Director: Leanne Welham
Starring: Dafne Keen, Ruth Wilson, Amir Wilson, Ariyon Bakare, Simone Kirby, Will Keen, Frank Bourke
Of all the things that have happened this week, I did not expect two of them; first, Philip Pullman – author of His Dark Materials – tweeted me (!) And sort of answered a question viewers may have about the deamon Hester. The second? The character of Mrs Coulter may just be the (unexpected) feminist hero that we need this year.
His Dark Materials Season 2 Episode 5 was far better than last week’s – simply because the storyline was perhaps much snappier, as well as covering less ground. There were some utterly brilliant scenes – most of the credit of Ruth Wilson in the role of Mrs Coulter. But wait – I’m getting ahead of myself…
Opening with Mrs Coulter and her creepy companion to now be located in our, present world, the humour was somewhat bitterly funny. Our world is derided as being far more corrupt than that of the Magisterium – with twice as many shopping ports, with far less institutes of worship. In reference to the last episode, they talk of Mary Malone – and the fact that a woman – a woman! – runs a scientific department. Mrs Coulter is perturbed: “what do you mean, she runs a department?” The Feminist Mystique could not come sooner for her.
His Dark Materials Season 2 Episode 5 is just masterful television
Read more: His Dark Materials Season 2 Episode 3 Review
In order to blend into our current, present world, Mrs Coulter has to become Marissa. The jewel-coloured suits and skirts Mrs Coulter uses to get ahead in a world run and dominated by men are gone – and she disgustedly holds up a pair of jeans. The scene is set for the future confrontation that ‘made’ this episode – and the way Wilson uses her voice to a lower register to denote power is incredibly powerful, as well as manipulative.
Religious controversy around His Dark Materials may well be a can of worms that has re-opened. His Dark Materials is written to explore themes around the freedom of expression, ideology, freedom to create and question, freedom to think. The Magisterium takes cult(ish), religious undertones at times. But the way the scenes of oppression and repression has been written is brilliant – with Dafne Keen’s (Lyra) father as the tyrannical cardinal. He is no longer under anyone’s thumb, having dealt with anyone who may usurp him – and has consolidated his power as a result. The cracks of Mrs Coulter’s power and her hold are beginning to show.
Ruth Wilson needs an Oscar for his performance in His Dark Materials
Read more: His Dark Materials Season 2 Episode 4 Review
Oh, but Ruth Wilson. You need an Oscar for this episode and this episode alone. Because Holy Moly, you stole the show!
The abusive background is hinted at again. On her way to see Mary Malone – a scene not in the book – she is able to separate from her Deamon. This is the ability of witches – a taboo to humans – but was also alluded to in series one. The Golden Monkey is seen locked up, distressed at his human having disappeared. The abusive background that was alluded to a little while ago may be at play here – as we are led to believe she locks away parts of herself, a protective mechanism.
The interaction with Mary Malone upsets her. Incongruous to the modern-day standards, Coulter sticks out like a sore thumb – proud and loud in just about everything, even her gestures. The alien environment cannot contain her – and she leaves abruptly, mid-conversation. Asked her opinion of Malone, Coulter describes her as “free” – and reveals that, despite having to be a high achieving student, she was prevented from achieving the rank of Doctor. Why? Because she is a woman. Her former lover, Asriel, is mentioned. Carelessly mentioned why they must talk about him, she snarls – a woman not defined by her romantic entanglements. Though the character is evil, she is played brilliantly – and the representation is immense.
His Dark Materials has done so much for diversity
Read more: His Dark Materials Season 2 Episode 2 Review
Please, please can we have the Angels who are a part of the LGBTQIA community this season? His Dark Materials has done so much for diversity – as I have previously written – and this has the potential to be utterly groundbreaking. The scene directing Malone to become the serpent – the angels talk to her through the cave – is just majestic. And it could potentially be played into an amazing finale if written correctly. We have got to have a third season if anything is left unresolved; we have come so far with this series, complete with emotional investment. His Dark Materials needs to be brought to the big screen in full – and the full majesty of the novels need to be given the justice they so dearly deserve.
The best thing about this episode? The epic confrontation, struggle-for-power scene that ensures, as not seen in the book.
Lyra and Will have been trapped due to the ‘trinket’ of the alethiometer being stolen. Carlo has ensnared his pray – and Lyra needs to acquire the subtle knife to get it back. Mrs Coulter has arrived, as is lying in wait – and a far greater showdown than ever before ensures. A cutting of ties from a parent – something that must happen to us all – has begun in a truly dramatic fashion.
The game is very much on in His Dark Materials Season 2
Read more: His Dark Materials Season 2 Episode 1 Review
Lyra is caught, trapped – and is caught out when she spots her mother. Mrs Coulter wants her back – though her intentions are all but questionable – and the ensuring conversation shows Lyra has grown weary and cautious of her mother’s manipulative mind tricks. The subject of power is brought in – and how to wield in – with the amazing line that Lyra is apparently so much like her mother. Pan explodes into bear form, attacking the Golden Monkey – and attacking Mrs Coulter in the process. The showdown of season one has been reversed, as well as truly avenged.
All this time Will is on the lookout for Lyra, struggling against the other, creepier companion in the room. There is a struggle, objects are smashed – but yet the two teenagers are able to escape back through a door cut between worlds. The question of adults vs children and who knows better – age and wisdom, youth and quick thinking – draws the episode to a resounding closure.
Now, the game is on.
What do you make of this review? Have you been enjoying His Dark Materials Season 2 so far, and what did you make of Episode 5? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
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