His Dark Materials S02E02: The Cave REVIEW

Tonight’s episode of His Dark Materials struggled a little with pacing and, admittedly, lost me a little with a meandering storyline focusing on the Magisterium that brought back painful memories of some of the weaker aspects of the first season. However, the introduction of Mary Malone (Simone Kirby) was fantastic and there was a lot of set-up for some powerful scenes in the future – so I’m optimistic about what’s to come.

Seeing the episode’s titular ‘Cave‘ – the computer Mary Malone uses to research Dust/dark matter – was yet another case of my imagination being brought to life in this series, and delightfully accurate to how I expected the scene would look. Kirby’s portrayal of Mary, despite the character being younger than I anticipated, was instantly likeable and engaging. The high-points of this episode were (almost) entirely contained in Lyra and Mary’s conversations about the differences in their research of Dust. I could have watched more.

What I could not have watched more of was the scenes at the Magisterium. So much of their acting still feels just so theatrically evil, with convoluted writing not making it any easier to digest their scenes. I got slightly lost on how exactly we got to the point of the witches’ home being attacked with bombs – and when it did happen… The witches all acted extremely out-of-character, conveniently forgetting their previous super-ninja abilities that let them whip around the place and make small work of any human enemies. In showing the witches with so much power up until this point, it’s a little jarring how easy it was for the Magisterium to destroy their home.

It’s also killing me seeing Mrs. Coulter still stuck with the Magisterium two episodes in – she has been under-utilized so far this season, and has not been given a real chance to shine yet. Hopefully that is going to change now she’s had her slow, dramatic walk down the hallway of the Magisterium. Overall, these scenes in Lyra’s world felt a little too much like filler tonight and hurt the exciting pace of intrigue with Lyra and Will’s story.

My goodness, if one scene tonight topped the interactions between Lyra and Mary, it’s the bench scene between Lyra and Will. What a fantastic way of sneakily slipping in a scene that seems like nice relationship-building between our two protagonists to fresh-faced viewers. Readers of the books, however, viewed the scene understanding the foreshadowing at hand and got a glimpse of what’s to come. I would argue that shot of Will, Lyra & Pan sat on the bench in the botanical gardens is easily the most iconic shot from the entire series so far for book readers.

Looking back over tonight’s episode, it’s a shame not much really happened over the course of 50 minutes when you think about it. There was some good set-up for future episodes, but I’m hoping next week doesn’t devote as much filler time to the church-folks and instead lets us stick with the more interesting stories of Will, Lyra, Mary and the witches.

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