His Dark Materials Season 2 Episode 3 Review
Director: Leanne Welham
Starring: Dafne Keen, Amir Wilson, Ruth Wilson, Ruta Gedmintas, Jade Anouka, Will Keen and Lin-Manuel Miranda
“The magisterium will pay for their crimes..” With the opening music beginning of His Dark Materials, you could be forgiven for wondering if this episode would be as slow or laboured as previous episodes. However, with the declaration of a fearsome witch queen, we were in for a pleasant surprise. Here’s our review of His Dark Materials Season 2 Episode 3.
His Dark Materials suffers from swaying from the original text too much. The timing of events, as well as motivations of characters is sometimes dwelled upon too much – and valuable screen time is lost as a result. Up until now, the programme has lacked the ‘punch’, the ‘snappy’ quality that made it an initial hit. Though this may well have been the impact of Covid-19, episode three was far more promising.
Dafne Keen as Lyra Silvertongue is a masterclass act. This episode is far more grounded, despite the heavyweight fantasy theme – such as with ‘stranger danger’ being an indirect theme. Will and Lyra experience petty squabbles, disagreements – all the while Keen, as Silvertongue, gives in more often to a child-like instinct to scream. Objects are thrown in frustration. The contrast between the adult world and that of a teenager is all the more obvious. It is to the advantage of the programme that this has been used. Silvertongue is even bitter, sarcastic – “what a wonderful moustache!” She trills at one point, becoming her assumed self, Lizzie.
Dafne Keen is masterful in His Dark Materials Season 2 Episode 3
Read more: His Dark Materials Season 2 Episode 1 Review
At long last, Lin Manuel Miranda gets some air time! And the presence of the Deamon makes it all the more riveting. He is cocky, confident, Texan, brash. His face is like that of a kid on a sweet shop – gleeful, gorging on the sight of all the delights around him. It also shows something of a vulnerability – the most nuanced performance thus far of anyone.
Mary Malone is brilliantly cast. She is slow, impatient, logical – and cannot quite believe Lyra’s claims about her research. Because who would believe the claim “I am from another world”? This works well, because it brings to life the theme of adults vs child, experience vs idealism. The eye to detail has also put forth an incredible Easter egg – that of the serpent, one that is throughout this episode. There are greater things to come for Doctor Malone – and for that we need a third and final series.
And at last, the bear king makes an appearance! Initially, this was the one scene that occurred right at the start of The Subtle Knife – but comes amidst the action, much to its detriment. He is majestic, grumpy – and sceptical of how Lyra is going to be treated, someone the victim of a destiny not chosen by herself. The Deamon bird makes the solemn vow – “we will find our own justice for that.” The bear is beginning to show a form of almost human emotion – something which bears are not known for. He is regretful, sad for the child he once guarded so carefully. The events of The Subtle Knife give little credence for the bear to be a part of any of the action – so the question should be, will Iorek even be apart of future episodes? For someone so loveable, he should be.
Lin Manuel-Miranda and Ruth Wilson deserve EMMYS
Read more: His Dark Materials Season 2 Episode 2 Review
Somebody, please give Ruth Wilson and Lin Manuel-Miranda EMMYS! Please. There is a new scene not seen in the book – and it was executed in a truly spectacular, stellar fashion.
The Magisterium is everywhere – and the thematic exploration of religion as an oppressive force has been ramped up significantly. Miranda as Lee Scoresby approaches a scientist, on the premise of finding an elusive character we will see in the next episode. A brief shootout follows – because that character is a ‘heretic’, an enemy. Scoresby survives, yet is arrested and imprisoned by the people he has plotted against.
Enter, stage left: Ruth Wilson as Mrs Coulter. A stilted, military-like suit irradiates her, the lady in red. A scene that looks initially like a classical torture scene becomes something far more innately revealing. I dare anyone not to be captivated by this scene; it is breathtaking. Lee Scoresby is initially a jocular character, one who is hiding his pain beneath a confident bravado. He tries to initially plead ignorance – to hide his identity – but the parameters of the interaction is soon established. Coulter brilliantly exerts power as a woman in a man’s world – and this is a brilliant example of that. She is quiet, almost whispering. Lee becomes vulnerable – but this is his strength. “I can’t tell you, because I love her.” Lee will not give in to a woman who holds his life in her (gloved) hands. He loves the girl, and has no children of his own – and will protect his honorary daughter, away from the toxic, malign influence of Coulter. Scoresby is vulnerable and loyal to the end. Beneath the confidence, his shield, is the little boy who was beaten by his father – and one who has learnt the grim reality of being loyal. His life is worth one-tenth of that of Lyra, he says. He will protect her, come Hell or highwater. He sees hope in Lyra, more than he has in years. Coulter leaves, her Deamon comforting her – as it has been implied she had an abusive childhood. Minutes later, she overpowers the prison guard, setting Scoresby free – with the one wish he is the man to keep her child safe. She has completely changed sides; the shield, the mask of being an enigmatic, exotic woman has begun to crack. She has become human, someone we can all relate to. Please, for goodness sake, give an award to Wilson and Miranda for this scene, and this scene alone. It is bloody brilliant.
Lyra is becoming more nuanced, adult even. We see the hurt over the death of her best friend, as well as her guilt for having been tricked. She is introduced to a cinema for the first time, in a brilliant piece of filming. And ‘the Golden Compass’ is stolen, setting the stage for a better episode next week.
What do you make of this review? Are you enjoying His Dark Materials Season 2 so far? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
What do you make of this story? Let us know in the comments below or on our Facebook or Instagram pages! And if you enjoy listening to film podcasts, why not check out our podcasts, Small Screen Stories and Small Screen Film Club wherever you get your podcasts!