Monday, December 16, 2019

REVIEW: 'His Dark Materials' - Lyra Has to Do the Impossible by Tricking an Armored Bear in 'The Fight to the Death'

HBO's His Dark Materials - Episode 1.07 "The Fight to the Death"

Lyra must use her methods of deception to outwit a formidable foe.

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 Fight to the Death" was written by Jack Thorne and directed by Otto Bathurst

Some characters understand the importance of helping Lyra along her journey. They view her mission as vital to the entire world because of some vague prophecy. The show talks around that subject a lot. It's mostly so it can just go through the motions of friendship instead of actually trying to go deep into the bonds between these characters. It's genuine with Lyra and Roger. They care about each other because they grew up together. Meanwhile, Lee is continually told that he has to be there to protect Lyra from time to time. She may have fallen out of his balloon when it was attacked. However, he gets the clarity here that she survived and even helped Iorek reclaim his crown as king of the armored bears. That was after the fact though when Iorek and Roger were there immediately to help her continue this journey. Lee accepts that Lyra is doing incredible things in service of a larger purpose. Meanwhile, Lyra is just trying to get to her father, Lord Asriel. She views him as the important figure in the narrative. She is the one who can read the alethiometer. And yet, this episode dictates that she believes handing that item off to him is the precise thing she needs to do. It can help him with his research that is important and has almost cost him his life on numerous occasions. When Lyra actually reunites with Asriel though, he lashes out and is upset that she has come to see him. He doesn't see it through the lens of her also being imprisoned in the North. Instead, it's frustrating that she is here when he knows how dangerous this place can be for children. There is a sense that he wants to protect her. He just has a terrible way of showing it. Meanwhile, he has a glint in his eye when he realizes that Roger also made this journey with Lyra. After that, he is more than accommodating to whatever they want. That may prove that he too just looks at children as being helpful and expendable for his research into Dust. Lyra may be more vulnerable now but she doesn't have to be sent away. The show communicates so much in that final moment. However, this is an action-packed episode long before that moment of clarity with Asriel. It's clear he has his interests in this world. Mrs. Coulter does as well. She refuses to be forced back to London when she has a personal stake in this expedition. She has to be there when her research proves successful and Asriel is defeated. Of course, that now comes with the narrative that the Magisterium wants Asriel dead. They couldn't rely on the armored bears in order to keep him confined to a prison. Iofur allowed Asriel to continue his research. After Iofur is defeated by Iorek, Asriel is a free man once more even though he is still in the same research facility. That may make him an easy target when the Magisterium arrives for this fateful confrontation. It means there may be a grand reunion of Lyra's family soon. That may be thrilling for her because she once yearned for a greater understanding of her lineage. She wanted to hear about her parents. She was denied that privilege because she was constantly lied to. She is still being deceived by figures who view her as important to the salvation of humanity. The narrative views Will the same way. It's important for him to be isolated with the letters from his father at the end of the hour. However, the series doesn't quite justify him leaving his mother behind to go to places unknown. He doesn't really have anything outside of caring for her and wrestling. If he can't rely on that, then it's unclear how he'll manage to evade the people who are hunting down answers about his father. The same logical questions apply when Lyra successfully tricks Iofur. It has previously been established that armored bears can't be tricked. And yet, it seems relatively easy for Lyra to do just that. It continues to prop her up as an incredibly tactile and brilliant mind. That's a narrative the show wants to encourage even though there is no real context showing that armored bears are all that strategic. They simply have the physical advantage over whomever tries to go against them. That intimidation from their natural strength may be all there is to their dominance in the region. However, Iorek presents as a friend. Lyra doesn't want him to die as a result of her actions. He succeeds though and that is a thrilling fight between him and Iofur.