HIS DARK MATERIALS
As Lyra gets to know her new guardian she discovers far more than she bargained for and the machinations of the Magisterium begin to take on a menacing form as they begin to make their move.
Storyline: Finally the intrigue kicks in and things take a turn not as of yet seen in the books. There are a few minor details that take place earlier than in the novelisation and I think this can be forgiven, due to the nature of the story. It is vital to show the other worlds in the continuum at this stage to ensure we don’t get bogged down later with introductions and the details of other characters.
Writing: This episode was integral in picking up the pace, once the introduction to the characters and world of Lyra Balaqua was sorted in the first episode. And here it did a wonderful job of adding the intrigue as well as fleshing out the dramatis personae. Firstly Lyra and Mrs Coulter and their evolving relationship, short as it is with such promise, until the enmity sets in and Lyra discovers the truth beneath the calm lacquered exterior. And secondly the underlying plot of the Magisterium and the rivalry between science and religion. This is after all the crux of the saga as laid out by the author. And as such needs to take centre stage early on. Specifically as we see Lord Boreal (Ariyon Bakare) going between worlds far earlier than was introduced in The Subtle Knife, the show is taking a swift turn away in terms of introducing new elements early on. This keeps us all guessing, even those of us familiar with the original text.
Acting: Which leads us onto the cast itself. Dafne Keen does a stellar job as Lyra and personally I get a real kick out of seeing two X-Men alumni in this series, as well as seeing Dafne act opposite her real life father Will Keen. I also feel comparisons can’t be avoided between her and the first iteration of Lyra from the Golden Compass. Though that movie did a great job of introducing us to the story, Dakota Blue Richards for me was a slightly distracting annoyance. Dafne manages to avoid the same trappings by ensuring her Lyra is equal parts precocious child and yet still believably wide eyed and innocent as our witness and impetus of the story unfolding in front of us. And although Ruth Wilson is not the focus of the story here she manages to steal the show, particularly in the infamous scene where she reveals her true colours in the fight between the Daemons, a vital switching point in the story and the ignition for the eventual change in allegiance. But that is the least of it. As she peers off wistfully thinking on her past and willingness to ‘take a plunge’ we can see her as a character struggling with her very nature. We also begin to see her devious nature as she avoids answering any questions about the missing children, specifically Roger, and her place as head of the General Oblation Board. And this will inform the reasons for Lyra’s actions at the end of the episode. And the cool exterior is belied by her blatant fear as she begins to realise she is losing control of Lyra.
Production: As producer Deborah Forte is no stranger to the source material, having been involved in The Golden Compass, and that overall voice can be seen to resonate in the production value of the show. Not only in the setting but the rich detail of the world we see. Even as Lord Boreal flits between worlds, Philip Pullman’s beloved staging ground of Oxford still has a starring role as the setting. But Lyra is clearly removed from it, thrust into the polished environment she finds herself in, the perfect reflection of the fish out of water aspect of her new life.
And there is also a discreet little bit of magic going on in the costume department too. As Lyra is led into the clutches of Mrs Coulter we begin to see their colour choices mirror each other, which first seems to indicate Mrs Coulter’s control over her. But then it also becomes a key indicator to their changing relationship dynamic, as well as their familial relationship. Firstly Lyra’s outfits are a lighter, more whimsical shade of Mrs Coulter’s more sombre formal attire, but as time goes by and the inevitable revelation occurs, the focus shifts and Mrs Coulter’s outfits are lightened and Lyra’s go dark. This is to me a key indicator of their emotional state, which make a dramatic switch right at the end as Lyra seems to defy her guardian and choose a completely different colour, all before she makes her escape.
Music: Finally I have to say upon hearing the theme I was immediately drawn into the drama of the show and it pervades throughout. The score is perfectly pitched to the ambience of each scene and as such informs the mood expertly. Especially the staccato motif playing as Lyra and Pan make their discovery in the office, which grows ever more urgent throughout the building sense of dread as Mrs Coulter makes her return from visiting her test subjects.
A great transition from the comfortable, privileged home setting to the big bad world as Lyra finds out what real lies can do.
His Dark Materials Series 1 Ep 2: The Darkness Builds
- Writing - 9.5/109.5/10
- Storyline - 8/108/10
- Acting - 9/109/10
- Music - 8/108/10
- Production - 9/109/10
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