An aeronaut captured, an alethiometer stolen, and Paddington watched! His Dark Materials S2E3 brought Lin Manuel Miranda‘s Lee Scoresby back onto our screens while Lyra and Will come into contact with a new enemy and a challenging bargain is struck.

After meeting Mary Malone in last week’s episode, Lyra is more than eager to return back to see Mary and see The Cave, but there’s a small problem. Her world and Will’s world are colliding in more ways than one. D.I. Walters (Jamie Wilkes) turns up at Mary’s office asking about Lyra. Catching Lyra in her lie and revealing that she is with Will, Lyra is forced to make a run for it from D.I. Walters. With Pan directing her on her chase, she runs right into the arms of Lord Boreal aka Sir Charles Latrom.

Although Lyra doesn’t trust Boreal, she still gets in his car and escapes Walters. Unfortunately, she leaves her bag behind in his car and Boreal steals the alethiometer away from her before giving her back the bag. This scene doesn’t have the same amount of significance as it does in the book. Lyra acknowledges in the novels that she wanted to see Mary Malone and ignored the alethiometer’s command of helping Will with his father first.

Meanwhile, back in Cittàgazze, Will wakes up after having dreams about his father and the Subtle Knife. He starts reading the letters his father wrote to his mother and declares that he wants to use the alethiometer to find his father. But by this time, Lyra is gone, and he misses the note she leaves for him on the counter. Wandering the city, he sees Angelica again. This time she is looking up at the tower called the Torre delgi Angeli and Will tells her that there is someone up there.

His Dark Materials S2E3
Credit: HBO

Angelica denies it and tells him that the tower is haunted. She tells him that before the spectres came, it was the headquarters of The Guild, a group of philosophers and alchemists. She also tells him that she had to watch her parents get attacked by the spectres and warns him that he must come up with a plan soon because he is almost an adult.

Finally finding her note, Will heads to the tear and sees Lyra crying at a bench. She reveals what has happened but also realizes that she has Boreal’s card so they can go find him and get it back. But, because it’s still light, Will takes Lyra to a movie theater to kill some time. There, the two have a heart-to-heart where Lyra tells Will about losing Roger and Will tells her that he was worried about her. It’s tender and sweet. It’s also dotted with a bit of humor when Lyra tastes popcorn for the first time.

“It’s disgusting, it tastes like wood shavings,” she declares as she eats it by the handful.

“Then, stop eating it!” Will chastises.

“I can’t!”

Honestly, I understand the feeling, Lyra. Just wait until those kernels get stuck in your teeth. Will chooses Paddington for the two of them to watch. Coincidentally, the movie also features Nicole Kidman playing the villain of the movie, who also played Mrs. Coulter in the 2007 The Golden Compass film. Casting aside, it’s a lovely moment watching Lyra and Pan staring up at the screen with amazement as Paddington has his adventures on the screen.

Now that it’s dark, they head to Boreal’s home and in very little time, he reveals he knows exactly who she is, why she’s there, and what she can do for him in exchange for getting the alethiometer back. He reveals that he’s met her before and finally Lyra remembers him from Mrs. Coulter’s party. Suggesting a trade, he wants Will and Lyra to go and get the Subtle Knife from the Torre delgi Angeli, and in exchange for the knife, he will return the alethiometer. Without an alternative, Will and Lyra agree.

Back at The Cave, Mary Malone reprograms the machine to speak words to her but after multiple attempts, it doesn’t give as strong as a result as it did when it was attached to Lyra. At night, she uses the I-Ching, and back in The Cave, the computer responds. It shows the different symbols of the I-Ching but then it shows the symbol of a snake. Book readers will recognize this, and we’ll discuss that more in the In The Books… section below!

Knowing that the prophecy must be fulfilled, Serafina Pekkala sends her daemon Kaisa to meet with Iorek Brynison. He and his bears are traveling south. After Asriel’s experiment, the hold in the sky has destroyed the environment. Kaisa asks for his help and tells him about the prophecy. Although Iorek doesn’t like the idea of Lyra being a puppet to the prophecy and acting like a toy for the fate of mankind, he also wants to keep her protected so he tells Kaisa that Lyra has gone into the other world.

Credit: HBO

Finally, we see Andrew Scott as John Parry calling for Lee Scoresby. Lee arrives at a small Moscovy fishing town to ask about Stanislaus Grumman. The locals point him toward the nearby observatory though rumors seem to suggest that Grumman is likely dead. Lee meets Dr. Haley (Angus Wright) at the old observatory who suggests that Grumman is further up the Yenisei River. But before Lee can get more out of him, Haley calls Grumman a heretic and starts acting really creepy. Lee tries to leave, but with his back turned, Haley shoots at Lee, and Lee is forced to return fire, killing the doctor. With his dying breath, the doctor calls Lee and Grumman enemies of the Magisterium.

And who should be waiting for him as he leaves the observatory but the Magisterium. Looks like the people in town can’t be trusted. Lucky for him, Mrs. Coulter’s ship has stopped in the same town and she arrives in his cell to interrogate him. Both Miranda and Ruth Wilson are great in this scene where we get to peel back and see more of these two enigmatic characters. There’s a parallel drawn between both characters who come from abusive parents and traumatic childhood. They also both love Lyra and want to protect her, but Lee tells Mrs. Coulter that even though she loves Lyra, it doesn’t mean that she won’t hurt her and it doesn’t mean Lyra is safe with her.

