Warning: Spoilers are included in this review.
In this week’s episode, “The Spies”, the tension has already risen through director Tom Hooper’s use of flash imagery alongside faint muffled screams, from what appears to be Lyra—who has taken her away, and why do they want her? The noise comes to an abrupt silence as the Gypsies capture the gobbler and save Lyra by mere accident. The opening scene then switches to the now-familiar introduction sequence, which, like Game of Thrones, is slowly but surely becoming memorable enough to hum along to.
Regarding the plot, Lyra struggles to trust the Gypsies now she’s in their hands. Nonetheless, it is understandable due to the past deception she has received. Showrunner Jack Thorne brings notice to her reaction to this deception through her numerous outbursts of frustration throughout the episode. Whilst Lyra is with the gypsies, many events take place. Lyra finds information about her past and discovers how to use the alithiometer without the use of books, which instantly makes her of value to all. Gypsies, including Benjamin, are sacrificed at the hands of Mrs. Coulter while finding information that could lead to missing children, and Lyra has to go into hiding as the Magisterium looks for her.
Regarding Mise-En-Scene, one scene in particular that stood out was when Boreal is walking to the abandoned house (where the portal is). The area naturally is covered in greenery, emphasizing that it is an abandoned place that only he has access to. In the process of him walking up to the house, greenery surrounds the edges of the screen, almost suggesting that he is being drawn or sucked into this parallel universe. Perhaps, Hooper’s choice to do display this scene in this specific way implies how this has become an addictive habit for Boreal.
Furthermore, another key scene regarding Mise-En-Scene involved Mrs. Coulter sitting in a room made up entirely of different shades of blue while wearing blue apparel. Through the use of different shades of blue, it alludes to the idea of her literally being in the “blues.” Moreover, the scene continues from Mrs. Coulter looking lost and sad to her Daemon closing the door as she starts screaming out of anger or frustration and rips up the pillows on the bed. It is clear that Mrs. Coulter is struggling due to her lack of knowledge regarding Lyra’s whereabouts.
As we find out later on in the episode, by Ma Costa, that Lyra is, in fact, Mrs. Coulter’s daughter. The scene becomes somewhat justified as it seems that she is depressed or worried from her lack of knowledge of where her daughter is. Moreover, in a later scene, Thorne chooses to show Coulter walking on the ledge of her balcony whilst drinking. The link to Lyra in this scene is that she then sends out spy flies, and when one returns revealing Lyra’s whereabouts her depressed state seems overcome by joy, relief and excitement.
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"I could never get away from the occasional urge to jump." I felt so bad for Mrs.Coulter after knowing the history between her and Lord Asriel. She really deserves better. And as Ma Costa says, only life was hard on her and she couldn't do anything more to make it better.
Onto the music: the sound throughout the episode is constantly used to shape the mood. Because it was originally composed by Lorne Balfe, we do not experience any familiar songs, as we would in other popular shows like American Horror Story. Instead, this set of orchestral pieces throughout the episode somewhat emphasize that this is a parallel universe that is unknown to us and does not share the same pop culture or music.
Moreover, the music is constantly changing depending on the mood. For example, at the beginning of the episode, when Lyra has been captured, Balfe chooses a violin piece in a minor key, thus creating an eerie tone to match the tension being built in the scenes. Furthermore, when the spy fly reveals information about Lyra’s whereabouts to Mrs. Coulter, we are given a piece that almost sounds siren or mermaid-like. Therefore, the music suggests a sense of power on Mrs. Coulter’s behalf to compel and manipulate others easily.
The scene ends with the gypsies readying set north in order to find their missing children. Hooper chooses to use a brighter tone and filter in this scene, thus emphasizing the emotions of those within the scene and reflecting their slight victory. Moreover, it is interesting to point out that as this is an HBO series, there is again a lot of emphasis on the idea of “the North”. However, unlike Game of Thrones, the characters are going towards the North rather than away from it, despite both being dangerous areas to be in. Moreover, Lyra’s use of “I’m ready to fight” foreshadows that this journey for the characters, will not be easy, and there will most definitely be a battle at the end.
Overall, the episode successfully brought out a series of emotions on behalf of the viewers. Specifically, through the use of acting, the characters became easy to sympathize with, thus allowing for heightened emotions at scenes of high tension or sadness. The episode reached an 8.4/10 on IMDb, showing the series as continuing with its success as the series goes on.
It was hinted in last week’s promo for this week’s episode that we would see Ulrich, but we have yet to see him. This week’s promo, however, hints that we may finally see him, as the meeting would coincide with the plot of Lyra meeting aeronaut Lee Scoresby (Lin Manuel Miranda). Moreover, unlike the previous episode, this and next episode will give us a proper insight into the gypsies’ lives, especially their journey and the fact that they need Lyra to complete it.
His Dark Materials will air next Sunday at 8 pm BBC One.
Featured Image via IMDb.