His Dark Materials Episode Seven Review, The Fight to the Death… That We Don’t See The End Of.

3 and a half stars
I was looking forward to the seventh episode of His Dark Materials, “The Fight to the Death” because it would adapt a scene I have fond memories of watching as a kid, the fight between Iorek Byrnison and Iofur Raknison.
This was a moment I really enjoyed when watching in The Golden Compass, the first adaptation of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series.
However, I felt that this scene left quite a bit to be desired this time around.
Sure, the CGI is fantastic as always but, compared to the weight and magnitude of the fight in the first adaptation I just was not feeling it.
This may be because the final part of the fight is off screen as opposed to the raw end of it from the movie.

iorek-vs-iofur.jpg
The Iorek vs Iofur fight was a disappointment compared to the movie, and even the books where I hear it is much more gruesome.

Unfortunately, this is not the only area where the episode falters.
Directed by Jamie Childs, “The Fight to the Death” has quite a few other issues, starting with the beginning when Lyra awakens after falling out of Lee’s airship at the end of the fantastic “The Daemon Cages” episode.
There is absolutely no explanation for how she, or any of the other characters who are revealed to have also fallen out of the airship, survived the fall.
They should at least have some broken bones but they are walking around like nothing happened.
It makes no sense.
Speaking of things that make no sense, did anyone else find it a bit forced how Mrs Coulter just manipulated Father MacPhail to let her tag along to kill Asriel?
He was the person most against bringing her but then he just suddenly decides to allow her to come after a quick talking to?
On the plus side, though, we did get another good look at the crazy side of Mrs Coulter at the beginning of the episode when she almost strangles the assistant from the previous episode who was revealed to have had her daemon removed.

crazy crazy coulter.jpg
Crazy Mrs Coulter is best Mrs Coulter.

And, even if I did not buy Coulter manipulating Father MacPhail, I did buy Lyra manipulating Iofur.
In fact, I would say this is an improvement on the Golden Compass movie.
In that film, Lyra uses the alethiometer right in front of Iofur to find out that he killed his father.
But, given that Iofur works with the Magisterium, he should know what an alethiometer is so he should have realised this was a trick.
In this episode, however, the scene is changed because Lyra uses the alethiometer out of Iofur’s view, making her manipulation of him much more believable.
This manipulation earns her the name Lyra Silver Tongue when Iorek wins.
Along with Lyra’s growth, we also get plenty from Will this episode as he accidentally kills one of Boreal’s men in self defense when they breaks into his house.
I do feel that the way this scene was shot is a little off but I am still interested to see where this takes Will because he could potentially learn the truth about the alternate universe when he reads his father’s letters, which he retrieved.
Then there is Lee Scoresby, who is as likeable as ever, as he teams up with Serafina Pekkala to go and help Lyra.
And it looks like she and Roger will need all the help they can get because there is a new threat from an unexpected source… Lyra’s own father Asriel.

Asriel evil.jpg
Asriel just got a whole lot creepier after this episode.

As soon as Lyra shows up to rescue him he panics, shouting he did not send for her.
But then, when he sees Roger, his demeanor completely changes, with him being happy to see him.
Whatever Asriel is planning, he clearly needs a child for it to work and this does not look good for Roger.
I guess it makes sense now why Coulter and Asriel got together because they both appear to be willing to sacrifice innocent children to achieve their goals.
This finished off the episode with an intense cliffhanger to lead into the finale.
I just hope it can pick up in quality from this one.
Although far from bad, I found “The Fight to the Death” to be disappointing in terms of how certain scenes were adapted and how some things did not make sense.
Still, it was an enjoyable episode, nonetheless.

His Dark Materials Episode Six, The Daemon Cages Review. Dafne Keen is Superb.

