By Lauren Morgan
December 14, 2020 at 09:50 PM EST
Credit: HBO

Having crossed over from the world where the Magisterium controls all, Mrs. Coulter comes face to face with everything she could have had in a different world in this week's episode of His Dark Materials. She sits in Lord Boreal’s car observing the people around her. As Boreal returns to bring her coffee, he gives her a rundown of this new world where a culture of consumerism and not faith rules. While he’s disgusted by that fact, Coulter realizes over the course of the episode that there is a freedom here she never experienced in her own world.

But of course, her first concern is her daughter, Lyra, who has been roaming this world on her own. Scorning Boreal’s comical attempts to romance her and questioning him for stealing the alethiometer from Lyra, Coulter grows concerned when he tells her Lyra’s been visiting Dr. Malone. Coulter doesn’t understand how Malone, as a woman, can be in charge of an academic project because of the patriarchal structure of her own world, and she wants to know what strange ideas this woman has been filling Lyra’s head with.

She wants to visit this Dr. Malone, but since she’s still attired in her clothes from her world, Boreal notes she’ll be too conspicuous dressed as is. For this, we are rewarded with a hilarious shot of Coulter holding up a pair of jeans with distaste before shooing Boreal out of the room as she changes. It’s obvious that she’s using him for her own ends: getting Lyra back.

Speaking of Lyra, she and Will are plotting how they will get the alethiometer back from Boreal using the subtle knife to cut a pathway into his house based on where it would be located in Cittágazze. But first, Will must battle both a case of the nerves and his guilt over what happened with Tullio. Uncertain that he can cut a window again, Will lets his doubts get to him, until Lyra’s encouragement helps him focus and he goes on a window-cutting spree and finds that Boreal’s house lines up with the tower. 

They will wait until nightfall to raid Boreal’s house, but as they plan how to get the alethiometer back, they hear something and find Angelica and Paola crying over the destroyed figure of Tullio. Though it was the Specters that attacked the young man, Angelica focuses her fury on Will and Lyra, saying they did this to him by taking away the knife. She swears they will get them, and this leaves Will shaken when he needs confidence most. He feels guilty and says Tullio should have been the knife bearer, but Lyra points out that the knife chose Will.

As Will and Lyra wait for nightfall in Cittágazze, Coulter prepares to visit Malone and changes into a smart suit. Reminding us that she has the power to separate from her daemon, she leaves her golden monkey behind, scratching at the bedroom door in fury. Boreal looks nauseated by her lack of daemon, but chillingly, she says surely she isn’t the first woman he’s witnessed who's capable of self-control and mentions the witches as being similarly skilled. Taking his car keys, she leaves as her daemon watches forlornly from the window.

Coulter finds Malone’s office rather easily, and Malone seems to be annoyed yet another person has made it into her private office without her knowing. Assuming the smartly dressed Coulter is here on behalf of another private investor, Malone tries to kick her out, until Coulter says she’s an experimental theologian and that Malone knows her daughter, Lyra.

Not knowing the true state of Lyra’s relationship with her mother, Malone asks how Lyra is, and Coulter lies that she’s fine and that she’s taking her home. She pretends that Lyra talked to her and wants to apologize in person in case she was a nuisance. Malone said she wasn’t and that it was the most interesting conversation she’s had in ages. Thinking that Coulter is just a concerned mother, Malone tells her what she and Lyra discussed, that she’s seen the alethiometer, and how she must be so proud of Lyra. Malone asks her about experimental theology, peppering Coulter with more questions about what her doctorate was on, and it’s obvious that Coulter seems almost overwhelmed by the freedom women have in this world. When Malone turns to make her coffee, she runs off. 

After googling Marisa Coulter turns up nothing, Malone ponders Lyra’s strange mother and the Cave starts responding to her thoughts by channeling the voice of the angel again. The angel tells her that she must play the serpent and that she has prepared for this all her life. Giving her a bunch of cryptic clues, the voice tells her that her work here is finished and that they will not speak again in this world. Once the angel is finishing speaking, the Cave shorts out, and taking that as a sign, Malone gathers her things and leaves. 

