With Iorek Byrnison (Joe Tandberg) and Lee Scoresby (Lin-Manuel Miranda) joining their ranks, Lyra (Dafne Keen) and the Gyptians continue their trek toward Balvangar in His Dark Materials S1E5, “The Lost Boy.” The episode begins with wide, establishing shots to show just how far the group has traveled, and how far they’ve yet to go. Kaisa (David Suchet), the witch Serafina Pekkala’s (Ruta Gedmintas) gyrfalcon daemon, narrates:
“Witches hear the immortal whispers of those who pass between the worlds. They speak of a child who is destined to bring the end of destiny. If told what she must do, she will fail, but she won’t walk alone. There is a boy whose fate is bound with hers. Together, they will change everything.”
As Kaisa speaks, we see Lyra (“a child who is destined to bring the end of destiny”) and Will Parry (Amir Wilson); it’s our first time seeing the latter, aside from a photograph in S1E3. Lyra walks with beside Lee Scoresby, who rests on his deflated hot air balloon rather than walking with the rest of the party. Lyra asks why he’s riding, rather than walking, and he gives a glib, three-pronged reply. When she asks why he isn’t in his balloon giving them a bird’s eye view, he points out that Kaisa has a better eye than he ever could. Then, she asks if he thinks they’ll win this war and get the missing children back; he says no, but since he knows she wants to hear him say “yes,” he says “yes.”
We return to our world, where Lord Boreal (Ariyon Bakare) sits outside Will’s house with one of his spies, watching Will’s mother Elaine’s (Nina Sosanya) every move. Will takes care of his mother full time, and there’s no record of social services or any other government agency being involved with the small family. “So no one checks up on them,” Boreal notes, with a downright evil smile.
After the credits roll, John Faa (Lucian Msamati) pulls Lyra aside to tell her she was right about Iorek, and that the Gyptians do need him; as proof, we see the armoured bear hauling a heavy snowmobile up a steep hill while humans struggle to move lighter loads in large groups beside him. John Faa asks Lyra to consult the alethiometer to find out more about how the General Oblation Board (Gobblers) are guarding Balvangar, which they call the Station.
The alethiometer reveals that a company of Tartars — great warriors — are guarding the Station; there are at least 60 men with rifles and larger guns, as well as fences all around. However, the alethiometer also tells Lyra something else. We see flashes of her opening a shed at night, and she says the device is trying to warn her of something. John Faa dismisses this, saying he suspects the device is trying to warn her of everything, because of the battle they are walking into.
Lyra is not so convinced. She goes to find Farder Coram (James Cosmo) and tells him there’s a valley near Balvangar, where something horrible haunts a small village there. She thinks it’s a ghost, and that it’s connected to their mission to save the children, though she doesn’t know how; regardless, she thinks she has to go to the village and find out what has people so frightened. Farder Coram tells her no; they need her on the remaining two-day walk to Balvangar, and furthermore, Lyra is still being hunted by Mrs. Coulter (Ruth Wilson). He tells her that her skills with the alethiometer keep all of them safe, but Lyra insists the alethiometer wants her to go. To this, Farder Coram tells her to talk to Ma Costa (Anne-Marie Duff) and tell her why finding little Billy Costa (Tyler Howitt) should wait so that Lyra can run off.
Lyra does talk to Ma Costa. She explains the alethiometer’s message and why Farder Coram won’t let her go. Ma Costa asks why the ghost is important, and Lyra admits she doesn’t know, but “it might be a vital clue. It might help me find Roger and Billy.” She asks Ma Costa to trust the alethiometer, which literally cannot lie. The Gyptian woman says it’s a lot to ask, and requests time to think.
In our world, Will goes to school, where he’s laughed at and called a freak in the hallway. When Elaine leaves the house that day, Lord Boreal emerges from the bushes outside her house and pretends to be an old friend of her late husband, Doctor Stanislaus Grumman/Colonel John Parry (Andrew Scott), who disappeared on a trek to Alaska 13 years ago and is assumed dead. Of course, the audience and Boreal know that he most likely crossed between worlds, but Will and Elaine don’t have that knowledge. Boreal’s trickery is awkward to watch, but it accomplishes his goal: it sets off Elaine’s already heightened paranoia and fear that someone is watching her, following her, trying to hurt her and Will.