5 stars
After the intense cliffhanger of “The Lost Boy,” His Dark Materials delivers the best episode so far with its sixth one, “The Daemon Cages.”
Directed by Euros Lyn, the story picks up with Lyra and Pan trapped in Bolvanger, where the Gobblers are experimenting on children by separating them from their daemons.
And, before I get into how well done this episode is, I would like to address an issue I have heard people voice about the daemons, or rather the lack of them, in the episode.
The budget of His Dark Materials has forced the animators to limit the amount of daemons on screen, which means the close bond between them and their human is not as well captured as in the novel.
I have heard many say that this makes for a much less impactful storyline because the threat of the children losing their daemons is diminished because we do not see much of them.
Now, while I can see why this would be a problem for many, personally, this did not really affect me because I still felt fearful for these kids losing their daemons.
This comes down to two things.
One, the death of Billy Costa in the last episode raises the stakes.
And two, even though there are not many daemons on screen, I still felt the connection because of how the bonds between the daemons and the children are portrayed whether they have been separated or not.
There is the nurse who is revealed to have been separated from her Daemon Nicholas and has been brainwashed into working with the Gobblers in a hard hitting scene.

nurse.jpg
The extent that the nurse and the children are affected after having been separated from their daemons is chilling and shows just how important a daemon is to its partner in this world.

Then there is Lyra and Pan whose bond is best shown when Pan is grabbed by one of the Gobblers as Lyra tries to escape, causing her to fall to the floor in pain.
Speaking of Lyra, Dafne Keen is fantastic in this episode.
I could feel the fear of her being captured by Mrs Coulter when she came to inspect the children’s room, her desperation to not to be separated from Pan, and her encounter with Mrs Coulter, which is the best part of “The Daemon Cages.”
She does an amazing job acting alongside Ruth Wilson, especially with her vicious comeback to Coulter of “Billy Costa is dead.”

keen done it again.png
Dafne Keen gives her best performance of the series so far in this episode.

As for Wilson, she is just as great with her performance again being representative of her monkey, both in her posture and manipulative nature.
But Lyra is more like her mother than Coulter realizes because she is successfully able to manipulate her into opening the case with the spy fly, giving her an opportunity to escape.
From here the episode divulges into absolute chaos as the Gyptians finally arrive to save the children with Lee, Iorek and Seraphina in tow.
Honestly, though, Seraphina did most of the work because she is basically a one woman army, killing multiple Gobblers before anyone else can react.
As for the Gobblers, I liked how the episode focused some of its time on their motivations, even though they all died by the end of the episode, with the exception of Mrs Coulter.
They may still be terrible people but I am glad they did not come across as evil for the sake of evil, like some members of the Magisterium have in previous episodes.
With the Gobblers now dead and the children rescued, Lyra, Roger, Iorek, and Lee set out in the airship with the hopes of rescuing Lord Asriel.
Seraphina then shows up briefly to tell Lee he has to protect Lyra… only for him to immediately lose her when they are attacked by monsters known as cliff-ghasts.

lllleeee.png
Talk about failing to live up to expectations, eh Lee? Only kidding. I still really enjoy his character.

In any case, this moment felt like a horror movie with the suspense and tension in the scene leaving me shaking slightly, especially with the cliffhanger of Lyra falling out of the airship.
I have no idea how she will survive the fall but next episode we are getting the fight between Iorek and Iofur, which is the moment I remember most from the movie.
It will definitely be interesting to see how that is adapted.

 

His Dark Materials Episode Five The Lost Boy Review: Well, This is Darker Than The Film.

4 stars
Even though it has been years since I have seen The Golden Compass, I still remember some things about it.
One of those was Billy Costa being separated from his Daemon but surviving.
So, imagine my surprise when this episode of His Dark Materials, “The Lost Boy” adapted this scene, only to kill Billy off because of him being separated from Ratter.
Apparently, this is also different from the books, where it is not Billy but another character who dies.
Such a change makes the show way darker than the film by a wide margin.
Directed again by Otto Bathurst, “The Lost Boy” had many surprises in store for me like the introduction of the young Will Parry (Amir Wilson).
He comes from our world but it is stated in narration that his fate is intertwined with Lyra’s.

