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.

Actor Profile: Dafne Keen Fernández

Dafne Keen Fernandez (January 4, 2005) is a British-Spanish actress born in Madrid, Spain. The actress holds British and Spanish citizenship. She is commonly known as Dafne Keen. Keen’s parents are British Actor Will Keen and Galician Actress/Theatre Director/ Writer Maria Fernandez Ache. Her first acting role as in 2014, where she played Ana “Ani” Cruz Oliver in the television show The Refugees. Keen’s Dad Will Keen played her character’s father Samuel “Sam” Cruz. The television show The Refugees is about billions of people from the future traveling to our present to escape a deadly mutation of the cold virus wiping out most of the world — her other role as Laura in the Marvel 2017 film Logan where she plays Wolverine’s clone. Dafne Keen plays Lyra Belacqua in His Dark Materials. Right now, she is in pre-production for the film Ana where she plays Ana. 

Dafne Keen has won “Best Duo” in the 2017 MTV Movies & TV awards for her work with Hugh Jackman in Logan. Along with winning “Best Female Newcomer” in the 2018 Empire Awards for Logan

Review of His Dark Materials Season 1 Episode Three “The Spies”

“The Spies” explores why Lyra remains so crucial to Ms. Coulter and reveals more of the Gyptians’ connections to the gobblers and Lyra. I have read that many viewers have dropped this episode, but I think a lot of the confusing details have been clarified during this third episode of the first season of His Dark Materials. Let me first start by summarizing the episode and the two main storylines including Lyra’s journey and Ms. Coulter search for Lyra.

The first storyline starts with Lyra and Pan in the back of the gobbler’s van being driven to some mysterious location. Tony Costa and the other young Gyptians rescue Lyra and Pan from the van and return them to the boats. Ma Costa is angry that Tony tangled with the gobblers, but Lyra reminds her that at least they are closer to finding the missing children. Fader Coram and John Faa, who are two Gyptian leaders, interview Lyra about her interactions with the gobblers. She doesn’t know too much since the gobblers never spoke to her. The gobblers refuse to talk to John Faa and his men. John Faa tells Lyra that she will be safe with them. We learn that the young girl will be staying with Ma Costa. Lyra bonds with Ma Costa over some tricks that the Gyptian mother teaches her. Lyra and Pan hang out a little with Fader Coram on the deck of the boat. The young girl says she and Pan wish he would never stop changing shape. Fader wisely counsels Lyra that soon they will grow tired of the daemon not settling to one form. He shows Lyra the gobbler that was tortured by the Gyptians for information. Lyra feels minimal sympathy.

Magisterium Soldiers board the Gyptians during the day in search of Lyra. There are rumors the Gyptians are hiding her.  Ma Costa carefully hides Lyra, so the soldiers can’t find her. After they leave, Lyra freaks out, realizing that she and Pan are not safe anywhere. She runs away from the boat. Ma Costa chases after her. When she finally tracks down Lyra, the girl admits that Mrs. Coulter is her mother. 

Lyra learns from the Gyptian that Lord Asriel and Mrs. Coulter had an affair, and that’s when Mrs. Coulter became pregnant with Lyra. Her husband learned of this and was outraged. After Lyra was born, Lord Asriel hid her with the Gyptians to keep her safe from Mrs. Coulter’s husband. He tried to murder the baby girl, so Lord Asriel killed him. All of Lord Asriel’s money and the land were seized. Lyra was sent to a nunnery. 

During the great floods that we saw in the pilot, Lord Asriel kidnapped Lyra. He took her to Jordan College, which we witnessed in the first scene of scholastic sanctuary. Ma Costa was the nanny who first took care of Lyra, but she doesn’t know anything else about Lyra’s origin story. Ma Costa says Mrs. Coulter went wrong in the head because she was isolated for so long. She convinces Lyra to return to the boat. Lyra figures out how to use the alethiometer. She can read the device without a book to decipher the code, which is unusual. She runs up to tell Fader Coram, but she and Pan get attacked by these machine bugs that her mother sent to track her down. Fader catches one, but the other tracker escapes.

