His Dark Materials season 1, episode 5 tells the story of two worlds and justifies the need for bringing in book 2 so early on.
The Subtle Knife makes quick work of introducing Will Parry to readers. In just 11 pages readers are taken through the story told over half of His Dark Materials season 1, episode 5. There is more urgency in Philip Pullman’s novel, an aggressive push to get Will to his starting point.
With Lyra well on her way to the North, “Lost Boy” spends more time providing a glimpse into Will’s daily life and his relationship with his mother. Checking in on both timelines, the episode does great work to lay the outline for the inevitable merge of these two stories without the hinderance of needed to put one down to pick up another.
The episode opens with Kaisa saying that witches hear the immortal whispers of those who pass between the worlds recounting the prophecy from the opening shot of the series, lest you forgot that a child must bring about the end of destiny and if told what she must do, she will fail. But she will not walk alone.
Cut to a shot of Will Parry, the boy whose fate is bound with hers. Together, as Kaisa says, they will change everything.
But this episode is less Lyra-centric, with her playing a part in just one of three stories. Three stories of three lost boys.
‘His Dark Materials’ season 1, episode 5 recap
Lost Boy #1
The title of episode could apply to a boy physically separated from those who care about him. The Gyptians are in search of numerous lost boys and girls, two of particular attention go by the names Billy and Roger. After the pit stop in Trollesund, questions begin to swirl — what type of fight are the Gyptians in for and how will a bear and an aeronaut help save their children?
In the opening minutes it appears that the comforting droll of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Lee Scoresby is enough for now, while the strength of Iorek Byrnison helps to physically pull the parade forward. Those answers will do for now, since others need to be fed to the alethiometer. What enemy are they looking at on their journey? How many men? Are they prepared?
While Lyra gets answers to all of these — Tartars, 60 men, no — another message comes through in the process. It tells of a ghost tormenting a town not too far off course. Where Lyra could not get a work in edgewise with her
uncle father, it seems the same is true of the new male father-figures in her life.
My heart sinks every time I see Farder Coram, the best dad of the bunch, who greets Lyra as he would any child who runs towards him babbling at 100 miles per hour. She is clearly bothered by the formality of him needing to greet her with a hello, but carries on with her introduction followed by the tale of the ghost in a shed that flashed before her thanks the visual effects team needing the audience to know that we eventually make it to the place the alethiometer suggests.
His Dark Materials audiences are at a disadvantage of not being able to connect with this object and therefore require the assistance of a visual guide. I’ll allow it.
Dad number 1 dismisses her to Mom number 1, Ma Costa for permission believing that if she evokes the reasoning of leaving the journey that will delay the return of her son, he will not seem like the bad parent for keeping her safely in the camp. Ma Costa and Lyra spend a night under the stars under what is perhaps the warmest and coolest looking blanket, listening to Kaisa explain that Lyra’s desire to stare into the Northern Lights is not as crazy as it seems. He confirms the existence of rumors surrounding the Magisterium’s interest in Dust and the possibility that Asriel plans to build a bridge between the worlds with it.
Info dump aside, Lyra gets confirmation that Asriel is living under house arrest conducting his research with the panserbjørne under the eye of Iofur.
The unsettling heresy that plagues the Magisterium appears to wash over Lyra and Ma Costa, who is more interested in unpacking why Lyra must run off to this fishing settlement. If there is the possibility of answers about Billy out there, she thinks Lyra should go. But first she must pass Dad number 3 —
John I mean Lord Faa.
“You call me Lord Faa when you want something and John Faa when you don’t you know that right?” Excellent delivery, Dad number 3. But it works as Iorek (surrogate Dad number 4?) steps in to offer his opinion that he trusts the alethiometer and promises to take Lyra to where it directs.
Dad number 5 (slow your role with parenting assignments His Dark Materials, I’ve lost count) has taken to sulking a bit at the news that Lyra will go off on a ride with Iorek. But he does strike up an air of deep concern as she embarks on this side quest. For a guy who travels via hot air balloon and picks fights in saloons, he’s got a soft spot for this bear and has taken a quick liking to Lyra. Seeing as she is the key to their success, it would appear that he is responding to some sense of self-preservation.