Will Parry.png
I was not aware that Will would play such a central role in the story and it will be interesting to see what that role is. 

But, given that his father John Parry has been to the Daemon world and Boreal is watching Will and his mother, it is clear how Will will be brought into the world of Daemons.
On top of this, Will is a sympathetic character, with him having to deal with his mother Elaine’s (Nina Sosanya) mental illness on a regular basis.
However, she is clearly not as mentally ill as he thinks she is, because she does seem to know quite a bit about her husband’s life, although she hides this.
Boreal is on her and Will’s trail, though, and he has already inserted himself into their situation so I suspect this will not end well for Elaine.
As for the events in the Daemon world, the buildup to Billy’s discovery is done well, with plenty of character payoff.
I especially liked the character growth of John Faa (Lucian Msmati) who has learned to trust Lyra and her alethiometer since the events of “Armour.”
We also get another emotional scene with Farder Coram as he reunites with his old lover, the witch Serafina Pekkala (Ruta Gedmintas).
Then there is Lyra’s growing bonds with Iorek and Lee who are just as great as they were in the previous episode.
The discovery and death of Billy Costa is sad and well executed, even if it is a deviation from the original novel.

the discovery of billy.jpg
Billy Costa’s fate is very different from the film and novel, making the future of the story uncertain in how it will diverge from the source material.

The episode ends on a great cliffhanger, with Lyra being kidnapped by the Gobblers and taken to Bolvanger, where they plan to separate her from Pan permanently.
And it is because of Billy’s death that this cliffhanger works so well because his demise sets up a significant threat level for Lyra, causing many viewers, who do not know how things will turn out, to fear for her safety.
Overall, “The Lost Boy” is a solid episode of His Dark Materials. 
While not as good as the previous episode “Armour” it sets up a number of plot points that should led to some great scenes in the future.

His Dark Materials Episode Four Armour Review: Great Character Interactions.

4 and a half stars
Directed by Otto Bathurst, the fourth episode of His Dark Materials “Armour” is definitely the best episode so far, introducing two new central characters that look to be some of the most interesting of the series.
The first of these is Iorek Byrnison (voiced by Joe Tandberg), the iconic armoured bear of the series.
Iorek was definitely the character I remembered the most from the film adaptation so I was excited to see him return.
And he did not disappoint, with the build up to him joining Lyra being perfectly handled, unlike in the film where I remember him joining up the moment he met her.
Tanberg also does a great job voicing the character, giving Iorek’s voice the animalistic feel it should have.
The CGI for the character is likewise fantastic.

ioreck.jpg
Iorek CGI is perfectly handled, with him not looking out of place at all. 

Lyra eventually convinces Iorek to join their cause by helping him find his missing armour, leading to the memorable scene where he emerges in it, ready to fight the Magisterium’s soldiers.
However, although this scene is great, it does raise a bit of a plot hole about why the soldiers don’t just shoot where Iorek isn’t armoured?
Still, this does not completely ruin the scene.
The second interesting character to be introduced in “Armour” is Lee Scoresby, played in a charismatic performance by Lin-Manuel Miranda.
An airman who exceeds in thievery, Lee’s eventual decision to ally himself with Lyra is just as well built up as Iorek joining her.
Originally coming to Trollesund to find Ioreck, Lee and his daemon Hester (voiced by Cristela Alonzo) have many humorous interactions with Lyra as she misleads him about the Gyptians being after his services.
The moment he realizes this and still manages to convince the Gyptians to hire him and Iorek is comedic cold, and the two joining shows just smart Lyra is in gathering allies.

Lee.jpg
Miranda does a great job of portraying both Lee’s comedic and serious side.