During the night, Tony Costa and his friend ask Lyra for information on how to break into Mrs. Costa’s home. They execute the break in, but the plan doesn’t go smoothly. Mrs. Coulter kills Tony’s friend. Tony escapes with a list of all the children who were taken from the study. After learning of the first death due to their war with the gobblers, the Gyptians all meetup. They decide to go north to find the kids who were kidnapped by the gobblers.  

The second storyline starts with Ms. Coulter and the Magisterium soldiers searching Jordan College. Mrs. Coulter harasses The Master who tells her that the college is not housing Lyra anymore. The soldiers find books about the alethiometer, which they consider to be heretical. The Master says Lyra’s mother doesn’t have the golden compass anymore and admits that Lyra has the alethiometer. 

Mrs. Coulter tells the soldiers to rip apart Jordan College to find more banned objects. She tells the priest agent whose name is Lord Carlo Boreal that Lyra is not at the college anymore. Lord Boreal returns to our universe’s Oxford University. He meets up with the redheaded man whose name turns out to be Thomas. Thomas tells Lord Boreal that the missing explorer, John Parry, was initially from our universe, not theirs. Lord Boreal is confused because Parry had a daemon that doesn’t exist in Thomas’ Universe. The lord reflects that he has yet to meet somebody brave enough to venture across the two universes.

Ms. Coulter finds out the Gyptians have Lyra, so she sends the soldiers to search all Gyptian ships. She also sends out a couple of machine tracking bugs to find Lyra. One of the trackers comes back, so Mrs. Coulter has an inkling where her daughter is.

There are some beautiful scenes in “The Spies” that demonstrate the cinematographic mastery of the His Dark Materials camera, grip and lighting crew. For example, spectacular god’s eye-tracking shots of the large garden-like green fields of the college ground set the stage for when the Magisterium soldiers fly over Jordan College. The chase scene between Ma Costa and Lyra on the shore was also powerfully staged and filmed with effective use of wind blowing at large blades of grass causing them to shimmer and sway. The distance between  Lyra and Ma Costa on the two sides of a slight incline, their daemons in between the two of them as they yell across to each other, effectively creates tension as Lyra finally finds the answers about her life that everybody has been hiding from her.

Like the novels, His Dark Materials is all about a young woman growing up. Lyra finds out that everything she thought, that Lord Asriel is her uncle, and that Mrs. Coulter is just a kind benefactor, is incorrect. Her idolization of adult figures has been destroyed–a disillusionment that often effects children as they grow up.  We can see that her energetic and curious nature, which has always been stifled by adults, has become vital in her new life as a runaway.

I did not see any significant issues with this episode. I found “The Spies” a lot easier to describe than the second episode of His Dark Materials. My only criticism this time is that several of my friends who have not read the trilogy still struggle with the concept of dust. “The Spies” has not done anything to clarify what exactly dust is.

I cannot wait for next week’s episode four.


Ten Masterful Quotes from His Dark Materials Trilogy

1.“I’ll be looking for you, Will, every moment, every single moment. And when we do find each other again, we’ll cling together so tight that nothing and no one’ll ever tear us apart. Every atom of me and every atom of you… We’ll live in birds and flowers and dragonflies and pine trees and in clouds and in those little specks of light you see floating in sunbeams… And when they use our atoms to make new lives, they wont’ just be able to take one, they’ll have to take two, one of you and one of me, we’ll be joined so tight…”

2.“She wondered whether there would ever come an hour in her life when she didn’t think of him — didn’t speak to him in her head, didn’t relive every moment they’d been together, didn’t long for his voice and his hands and his love. She had never dreamed of what it would feel like to love someone so much; of all the things that had astonished her in her adventures, that was what astonished her the most. She thought the tenderness it left in her heart was like a bruise that would never go away, but she would cherish it forever.”

3.“People should decide on the books’ meanings for themselves. They’ll find a story that attacks such things as cruelty, oppression, intolerance, unkindness, narrow-mindedness, and celebrates love, kindness, open-mindedness, tolerance, curiosity, human intelligence.”

4.“Without stories, we wouldn’t be human beings at all”

5.“Seems to me-” Lee said, feeling for the words, “seems to me the place you fight cruelty is where you find it, and the place you give help is where you see it needed….”

6.“Being in love was like China: you knew it was there, and no doubt it was very interesting, and some people went there, but I never would… and then someone passed me a bit of some sweet stuff, and suddenly I realized that I had been to China. So to speak. And I’d forgotten it.”

