Monday, November 11, 2019

REVIEW: 'His Dark Materials' - Lyra Arrives in London and Learns More About Mrs. Coulter in 'The Idea of North'

HBO's His Dark Materials - Episode 1.02 "The Idea of North"

Lyra arrives to her new life in London, determined to find Roger with Mrs. Coulter's help. The Gyptians continue their search for the missing children and the elusive Gobblers.

In 2018, there were 495 scripted shows airing amongst the linear channels and streaming services. The way people are consuming content now is so different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, there is less necessity to provide ample coverage of each specific episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site is making the move to shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the next episode of HBO's His Dark Materials.

"The Idea of North" was written by Jack Thorne and directed by Tom Hooper

The government of the world is actively trying to suppress information that can absolutely be life-changing to so many. When Asriel presented his findings to the scholars at Jordan College, he did so needing further financing of his work to prove beyond any reasonable doubt that there are multiple worlds in the universe. Meanwhile, the Magisterium is already operating with that information and knows it to be true. In fact, Lord Carlo is traveling between worlds gathering information about what may be happening in order to continue the Magisterium's hold on power. He fears that someone else has crossed over. Someone who can rip apart the delicate balance of power in the world they call home. This world may be fantastical with each citizen having their own personal daemon. However, it's just as magical to step through a portal and land in place eerily similar to our real world. That's a blending of fantasy genres that shows just how powerful the parallels and examination at the heart of the story can actually be. In Lyra's world, it's fundamentally a battle for power and influence. She believes she is heading to a new life full of wonder and opportunities. It's a life built around excitement because she views Mrs. Coulter as an explorer. In reality though, Mrs. Coulter is trying to train Lyra into presenting as a proper young lady in society. She is trying to control this rebellious young spirit. It's not a mission she succeeds in doing by the conclusion of the hour. In fact, the end already proves that the show may not be sticking in one location for very long. There is a briskness to the plot. That is a welcome development even though the narrative is still choosing to be coy and cryptic with a number of fantasy elements. There still isn't any kind of explanation as to what Dust is and why it doesn't have any effect on children. That too is a part of the theory Asriel was explaining to the scholars. Meanwhile, Mrs. Coulter is already operating with that information and has organized an entire system of abducting children just to run mysterious experiments on them to see what will happen. She gives them hope. She presents as a welcoming presence. The person who will provide reassurance that everything will be fine. In reality though, she is so mischievous and vicious. Her relationship with her daemon is so remarkably different. It's one where she treats her daemon as a servant to do her bidding. He attacks when she orders him to. That too highlights just how crushing this bond between human and daemon can be. It's a connection that cannot be severed. If it is, then it ends in death. Humans and daemons always have to remain close. If they don't, it's painful. Mrs. Coulter doesn't really care about that. She needs to gather as much information as she can so that she can continue to present as powerful. Lyra may see her true nature over the course of this hour. However, she still isn't operate with a full understanding of what's going on in her world. This life offers so much more than she can possibly imagine. Mrs. Coulter wants to teach her and raise her in her own image. She can offer her a perspective that Asriel and the scholars couldn't provide for her. Lyra is still keeping her secrets. She makes her escape here. That just sends her into more danger because she too is taken by the Gobblers. Again, that's an organization that Mrs. Coulter is heading. She is the one organizing these kidnappings. It may mean Lyra and Roger are reunited. But it also comes across as an unstable force in a world accustomed to a certain rigid structure. That being challenged now has the potential to create some truly significant and meaningful drama. It is mesmerizing to watch Ruth Wilson work as she shades in every devious note of Mrs. Coulter. It's a rush to watch Lyra run around the apartment to remain safe and to eventually break free from her new confinement. It also feels like a rush of character development without a whole lot of substance and explanation. That can be a meaningful tool in order to lure the audience in. It can't be used against the drama at this point in time. It is simply setting lofty ambitions for itself without the inherent trust that it will all be worth it eventually. Right now, the narrative is still dependent on the acting and the production values. It wants to be saying something grand and insightful about the corruption of power. It's just unsure of how to balance that with the clear religion also at the forefront of this power structure. The rulers may be right to keep the existence of multiple worlds a secret. It just also seems like there are random portals throughout these worlds that could be discovered at any moment in time. That makes it much more difficult to practically keep a lid on things.