His Dark Materials Review: Good Intentions

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Lyra and Will are together again, but where do they go from here?

On His Dark Materials Season 3 Episode 3, the subtle knife is re-forged, but some things are so broken they can never be fixed.

Lyra is desperate to atone for the sins of her father by rescuing Roger. In her quest to go to the land of the dead and fully intending to return, she feels like more of a Jesus figure than Eve.

Asriel at takeoff - His Dark Materials

Her motivations for seeing Roger still aren't entirely clear. Does she really think she can bring him back? Or does she just want to apologize?

Nobody seems to understand why Lyra is doing it, not Will or Iorek. Roger has been a pull for her throughout this entire series, but what exactly does she plan to do when she sees him again?

Will asks for help - His Dark Materials Season 3 Episode 3

All Will knows is that Lyra will be forever lost without him, and he's determined to get her where she needs to go, and be with her.

One thing I know about you is that you don’t apologize easily.

Will Parry

If they can reach the land of the dead, Will could potentially be reunited with his father and get clarity on some things!

Iorek Byrnison played an essential part as the blacksmith putting the knife back together. It was a joy to see a proper reunion between Lyra and her dear friend.

Though he was stubborn, the tentative confirmation of the alethiometer convinced him. Having a blacksmith bear king willing to support you on your journey is always handy!

Iorek Byrnison - His Dark Materials Season 3 Episode 3

Now, Will is forever part of the subtle knife, intrinsic to its existence.

When the knife was being repaired, Will remembered his father and all he had done to get to this point and saw his reason for it all -- Lyra. Is he the Adam to her Eve?

You are worthy of each other.

Iorek Byrnison

Now more than ever, Will understands that she is his guiding force in the journey, and he will need to follow and protect her. He is renewed and revitalized, reborn along with the Æsahættr.

Though they had some conflicts, they talked through them. Overall, Will and Lyra's reunion was warm and supportive, unlike Mrs. Coulter and Asriel's, which was filled with suspicion and hostility.

Mrs. Coulter's Arrival - His Dark Material - His Dark Materials Season 3 Episode 4

You cannot exact a harsher judgment than the judgment I have placed on myself.

Mrs. Coulter

This entire review could easily be an ode to Ruth Wilson's performance as Mrs. Coulter. All the adjectives will never be enough to convey how masterfully Wilson captures this flawed, proud, devious, intelligent woman.

Her scene alone with Asriel was INTENSE. These two people know each other so well, have a child together, and desperately want to align but know their goals are incompatible.

Mrs. Coulter will always avoid the whole truth, and they will never truly be able to trust one another.

Why can’t you just be who I want you to be?

Lord Asriel

James McAvoy is doing some fantastic work here, too. They definitely hold their own together. It's glorious to watch these characters brought to life so expertly.

It seemed like there was a chance for them to work together, but once she saw what Asriel was prepared to do, Mrs. Coulter had to leave. I don't care who you are; you can't really come back from murdering an angel.

Asriel - His Dark Materials Season 3 Episode 3

Both of them have killed children to get to this point, but Mrs. Coulter seems ready to tap out. she didn't even let her daemon stay in the room when Asriel destroyed Alarbus.

I am the agent of change. I am the harbinger of your kind’s destruction.

Lord Asriel

Asriel doesn't even seem angry when she steals his intention craft, which is a clever contraption and useful from a narrative standpoint because anyone with a strong enough purpose can fly it.

When Asriel sees Mrs. Coulter fly off with it, he knows her intention is single-minded. She doesn't want to interfere with his plans, she wants to rescue their daughter, and that's why he lets her go.

On His Dark Materials Season 3 Episode 4, Mrs. Coulter makes it to Geneva, where she must contend with Father President MacPhail and his lackeys.

Father President MacPhail - His Dark Materials Season 3 Episode 4

Your abstinence is magnificent.

Mrs. Coulter

She plies MacPhail with platitudes and information, but by maintaining her power and still deferring to him, she is doing two things -- building him up to make him feel more powerful but awakening his lust for her, which will throw him off course.

That ring kissing was more disturbing than it had any right to be!

By contrast, Mrs. Coulter's attitude towards MacPhail and the other young fathers -- Gomez and Jerome -- is so satisfying. She clearly has no use for them and holds them in utter contempt.

Father Jerome: If you won’t stop...
Mrs. Coulter: You’ll do what, exactly?
Father Jerome: I’ll fetch support.
Mrs. Coulter: Good. [rubs his arm] We all need support.

So, Dr. Cooper's back. I can't say I missed her, though Lia Williams is a fine actress. It's gripping to have the interplay between her and Mrs. Coulter after their history.

Dr. Cooper is still manipulatable, whereas Mrs. Coulter is driving her own destiny as much as possible.

Lyra in grey - His Dark Materials Season 3 Episode 3

Again, Ruth Wilson is just so consistently stunning here, as we see how Mrs. Coulter changes tactics, body language, and the tone of her voice with Dr. Cooper compared to when she's with the men.