7.“We are all subject to the fates. But we must all act as if we are not,” said the witch, “or die of despair.”

8.“That’s what you are. Argue with anything else, but don’t argue with your own nature.”

9.“Shame to die with one bullet left, though.”

10.“And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

“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:

10 Television Shows to Watch if you Enjoy His Dark Materials

  1. Good Omens:
  2. Carnival Row:
  3. The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina the Teenage Witch:
  4. Marvel’s Runaways:
  5. Penny Dreadful:
  6. Sense8:
  7. The Expanse:
  8. The Watchmen:
  9. Legion:
  10. Stranger Things:

Review for “Lyra’s Jordan”

“Lyra’s Jordan” was an excellent start at the introduction in the world of His Dark Materials season one written by Jack Thorne and directed by Tom Hopper. The pilot teaches us a lot about the building blocks of His Dark Materials, but still leaves us with many elements hidden. These mysterious elements can leave some viewers confused, but more desiring to watch more, to learn more about who Lyra will betray and to wonder what is happening to the children who are going missing?

            Let’s start with a basic summary of the episode. The episode first starts with Lyra Belacqua being dropped off by her Uncle or Lord Asriel, an Artic Explorer at Jordan College part of Oxford University. Lyra needs to be under scholastic sanctuary protection, but Uncle Asriel does not explain to Dr. Crane (The Master) why she is unsafe with him. The action starts about seven years later; we quickly learn that Lyra is an adventurous rebellious young girl with a daemon named Pan and a best friend whose a young servant in training called Roger Parslow. Both children are orphans, but Lyra still has Uncle Asriel, who is off exploring. 

            When Uncle Asriel returns, he goes in front of the professors of Jordan College to explain his heretical findings of “dust.”  Dr. Crane tries to poison Lord Asriel before he can bring danger to Jordan College, but a spying Lyra, who hopes to go off with her uncle to adventures in the North, stops Asriel from drinking the poisoned wine. Uncle Asriel has Lyra hide in a chest to observe how The Master reacts to his findings that the dust only surrounds adults, and to the existence of a city in the sky that’s made of dust.  Lord Asriel asks Jordan College’s faculty to help fund his exploration, which they do.

   After the meeting, Lyra falls asleep but wakes up in time for her Uncle to be putting her to bed. He refuses to answer too many questions about his research. Even though Uncle Asriel had promised to one day take Lyra away from Jordan College, he abandons her again, saying the Arctic is no place for a child. 

            Meanwhile, the Gyptians have a ceremony to mark Tony Costa becoming a man after his daemon Lyuba settled on being a hawk. He is given a metal ring with a hawk image with scraps of metal from the community. Tony’s little brother Billy Costa is kidnapped after wandering away from the celebration because he feels like his older brother will no longer be around. The Gyptian community looks everywhere for Billy Costa, but can’t find him anywhere nearby. The community decides he did not just wander off but was taken by some monsters they call the “gobblers.” The “gobblers” are already suspected of taking a couple of other Gyptian children. The Gyptians travel up to London in their boats, planning to find Billy and the other children. 

            Back at Jordan College, the Master and the Librarian discuss how the altimeter (a truth-telling device shaped like a golden compass)  tells them that it is time for Lyra to leave the college because she is going to be part of the adventures to come surrounding dust. The Master shares that Lyra will betray people, which will hurt her significantly.  The Master introduces Lyra to Marisa Coulter, another adventurer who promises to take the girl under her wing. Lyra jumps at the chance to leave Jordan College to be Coulter’s assistant but begs Marisa to allow Roger to come with them. The female adventurer agrees though soon after we witness her daemon grab the servant boy.

            The next morning, Lyra can not find Roger anywhere on the college grounds. She agrees to go to London with Maris after the woman adventurer promises to help the young girl find her best friend. Lyra is given the altimeter by the Master, who makes her promise to keep the device a secret, since it’s illegal, and to keep her council. We see Billy is being taken somewhere in a boat under the wind ship that the two new workmates are traveling to London.

