His Dark Materials Review: Divine Intervention

Television

No one is safe, and nothing is sacred.

On His Dark Materials Season 3 Episode 5, the Big Bad finally shows up — with a bang!

Major characters are dying left and right. Beloved dead characters are returning. And, of course, we finally see the world of the seedpod-skating, talking tapir-like creatures — the mulefa.

The mulefa are not precisely as they appear in the book, but all things considered, they are close. Like a tapir-giraffe-elephant, these magical sentient creatures have been highly anticipated by fans of the books.

They are peaceful and welcoming of Mary, who studies them diligently. Atal, the first to befriend Mary, understands that their worlds are somehow connected, and Mary may be able to help them with the “sraf” — their word for dust. Also, how cute were the babies?!

The mulefa way of communicating, with spoken language and trunk (or arm) signing, feels like a gently complementary callback to young Ama in the earlier episodes. It’s lovely.

Mary’s discovery of the amber and figuring out how to use it with the seed oil will no doubt be intrinsic in the endgame. It’s a way to observe dust clearly, and it felt very significant. As Atal said, she is there for a reason.

The oil is the center of our thinking and feeling. It gives us Sraf.

Atal

The “destroyed” Alarbus returned to Heaven and delivered Asriel’s war cry to the Authority’s Regent, Metatron.

The fact the central antagonist of the series only shows up with three episodes left is a fascinating narrative choice.

In the beginning, man was given the gift of dust. It ignited his mind and freed his will, but that free will has corrupted mankind. Dust shall be drawn into eternal darkness once more. That which was given shall be taken away.

Metatron

By doing this, the series is clearly making its point about religion. The actual “bad guys” are the ones who carry out their evil in God’s name and muddle their supposed beliefs for nefarious purposes. However, their god acts on his own terms and will smite them without a second thought.

Metatron only cares when the humans challenge his absolute power — other than that, he doesn’t seem to care what they do on Earth. He doesn’t even allow his followers into Heaven — he simply sends humans to a depressing purgatory.

Lyra is the one who brings them true salvation — oneness with the multiverse.

Metatron’s actions are reflective of the Magisterium’s — both turned on their own.

By attempting to punish Asriel, Metatron accidentally kills MacPhail, one of his most devoted followers, showing how insignificant humans are to Metatron.

The magisterium is an institution that fears what it doesn’t understand, and it turns on its own.

Mrs. Coulter

The fact that MacPhail died right after killing Dr. Cooper felt like poetic justice. Since it immediately preceded her death, Dr. Cooper’s redemption was a bittersweet cap on her story.

It is a thing of divine precision and power. Such an exquisite example of the Authority’s design. Such beauty in its order.

Father President MacPhail

Though MacPhail’s death at Metatron’s hand was satisfying, seeing Octavia, his daemon, also disappear reminded us of the character’s humanity (perhaps ironically, since she was an animal).

By witnessing the death of an innocent animal, we are reminded that no matter how evil a person is, they still have this soul, and any life extinguished is a loss.

It forces us to imagine the severing of our own soul and how painful that might be, as Lyra showed us at the end of His Dark Materials Season 3 Episode 4.

It’s like an iron hand is gripped around my heart and is yanking it out between my ribs.

Lyra

Unfortunately, Ruta Skadi was a casualty of the abyss. Jade Anouka has always been a magnificent force, but it felt as though Ruta got shortchanged this season.

I appreciated her connection with Ogunwe but would have liked to have seen more of them together.

I’m not like the two of you. I’m here for something other than my own interests.

Commander Ogunwe

To be fair, there’s been a lot going on. The fact that Ruta and Serafina (Ruta Gedmintas) never got a reunion is sad as well — it would have been nice to see them together again.

However, Serafina whips everyone into shape when she shows up, taking charge and telling them in plain terms what’s most important for the endgame — supporting Lyra’s journey.

Finally, after a season and a half, Lyra and Roger were reunited. It seemed like it wouldn’t go well at first — he was a mere ghost and barely responsive to her arrival.

You could also see how Will and Roger were wary of each other, maybe a little jealous, as both fill different needs in Lyra. Lyra was Roger’s childhood friend. In finding him and helping him move on, she’s saying goodbye to her childhood.

