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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.