Speaking of allies, Farder Coram seems to succeed in gaining the support of the witch he had a child with, Serafina Pekkla.
This leads to a moving performance from James Cosmo as Farder Coram tearfully tells Lyra the story of how he and Serafina lost their child and grew apart as a result.
All of the scenes in Trollesund are great, with amazing character interactions that can also bee seen in the scenes with Mrs Coulter, who is as manipulative as ever.
She manages to turn her demotion around, convincing Cardinal Sturrock (Ian Peck) and Father MacPhail (Will Keen, Dafne Keen’s father) to send her North because she has Lord Asriel.
Not only this but she is allowed to ask the alethiometer a question and asks it who Lyra is, most likely referring to the prophecy surrounding her.
Although, one problem I do have with Coulter’s manipulation is that we never see her force of armored bears capture Asriel.
I heard we don’t see him get caught in the book either but we saw his expeditions in the North researching Dust so I don’t see why we couldn’t have got a scene of his capture.

coulter manipulates.png
Despite not seeing Asriel’s capture, the scene where Coulter manipulates the Cardinal shows how smart she is with Ruth Wilson doing an amazing job.

Coulter’s manipulations also leads to the scene between her and Iofur Raknison, the king of the armoured bears, where she offers him a baptism in exchange for his help.
I have to say, I think the design of Iofur’s armour is excellent, giving him a real menacing presence that kind of makes me wish Ioreck’s armour had got an update from the movie.
So, overall, despite a few minor problems, “Armour” is a fantastic episode of His Dark Materials and my favourite of the four episodes we have got so far.

His Dark Materials Episode Three, The Spies Review: Parental Twist Number Two.

3 and a half stars
The third episode of His Dark Materials “The Spies” is the weakest of the season so far.
Not to say that it is bad but there are just a few things holding it back from the quality of the first two episodes.
For starters, “The Idea of North” ended with the cliffhanger of Lyra and Pan being kidnapped by the Gobblers, only for them to immediately be rescued by the Gyptians at the beginning of “The Spies.”
It kind of made it seem like they had just made a contrived cliffhanger to get viewers to tune in next week, as opposed to doing it naturally by perhaps having the Gyptians finding Lyra after she escapes Mrs Coulter.

lyra kidnapped.png
The ending to episode two should have been the Gyptians rescuing Lyra not the Gobblers pointlessly kidnapping her.

Directed by Dawn Shadford, the rest of the episode is pretty good, detailing Lyra’s time with the Gyptians nicely.
In particular, I liked her growing bonds with Ma Costa (Anne-Marie Duff) and Farder Coram (James Cosmo).
It is from Ma Costa that we get the second parental twist in two episodes that Coulter is Lyra’s mother.
While expected, both because I have seen the movie, and by Coulter’s obvious dodging of the question about Lyra’s mother in the previous episode, I found the explanation of Lyra’s birth to be very interesting.
The backstory of Asriel and Coulter’s affair, leading to Coulter’s husband trying to kill Lyra which forced Asriel to kill him, adds complexity to both characters and their relationship with their daughter.
Not only does it again show how far Asriel is willing to go to protect Lyra, despite his coldness towards her, but it also explains both Coulter’s love and disdain for her.
She loves Lyra because she is her daughter but, on the other hand, she hates a part of her because Lyra’s birth led to the death of her husband and damaged her reputation.
This also shows how cruel the Magisterium is because Ma Costa explains that Coulter’s husband murdering Lyra would have been legal their eyes because of the dishonor to his wife.

mother twist.png
The reveal of Lyra’s mother leads to interesting character revelations about Asriel, Coulter and the Magisterium.

And so, the explanation about Lyra’s parentage and birth is the most interesting part of the episode, even if it is a bit obvious.
The second best scene is easily Tony (Daniel Frogson) and Benjamin (Simon Manyonda) breaking into Coulter’s apartment to find information about the kidnapped children.
Thankfully, Tony escapes but Benjamin is captured, leading to a great cut where Coulter mimics her daemon in her attack pattern on Benjamin.
Before she can get any information out of him, though, Benjamin sacrifices himself by intentionally falling down the elevator to his death.
It is through Lyra’s attempts to figure out what happened to him and Tony that we get the first usage of the alethiometer as she uses it to try and find them.
From this, it looks like the alethimoter will be different from the movie because it does not give the holder visions, like in the adaptation, rather it just points to an image.

alethiromet-oh whatever.jpeg
Lyra learns to use the alethimoter quicker than any expert and without books. I wonder if there is a reason she was able to do this or is just because she’s special? It will seem like a reach if she just randomly figured it out.

