'His Dark Materials' recap: Mrs. Coulter stops at nothing to get Lyra back
Last week, Lyra learned that Lord Asriel was her father and Mrs. Coulter was the head of the Gobblers. Both discoveries left her shaken and that was before she managed to get kidnapped by the Gobblers.
She’s still in their clutches as the latest episode of His Dark Materials begins but not for long as Tony Costa and Benjamin de Ruyter rescue her while out on a secret mission of their own. Tony recognizes Lyra from Oxford — she had once stolen the Costa boat in a bit of mischief — and brings her back to the Gyptians, who are gathering their clans to rescue the missing children.
Though Tony evades Ma Costa’s questions on how exactly they came across Lyra, the fact that they captured a Gobbler alive at least gives them a lead that the children are being taken to the North. Lyra is brought before John Faa and Farder Coram and she’s not sure why she should trust them until they admit they have been watching over her since she was a baby. She wonders if it’s because Lord Asriel is her father and they both seem stunned that she’s aware of that information. In the books, it was Faa and Coram who actually revealed Lyra’s parentage to her but the show’s decision to let Mrs Coulter do it was a wise one as is who reveals to Lyra just who her mother is later in the episode.
As John Faa is off planning the Gyptian mission to rescue the children and Ma Costa provides Lyra some much needed motherly attention, Farder Coram is there to lend Lyra a kindly ear and James Cosmo is wonderful in a role that allows him to display a bit more tender concern than he did as Commander Mormont on Game of Thrones. In a conversation lifted in part from The Golden Compass, Lyra and Coram discuss the nature of daemon shapes and how a daemon’s final form reflects something of the person. Lyra says she never wants Pan to settle but Coram notes that as she ages she might feel different though some people aren’t always satisfied with the result. He admits that as beautiful as his daemon Sophonax is, sometimes he dreams her different and it’s a lovely lyrical scene about the nature of this world and the people in it.
As Lyra settles in with the Gyptians, her disappearance triggers a rampage in Mrs. Coulter. If she seemed a little off last week, this week she acts positively unhinged as she leads a raid on Jordan College looking for the missing girl. Ruth Wilson doesn’t leave a piece of scenery unchewed in the entire hour as she demonstrates what depths Mrs. Coulter will sink to get what she wants. As her forces tear the college apart, she confronts Master Carne and demands he turn over Lyra. He rightfully points out that he managed to keep her safe for twelve years so it’s not his fault if Coulter couldn’t do the same in a shorter period of time.
Coulter demands her goons find something heretical to use against the school’s claim of scholastic sanctuary and when she discovers books for deciphering alethiometers, she knows she has it. Since the devices are illegal, the Magisterium was unaware that Jordan College was in possession of one and putting two and two together, Coulter realizes that it’s actually now in Lyra’s possession. The Master admits that it arrived at the school with Lyra as a baby so it was rightfully returned to her. This information does nothing to stifle Coulter’s rage, but the Master is mostly resigned as she sacks the school.
After assisting the raid on Jordan, Lord Boreal has his own business to attend to and passes through worlds again. He is still searching for information on Stanislaus Grumman and he hits a bit of a jackpot through his contact, Thomas. Turns out Grumman originated in Thomas’s world and is really a man named John Parry, who has a wife and a son there as well. When Boreal claims it’s impossible since Grumman had a daemon, Thomas supposes maybe people from his world acquire them when they cross to Boreal’s. He shows Boreal a new photo of Parry and since it’s a photo of the Hot Priest himself, Andrew Scott of Fleabag fame, you can bet we will be meeting this mysterious man in person. It turns out that Boreal isn’t on Magisterium business though and is curious about Parry since he’s never met anyone else brave enough to cross worlds the way he himself does. He wants to know more about Parry’s wife and son but uses another mysterious contact to do so. Though Boreal’s storyline is influenced by the events of The Subtle Knife rather than his small role in The Golden Compass, Ariyon Bakare is hypnotic in the role (he talks more about playing Lord Boreal here.)
