’s child abuse?
  • We were finally reunited with Iorek, but what are his plans to find and get Lyra back home?
  • Will the Spectres get Will, as hinted within this episode, and if so what will happen?
  • Lastly, there is still no sign of Lord Asriel and Will’s father- where are they?

 

New episodes air every Sunday on BBC (UK) and Monday on HBO (US).

 

Featured Image via YouTube.

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