Elaine goes to find Will, who is at boxing practice. Her appearance causes quite a stir; she’s distraught, and she immediately apologizes for coming. “I had a visitor,” she says. “I didn’t know where else to go.” Will’s sparring partner — the same one who called him a freak at school — stands behind him and openly mocks her about receiving a visitor from outer space. Will’s coach, on the other hand, offers Elaine a place to sit. This prompts her to apologize again and leave, and Will’s tormenter says she’s mental. Will throws a punch and the boys get into a real fight, which is quickly broken up by their coach.
At his coach’s urging, Will goes after his mother, who continues to apologize. She tells him she was going to the shop to get eggs and “they were following me.” Immediately, Will tells her they weren’t, and when she tells him there was a man asking about his dad, he says, “Sure.” It’s clear they’ve had this conversation before. Elaine starts counting bricks and Will pulls her away from the task, asking her to come back inside while he gathers his things.
His coach stops him on the way out to ask after Elaine, and to ask whether she or Will need “proper care.” Will promises “she’s just a bit unsettled” and says, “We’re not at risk.” This, too, seems like a conversation that has happened before.
At their camp, Lyra looks up at the sky with Ma Costa while Kaisa watches over their tent. Lyra says she’s looking for her father, and Kaisa says it’s wise to look to the sky for him; when Lyra asks if there really is a city hidden in the Northern Lights, the daemon tells her that Lord Asriel (James McAvoy) believes there is. “The Magisterium thinks he intends to use Dust in some way, in order to make a bridge between this world and the world beyond the Aurora,” Kaisa reminds her. “At the Magisterium’s behest, the bears are keeping him captive, but King Iofer is scheming and duplicitous and allows your father to continue his research under house arrest.”
Lyra asks Kaisa if he knows what she’s meant to find in the fishing settlement the alethiometer showed her, and he says no, but he knows she’s right to look into it. “You must trust your instincts, Lyra,” he advises. Farder Coram walks past and Kaisa goes to join him; having heard the daemon’s advice, Ma Costa tells Lyra to talk to John Faa in the morning about her solo mission.
In the hills above camp, Farder Coram gets a visit from Serafina Pekkala. She flies in as if moved by the wind itself, and the two exchange greetings. “You haven’t changed since the day I left you,” he says. She responds, “You don’t look so different,” then reminds him, “Coram, I am 300 years or more. You aren’t so old I can’t see the man inside.”
When Serafina expresses her surprise that Farder Coram summoned her, he admits that he didn’t want to see her, but he felt he had no choice. The Gyptians need her help; they are underprepared and don’t have enough men to face whatever the Station is hiding. Still, they plan to fight, which Serafina seems to find admirable, or at the very least respectable.
After an impassioned speech about how he is duty-bound to try, no matter how likely failure may seem, Serafina turns the conversation to the Magisterium. She says Lord Asriel is right about there being multiple worlds, and that they are “as close as a heartbeat.” The only place where the worlds intersect is in the Northern Lights. There, the charged particles in the Aurora make the matter of the world thin. She says this makes anything possible — except for the resurrection of their son, who was taken by disease.
Before she leaves, Farder Coram asks if he’ll see her again. Serafina kisses him and promises Kaisa will continue to lead them to Balvangar. “What he sees, I see,” she says. “Where I can help, I will, but Asriel is bringing a great war and the Magisterium know it. Even the witches aren’t as united as we once were.”
Tearfully, Farder Coram says, “There has never been a moment when I have not thought of you or of him.” Serafina says goodbye and flies into the night, leaving him alone.
When Lyra catches up with John Faa the next morning, he asks if she’s sure that the alethioemeter isn’t making a fool of her. The pair exchange barbs about how she only calls him “Lord Faa” when she wants something from him, and then he enlists Iorek Byrnison to take Lyra to the ghost village. Though they can’t spare the bear’s services, Lyra is insistent. John Faa commands her to return once she finds what she seeks and says he wants her back at camp before tomorrow night. They shake on it, she promises not to let him down, and she and Iorek head out after a comedic, but still heartfelt goodbye with Lee Scoresby.
With Lyra on his back and sans his armour, Iorek runs across the frozen tundra to deliver her to the ghost village.