Faced up against the malicious Mrs. Coulter, Lee doesn’t hesitate to state his loyalty to Lyra. His life is worth one-tenth of hers, he proclaims, and this loyalty almost seems admirable to Mrs. Coulter. Struggling with her own complex emotions, Mrs. Coulter once again acts in the interest of her child and against the Magisterium. Once she learns that Boreal has found Lyra, she makes her intentions clear. Returning to the cell, she incapacitates the guard and frees Lee, asking him to keep Lyra safe if he finds her first. Deciding to go by boat, Lee quickly escapes and goes to find Grumman so that he can proceed after that to find Lyra before her mother does.

Also, she holds her monkey’s hand!! Such a standout performance from Ruth Wilson in this episode.

His Dark Materials S2E3
Credit: HBO

In the Books…

A lot of what happened in His Dark Materials S2E3 is condensed from the books, however, there are a couple of major deviations.

  • The first is John Parry’s letters. Obviously, it’s too much to ask for flashback scenes of John Parry’s initial Alaskan expedition, but his detailed letters to Elaine are where we get to see so much of his personality. He is a strong soldier type, but also intelligent, cunning, and inquisitive. His letters detail his finding of a doorway to “the spirit world” and a scientific anomaly. The reason why Boreal wants the letters is because it states the exact coordinates and description of the tear in the worlds. There is also a friendliness to Parry’s tone and tenderness when he is speaking to his wife. His love and loyalty to her lasts through his entire life, even when he is separated from her, and ultimately it leads to his death by the hands of a scorned witch.
  • The second deviation is Lee’s entire trip into Muscovy. It is far less dramatic, there is no meeting with Mrs. Coulter, and the people of the town don’t betray him. He meets old friends at the hotel and learns about Grumman from them. The people there all know Grumman, who has a storied past of having his head drilled, becoming a shaman, studying the scientific benefits of blood moss, studying the aurora and ancient ruins, and rejecting the love of a witch. He also learns that Grumman knew of the Subtle Knife (though he doesn’t know that it is the Knife at this point).
    • At the observatory, he is greeted by multiple scientists who are friendly toward him and eager to share more about Grumman. He learns there that Grumman was actually English. HIs sled driver informs him that the hole in the sky has actually occurred thousands of generations ago according to his people. Which makes sense as to why Grumman was interested in studying ancient cultures and ruins. There is a viper in the grass though, a Skraeling who is loyal to the Magisterium is there and after asking about Grumman’s study of Dust, Lee is attacked by the Skraeling much like Lee is attacked by Haley in this episode.
    • This is also where Lee learns that Grumman goes by the name Jopari as well. This is less important since we as viewers already know that Grumman, Jopari, and John Parry are all the same person. But in the book, it’s a glaring neon sign to the identity of Dr. Grumman.
  • The Skraeling and Haley both say the same line before they die. “By their fruits shall ye know them, by their questions shall ye see the serpent gnawing at their heart.” The first part of the quote is from the actual Bible in Matthew 7:16. It is part of the Sermon on the Mount and warns about false prophets and how to identify them. In this passage, it seems to refer to heretics and those who would question the Authority’s power.
  • Okay, now some minor stuff. Readers will know that the ring we see in Andrew Scott’s hands is Lee’s mother’s ring and that he is using it to draw Lee near. We better be getting a John Parry full introduction next week because his character is so interesting and yet we’ve learned nothing about him yet.
Credit: HBO
  • The serpent that appears on The Cave screen is a reference to Mary Malone being the tempter to Lyra’s Eve in the prophecy. Similarly, the coding language she uses on The Cave is Python. I don’t think Mary is meant to see the symbol, but it’s a nice reference to her role in the prophecy.
  • Lyra actually doesn’t go immediately to Will’s world when she wakes up. Instead, she meets the kids that were about to hurt the cat the night before and learns from them that Spectres came into Cittàgazze hundreds of years ago. Some people think it’s because of The Guild and others think that it is some form of divine justice. She also realizes during this conversation that Tulio is up in the tower despite the kids’ denial.
  • Asriel’s experiment is actually far more detrimental to the environment than just polar ice caps melting. Fishermen can sail right up to the tear and it’s ruining the earth’s magnetic field. When Lee’s sled driver talks about it happening before, it almost sounds like he’s referencing an Ice Age.
  • After Lyra loses her alethiometer, she and Will actually get into a fight about what happened. Lyra once again compares Will to Iorek in her mind when he chastises her for her immaturity. She suggests simply stealing back the alethiometer without considering security measures or the fact that Boreal is a Sir in Will’s world and will have significantly more power if they are caught. I don’t know if I wish we could have seen the argument, but it’s a scene that reveals more of Will’s capabilities and his maturity.
His Dark Materials S2E3
Credit: HBO
  • Will also sees Boreal’s daemon when they go to him. In this scene, Boreal doesn’t reveal who he is to Lyra, just that he knows they are hiding in another world and wants the Subtle Knife from that world.
  • A major deviation that I haven’t mentioned is the witches’ storyline. By this point in the book, Ruta Skadi and Serafina Pekkala have gone to Cittàgazze and Ruta Skadi has met the Angels. It’s disappointing not seeing the witches in this storyline. It would have been interesting to see them in a scene against Spectres and learning about Cittàgazze, but perhaps they’re saving that for the final episode so that we get the reveal of angels?

Watch His Dark Materials Mondays on HBO Max.