In this episode, things begin to take some interesting turns, as Lyra at last discovers for certain what exactly the Magisterium has been doing to the captured children: separating them from their dæmons. Meanwhile, in our world, we are finally introduced to the character Will Parry and his troubled mother, both of whom are being pursued by Boreal in his efforts to discover what it was that Stanlislaus Grumman managed to discover. In the final moments of the episode, Lyra is captured by unnamed persons and taken to the terrible Bolvangar.
Even though I’ve read the book and knew what to expect, the death of Billy Costa was still like an emotional punch to the gut, and it serves as an important reminder of the stakes of the journey to regain the children from the hands of the Magisterium. When his mother tells him that he can go and be with Ratter, it’s hard not to feel as if your own heart is being torn out at having to watch this woman who has already suffered so much have to stand by and watch her son die as well.
Since the beginning, I’ve thought that Duff was one of the strongest parts of this series, even if she wasn’t one of the main characters, and her performance in this episode was truly the stuff of awards season. The same can also be said James Cosmo as Farder Coram. Those who saw him as Ser Jeor in Game of Thrones would be forgiven for thinking that he was only capable of playing bluff, bear-like characters, but here he shows that he has a sensitive side as well. His scene with the witch Serafina was as heartbreaking in its own way as Ma Costa’s was with Billy, for it reminds us just how much he’s had to give up as he grows older.
Of course, the most noteworthy part of this episode was the introduction of Will. I’ve been wondering for some time how deeply they were going to go into Will Parry’s backstory in the first season of the series, given that he doesn’t even make an appearance until the second book. Here, we learn that he takes care of his mother, who clearly suffers from some form of anxiety and OCD. The scenes between the two of them also pack an emotional punch, as it’s clear that Will loves his mother, even as he’s consumed with the same conflicted feelings that most adolescents feel toward their parents (the bonds between mothers and their children is one of the themes from the books that the series has chosen to emphasize).
Though I’m sure that some annoying fans of the books (who just happen to be racist) will start bitching because they cast people of color in the roles of Will and his mother, to me that matters less than the talent that we see from both Amir Wilson and Nina Sosanaya. Between the two of them, they manage to convey a great deal of emotional richness of these two characters and their deep bond with one another.
Strangely enough, despite the fact that Ruth Wilson didn’t put in an appearance as Mrs. Coulter, I still felt her presence looming in the background. I have to be honest, I rather missed seeing her striding across this stage, and I’m looking forward to seeing her certain return next week, particularly since it will involve her confronting the fact that her own heartless experiments on children have now caught Lyra.
Overall, I thought this was a very strong episode. Though there weren’t any truly big set pieces, there were a few moments–such as Lyra’s journey atop Iorek–that were breathtaking. And, as always, the scenery continues to be one of the highlights of the series. And, of course, Iorek himself continues to fascinate, and I’m really impressed with how well the CGI has been handled. His conversation with Lyra, in which he explains his shame, is also one of the highlights of the episode.
Now that there are only three episodes left, I’m finding myself wondering where they’ll decide to make the cut off. There are a number of climaxes that occur just within the first book, so they have a lot to choose from.
See you next week!