            Now what I found interesting was how sometimes the daemons were visible on-screen, and other times you could barely notice them. Then suddenly, Pan would appear next to Lyra. Phillip Pullman wrote his novels this way because it would be distracting to see daemons all the time unless they were vital to the scene. Jack Throne must have felt the same way, which does make sense. I know I would be staring at the CIG daemons all the time if they were on screen constantly. I thought the special effects of the daemons were quite well done though I don’t think technology has gotten to the point where they look real. I felt that the actors who performed as the daemon’s voices did as good a job with their performances as their live-action counterpoints. I had initially forgotten that in the book they could talk , so at first, it was shocking, but then it made perfect sense. In the television show, the daemons act as their human’s consciousness. For example, when Lyra was spying on her Uncle’sUncle’s rooms, Pan reminded her that The Master had always been nice to them.

Along with Lord Asriel’s daemon, a snow leopard named Stelmaria points out that Lyra is still sleeping in the chest after the meeting was long over. The daemons do have their own personalities though. Billy’s daemon walks up to the daemon who helps kidnap them, showing he is adventurous even though the little boy warned him to go away. There is something special about the concept of the daemon. They are a source of comfort and support that a human is never without in this world.

            The only major criticism I have of the pilot is the gobblers kidnap Billy Costa because he is away from his family. In Gyptian, culture children are considered precious and never far from their parents. Why would his mother have allowed him to go on his own, or what were the adults doing who just let him go off into the dark? But I understand that for the plot, Billy needed to be kidnapped, which would not have happened if he stayed at the party. So all in all, I think it is the only way Jack Throne could have written that scene, at least in a believable manner.

            I was in love with the way Lyra was represented in the pilot by Dafe Kenne Fernadez. The way she was always running from place to place reveals her adventurous spirit along with her urgency to leave this confined space. Her loyalty to both Uncle Asriel and Roger Parslow lead her to make life-changing decisions in “Lyra’s Joden.” If Lyra were not loyal to Uncle Asriel, she would never have been spying on the Master  for him, which led to her learning about “dust.”  Her loyalty made her even more curious about the Artic. If she were not so desperate to go to the Arctic, then the young girl would not have been so compelled to go off with Marisa, who she doesn’t know. If she were not so loyal to Roger, then he probably would not have been kidnapped by the gobblers. Plus, Lyra would not have ultimately left Jordan College after name? had disappeared if Maris had not tempted her with finding her only friend. It’s Lyra’s adventurous and loyal spirit that leads her to venture into unknown worlds, which will ultimatley lead to the enormous pain she will experience — the pain The Master warned her about in his study. 

            The way His Dark Materials pilot was shot and edited (mixed in with the CGI) was awe-striking.  The long shots of Lord Asriel and Stelmaria climbing down the snowing mountains in the Arctic were breathtaking.  The medium shot of Roger pulling at the grates that are entrapping him as epic classical music is playing is heartbreaking. The way they built this urban fantasy/science fiction world is perfect. 

There are times, like in the beginning, when Asriel flys back Lyra into a flooded Jordan college in a helicopter where the technology seems modern. Then the main transport is these big metal airships that in my opinion look steampunk-like. The way the characters in the college dress is Victorian. But then the ceremony which makes Gyptian teenagers into men appear almost medieval. The daemons are fantastical, but there is plenty of alternative technologies like this camera that seems like a mixture of the modern and victorian that makes the television science fiction. This amalgam of genres makes the television show even more compelling.

If you are confused by any of the terms I use from the show check out the glossary:

Thank you! Please look out for a new review on Wednesday.

Glossary for His Dark Materials TV Show

Glossary for His Dark Materials (May Contain Some Spoilers)

Be yourself; Everyone else is already taken.

— Oscar Wilde.

This is the first post on my new blog. I’m just getting this new blog going, so stay tuned for more. Subscribe below to get notified when I post new updates.

Glossary for His Dark Materials (may contain some spoilers):

Daemon: The animal that embodies their human companion’s soul. Daemons are able to speak . Children’s daemons continuously change form. Once the human’s become adults, they daemon’s identity becomes fixed. They are often the opposite gender of their human counterpart..

Dust: This is a substance that forms around fully matured consciousness of adults when their daemons have become one unchanging animal. The church thinks of dust as heretical because they connect the fully matured consciousness to “original sin.”

