Tonight we finally got to meet Lee Scoresby and Iorek Byrnison, and although there were some absolutely awful performances over at Bad Guy Towers, we got to see a polar bear chuck a priest out of a window and watched Lyra eat the most delicious-looking piece of bacon I’ve ever seen. So it’s not all bad.
Dafne Keen really impressed me this episode – her performance as Lyra has certainly had its ups and downs so far, but she’s really hitting her stride now. Her interactions with Lee and Iorek were fantastic, and it’s especially nice to see her take the lead over the adults, even when they’re trying to dismiss her. This didn’t work for me last week when she stood up and spoke over the Gyptians, but it felt much more authentic tonight when she got both Lee and Iorek to play into her hand.
Lin-Manuel Miranda’s performance as Lee Scoresby is giving me the same vibe I’m getting from Ma Costa. These are not the characters I pictured when I read the books, but they’re actually… Better? I loved Lee Scoresby when reading His Dark Materials, but in my head he was this older man with a moustache. When I heard he was being played by Miranda I was a little sceptical, but I’m totally sold on him after this episode. I think he’s going to have a great dynamic with the rest of the cast and will easily become a fan favourite.
It’s also so nice to meet another character who actually speaks to their daemon regularly! I think it’s a shame the gyptians never even acknowledge their daemons – let’s be real, if you had an animal by your side at all times… You’d talk to it constantly, wouldn’t you. Part of what appealed to me about His Dark Materials when I was younger was reading about these relationships between human and daemon. The more we can see of that in the show, the better. I would actually say Lee and Hester seem to have a closer relationship than Pan and Lyra, though that obviously comes with age.
The scene when Iorek got his armour back was also so, so good. I’ve said it in previous posts and I’ll say it again: they’re nailing the visuals in this series. Iorek is supposed to be this powerful, formidable giant and that’s exactly how he was depicted. Lyra’s group needed some firepower and now it really feels like they can do some damage. Seeing Iorek, Lee and Lyra together at the end of the episode brought such a smile to my face. These characters really captured my imagination when I was younger – the Gyptians are good and all, but it’s characters like Lee Scoresby and Iorek Byrnison that really made His Dark Materials what it was to me.
The worst part of this episode was definitely the scenes between Mrs. Coulter and the Magisterium. It was like watching a bloody pantomime performance – SO much cringe. That bald dude with the hunchback looks like he’s come straight from a children’s Saturday morning cartoon – he may as well have ended his scene with a maniacal bad-guy laugh. It was made even worse having him in a scene with Ruth Wilson, who’s portraying this fabulous, multi-layered, genuinely scary antagonist… And he’s there acting like Jafar.
Mrs. Coulter was still grabbing my attention this episode, even when she was paired up with Iofur Raknison in that cave. Although let’s all admit… Iofur’s armour looks damn incredible and he’s going to look terrifying when we finally see him fully. By comparison, Iorek’s armour is a little more… homemade.
It’s interesting to see that it’s only Lyra and Mrs. Coulter who managed to get an armour bear to work for them. Lyra clearly takes after her mother in this respect whether she wants to or not – they’re both great manipulators. Even when they aren’t in scenes directly together, their relationship is one of the most intriguing things about this show – and the books, too.
The interaction with Serafina Pekkala’s daemon was a great tease, but they’ve really been building up her character this last couple of episodes so it’s going to be a lot to live up to when she’s finally introduced. Fingers crossed she can match the rest of the cast.
Tonight’s ending shot was just beautiful. Watching our band of heroes walk away from the town and on to their next destination was such a great conclusion to episode four, bringing us exactly halfway through the first season. If this were an RPG, this would be that moment where you finally have a full party and you’re ready to take on some serious business. I can’t wait to see the next half of this season, as it (finally) feels like we’ve got most of the set-up out of the way and can get stuck in with the nitty-gritty stuff. I think parts of these first four episodes could have felt slow to non-book readers, but now hopefully the action can really ramp-up and draw viewers in who have no idea what’s coming next.