Dr. Cooper is a representation of a fine scientific mind who is, unfortunately, weak-willed. Though she has misgivings about what she is doing, she hasn't the will to speak out against it.

How many horrendous deeds in history have been carried out by people exactly like her?

It was heartbreaking that Mrs. Coulter became the catalyst for Lyra's destruction, with that lock of hair becoming the final part of the directional bomb.

Father Gomez - His Dark Materials Season 3 Episode 3

It's ironic that while trying to find a way to protect her daughter, Mrs. Coulter gave the Magisterium the means to destroy her.

It was so brutal to watch a group of religious men holding down and literally silencing a woman, and she fought with everything she had in her. This was another powerful scene that saw Mrs. Coulter (and Wilson) portrayed with unflinching passion and honesty.

This is all you are -- an incoherent, emotional woman. Why should anyone trust you?

Father President MacPhail

The Gallivespians figured more prominently here, though their roles are still decidedly diluted from the books. Salmakia stayed with Lyra and Will until she discovered the knife was broken, then returned to Asriel, while Roke was instrumental in Mrs. Coulter's discoveries in Geneva.

They're useful and intrinsic to the plot, but the issue lies in how small they are compared to everyone else.

By accurately representing their size, the show makes it harder to get invested in them as characters because we miss many of the actor's facial expressions.

Lyra contemplates - His Dark Materials Season 3 Episode 4

What would it feel like to have your soul ripped away from you?

"Then Lyra gave a cry so passionate that even in the muffled, mist-hung world it raised an echo, but of course, it wasn't an echo, it was the other part of her crying in turn from the land of the living as Lyra moved away into the land of the dead."

-Philip Pullman, "The Amber Spyglass"

Like so much of the series, this scene accurately brought the book to life, and it was just as devastating. I was misty-eyed as Pan and Lyra said their goodbyes, but when she cried out in pain, I couldn't stop my tears.

One beautiful little touch worth noting is that Pan is not his typical white ermine self during this goodbye, but a pine marten -- similar, also a mustelid, but a bit larger.

Lyra can't sleep - His Dark Materials Season 3 Episode 3

From the moment you’re born, your Death comes into the world with you. And it’s your Death that takes you out. There's love in that.


In Pullman's universe(s), Deaths serve the same purpose as what we might call guardian angels, but of course, they couldn't be called that, given that angels are something entirely different here.

A Death walks alongside their person for their entire life, which is a beautiful idea. Calling that spirit their Death does make it seem like something less to be feared -- Death is a friend and companion, not an enemy.

Lyra's Death didn't do much, nor did she have much to say, but she was suitably serene.

The entire cast populating the suburbs of the dead was spot on, from Peter (Jamie Kenna) and Lyra's Death (Naomi Battrick) to the patient, no-nonsense boatman (Peter Wight).

You take me to the best places, you know that?

Will Parry

Lyra's request - His Dark Materials Season 3 Episode 3

These sequences felt exactly as they should -- washed out, repetitive, and bureaucratically convoluted for how simple the process should be.

It's also such a fascinating idea that, in this multiverse, the worlds of Heaven and Hell (or, the underworld, since they explicitly say it isn't Hell) are simply different worlds one can reach like any other if one has the means (like the Æsahættr, for instance).

If you’ve been with me my whole life, you knew this question was coming. And if you’ve truly been with me, you know the answer to it.

At last, we (and Dr. Mary) have met our first zalif, Atal of the mulefa! Though it was only a single, quick scene, these creatures will figure prominently in the coming episodes, and I'm so excited to learn more about their world.

Pullman's world is a multidimensional fractal creation, and he chose a powerful story to tell within it. It could be overwhelming and messy, and yes, a lot is going on, but the mythology of the world doesn't feel overwrought because it's clear and focused.

The basic premise boils down to two core plots -- the Magisterium seeks to annihilate Eve, and Asriel hopes to destroy the Authority. Lyra's "side-quest" is still intrinsic to this narrative because she is the connecting factor between them.

The fuss she has caused is out of proportion with any of her merits.

Lord Asriel

The Council - His Dark Materials Season 3 Episode 3

One last thing: this has got to be one of the best opening credits sequences of any fantasy series.

The way the worlds zoom out and fold alongside each other is breathtaking. It builds enough anticipation without giving too much away, and Lorne Balfe's score is spine-tingling.

It's hard to believe that, after these two episodes, we are halfway through this final season! Four hours remain, and it will no doubt be an epic finish.

Did you shed a tear for Lyra and Pan? Were you blown away by Ruth Wilson? Are you excited about the mulefa world? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Lyra and Her Death Review

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Mary Littlejohn Mary Littlejohn is a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She loves television, cinema, and theatre (especially musicals!), particularly when it champions inclusivity, diversity, and social justice. Follow her on Twitter.

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His Dark Materials Season 3 Episode 4 Quotes

You take me to the best places, you know that?

Will Parry

This is all you are -- an incoherent, emotional woman. Why should anyone trust you?

Father President MacPhail