However, despite learning to use the compass-like object, Lyra is not completely on top of things because Coulter sends soldiers to find her.
It is here that my other problem with the episode comes in because it is a bit ridiculous that the highly trained soldiers with dogs cannot find Lyra or the Gobbler the Gyptians kidnapped.
While this and a few other moments are distracting, the rest of “The Spies” is solid with Boreal continuing his search for Gruman and learning he was from our world rather than his, raising some interesting questions.
Coulter also knows who Lyra is with at the end of the episode because of her spy beetles, which adds more danger for our lead characters.
Overall, “The Spies” is a good episode of His Dark Materials which, while not quite as good as “Lyra’s Jordan” and “The Idea of North,” is still very enjoyable with a lot of character building moments.

His Dark Materials, Episode Two, The Idea of North, Review. Don’t be Molded Lyra.

4 stars
“You must let me mold you” Ruth Wilson’s Mrs Coulter tells Dafne Keen’s Lyra over lunch, serving as the the first of many warnings signs of the possessive and almost psychopathic behavior she displays.
Again, directed by Tom Hooper and written by Jack Thorne, the second episode of His Dark Materials “The Idea of North” focuses on the growing cat and mouse game between Lyra and Mrs Coulter as Lyra slowly comes to realise her true intentions.
Having seen the first adaptation, I knew Coulter would not turn out to be a good person and Wilson does a great job portraying her complex personality and the abusive bond she forms with Lyra.

coulter and lyra 2.jpg
Coulter’s friendship with Lyra quickly turns volatile and Lyra refuses to be molded.

Although, Coulter is shown to care for Lyra somewhat as seen by her crying outside of Lyra’s door, however, she is not above hurting Lyra to get her to act the way she want, as seen by her having her daemon attack Pan to hurt Lyra.
Through this it is made clear that if Coulter cannot convince Lyra to be molded then she will do it by force.
This manipulative trait is also made clear through how she acts kind to the abducted children like Roger and Billy (Tyler Howitt), making them believe the letters they write will get to their loved ones, only for her to burn them when she leaves with a satisfied look on her face.
Such a look is also apparent when she tortures Lyra through Pan before accidentally revealing that Lord Asriel is her father, and this reveal does seem to bring a temporary moment of humanity to her, the only moment in the episode that her affection for Lyra seems genuine.
Basically, what I am saying is that Wilson steals the episode with her great performance as the manipulative Coulter.

evil coulter
Wilson pulls off Coulter’s abusive character perfectly, portraying both viciousness and weakness.

That is not to sell Dafne Keen short, though, because she is also amazing as Lyra slowly coming to the realization of how cruel Coulter is and refusing to be molded.
This results in great scenes like when Lyra throws her knowledge of Dust in Coulter’s face.
However, her big revelation about Coulter being connected to the Gobblers does not come through her own investigation but through a random journalist named Adele (Georgina Campbell) informing her, leading to her escape.
Said journalist is then immediately captured and killed by Carlo Boreal (Ariyon Bakare) when he crushes her daemon in his hand.
Seriously, though, how unlucky is Adele to have a butterfly for a daemon?
All it would take is for someone to accidentally step on it and she’d die.
Talk about bad luck.

Adèle_Starminster
Adele is killed very quickly upon being discovered showing the brutality of the Magisterium. 

