Review for “Armour”

I loved this episode of His Dark Materials for three significant reasons. The primary reason I’m enamored, is we are introduced to Texan Lee Scoresby (played by the Broadway star Lin-Manuel Miranda), the aeronaut, and his hare daemon Hester. Scoresby and Hester start their entrance into the fourth episode with a song, which fits perfectly with Miranda’s talents. The second reason , is the introduction of the armored bear Iorek Brynison. We have heard Lyra mentioning armored bears forever, so it’s incredible to see one in an episode. Thirdly, in this episode, Lyra finally gets her to wish to explore the Arctic (though the Arctic is not quite like what she was expecting).

This is a complex and layered show and I’m glad to decode “Armour” for you. The majority of the episode takes place in the small Arctic port town called Trollesund. It centers on Lyra, searching for help with rescuing the children from the Gobblers. Lyra and the Gyptians arrive in the port of Trollesund. Meanwhile, Scoresby and Hester land their Balloon right near the Arctic town. The aeronaut and his daemon are here to help their trapped friend Iorek Brynison. But first, Scoresby needs to find the armored bear.

John Faa sends out Lyra Belacqua and Fader Coram to seek out the Witches for help with their fight against the Gobblers. The Gyptians need to ask Dr. Martin Lanselius the Witch’s counsel for access to Serafina Pekkala, who’s the powerful clan queen of the witches of Lake Enara. Coram confirms with Lyra that she can read the alethiometer without any assistance. Coram and Lyra need to convince the Witch’s counsel to trust them enough to grant them access to the clan queen. Lyra almost takes the golden compass into the open to demonstrate her skill in finding the truth, but Coram notices Mageristium soldiers and stops her.

Coram and Lyra have tea with Dr. Martin Lanselius, who is hesitant to give them access to Serafina until he asks Lyra if she has an alethiometer. Lanselius tells the girl he has spies that tell him she has one in her possession. Lyra confirms she has an alethiometer, which she can read without any books. The doctor says he will call Serfaina for the Gyptians if Lyra can tell him which pine branch he uses to summon this particular Witch. He leads Lyra down to the basement where all the different branches are stored. Lyra successfully uses the golden compass to locate the correct branch.

Dr. Lanselius warns Coram and Lyra that the witches may not help. He tells them to seek out Iorek Brynison, who works at a junkyard because the town has tricked the polar bear into giving up his armor. The armored bear is a welder who fixes different types of metal machines and objects for the citizens of Trollesund. Fader Coram and Lyra find the angry, scared Iorek. The armored bear refuses to help the Gyptians free the children even though he naturally loves battles, because he feels indebted to the town.

Meanwhile, Lee and Hester hit a local pub seeking out Iorek. The townspeople beat up Lee because they don’t want to lose Iorek’s free labor. Lee steals the men’s wallets during the fights. After leaving the pub, he yells and calls out to see if anybody had seen the armored bear. Lee bumps into Lyra and Coram. After Lyra asks why Lee is seeking Iorek, he suspects the pair must know something. Lee questions the adult Fader Coram about where to find the bear who says is following Lyra’s lead. Lyra refuses to tell the aeronaut anything because the Gyptians need the bear. She doesn’t want Lee taking Iorek away.

Coram tells Lyra he was married to the Witch queen Serafina Pekkala, but they lost a son. Serafina wanted answers about what happened to their only child, but Coram just wanted to mourn his death in peace. So, the couple divorced. Serafina and Coram have not seen each other for many years. Lyra comforts Fader Coram.

Fader Coram and John Faa hang out on the docks alone at night. The Witch’s snow goose daemon Kaisa flies over to the pair. Witches are supernatural beings who can be separated from their daemons for periods of time. Kaisa tells Fader Coram that Serafina will help him in whatever path he chooses to take. But the daemon warns not all the Witch clans will help because some Witchs work with the Mageristum. Kaisa says that the children are further North at “The Station” or as the Witchs calls it “Bolvangar.” Coram translates “Bolvangar” to “fields of evil.” Nobody knows what the Gobblers do precisely to the children, but the rumors are horrific. Kaisa also tells them the Gobblers have imprisoned Lord Asriel.  

Lyra and Pan hang out at the docks watching the aurora borealis illuminate the sky. Lyra wonders if the aurora borealis is made of Dust. She thinks she spots a city in the lights. Tony Costa comes to join Lyra and her daemon. Tony and Lyra commiserate about Roger and Billy. She promises Tony that they will find them.

That night, Lee tracks down Iorek in his metal work station. The bear refuses his friend’s help. Iorek tells Lee and Hester to head home. The next day, Lee meets up with Sysselmen, who’s in charge of Trollesund. Lee tells him that Iorek’s armor belongs to him, not the bear. Sysselmen has no right to keep Lee’s property. But Sysselmen refuses to give up the armor since the town has free metalwork labor from Iorek. The leader is also working for the Magisterium, who wants the armored bear under control. Sysselmen becomes angry when Lee institutes this fact since the Arctic has always been free of Mageristirum’s control until him. The town would not be happy to learn of him working for them.

In the morning, after securing Serafina’s help, John Faa tells Lyra they are leaving. Lyra begs the Gyptian leader to let her try to obtain Iorek’s assistance one more time. Faa says they don’t want the bear’s help because the armor was taken away from him for a legal reason. Iorek drunkenly destroyed part of the town. As punishment, his armor was confiscated and locked up. He lets Lyra know that Mrs. Coulter captured her father. Lyra pleads that this is even more of a reason to seek an armored bear for assistance against the Mageristirum, but Faa doesn’t listen to the little girl. Before Faa can stop Lyra, she runs off with her daemon Pan.

