His Dark Materials: 2.05 The Scholar
Despite all the key players heading towards the Cittàgaze at the end of the last episode, The Scholar wasn't quite the epic meeting of heroes and villains that Tower of the Angels suggested it would be. It did however, deliver the long awaited reunion between Coulter and Lyra and it was a fraught, violent, emotional experience.
The build up to the showdown in Boreal's home had a lot of fun with Coulter adjusting to Will's world (AKA our world). While Boreal attempted to introduce her to Lighthouse Family and skinny jeans, she was far from impressed, though she fitted in well enough in a smart pant suit as she met Mary and played the role of concerned mother to Lyra. Ruth Wilson really was superb in this episode, conveying the crumbling nature of her struggles with her daughter, while also having fun with the boredom and sass that came from dealing with Boreal and his home of wonders.
Her encounter with Lyra has been long overdue and when it happened, it did not disappoint. Lyra has grown a lot since the she escaped the experiments in the north and there was a shockingly hard edge to her as she turned her demon Pan on Coulter's, almost killing her mother in the process. Despite her protestations that she is nothing like her mother, Lyra had all the same ruthless indignation and rage; she was seemingly willing to kill Coulter - and for a brief moment it seemed as if she might, watching a larger, deadlier pan overcome Coulter's monkey. Fortunately for Coulter, it seems the close connection to one's demon is not necessary in this world, demonstrated when she left it behind to meet with Mary. In that emotional confrontation, Dafne Keen and Wilson conveyed the horror and hatred, pain and anguish, all with a single look; in a cast of brilliant actors, they are on another level.
Equally, the fight for the alethiometer between Will and Boreal was equally fraught, making for a dramatic final act that saw the heroes escape back to the Cittàgaze with both knife and compass intact. Despite last episode suggesting that the showdown would go down in the spectre-haunted city, Boreal revealed that their arrival at the Cittàgaze was merely a stop gap on their way to Will's world and they should be worried about returning. But even with the spectres, I suspect Coulter will be determined to locate her daughter; and to be honest, what is scarier? The Spectres or Coulter?
One person that will be safe is Mary. After making contact with the Angels last week, and following her encounter with Coulter, she was given a mission to abandon her research and travel to a specific location; that location took her to the Cittàgaze. Does that fact that she is from Will's world protect her from the spectres? The first episode saw one hang over Will without attacking him. I'm excited to see her reaction to the strange city, particularly with animal demons, witches, a shaman and spectres all looking likely to encounter her soon enough.
The Magesterium continues to be something of a wild card. The brief return to the court of Cardinal MacPhail saw him ruthless eliminating his rival, twist the 'victims' of the revenge attack by the witches into martyrs and desperately trying to maintain control in a world that is seemingly turning against him. Without Coulter to guide him and with desperation setting in, I dread to think what actions he will take to retain absolute power.
While not quite the big showdown in the Cittàgaze we were promised, the latest episode certainly delivered in the reunion between Lyra and Coulter, the rescue of the alethiometer and Mary's descent deeper into the rabbit hole of angels and dark matter. My biggest gripe? It's perhaps not the brilliant, compelling television it could be. His Dark Materials looks beautiful, the performances are superb, the mysteries and ideas of Phillip Pullman's work are interesting and it's lovely family drama. I'm still waiting for the show to deliver something truly spectacular, that wow moment. Right now, it has a solid foundation, even if it feels - deep into series two - that we're still building towards that moment that makes His Dark Materials must see TV.