His Dark Materials: 2.02 The Cave
After Will and Lyra's meeting in the Cittàgazze last week, His Dark Materials shifted gear again with a trip back to Will's world as the mysteries surrounding Will's father and Dust deepened. Set against the rich Oxford backdrop, their journeys propelled the narrative while Mrs Coulter continued to pull the strings with the Magisterium back in Lyra's world.
Even the real world Oxford with its colleges and botanical gardens has something of a rich, Gothic feel to it. As such, Lyra didn't feel quite out of place, even when faced with fast cars, phones and computers. Her ingenuity and determination saw her through even the strangest of experiences as her quest to learn about Dust led her to physicist Doctor Mary Malone (Simon Kirby).
The titular cave was in fact a computer where Mary had discovered sentient dark matter particles - the dust of Lyra's world. As the show delves deeper into Phillip Pullman's material, so does the mystery behind Dust grow even more fascinating. The fusion of science and fantasy is just as significant as Will and Lyra's journeys become intertwined.
Mary was an intriguing addition to the ever expanding roster of characters, a former Nun turned scientist who's passion was rewarded through her encounter with Lyra. Kirby imbued the character with a quirkiness and likeability, and she immediately had a strong connection with Keen's Lyra. The gradual realisation that this mysterious girl had a real knowledge of her work and excitement as Lyra made contact with the sentient dark matter, was a joy to watch.
Will's story was less interesting, and this episode was devoted with tying up perhaps the loose threads of his series one story that was always disconnected from the main narrative (perhaps that story was taken from the second novel on which the series is adapted). Amir Wilson does work with Will, but his story becomes infinitely more interesting once he is intertwined with Lyra. The fact that the alethiometer charged Lyra with finding his father (the so far absent Andrew Scott as Colonel John Parry) gives both of their roles a greater direction moving forward.
The machinations of the Magesterium and the war with the witches provided some big, dramatic moments over the quieter journeys of Lyra and Will this week. The ascension of the ruthless Father MacPhail to Cardinal was capped by the brilliant scene where Mrs Coulter abandoned him; his realisation that she held all the power was brilliant. But even without her, he remains a dangerous element, lusting for power and the eradication of those that would oppose him. The ferocious attack on the witches at his orders offered some the episode's biggest visuals; the islands exploding in a hail of fire, watched up by horrified Serafina Pekkala, Ruta Skadi and the other surviving witches , really encapsulated the sense of escalation after the events of season one.
Coulter herself, remains a fascinating figure, torn between her ruthless list for power love for Lyra. Stalking the halls of the Magesterium, dressed all in black, she appears an imposing figure, unafraid of all the arrogant men and their zealous grip on power. Ruth Wilson continues to excel in the role, beaten only by Keen's earnest performance and I dearly hope they get to share more scenes together in the future now that Coulter has learned of Lyra's journey beyond this world and gone in search of her. Interestingly though, she doesn't have all the power and knowledge. Loyal servant Carlo Boreal encountered Lyar in the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford and yet declined to offer this information. His own agenda, for now, remains hidden. It's these machinations and manipulations that make His Dark Materials a joy to watch.
The Cave took Lyra to Will's world and expanded the mysteries of Dust in a big way. While there was no follow-up to the cliff-hanger of last week - Will haunted by the Spectre in the Cittàgazze - there was plenty to enjoy as His Dark Materials builds up the pace into its second series. From the rise of Cardinal MacPhail, to the war on the witches, Lyar's encounter with Doctor Mary Malone and Will giving up his home in search of his father, there is plenty of momentum going into the rest of series two.