His Dark Materials: 1.07 The Fight to the Death
Like last week's episode, The Fight to the Death was another fast paced episode that swept through one momentous event to another - Iorek challenging King Iofur - while setting the stage for the big war to come. However, this time round, there was more room to breath as each sequence was given enough time to unfold before moving on to the next.
Intercutting with the events in the North, further screen time was devoted to Will Parry and his mother, who found themselves falling victim to the ruthless Lord Boreal. Compared to what was happening with Lyra, these scenes in our world continued to feel more like scene setting in the same way the early Lyra episodes did. While it is unlikely well see any real momentum on this storyline until the already confirmed second series, the incident with Boreal's men that saw Will escape with his father's records seemed to up the stakes somewhat.
That's not to say this storyline is dull. There's still plenty if mystery concerning Andrew Scott's Colonel John Parry that has only been glimpsed in news clips from his doomed 2006 expedition. How it ties into the world of daemons remains a solid hook that I'm hoping to see answered come next week's finale.
Lyra, not surprisingly, survived her fall and the first half of the episode saw her imprisoned by the armoured bears. Her confrontation with King Iofur Raknison was superb, once again the young girl proving her mettle against a giant polar bear. Dafne Keen remains a force of nature on this show and seeing her Lyra navigate her predicament from prisoner to fake daemon and ally to Iofur was skilfully done.
All of which led to the episode highlight; the battle to the death between Iorek and Iofur. Once again, the CGI was superb and the fight between two polar bears was thoroughly believable. Sure the resolution was a bit of a cliche - the enemy seemingly defeating his for, only for the hero Iorek to rise up and kill Iofur - but it was so well done, I could forgive the cliche as I watched the fantastical battle unfold.
From there it was a race to reunite with Lord Asirel, while Mrs Coulter battled accusations concerning her failure at Bolvangar as the Magisterium prepared for war. Once again, events unfolded quickly as troops prepared to invade the north, Lee learned from Serafina that Lyra was alive and was convinced to aid in the upcoming battle, while Lyra and Roger rode Iorek north to reunite with her father at his workshop. Lorne Balfe's score, juxtaposed against the gorgeous snowy mountains was breathtaking. It really feels spectacular and magical, particularly when compared to the very real world of Will Parry.
Asriel's reaction to Lyra seemed a little OTT, James McAvoy just managing to avoid a somewhat hammy performance, But the urgency of his actions, mixed with the sights of the invading Magisterium army. certainly kept the stakes high going into the finale. The Fight to the Death found the balance as it moved from one event to the next, more successfully than last week's episode, which would have been amazing had it not felt all so rushed. I can't wait to see how it all ties up next episode. His Dark Materials has become an essential family viewing for the past few weeks and I suspect it will be a long wait for series two once it has ended...