As well as killing the journalist, Boreal plays another interesting role in the episode by traveling to another dimension which appears to be our own.
He is looking for the man Asriel claimed had been murdered in the first episode by presenting his head, which Boreal now believes was not him.
Boreal hires someone to track the man down, showing his snake daemon to appease him.
Now that I think about that, though, it is kind of funny how the villains of this series are all telegraphed by their stereotypically evil daemons.
A snake, a bug, a lizard, what’s next a rat?
Anyway, other characters that the episode focuses on are the Gyptians whose hunt for the missing children remains unsuccessful, although they are getting closer.
Sadly, Lyra now looks to be one of the children they have to save because she is kidnapped by the Gobblers at the end of the episode after escaping from Coulter.
All in all, I found “The Idea of North” to be just as good of an episode as the premiere episode, making His Dark Materials look to be another hit show this year, quality wise.

His Dark Materials, Episode One, Lyra’s Jordan Review: Enter the World of Daemons.

4 stars
HBO has put out many amazing shows in 2019 from Chernobyl, to Watchmen, to the final season of Game of Thro-oh wait, no, that last one sucked.
Anyways, while HBO did not make its latest show, merely distributed it, that show, His Dark Materials, looks to be another great one nevertheless.
Based off Philip Pullman’s successful trilogy, the story is set in a world where people’s souls manifest as talking animal companions known as daemons.
If this sounds familiar to you but you have not read Pullman’s novel then you probably recognize it from the earlier movie adaptation, The Golden Compass, which got a less than stellar reception to say the least.

The Golden Compass.jpg
Will the new His Dark Materials series go on to be as badly received as The Golden Compass or will it be better?

I have only seen this film once when I was a kid and I thought it was pretty good, although, to be fair, I was only nine and I could not tell the difference between a good and bad move to save my life back then.
In any case, even if The Golden Compass really is as bad as I don’t remember it being, His Dark Materials already looks to be miles better than that film adaption, if the first episode “Lyra’s Jordan” is anything to go by.
Directed by Tom Hooper, and written by Jack Thorne just like every other episode will be, the episode mostly follows the titular Lyra at the beginning of her adventure.
Lyra is played by Dafne Keen who I am glad to see is getting more work.
I loved her performance in Logan and I cannot wait to see what she does with the role of Lyra.

Lyra.png
Dafne Keen does a solid job in the first episode of His Dark Materials.

Speaking of the X-Men, James McAvoy is also in the series, playing Lyra’s guardian Lord Asriel.
McAvoy delivers a fantastic performance, especially in an impassioned speech he delivers to his colleagues about Dust to get more funding for his research, which is considered heresy by many.
It is with this and many other moments in the episode that the anti-religious themes of Pullman’s story can be seen.
Along with Keen and McAvoy, another actor to watch out for in this show is Ruth Wilson who plays the sinister Marisa Coulter.
Another thing I enjoyed about “Lyra’s Jordan” is how the daemons are shown to be incorporated into the world.
We get a Gyptian ceremony in the episode, which shows how they celebrate when a daemon settles as a single animal.
Many of the daemons are established from Lyra’s Pan (Kit Connor) and Asriel’s Stelmaria (Helen McCroy).
Then there is the fact that all of these daemons have great CGI.
The downside of this is that they did not have the budget to animate many side characters’ daemons, which are just never acknowledged, but this is better than having a bunch of completely fake looking daemons running around.

Lyra and Pan.jpg
The Daemons are very well animated, blending seamlessly with the actors as can be seen by this shot of Lyra and Pan.

And, as stated, the daemons that are in the episode are incorporated so well that it makes the world feel lived in by them.
However, this has a negative effect on the characters as a Gyptian child is kidnapped after the celebration of his brother’s daemon.
Many Gyptian children are revealed to have been kidnapped by the end of the episode
by the so called Gobblers.
Even children who aren’t Gyptians like Lyra’s friend Roger (Lewin Lloyd) are taken and this is one of the reasons why Lyra departs with Coulter at the end of the episode, with her alethiometer in hand.
Overall, the first episode of His Dark Materials, “Lyra’s Jordan” is a solid start that has me interested to see where the series will go.
Hopefully, this will be liked by fans of Pullman’s novel and not go on to be regarded as another The Golden Compass.