But as we’ve seen with most of these characters, there is the talk of needing her as a reader of the alethiometer and possible child of the prophecy and then there is the desire to protect an innocent child. All of the parental figures walk that line very carefully, but as this His Dark Materials installment unfolds, Lee moves further toward the side of compassion and Iorek turns further away.
Plus, Lee is just sad he cannot go and Iorek mocking him for it is incredible.
But the heart of this story lies in the village where a shed draws Lyra near and in spite of her immense fear, she keeps moving forward. Pan’s whimpering is heartbreaking, and the slow, drawn out, march coupled with the chant “I will master my fear” made me sit on edge waiting for a jump scare that never came.
But the result was much more tragic than my nearly spilled cup of coffee. Pan instantly realizes that this child, Billy Costa, has no daemon. He is a ghost of a boy, not in his body. Watching his mother and brother grieve is one of the harder scenes I’ve had to endure on television this year.
Lee steps in here to keep Lyra away from Ma Costa, who will rightfully be worried about Lyra, but this time should be spent with her sons. “You did a brave thing, a good thing. You trusted your instincts. I’m proud of you,” Lee says to Lyra before ushering her off to recover. As the community processes the loss of Billy and take time to feel their grief, they gather around a fire not unlike the opening ceremony where we meet them.
Here, it is not a celebration of growing up, it is mourning the fact that this boy never got the chance to.
Their duty, as John Faa puts it, it plainer than ever. They must fight and they must kill. The latter is provided by Ma Costa who will be interesting to watch over the course of the next few episodes as she looks after not only Lyra, but Tony as well. The Magisterium wants control. They want to render people listless if it means getting what they desire. The Gyptians will be damned if they are going to give it them.
Lost Boy #2
One thing she had said stuck in his mind… ‘One day, you’ll follow in your father’s footsteps. You’re going to be a great man too. You’ll take up his mantle.’ And though Will didn’t know what that meant, he understood the sense of it, and felt uplifted with pride and purpose.
His Dark Materials finally gives us an extended look at Will Parry, son of Elaine and John Parry, a woman who is battling waves of mental illness and the legendary adventurer lost on an expedition. And subject of the astute attention of Lord Boreal. He is also a lost boy, putting off activities other boys his age enjoy, freedoms of after school hours, boxing lessons, a sharp focus on academics, to keep his home life out of the spotlight.
As Boreal checks in with his agent, he finds that no social services have been involved in their lives and that Will is the primary companion for his mother. He checks in on her every single day at lunch and reports straight home after schooling. He has some trouble in the halls, people are not particularly kind to him, but Will makes an effort to stay as under the radar as possible. He is vigilant, hunches his shoulders, almost disappearing into his 2×2 locker in school. If he could be invisible, he would.
While most days appear to be good, we get the sense, as we do in the book, that episodes are not far out of mind. Waves of paranoia and fear overcome Elaine, but when the darkness passes, Will feels nothing but immense love and affection giving Will a companion, as Pullman describes, that he wanted to live with alone forever.
But people are watching, and attention is going to be drawn, and it’s all Boreal’s fault. He confronts Elaine outside her home, calmly, claiming to be a companion of John Parry’s in the Royal Marines. Feigning shock at hearing the news of his death recounted by his troubled widow, Boreal attempts to offer her some solace, but only exasperates her fears by asking her to explain what happened to John.
Boreal leaves her with his contact information and as she runs off, we can only assume he enters the house immediately following her departure. Elaine ends up at Will’s school where she enters his training, causing Will to not only experience a great flood of concern, but also anger. Overwhelmed by her, his embarrassment, and the taunting of his classmate, he begins beating his opponent in the ring, feeling some bit of sweet release with each punch. Amir Wilson is perfectly cast to carry this His Dark Materials role. I cannot speak highly enough of his performance here.