Lyra finds Lee and Hester eating breakfast in the pub. She asks Lee to help her. Lyra wants to find out why Iorek refuses to leave the port town. The aeronaut warns Lyra that the bear won’t leave without his armor. The armor is like a bear’s daemon (his soul). Lyra says that if he helps her secure Iorek’s help, then the Gyptian will pay him to help rescue the children stuck in The Station. Lee agrees. Lee tells Lyra that the bear was tricked into giving up the armor. If she can find the armor, Iorek will come with Lyra who runs off before Lee can get another word in.

Lyra seeks out Iorek Brynison in his tool shed. She promises that if he comes with the Gyptians to free the children from the Gobblers, she will use the alethiometer to find his armor. Iorek agrees. Before keeping her promise, Lyra makes Iorek swear that he won’t hurt anyone unless they try to stop him from attaining his armor. The altimeter tells Lyra that the Magisterium hides the armor in the oratory’s cellar. The polar bear tears off to secure the armor.

On his way to the oratory, Iorek destroys the town’s property. Pan insists that they have to stop him from hurting anybody else. Lyra yells Iorek’s name as she chases after him, hoping he will stop. Finally, the bear finds the oratory and barges in. Sysselmen surrounds the oratory with armed Mageristrium soldiers ordered to arrest the bear. He sends a couple of soldiers into the oratory. Iorek tosses them out through the windows, then runs out with his armor securely on his body.

Sysselmen orders the men to shoot at the bear. But the bullets do nothing with Iorek wearing powerful metal armor that he made himself. Iorek quickly takes out most of the soldiers that attack him. The rest run away, leaving Sysselmen defenseless. Iorek pummels his captor, but before he can kill him, Lyra stops him. Lee, who has caught up with his friends, helps her convince Iorek to leave the evil man alive. Lee, Lyra, and Iorek head over to meet up with the Gyptians who are packing up to go.

At first, John Faa is hesitant to take along Lee Scoresby and Iorek Brynison to “The Station,” but quickly folds under Lyra’s pleading. The Gyptians, the aeronaut, and an armored bear head further North on foot.

A minor storyline focuses on what Mageristium is up to while the Gyptians sought out the Witches. Mrs. Coulter walks into the Mageristirum’s main governmental building for a meeting with the religious leaders. Cardinal Sturrock is angry that Mrs. Coulter has allowed the Oblation Board’s actions to become public. He plans to strip her authority and give the board to Father MacPhail. Mrs. Coulter tells him that he won’t do that because she has Lord Asriel trapped in the Arctic by a bunch of armored bears that she controls.

Mrs. Coulter says she will bring Lord Asriel back to the Cardinal in exchange for complete control over the Oblation Board. She is allowed to ask one question of the Mageristrium’s alethiometer who’s deciphered by Fra Pavel. The Cardinal agrees.

Fra Pavel is not happy when he sees Mrs. Coulter in his sanctuary, but has no choice but to help her. Pavel warns Mrs. Coulter that decoding the alethiometer’s answer could take weeks, but she doesn’t mind. Her only inquiry for him is where Lyra is located.

Later, Lord Carlo Boreal meets up with Fra Pavel in the halls. He is disturbed that Mrs. Coulter visited Pavel. Lord Boreal wants to know what Mrs. Coulter wanted from the alethiometer. The Fra refuses to tell him, but Lord Boreal threatens he’ll ruin his reputation. He warns Pavel that he knows about his dangerous predilections, then asks him if he could use the alethiometer to figure out what Grunham knows about Dust. Fra Pavel says that inquiry is against the Mageristrium’s laws because knowledge of Dust is heretical. Lord Boreal doesn’t care about those laws. Fra Pavel wants him to ask the Cardinal for permission, but he refuses. Lord Boreal threatens to expose him to the public, so Pavel agrees to assist him.

Mrs. Coulter arrives in the North. She meets up with Iofur Rankison, the King of the Bears at the prison entrance, where they are holding Lord Asriel. Mrs. Coulter asks the bear king if he would keep guard of Lord Asriel for a bit longer. We learn that Iofur Rankison was the one who wanted Iorek out of the way so he could take the crown. Mrs. Coulter promises that if Iofur keeps Lord Asriel contained and under her control,  he will be the one and only bear to be baptized by the Mageristum. Meaning the armored bear would be even more potent with the religious, governmental support. So King Iofur agrees.

Now with “Armour,” we get closer to the climax of The Dark Materials’ first season. We are seeing how having alethiometer is vital for the Mageristium who use it to maintain power over this world. This dictatorship uses this tool to gather the information that allows them to keep everybody under their control. Without the alethiometer and Fra Pavel (who can use the books to decipher the tool),  Mrs. Coulter would have a much harder time tracking down Lyra. Lord Boreal would be unable to figure out what the good guys know about the secret Dust which might lead to his losing control over the portal to another universe.

Lyra is a threat to the Magisterium because her ability to read the alethiometer through instinct means that the Gyptian and other outsiders can user her to harness the knowledge giving them a real chance to destroy the Mageristirum. Because of the alethiometer, Lyra now heads North to defeat the Gobblers with the Gyptians, the Witches, Lee and Iorek. The alethiometer enables Lyra to gain their allegiance and feeds her adventurous spirit. Our heroes have a real chance to beat the Magisterium even with the “army” of the armored bears guarding Lord Asriel and the whole weight Mageristirum keeping children under lock and key.I wonder what will happen next week? To keep up with all the details of this fantastical show, please follow Decoding the Daemonverse.

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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