‘His Dark Materials’ 2×02 Recap: “The Cave”

A trip to (our) Oxford

His Dark Materials 2×02 “The Cave”,” Aired November 23, 2020

This week in His Dark Materials Will keeps his promise to Lyra and takes her to his Oxford. It’s trip that doesn’t provide all the answers they want, but that leads them to make the very important choice to trust each other. 

Let’s see what Lyra and Will get up to in their trip to Oxford.  

Not Lyra’s Oxford 

Will’s world is one that is familiar to us viewers, but Lyra at first struggles to make sense of it. First, she rushes ahead without Will and almost gets runs over by a car, then she runs through town trying to find Jordan College despite Will’s assertion that no such college exist. It’s only when faced with the empty lot where Jordan College should be that Lyra accepts this isn’t the Oxford she knows. 

Lyra’s early Oxford escapades result in her scraping her knee. While Will takes care of her knee, Lyra tries to connect with him, but things go south as soon as she calls him a murderer. Like most of us would, Will doesn’t appreciate being called a murderer, even if Lyra tries to frame it as a good thing. They agree to meet up later at the botanical gardens and Will heads off. 

A Scholar 

With the help of a map and her alethiometer Lyra makes her way to St. Peter’s College where she will find the Scholar who can help with Dust. Lyra finds the Dark Matter Research Unit where she makes the acquaintance of Mary Malone, a physicist. 

These two don’t quite know what to do with each other. Mary just sees a confused child. While Lyra, who is surprised that the Scholar is a woman, struggles to find the words to describe why she’s there.  Lyra talks about her grief over Roger’s death and how she can’t let his death be for nothing. A great communicator Lyra is not, but grief is a universal language and Mary agrees to answer Lyra’s questions.

Shadow Particles

Photo: HBO

Mary studies Dark Matter, which she explains, is the invisible matter between all the known bits of the universe. Her focus is shadow particles and she measures these particles on a computer she calls the Cave. Mary has recently discovered that the shadow particles might be conscious.  The more Mary explains shadow particles, the more Lyra is convinced it’s the same thing as Dust. Mary still doesn’t quite know what to make of Lyra.

Lyra cuts to the chase and takes out the alethiometer to convince Mary to show her the Cave. It works and Mary hooks up Lyra to the cave, where Lyra is able to confirm the shadow particles are Dust. In awe Mary watches as Lyra communicate with the particles which start to form pictures using the language from the alethiometer. The Cave tells Lyra a message for Mary, that she has something important to do but she needs to make the connection herself.  Whatever else the Cave might want to say to Lyra will have to wait, as it reminds Lyra that she’s late to meet up with Will. 


Will’s trip to Oxford starts off well as he’s able to spy on his mother from outside a window and sees that she’s okay. His trip to his mother’s lawyer is less successful. He can’t access his trust because he’s still a minor.

The lawyer does reveal Will’s paternal grandparents are alive and live in Oxford. This is news to Will who immediately stops by to visit them in hopes that they can help with the trust. The family reunion ends quickly as Will figures out his grandparents are talking to the police who want his dad’s letters. He doesn’t stick around to find what happens next. 

Botanical Gardens

Will is mad at Lyra for being late, he’s putting himself at risk for her and Lyra doesn’t seem to appreciate it. Before Will walks away forever, Lyra shows him the alethiometer. With the help of the alethiometer Lyra can finally provide Will with some comfort, his mother is okay, his father is alive and she’s going to help Will find him. 

The world has not been kind to Lyra and Will. Adults have let them down over and over, turning them into people they don’t want to be. Lyra betrayed her only friend. Will killed a man. He’s leaving his mother, just like his dad did. Will doesn’t know who to trust, Lyra’s been in the same spot. They are both desperate for someone to trust And so, sitting in a bench, that I can’t say too much about (!!!!), they confide in each other. The world(s) might be against them, but now they have each other. 

Other Musings:

  • The Magisterium needs a new Cardinal since Mrs. Coulter killed the last one. Father MacPhail ends up with the title, just as Mrs. Coulter hoped he would. His first move is to destroy the witches’ home. 
  • Mrs. Coulter finally knows Lyra has crossed into another world. 
  • Lord Boreal meets Lyra in Oxford and gives her his contact info. He obviously does not mention this to her mother when he sees her. 
  • Daemon watch: Pan get unceremoniously dumped in Lyra’s backpack for most of the episode. Booo, #JusticeforPantalaimon

I’m not going to lie I didn’t focus on the Magisterium storyline because it’s the least engaging part of the story right now. His Dark Materials still needs to find a way to make me care. The part I do care about is Lyra and Will, but these two storylines will come together and I hope His Dark Materials can pull it off. For now, I’ll keep thinking about Will and Lyra sitting in their bench! 

His Dark Materials airs on HBO Monday nights and is available to stream on HBO Max. 



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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