In Will’s world, he makes omelettes for dinner and encourages his mom to eat while she comments on how he looks just like his father. She tells him she loves him, and that she hates being like this; he says he loves her too, and that she needn’t say such things. When she reaches for her food, she says Will cooks like his father as well, and that he has his temper. “He always wanted to protect the vulnerable, and he went out into the world and found a way to do it,” she says. Then, cryptically, she adds, “And you’re going to follow him. Take up his mantle.”
Will asks her what she means, and Elaine says his father “wasn’t done. He had more battles to fight.” She explains that the world is broken, and that it takes extraordinary people — like Will and his father — to fix it. Then she panics, noticing that the rug has been moved and there are marks on the carpet, as if someone has been inside the house. Will asks if Elaine has been keeping up with her meds, while she begins to search the house.
In her bedroom, she removes a leather folder stuffed from a hidden door beneath her sewing machine. She insists someone has been in the house, even if Will can’t tell, and at first refuses to tell him what’s in the folder. Then she reveals that it’s stuffed with letters from his father, and that the letters are important. He’s surprised; she won’t let him see them, saying she has to keep him safe and that he’s not ready. Not yet. “Ignore me,” she requests. She puts the folder back, closes the closet, and goes back to her omelette.
Meanwhile, Iorek and Lyra have their own dinner. He eats some kind of prey animal while Lyra snuggles against his side for warmth and eats the food Ma Costa packed for her. They talk about how bears are different from humans; they don’t have daemons, which has already been established, and they’re meant to be solitary. Lyra challenges this idea by asking about the Svalbard bears, who reportedly number in the thousands. She tells him her father is imprisoned there, and he tells her he’s no longer a Svalbard bear.
When Lyra asks, Iorek explains that he was cast out and stripped of his title and home for killing another bear. She asks who he killed, which isn’t the important question; that would be “Why?” He explains that bears should not kill other bears, and that he wasn’t of right mind when he committed his crime. Being stripped of his rank and title and exiled was the correct action. Now Iofer Raknison is king, and Iorek says Asriel won’t be able to escape imprisonment there. Bears can’t be tricked, he says, no matter how highly Lyra thinks of Asriel’s trickery.
When Will finds his mother’s room unoccupied, he opens her closet and goes to get the folder from its hiding place. She appears in the doorway and says that after some thinking, she’s decided he can read the letters. “You might need them soon,” she tells him. He rejects the idea and tells her he was simply looking for her to say goodnight, though his actions, of course, say otherwise. When she leaves, he closes the closet door and walks away.
When Iorek, Lyra, and Pantalaimon (Kit Connor) reach the fishing village, she asks Iorek if he’s afraid. “Not yet,” he says, “but when I am, I shall master the fear.” This tells Lyra that there’s certainly worse to come, and when they get into the village proper, it’s been totally deserted. Yet, a fully lit lantern rests on the ground, as if waiting for her. The street lights, too, are lit.
Lyra and Pan go toward the shed the alethiometer showed her, with Iorek trailing behind. In a snow fox form, Pantalaimon whimpers at Lyra’s feet, clearly distressed. Iorek offers to go with her into the shed, but Lyra says she’ll go alone; she asks him to wait and keep watch. As she and Pan move forward, she quells his whimpers and tells him not to make her nervous, because she doesn’t want Iorek to see her that way. Then she whispers, over and over like a mantra, “When I am frightened, I shall master my fear.” Pan tries to get her to turn back, but she insists; they have to trust the alethiometer.
Inside the shed, Billy Costa rests on the ground, counting in a strained whisper. While Lyra edges closer, clearly horrified, Pan becomes frantic. “Lyra, is that who I think it is?” he asks. “How long has he been here? Where did he come from? And where’s his daemon? He’s got no daemon. Lyra, keep away. I know we should help him, but I’m scared.”
Putting on a brave face, Lyra crouches beside Billy and asks where his daemon, Ratter, has gone. She tells him his ma is waiting for him, and gathers him up to return him to the Gyptians. Back at camp, Billy collapses to the snow after he’s pulled off Iorek’s back, while Ma Costa cries and asks him where his daemon is. Billy doesn’t speak. John Faa picks the child up and tells her to get him inside, to get him warm. Her oldest son, Tony (Daniel Frogson), follows Ma Costa and Billy into their tent.