After hearing out his mother’s fear of a man who is after her, Will bottles himself up, gathers his things and takes her home for dinner. Moments of unease come and go as she sits with Will and recognizes that perhaps she is still waiting for this latest episode to wear off. But things are different in the house. There are items out of place, someone was inside.
There are a surprising number of places to hide something that size in any ordinary house; you don’t need secret panels and extensive cellars in order to make something hard to find.
Burrowed into the bottom of a sewing kit is a green envelope of letters. One that Will is searching desperately for in the opening pages of The Subtle Knife. In it are letters from his father, potential clues about his life that has been off limits to him. Elaine does not wish for him to see it, but comes around later in the evening offering the package as a guide to the man he never knew. After all, if he is going to take after the man, he might as well know who he was.
Boreal is after something, anything pertaining to John’s life. Luckily, Elaine is one step ahead of the enemy and keeps John and Will safe even for just one more night. The world is broken, and it will take extraordinary people to fix it.
Lost Boy #3
The focus of the final tale can actually refer to two people cut from the same cloth. The best boy, Farder Coram, and the son that was taken from him by illness. A private audience with Serafina reveals a bit more confirmation about the existence of other worlds — the witches have known for 1000s of years — yet we don’t get too much more about their relationship.
The troubles of their shared past are not far from either of their minds as Serafina, Queen of the Lake Enara clan, says that she can see the Coram she knew from years past inside the man who stands before her now. While he admits that he did not want to see her, he is doing so out of necessity. The Gyptians are walking into a battle they will lose unless they have the witches on their side, a point he made at the Roping in His Dark Materials episode 3.
This man who lost his way from grief has found his fight looking for those who have lost their parents. There is no burden he can imagine like losing a child, but he also realizes there is probably no fear like losing a parent. Serafina cannot promise anything, but she will take up his cause with the other witches and will spare Kaisa to be with them as a watchful eye.
War is coming and Iorek is not the only one who needs to have the thirst for battle coursing through his veins.
The secret lives of bears
There is an aside that occurs between Lyra and Iorek that happens after the events of returning the body (in the book of Tony Makarios) to the camp that is shifted upward here. During a break in their journey Iorek and Lyra discuss how Iorek came to be a solitary bear. In Svalbard, Iorek killed another bear and for his crimes he was sent away. Once a prince, he is now an outcast and for his crime he continues to punish himself.
When Lyra asks who he killed, Iorek flips the question. Why he killed is more important. Claiming he was not of right mind, Iorek claims he was not of right mind changing a bit of the story from the novel. But this leads us to one of the more interesting features of bears — they cannot be tricked.
Is Iofur then not falling into a trap? Is Mrs. Coulter to be trusted? His Dark Materials has a lot of unpacking to do with these bears, but the swift pace of the plot just over halfway through suggests that it is not far off.
Iorek can also not deal with emotions too well. He skulks off after their return away from the watchful eyes of the group. But he takes his surveillance skills with him. Pan rustles awake as Lyra slips from the tent to investigate what has woken her daemon.
Taken by Gobblers this far North, Lyra finds herself in Bolvangar. Quick on her feet, Lyra claims her name is Lizzie Brooks, but loses the alethiometer to the floor as she is stripped and forced to wear the same snowsuit that Billy was found in.
- MOXIEEEE. Maybe, probably, definitely.
- Boreal’s awkward wave into a fist is at first beautifully cinematic and then slowly slips into looking hilarious after you watch it several times over in gif form.
- “I like this mouse hunt. It’s fun.” Thomas has had quite the change of heart since we last saw him. After looking into the Parry family, hesitant to trust Boreal, he has picked up on a paper trail that shows funds set up for a lifetime of provisions. It is not a random act of savings, but a planned pocket of accumulated wealth.
- Bunions, someone has to protect the balloon, and why walk when you can ride? Lee logic.
- I miss Mrs. Coulter and I’m very conflicted about it.
His Dark Materials season 1, episode 6, “The Daemon-Cages,” airs Monday December 9 at 9:00 p.m. ET on HBO.