Will probably didn’t expect to be jealous, or else he wouldn’t have helped Lyra find Roger, but in the end, he realized what he has with Lyra is completely different from her relationship with Roger, and it’s possible for her to love them both.

Will and Lyra had so many moments in these two episodes. Their relationship is really building up, and I hope the final two episodes give them the space they need to showcase everything their relationship is growing to be.

Lyra also got an unexpected reunion with Lee Scoresby, the ever-charismatic (even as a ghost) Lin-Manuel Miranda.

There was a lot of trudging and walking in these two episodes, but it prolonged our time with Miranda, so I’ll take it. Lee’s death in Season 2 was devastating, and having him back and giving him a proper send-off was cathartic.

Every part of me is aching to be part of the universe again.

Lee Scoresby

It was hard to see Lee without his daemon, Hester the hare. I still get emotional thinking about Lee stepping into the light, his final thoughts on the joyous realization that they would be together again.

On His Dark Materials Season 3 Episode 6, Will got a reunion of his own when Lee figured out that Jopari was his father, John Parry.

This was important for Will and great for those of us in the audience who love Andrew Scott (I’ve said it before, this show is cast flawlessly). They finally got to say everything they didn’t have time to before, and John got to tell Will how proud he was of his son.

John’s wisdom reassured Will that he was on the right path and he was right to follow his instincts — and Lyra. It was a good way to give closure to their relationship and say goodbye to a mysterious but important character.

John also confirmed that Will does indeed have a daemon, and she’s waiting for him in Asriel’s world. I’m looking forward to meeting Will’s daemon (and I’m sure he is!) and hopefully for Pan and Lyra to be reunited.

Don’t try to live in a world that’s not your own, no matter how tempting it may seem.

Jopari (John Parry)

Lyra came into her own in a way we haven’t seen before. She’s always been stubborn and self-assured, but she proved herself a loving, courageous, and clever leader. Lyra is learning from experience and growing up.

The harpies were terrifying dinosaur-like monstrosities, whispering lies that kept the ghosts down, feeding on their self-doubt.

However, the light Lyra brought into the land of the dead sparked a change in them, and she recognized, after Gracious Wings saved her, that she could befriend them. They would help the ghosts escape if the ghosts told them true stories.

The joyful truth and positive memories were a way to save everyone. Violence and fear would no longer serve.

It’s evident in the end that the dead are passing into the world of the mulefa, where Mary resides, and that’s what she saw in the sky. It looks like Will and Lyra will be reunited with Mary, and she can finally “play the serpent,” whatever that looks like, as that is part of her destiny.

When Asriel realized what Lyra was doing, you could tell that he was at last proud to be her father.

Everlasting prison? Why, then, my daughter is staging a prison break!

Lord Asriel

Asriel had always discounted Lyra’s power, Mrs. Coulter’s love for her, and the prophecy. Now, it seems like he’s on board. It’s still somewhat for his own gain — now he knows that Lyra’s fulfillment of the prophecy will be part of the Authority’s downfall, he will help her in whatever way he can.

Mrs. Coulter went on a significant journey throughout these two episodes. In Episode 5, she fought for her life until the divine intervention, and then throughout Episode 6, she kept trying to die.

Mrs. Coulter was numb when she thought Lyra was dead. (To be fair, if Fra Pavel probably told her Lyra was in the land of the dead, which was technically accurate). Ogunwe tried to talk her out of it, then Serafina, in a beautiful scene between Wilson and Gedmintas.

It was her golden monkey daemon that kept Mrs. Coulter from succumbing completely, and finally, she thanked him for it.

Again, Ruth Wilson shows her acting chops, endowing this silent little animal with gravitas and emotion. This is yet another interaction showcasing the magic of the daemons at the heart of the show. That last hand-hold — her soul deciding not to give up on itself — was undeniably powerful.

Love makes us fragile in ways we cannot fathom.

Serafina Pekkala

Here we are! Only two more episodes until the conclusion of this spectacular series.

Episode 5 had a slower build that Episode 6, but now there’s no stopping the momentum as we race to the end.

How will our heroes (and anti-heroes) win out? Will they succeed, fail, or a mixture of both? What deviations from the book will there be, or will it hold true? We shall see soon enough!

How do you think it will all go? Share your thoughts in the comments!  

Mary Littlejohn is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.

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