Night falls, and as Coulter returns to Boreal’s house, Lyra and Will start making their stealth attack on his house, soon realizing they need to be in the basement of the tower for it to work. Coulter is in a foul mood and asks Boreal for a drink. Talking about Malone, she notes that the woman was impertinent and intelligent but also free. Boreal, showing his own casual misogyny, says she seemed arrogant to him, and Coulter asks if he felt the same about her. Still intent on romancing her, he says no, and that she needs to take a breath. Her visit with Malone triggered deep feelings of rage, and she now realizes how her own world kept her from reaching her full potential, the same potential Malone was able to realize here. 

As Cardinal MacPhail plots to find her in her old world and imprisons those who challenge his reign over the Magisterium, Coulter comes to grip with all that the Magisterium denied her. Referencing her scandal with Asriel and what it did to her reputation, Coulter turns her ire on Boreal, saying this world is full of ideas their world is hungry for but he used his discovery of it to simply trade in trinkets. Boreal defends himself, saying he’s built a company and made a name for himself, but she derisively asks him if he meant to add her to his collection of treasures. He says with all sincerity that he was hoping this was a life she’d want to share, and she accurately responds, “My dear Carlo, if you actually got me, you wouldn’t know what to do with me.” She laughs cruelly and the doorbell goes off, revealing that Lyra has come.

As Lyra tries her best to distract Boreal, Will sneaks into the basement via a window he’s cut but hides when he sees the unexpected Coulter. He thinks she’s distracted by Lyra, but as he goes to grab the alethiometer, Coulter’s daemon swipes it and gives it to her. As Lyra runs downstairs and Boreal locks the door behind her, she’s shocked to see her mother. Boreal goes after Will and the knife as Lyra and Coulter have a mother-daughter face-off for the ages. 

Trying to persuade Lyra that she has her best intentions at heart, Coulter offers her the alethiometer and tells her she’s special. She knows Lyra can use the alethiometer, but she can tell her what it means and show her how to use her power in other ways. 

As Will scuffles with Boreal in the background, Coulter says he will cause Lyra nothing but harm, and that Lyra is so like she was. Lyra vehemently denies she’s anything like her, and in a fit of rage has Pan attack her mother’s daemon. It’s vicious to watch, but as Coulter separates herself from her daemon’s pain and rises to face her daughter, Lyra seems to realize that her mother’s will is almost monstrous. 

Will eventually gets the upper hand on Boreal after the latter taunts him about his mother. Smashing a glass artifact over the man’s head, Will gets the knife and grabs the alethiometer from Coulter’s hand as he yells to a freaked-out Lyra that they need to go. He slices open a window, and Lyra and Pan jump through it in the knick of time; Coulter screams after her as it closes. 

Back in Cittágazze, Lyra thanks Will for the alethiometer and tells Will she wanted to kill Boreal when she heard him hurting Will. Will confirms that Coulter was her mother and says he’s never seen Lyra like that. He can’t imagine having to be scared of his own mother the way Lyra is. Shaken by her interaction with her mother, Lyra admits it didn’t feel good hurting her mother like that and thsaysat she hopes she’s not like either of her parents, but like Ma Costa or Lee Scoresby. He says she doesn’t have to be like anyone else, but they would be lucky to be like her. Now that they have the alethiometer back, she promises to do nothing else but help him find his father. 

At Boreal’s house, he’s stunned that Coulter offered Lyra the alethiometer, but she reminds him that he failed to tell her they had a little thing like a knife that could cut between worlds. Coulter wants to go after them, but as Boreal tells her of the Specters that haunt Cittágazze, she realizes they’re attacking the adults because of Dust. He thinks it’s impossible, but she says once you understand something, you can master it, and they have no choice but to try. Or, needling his masculinity, will he simply admit defeat and let an adolescent take the knife from him?

But before they can make it to Cittágazze, Dr. Malone makes it there first. Using the clues the angel gave her, she discovers that Boreal is now protecting the window to that world with a guard station. Tricking the guard into thinking she’s Mrs. Coulter, who he was expecting, Malone makes it past him and discovers the window into Cittágazze. She slips through the opening and finds herself in a mysterious new world, completely unlike anything she’s ever seen. 

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