Martin Carr reviews the third episode of His Dark Materials season 2…
Prying eyes are everywhere, nowhere is safe and no one is to be trusted. An aeronaut, a physicist and a Magisterium turncoat all have their part to play, as talk of mythical daggers throws season two open wide. There are some solid character beats, a selection of Mexican stand-off moments and the return of Lee Scoresby.
In the first season Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Lee Scoresby quickly became a fan favourite. Slick, debonair and in possession of a matinee idol edge his appearance immediately got audiences on side. Opposite Mrs.Coulter his compassion, smarts and integrity won hearts whilst swaying allegiances. Beyond the intensity of their exchanges here comes the subtlest amount of backstory, which could have been provided no other way. Between them is an acknowledgement which goes beyond inherently opposing viewpoints, clashing ideologies or something as trivial as belief systems.
Their connection is more humane, more heart breaking and no less harrowing than that shaped by those who share a formative experience. One based in suffering, one based on humiliation and finally no longer feared but welcomed as a substitute for genuine affection. That such an acknowledgement can be shared silently explains more than any amount of words could manage in half the time.
For many episode three will represent a turning of the tide as plotlines, people and motives all gear up for some serious adversity. Favours are asked, bargains struck and armoured bears make a welcome return as talk turns to Doctor Stanislaus Grumman. Magisterium enemy number one, purported heretic and Lord Asriel sympathiser the name alone provides momentum. Golden compasses, dark matter and unwise agreements tie this episode together as deceit, distrust and single minded manipulators gain the upper hand.
This is no longer a battle of belief systems, ancient symbols or even parental rights. Season two has taken on a tone which invites war, revels in conflict and stands poised on the brink of collapse. There is talk of prophecies fulfilled, a loss of control and one girl at its centre finally able to restore balance. For many the interest will rely on how those scales are influenced, how pivotal her role really is and ultimately whether good or evil triumphs in the end.
It may be true that His Dark Materials deals in topics far more complex than something so inherently black and white, but the beauty of this series is how many shades of grey get revealed. As we approach the midway point with almost all the pieces in play, troops are metaphorically massing in readiness for a clash of weaponry both literal and otherwise.