‘His Dark Materials’ 1×02 recap: “The Idea of North”

His Dark Materials 1×02 “The Idea of North,” Aired Nov. 12, 2019

Lyra’s world crumbles as she realizes she doesn’t understand grown-ups at all. This week Lyra is in London where she finds out that basically every single adult in her life is lying to her.

A gilded cage

Except for a very brief, but exciting lunch to the Arctic Institute, Lyra spends this episode confined to Mrs. Coulter’s apartment. At first, it feels like a dream come true, a home for a girl desperate to find one. But she slowly comes to see this apartment and all its locked rooms for the prison it really is.

Mrs. Coulter tries to change Lyra into what she sees as the acceptable version of a child. Lyra tries to fit into the mold of who Mrs. Coulter wants her to be, she wears dresses she can’t run around in and reads books that bore her. Lyra’s trust is never complete though, because Pan is always suspicious of Mrs. Coulter. Lyra dismisses these concerns for a long time because she wants all the nice things Mrs. Coulter is promising her.

Little by little, Mrs. Coulter’s allure fades away revealing a sinister woman obsessed with power. First, she turns down Lyra’s offers to help find Roger. Then, odd sounds in the night lead Lyra to discover that Mrs. Coulter and her daemon can be far away from each other without it being painful. Lyra climbs through vents and breaks into her study, trying to piece together the truth about Mrs. Coulter.

Lies uncovered 

Even if Mrs. Coulter can lure us into thinking she’s not that bad, her creepy daemon gives away their true nature. That golden monkey is the worst. He creeps through the vents to spy of Lyra and Pan. He is visibly upset when Lyra starts mentioning Dust. Then he actually attacks Pan when Lyra refuses to yield to Mrs. Coulter’s demands. It’s during this attack, which causes Lyra great pain, that Mrs. Coulter reveals that Lord Asriel is really Lyra’s father.

Lyra’s world is shattered. Everything in her life, everything about her beloved Uncle, has been a lie. Lyra doesn’t get a lot of time to deal with this revelation before another, more terrible one, shakes her world even more.

Lyra’s great escape 

Mrs. Coulter has no intention of helping Lyra find Roger, because she’s actually in charge of the Gobblers. As the head of the General Oblation Board aka Gobblers, we see Mrs. Coulter visit the kidnapped children, including Roger and Billy Costa. She tells them they are going on a trip to the North and has them write letters to their family. Letters that she immediately burns as soon as she leaves the room. We also get confirmation that the Magisterium is support Mrs. Coulter project, although we don’t know why they are taking the children North.  

By the end of the episode, Lyra learns the truth about Mrs. Coulter. When she sees a chance to escape, she sneaks out the window and runs away. Lyra makes sure to take the alethiomether, which is still can’t get to work, when she makes her daring escape. Unfortunately, once in the streets of London, Lyra and Pan get snatched by Gobblers.

I need to highlight once more, how much I’m enjoying what Ruth Wilson is doing with Mrs. Coulter. We can tell that Mrs. Coulter is menacing, and she hints at the fire and chaos that Mrs. Coulter can barely contain. But it’s really the moments of true longing when she looks at Lyra that stand out and add nuance to this villainous character.

Crossing worlds

We have to talk about the biggest departure from the book so far! Back at Jordan College, Boreal the representative of the magisterium has come asking for Grumman’s skull. The Master refuses to him, but Boreal finds his way to the crypts and determines that it’s not Grumman’s skull. 

Then he finds a window into another world and just crosses over! Boreal just stroll over to another Oxford, meets up with an associate and asks him to find Grumman, who he believes has also crossed over to this world. 

This is a pretty big reveal as it confirms that Lord Asriel’s theory about other worlds is true and that the Magisterium knows it’s true. Also, OMG DOES IT MEAN WE GET TO MEAN WILL PARRY SOONER THAN ANTICIPATED? Excuse the caps lock, I just love Will Parry a lot. 

His Dark Materials airs on HBO Monday nights. 

Check out more of Pure Fandom’s TV recaps.


Gabriela Acevedo

Gaby is a TV-obsessed fangirl and writer. Television is her true love, but movies and books aren't far behind. Currently living in Los Angeles, she's originally from Puerto Rico, which is still her favorite place in the world. Find her on twitter @gabsteramy.

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