While unaware of Boreal’s activities, the Magisterium isn’t so happy about Coulter’s unsanctioned raid since relations between the Magisterium and the College need more delicate attention than Coulter’s sledgehammer. They do, however, pass on the information that Lyra is now with the Gyptians which leads to a raid of the Gyptian boats. Quick thinking by Ma Costa keeps Lyra hidden, but the girl is furious that nowhere seems to be safe from Mrs. Coulter’s wrath. After the lies of her father and Mrs. Coulter, she feels like she has no one to trust.
Lyra takes off but Ma Costa isn’t far behind the tormented girl. In a lovely scene between Anne-Marie Duff and Dafne Keen, Lyra takes out all her frustrations on Ma Costa until the woman explains just why Mrs. Coulter is so desperate to find her. If you aren’t a book reader or haven’t guessed it by now, Coulter is Lyra’s biological mother. She and Lord Asriel had a wild affair that ended with her pregnant. When Coulter’s husband learned of the baby, he came for Lyra and Asriel killed him while a Gyptian nurse kept Lyra safe. The ensuing scandal almost ruined both of her parents, but it hit Mrs. Coulter harder and she became a pariah. Considering she managed to claw her way back to a position of prominence, the woman remains dangerous and we see how much so when she sends illegal spy flies after her daughter.
Once Lyra guesses Ma Costa was the nurse Lord Asriel hired to care for her and she protected her the night Mr. Coulter came for her, she realizes she can trust the woman and she agrees to stay. Lyra along with all the Gyptians attend the Roping, their grand meeting where they discuss what to do about the missing children. Since some of these children aren’t Gyptians, there is some conflict as to whether they should risk their lives for these other children as well. Still worried sick about the missing Billy, Ma Costa and many other Gyptians are outraged at such selfishness. Lyra winds up pleading with the group and after a rousing speech by John Faa, the dissenters retreat and they declare they will go North to Trollesund and bring all the children home. But since Tony and Benjamin have learned that Lyra saw the Oblation Board’s plans in Mrs. Coulter’s apartment, they decide to break off and perform the third unsanctioned raid of the episode.
They break into Mrs. Coulter’s apartment but it all goes sideways when she discovers them and shoots Benjamin with a comically large gun. Tony escapes out the window but Coulter’s golden monkey traps Benjamin’s hawk and starts to torture him with his daemon to make him talk. Rather than betray his people, the brave Gyptian sacrifices his own life by jumping down the elevator shaft. His death causes his daemon to dissolve out of the monkey’s hand in a wisp of smoke and light.
Back on the Costa boat, Ma Costa discovers Tony is nowhere to be found and in the ensuing worry, Lyra reveals to Fardar Coram that she’s in possession of an alethiometer. Though he hasn’t seen one in ages and claims that you need the books we saw earlier in the episode to decipher its meanings, he gives her the basics of how you frame a question using the dials and the symbols. Lyra had gotten the device to work a bit when her mind went blank but this information finally provides the key to read it properly. Unfortunately, the first piece of information she discovers is that Benjamin has died during the raid. When she unwisely goes above deck to let Farder Coram know, Mrs. Coulter’s spy flies find her. They capture one while the other escapes but before they can get too concerned, Tony returns with word that Benjamin has died and the names of all the stolen children, including his brother Billy.
Once John Faa learns that Lyra can read the alethiometer, he agrees that she must come with them North. As the Gyptians set off for the journey, Ma Costa tells Lyra that with a girl like her, the North has no idea what’s about to hit them
But that pesky spy fly has found its way back to Mrs. Coulter. Seeing the illegal device, Lord Boreal asks her, “Have you gone mad?” The obvious answer is yes, but Coulter doesn’t care because she now knows where her daughter is. And as we’ve seen, she’ll stop at nothing to get her back.
His Dark Materials