His Dark Materials 2×05 “The Scholar”,” Aired December 14, 2020
This episode of His Dark Materials is one of the most exciting of the season. It’s a fun episode, where it really feels like His Dark Materials is finding its pace and showing confidence it comes to telling this story.
Let’s break it down!
Marisa in Oxford
At the end of the previous episode Boreal brought Mrs. Coulter to our world. That’s where we find her, in Will’s Oxford. A world with no daemons, one that Boreal describes as a culture of consumerism, not faith. Which…he’s not wrong, but Boreal’s stance on faith is hard to track. He clearly believes in Magisterium and it’s rules, believing them to be superior to our world. Yet his actions show that he excels and enjoys the culture of consumerism he looks down upon. It’s this world and the power he’s gained in it that he offers to Mrs. Coulter, hoping that she would want to share this life and this world with him (she does not).
Mrs. Coulter, ahem, Marisa as Boreal always refers to her, is not impressed by the life Boreal has made for himself in Oxford. He opens up to her about his collection of artifacts and his money-making scheme, but Marisa finds nothing to admire here. Boreal has a whole new world at his disposal and he’s done nothing of note with the opportunities it provides. His ambitions are too limited for her tastes. All she cares about is finding Lyra. To that end, he shows her the alethiometer he stole from Lyra and this seems to convince her that Lyra will be coming back to Boreal’s. All they have to do is wait.
Two scholars meet
Except Marisa doesn’t really take well to waiting. Boreal updates Marisa on Lyra’s own adventures in this Oxford. When Marisa hears about Lyra’s visits to Mary and her questions about dark matter (aka Dust) she decides she needs to speak to Mary herself. After a brief makeover (where Mrs. Coulter’s look of disdain at the mere suggestion she would wear jeans is absolutely perfect), Marisa stops by Mary’s office and introduces herself as Lyra’s mother.
The conversation between the two is brief, but it shakes them both. Marisa returns to Boreal’s place frustrated. Her visit to Mary has given her a glimpse of an intelligent and free woman who is allowed to pursue and excel at her intellectual endeavors. It highlights once more, the restraints of her own world. Marisa is intelligent, but she’s not free. It resurfaces the wounds of her affair with Asriel, which left her alone with a daughter and her name forever tainted with notoriety. It doesn’t matter how capable she is, in her world she will never be known for her brilliance. Boreal sees them as equals because he does not understand her or her mind, he’s just another man who underestimates.
Play the Serpent
Marisa Coulter also gives Mary the final push to set out in her adventure. Mary goes to talk to the Cave where the Dust, excuse me, the Angels, have a final message for her: “You must play the serpent”. She will save the girl and the boy. Mary goes home and informs her sister she’s taking a break from her research and going on a journey. Her sister offers Devon as an option, Mary’s thinking a little further than that…perhaps crossing through the window into another world? I hear Cittagazze is the place to visit right now.
It’s heist time!
The plan works perfectly at first. Lyra knocks on Boreal’s front door and Boreal goes to get her. Will opens a window into Boreal’s basement and doesn’t see him. He does see Mrs. Coulter and while that complicates matters, he doesn’t know to panic. He also doesn’t know to look out for her evil monkey daemon who grabs the alethiometer before Will can.
Lyra rushes in to save Will, but is not expecting to come face to face with her mother. Mrs. Coulter has had all season to think about what she will say to Lyra when they are reunited, when the moment comes she offers the alethiometer to Lyra and offers to teach her to use her power. By this point they’re both crying, but Lyra understands who her mother is, someone who can never be trusted. It’s an emotionally charged moment that ends with Lyra taking a cue from what she has learned from her mother, Pan attacks her mother’s daemon.
Like mother, like daughter?
Things aren’t going that well for Will either. He finds himself going against Boreal, who at one point threatens Will’s mother. Will screams for Lyra to help, but she’s too busy with her traumatic reunion to do much. It’s up to Will to get them out, and he does, making sure to grab the alethiometer before they disappear.
Back at Cittagazze Lyra is still processing seeing her mother. Will listens to Lyra, it’s clear Lyra understands her mother more than her mother understands Lyra. More than either of either of her parents understand her actually. Lyra tells Will she doesn’t want to be like either of her parents. When she attacked her mother’s daemon she had a taste of what it would be like to follow in her mother’s footsteps and she hated it. Lyra flounders a bit, trying to figure out who she is, or more accurately, who she should be like. She names Lee and Ma Costa as the people she aspires to be like. Will is having none of it, he doesn’t have time for Lyra’s self-doubt, not when over and over she’s shown him how special she already is. So that’s what Will tells her.
“Lyra you don’t need to be like anyone else. They’d be lucky to be anything like you”
It’s exactly what Lyra needs to hear. This season has done an excellent job of developing the connection between these two and showing how they push each other to be the best version of themselves. Now that they’ve got the alethiometer back, they are back on track with their mission: they’re going to find his father.
- Angelica and Paola realize the Spectres got Tulio. They blame Will and Lyra for his loss, since they took the Knife, the one thing keeping him safe. The girls vow to get revenge.
- Magisterium is very unhappy when they find out that the witches retaliated against them and then travelled through the Anomaly. The Cardinal tells Fra Pavel to consult with the alethiometer and find out where Mrs. Coulter has gone.
His Dark Materials airs on HBO Monday nights and is available to stream on HBO Max.