Lyra goes to follow, but is stopped by Lee Scoresby. “Best leave them to it,” he says. “Trust me when I tell you that they love you, but this, they won’t want you there for.”
She tells him that he found Billy without his daemon, like a ghost. “The alethiometer was right,” she says. “It was like he wasn’t there. Like he couldn’t even hear me.” Lee says this must be what the Gobblers do, what they take. “It’s horrible. It’s worse than anything. Why would they take someone’s daemon?” Lyra asks.
Lee tells her that it’s about control, as Hester (Cristela Alonzo) cowers closer to his feet. “If you can take someone’s soul,” he says, “you can do anything.”
At this, Iorek turns to leave. Lee says the bear doesn’t do well with emotion, and that he never has, but he’ll be back at first light. Then he tells Lyra she did a brave, good thing, and that he’s proud of her for trusting her instincts and finding Billy. Lee leads Lyra away.
Inside the tent, Tony asks what happened to Billy and why they took Ratter. She doesn’t know, and says it doesn’t matter because it can’t be helped now. Then she sings Billy a lullaby, though it quickly becomes apparent from the lyrics that she’s saying goodbye. When Billy closes his eyes, she tells him, “It’s alright. We’ll be alright. You can go to Ratter.” Billy takes a deep breath, and passes on. Ma Costa and Tony sob over his body, devastated for their loss.
The scene transitions to show Will asleep in his bed when Elaine goes to check on him. She goes downstairs to turn off the lights and then lets the cat in from outside; she finds the door ajar, which concerns her, and when she goes to close it a car drives by, its headlights illuminating the spy sitting outside the house. Elaine begins to cry and count the wood paneling on the wall; then she goes inside.
Lord Boreal meets with Thomas (Robert Emms), who’s uncovered another piece of the Grumman puzzle. He reveals that he hacked Elaine’s bank and found a money trail tracing back 13 years. Grumman/Parry set up an account two weeks before he disappeared to deposit a small amount of money into Elaine’s account every month. This indicates that he knew he’d be gone for a long time, and that his last expedition was the moment he thought he needed to make sure his family had longterm support. Thomas believes that Grumman knew about the window, and that there may be some kind of paper trail or other answers in the Parry family’s house. If they can find it, they may find out where and how Grumman crosses between worlds.
Lee wakes Lyra from sleep, and before he can say anything, she says, “He died.” Lee takes her to see Billy, who’s body has been laid on a funeral pyre. She pulls up the tarp to see his face, then covers him back up. Ma Costa pulls her in for a hug and the two cry, while John Faa speaks to the wickedness of the Gobblers and how clear it’s become that the Gyptians must fight.
“We have to kill,” Ma Costa corrects. Lyra pulls out of their hug, then goes to Lee for another embrace while Ma Costa lights the pyre. The Gyptians sing a mourning song, led by John Faa. At the humans’ feet, their daemons bow their heads, silent. The lyrics are especially upsetting, given what’s happened to Billy and is seemingly happening to the other missing children: “Your soul never leaves you.”
The scene fades to show Will seemingly having a nightmare while lights from the cars outside wash over his face. His mother sits awake downstairs, obviously shaken by what she saw.
At the Gyptian camp, Tartars sneak in and kill every adult they find. When Pan wakes her because he hears a noise outside, Lyra sneaks out of her tent and sees some of the dead bodies. She’s knocked out; when she wakes, it’s snowing, and she’s led into what looks like a military facility.
A woman with short, blonde hair and glasses asks Lyra for her name. She lies and says it’s Lizzie Brooks. The woman goes to grab Pan, which is strictly taboo; he shifts into a large moth, and the woman says Lyra “was young enough after all.” Lyra is cut free from the bonds on her wrists, then is guided by a daemonless nurse, Sister Clara, to another room. Sister Clara refers to the blonde woman as “Doctor.”
“She looks on the verge of change, don’t you think?” the blonde woman notes. Sister Clara affirms the observation, and the doctor says Lyra is “Category A” and should be prepped for immediate treatment.
In another room, Sister Clara tells Lyra to remove all of her clothing so they can check her over and get her some clean clothes. As she undresses, Lyra continues to lie about her presence in the north. Sister Clara makes some notes, then opens a wardrobe containing snowsuits that match the one Billy was wearing when they found it.
“Is this it, Pan? Is this Balvangar?” Lyra asks. The credits roll.