“The Idea of North,” Ep. 2 Review

His Dark Materials only grows more mysterious and darker in the second episode “Idea of North” directed by Tom Hooper and written by Jack Thorne. We learn more about where the children have gone, at least in the first leg of their journey, and who the gobblers are, but we have no idea what Mrs. Coulter plans to do with the children.

Before going into greater detail, let me first recap the episode. I will clarify some points that I realize are confusing for viewers who have never read the His Dark Materials trilogy.

The episode has three different storylines, and I will summarize each one of them here.

During the primary storyline, Lyra Belacqua moves into Mrs. Coulter’s art deco style apartment. She is initially enthralled with London life, especially the Arctic society, which is full of the explorers who she has only read about in books. Mrs. Coulter promises to find her best friend Roger as she molds Lyra into a powerful woman who can gain control even over men who look down upon her. The fast-moving Lyra and her daemon Pan quickly fall into boredom with all the reading that the female explorer assigns them. Pan notices Mrs. Coulter trying to change the type of person that Lyra is, but the young girl takes a long time to notice that there is something off with her new guardian who can be far away from her daemon, a golden monkey, something that human beings should not be able to do without it causing great pain.

Lyra spies on Mrs. Coulter talking to a member of the Magisterium in her secret study and using her daemon to torture Pan. Human beings feel the pain of their daemons, so Lyra also suffers from this abuse. Lyra and Pan realize they must keep the Altimeter away from Mrs. Coulter at all costs. During the torture, Mrs. Coulter reveals that Lord Asriel is Lyra’s father. Lyra is devastated by this news and runs to her room. She and Pan feel like they have no one left to look after them.

Since The Master warned her how important it was to keep the Alethiometer secret, Lyra keeps it in a purse which she carries with her at all times because she is worried that Mrs. Coulter will steal the Altimeter. When Mrs. Coulter goes to an abandoned building where they are keeping Billy, Roger, and all the other Gyptian children, we learn that she is a gobbler. She pretends to help the children write letters to their families, and feigns sweetness telling them they are going to go on a trip to a beautiful place. Roger, who writes to Lyra instead, seems to know that Mrs. Coulter is up to no good. The explorer proves him right when she throws all the letters onto a fire as she leaves the building.

Meanwhile, Lyra and Pan sneak into Mrs. Coulter’s study to find out what she is up to in there. Lyra sneaks through the drawers and discovers documents that reveal images of humans and daemons separated into boxes and machines. Before the pair can find anything else, Mrs. Coulter returns. Lyra and Pan flee back to their room. Thankfully, the golden monkey and Mrs. Coulter don’t find them out. The explorer has a party that evening where Lyra serves drinks. A reporter warns Lyra that her guardian is the leader of the gobblers.

 The reporter also tells Lyra that the children were taken by the General Oblation Board which is connected to the Magerstium and that the term globbers came from the abbreviation G.O.B. After learning this, Lyra escapes the party and ends up in the streets.

In the final scenes, we witness the daemon who helped kidnap the other children lure Pan away from the party and a mysterious man covers Lyra’s mouth with his hands.

Another major plotline follows a Consistorial Court priest with a snake daemon who has been assigned the task of finding the skull of the scholar John Parry by the Magisterium. The skull belongs to the head of the man that Lord Asriel brought back to the college. in the prior episode. The priest first visits The Master in Jordan College to ask for access to the crypts in order to study Parry’s body. The priest is unhappy that Jordan College buried Parry without allowing the Magisterium to study the body while it was still intact. The Master refuses to give the priest access based on the scholastic sanctuary rules. Frustrated, the priest decides to sneak into the crypt to find the skull and uses his snake daemon to help find it among all the human remains.

The daemon slithers over a skull, but when the priest feels the head, he seems to know that it does not belong to the scholar. The priest exits the crypt, heads back to the gardens of Jordan College and walks through a portal into a different world–Oxford, England in our modern-day. Surprisingly, the priest does not seem shocked by the modern cars whizzing about on the streets. He unlocks the door of a black car and pulls out a smartphone from the front seat. He texts out a message, then drives to a café where he meets a red-headed man who knows him well. The priest tells the man that John Parry must have crossed over to this universe, though he does not know how he managed it. He suspects Parry is alive since the skull he found belongs to somebody else. After the meeting, the priest returns to his universe and attends Mrs. Coulter’s party in a nice suit. After noticing the intruder reporter that Lyra was speaking to, the priest kidnaps the reporter in his car. He tortures her butterfly daemon while the chauffeur drives onto a new destination.

The third storyline is that of the Gyptians looking for their lost children. The men find the building where the children are being stored and break into it, but somehow the gobblers knew the Gyptians were coming, and the children are all gone except for Billy’s sweater, which is still there on the floor. The Gyptian’s discovery confirms that their children are with the gobblers. This news devastates Billy’s mother, Ma Costa.

I overall loved “The Idea of North,” but because I have already read all the novels, I am not as confused as some viewers might be. I would say that if I were involved in the making of His Dark Materials, I would make some adjustments. I would have made clear all the rules of the daemons earlier on in the show. For example, human beings without daemons are considered soulless, so that is why Mrs. Coulter being so far away from her daemon, is concerning to Lyra. Maybe have one of Lyra’s teachers go over the history of daemons in the pilot or even Mrs. Coulter quizzing her on the rules. This is the most significant adjustment I would make so far.

I neglected to mention the credits in my prior review. The opening credits are brilliant. The religious choral music used in the credits paints a picture of the Church led society. I like the way the whole opening is centered around the Altimeter. The end bit with the shots of different colorful worlds separated by lines that then merge to create the golden watch is beautiful and expresses how close all these alternative worlds are to one another.

I want to end by discussing some of the technical aspects of the episode that stood out to me. Dafne Keen did a fantastic job as Lyra when the golden monkey is torturing her through Pan. You could feel how they perceived their pain was as one. Another aspect I enjoyed was how the golden monkey and Mrs. Coulter’s bond seems different than the others. First, her daemon never seems to speak, unlike all the other daemons. She also never seems to give her daemon any signals or commands. The priest orders his snake daemon to search the crypts, and other adults are shown pointing to something, which signals for their daemons to do something. Instead of the pair speaking in some way, the golden monkey seems to do what Mrs. Coulter wants by reading her mind. They also mimic each other’s expression like they are one being, or as though the daemon is a literal puppet. The CGI experts do a great job making the golden monkey seem somehow wrong.

I cannot wait to watch the third episode to learn what’s next!

Here the link to the glossary: https://decodingthedaemonverse.poetry.blog/2019/11/06/example-post/.

Published by Paloma Bennett

I have a Master of Arts in Cinema Critical Studies from San Fransisco State University. I am a Lesbian Feminist Pop-Culture Geek from California who loves film, television, book, comic books and podcasts. I work a the Paley Center at the moment, but I am interested in becoming a professional television and film reviewer.

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