His Dark Materials: Season 1, Episode 3 “The Spies” – Recap, Review (with Spoilers)

Lyra's face from the side.
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As Lyra begins to understand how the alethiometer works, it reveals a truth that no one wants to hear.


Directed By Dawn Shadforth
Written By Jack Thorne
Air Date (BBC One) 11/17/2019
Introduced This Episode
Benjamin Simon Manyonda

Recap

The Search For Grumman: Thomas, Boreal

Boreal returns to what assumingly is our world and learns Stanislaus Grumman may have originally came from our world, discovered a mirror, and went to Boreal’s for a period of time. This, as you can imagine, is a rather curious development. However, the larger one is that Thomas has found Grumman’s wife and child within our world, and while Grumman might be dead, there is the question of who his family is and what they may know? Plus, with the idea Grumman gained a daemon when he crossed over, does this mean daemons are an obligation in Boreal’s world? Whether you are from it or not?

Friends of Yore: Lyra, Lord Faa, Ma Costa, Farder Coram, Tony, Benjamin, Mrs. Coulter

Ma Costa after revealing her connection to Lyra.

Luckily for Lyra, after being kidnapped by a gobbler, Tony and Benjamin intercept the vehicle and rescue her. Which does, yes, stop the possibility of her being reunited with Roger, but now she is around friends. Not just friends due to the fact she has information on Mrs. Coulter, but because Lyra has an actual connection to the Gyptians.

How? Well, when she was a baby, Ma Costa was her nanny. That is, until Mrs. Coulter’s former husband learned of her affair with Lord Asriel and decided he was going to kill the babe who tarnished his family’s reputation. Meaning, yes, Mrs. Coulter is Lyra’s mom.

But, even with this information, Lyra doesn’t really find it in her heart to want to understand or learn more about her mom, she’d rather justice. Hence her deciding, with some hesitation, to join the Gyptians as they make a quest up north and advocating, in front of Lord Faa’s people, for her person and making herself a prominent figure. One which many, like Farder Coram, were already aware of, but not to the point of which Lyra takes it to.

The Truth Is Frightening & Not Always Welcomed: Lyra, Lord Faa, Farder Coram, Tony, Benjamin, Mrs. Coulter

Benjamin (Simon Manyonda) listening to his elders.
Benjamin (Simon Manyonda)

As you can imagine, Lyra’s inside knowledge on Mrs. Coulter makes her an asset, yet with Lord Faa and Farder Coram trying to think strategic, and Tony and Benjamin operating on emotion, there is a conflict there. So with Lyra mentioning documents in Mrs. Coulter’s study, Tony and Benjamin go after them, and in the process, after being caught, Benjamin commits suicide so he can’t be interrogated. Leaving Tony the ability to escape and report back.

Leading to the kicker here: Lyra, since she feels, alongside Pan, they can trust the Gyptians, reveals to Farder Coram that she has an Alethiometer. An item that the Magisterium has largely confiscated and hold captive. So him seeing one is a shock, especially with this child. Which makes Lyra excited due to her thinking maybe Fader Coram, who knows about the alethiometer, maybe knows how it works!

However, while aware of the item, as for how to read and use it? That is beyond Farder Coram. But, with time and a bit of help from Pan, Lyra figures out how it works and learns Benjamin is dead before Tony can report it. This makes Farder Coram reveal to Lord Faa the value of Lyra. But, alongside the discovery of Lyra’s abilities comes a spy fly, returning to Mrs. Coulter and her learning where Lyra is. Thus putting the Gyptians in direct danger.

Review

Trajectory: Plateau

On The Fence

Is It Just Me, Or These Lineage Reveals Feel Flat?

The reveal of Lord Asriel as Lyra’s father and Mrs. Coulter as her mother just leads to a hunch. I don’t know if it is because we barely know either, or it just seems so matter of fact after a moment of shock. But, I do think the show didn’t even really build-up to the need to question who Lyra’s parents were. We knew Lord Asriel was her absentee uncle and that the Master of Jordan College was more of a father figure than he ever was – and that was fine.

So all these drops that seem like they should be big revelations, they are far from it. Making you wonder, as more reveals and information come about, will they be as lackluster? Heck, taking note of how the reveal that Mrs. Coulter leads the Gobblers was handled, has a pattern already formed?

While Many Are Talented, They Aren’t Commanding

One of the issues with this show, that’s developing, is it doesn’t necessarily have many actors who have that it factor. Yes, many are well trained, have experience, and are qualified to take on a behemoth like this, but I wouldn’t say they pop on screen. Thomas and Boreal, for example, their side story, just doesn’t keep up the pace of the show, and rather slows it down.

Which makes you wonder, as time goes on, and other characters get to explore something which matters to them, will it be like the Grumman Investigation? Will it push this thought that Mrs. Coulter, Lyra, and Lord Asriel are perhaps the only ones who can lead a scene without slowly draining the life out of you?

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