Scholastic Sanctuary:  Scholastic Sanctuary is when somebody who may be in danger because of what they have said or even just for for being has protection against the Magisterium when living in academic space like Oxford University.

Gyptians: A nomadic ethnic group that made their homes in the Fens of Brytain. They are a tightknit community who are protective of their children. Usually, children stay with their mother or somebody who is trusted. As seen in the pilot, the Gyptians travel by boat.

Multiverse: As Lord Asriel showed during the meeting in the library, there are many different worlds in His Dark Materials. These universes are all parallel to one another and the Magisterium consider it heretical to discuss them.

Magisterium: The headquarters of the ruling authority of the Holy Church in Geneva.

Jordan College: The college is one of the twenty-three colleges that form the University of Oxford. This is Lyra Belacqua’s home until she leaves it at the end of the pilot.

Alethiometer: A truth telling device that looks like a golden compass.

Introducing Decoding The Daemonverse

My name is Paloma Bennett, and I’m a pop-culture geek with an M.A. in Cinema Critical Studies from San Francisco State. I earned a B.A. in Film and Digital Media from the University of California, Santa Cruz. When I say I am a pop-culture geek, I mean that I am a massive fan of television shows, books, movies, comic books, and podcasts. Some of my favorite genres are science fiction, urban fantasy, true crime, comedy, documentary, and supernatural though I have very eclectic taste. 

My interest in pop-culture helped me keep an eye out for adaptations of media I enjoy.  I was lucky enough to see an early screening of His Dark Materials’ pilot two weeks ago. I was given a ticket because I have been a massive fan of His Dark Materials trilogy since my aunt bought me all the books when I was a young teenager. I will admit it has been a couple of years since I read them. Still, I remember being enamored by the concept of the daemons as being animals that embody their human’s soul. I have always been drawn to stories with complex lead women characters. I have a rule when consuming any new media, especially books, tv shows, and graphic novels:  I will only watch television shows that have at least one main woman character. Some people may say that this rule is limiting. However, as a lesbian feminist, I have zero desire to watch another male-centric television show where I don’t see myself reflected anywhere. His Dark Materials fits to a tee.

Every week on my blog, Decoding the Daemonverse, I am going to put out a review about the television show His Dark Materials that is featured on both BBC & HBO. I am based out of California, so I will be releasing my reviews on Wednesday night following the Monday night release on HBO.

Now, as an adult, I am drawn to the fact that there is an overt critique of religions and governmental bodies that try to curtail what people can say and study. His Dark Materials explores the hurt and pain the denial of free speech can cause.

This will be a spoiler-filled blog because I am planning to re-read the first book The Golden Compass by Phillip Pullman as I am reviewing the season. My reviews will be mostly about the television series but will be using elements from the first book.  

I will not be spending my reviews critiquing how the television show does not follow the book enough or at all. Television shows and books are two very different platforms for storytelling, so significant changes need to be made for the adaptation to work. As long as the essence of the book or comic book is adapted into the television show, I consider the television show to be reliable. I think that television shows make a better adaptation of books than movies because there is more room to develop the characters and storyline. At least from the pilot, His Dark Materials seems like my definition of a well-done adaptation. It is also no mystery that the show’s creators put together a brilliant cast with Ruth Wilson, Clark Peters, James McAvoy, and Lin-Manuel Miranda as a recurring character. Dafne Keen Fernandez, who played Laura Kinney in Logan, is the perfect Lyra.

I hope you continue to follow my blog throughout the entirety of the first season of His Dark Materials. Until the second season arrives, I will find other shows to cover after the finale episode airs. I am an American, so if there is some British cultural implication I miss, I apologize–though I am a massive fan of British television, so I may not miss anything too big. 

If you are interested in hearing more about my pop-culture interests, follow me on all these social media platforms: Tumblr @dovebuffy92, Twitter (warning I don’t use a lot):@buffyfan1992, and Instagram: @buffyfan92. On Facebook, you can find me in these central communities: The Babel Conference: Trek fm Listener’s Group, Star Trek LA Away Team, All of US, and Fans of Urban Fantasy! I plan to share this blog on Fans of Urban Fantasy! So if you heard about my podcast from there, then welcome!

Decoding the Daemonverse has a Facebook @decondingthedaemonverse and Twitter @daemonverse. Please Follow.

Thank you.

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