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S2: For centuries, they have been trying to keep us where they want us. Watch demons disappear when you die. And yet humans being these nasty skeletons behind.
S3: Welcome to the Authority Slate. His Dark Materials podcast.
S4: It’s Season 1, Episode 6, The Demon Cages where Slate’s resident scholars of experimental theology. I’m Dan Coats and my demon is a prairie vole named Gilda.
S5: I’m Laura Miller and my demon is the sea otter named Saki, picking up right where the last episode left off.
S6: Episode 6 takes place almost entirely in Bowl Vanger and covers nearly 100 pages of the Golden Compass. A Ways and a part three of the novel. Lyra sees firsthand what they’re up to a bowl Vanger as she is nearly separated from pan. by their big metal guillotine. But Mrs Colter grabs her at the last minute and saves her. The Egyptians raid the station. Sarafina Pecorella kills everyone. Lyra and the children are rescued and Lee takes Lyra, Raja and eurocup in his balloon off to find Florida Israel. This episode is truly all about the diabolical process cooked up by the scientists at both Vanger and so this episode we’re going to go deeper into intersession. How does it work? Why is it so horrible for people? Does the series do justice to just how terrible it is? And why does the Magisterium and Mrs. Coulter want to do it?
S5: And now a warning about spoilers. We don’t plan to spoil the books or the series, but we do talk about the universe where the books take place. So if you’re extremely spoiler sensitive, you might not want to listen to this or read the books.
S4: As always, if you’ve got questions about his dark materials or responses to our show, drop us an email. Ask the authority at Slate.com. Or you can find us on Twitter at Dan Quayle for me, at Magician’s Book for Laura. Here’s an email we received this week from listener Ashley. Ashley writes, I’ve never really understood why the book series has been labeled as young adult. Just because Lyra is a child shouldn’t mean the books are automatically in the kid’s lit category. Right? I’m curious to know how you feel about the designation of the books in relation to how the TV show is marketed. Is the TV show also for young adults? Or do you think it has been made for an adult audience? Have you seen choices made by the producers to keep the story intended for a young adult or a more broad audience? Laura, what do you think? I mean, to start with, the books are young adult because the publisher published them as young adult, right?
S5: Well, yes. And I think actually technically they’re what we call middle grade or MGE young adult is a slightly, slightly different genre. It’s kind of hard to to really define the differences between them. I mean, I think it probably starts out as more of a middle grade series and ends up as more of a at the young adult series, because the main thing that young adult novels tend to have is some kind of aspect of sexuality. But I think it’s important to also remember that Philip Pullman wrote these books. He was a children’s book author and he wrote them as children’s books for the children’s book imprint. Of Oxford University Press. And they were always conceived of that way. And I don’t think that he sees them as being lesser for them for that. I mean, in fact, there’s a there’s a famous quote by him where he said there are some themes, some subjects too large for adult fiction. They can only be dealt with adequately in a children’s book. So I don’t really think that he really cares that much. I mean, I think he’s happy to see himself as writing for children. He is very interested in children. He taught children of about the same age as Lyra from for many years when he was a school teacher and has written for them for many years as well. And I think he also doesn’t see that there’s any reason why adults wouldn’t want to read books that were originally written for that audience. So I don’t think he thinks that that distinction is hugely significant.
S7: The books came out at a time that I think of as very early in the era of children’s books crossing over to adult audiences. And I think of this series, especially in Britain, but to some extent in the United States as one of the first series along with Harry Potter that truly did crossover, where it wasn’t just kids reading it, but adults started adopting and becoming interested in that series. In fact, the third book in the series won the Whitbread Book of the Year Prize in England, a very prestigious prize that had never been given to a quote unquote, children’s book ever before. And that was in large part, I think, because of the substantial adult readership that those books had acquired, but that didn’t stop the publisher from publishing them as children’s books and targeting that market. Now, the HBO series is a little bit of a weird bird, I think, because it’s hard to market a series with a kid at the middle of it and not have it look like something for kids. It’s hard to have an adventure where a kid is running around really riding on a fucking polar bear and stuff and not have it look like something for kids. But the series itself seems to me very clearly made with adults in mind. I think amplifying Mrs. Coulter as a character, I think amplifying Lee Scoresby and casting Lin-Manuel Miranda as that character. Both choices you make if you really want this series to be interesting to an appeal to adults, which isn’t to say that kids don’t also like it. My kids like it.
S6: But HBO and the BBC who originally produced this seem very interested in giving this as broad an audience as possible and as authentic choices that Jack Thorne and everyone else involved in have made seem very inclined in that direction to me.
S5: I also think that television is much more segregated age wise than books are than than fiction. As let’s say, you know, there’s not that many kids shows that adults watch unless they’re stoned or stuck with kids at six o’clock in the morning. Yeah, exactly. And it definitely is the case that if you feel like the show is targeted at teenagers, I as an adult think I’m not going to be very interested in that. So it may be like they they had to pick a side. To quote Mrs. Coulter. And they just decided that they were gonna make an adult series with a child at the center of it, which is an unusual choice. I mean, as to the question of whether they have changed things or they’ve made adaptations that that seem to be gearing the series towards a younger audience, I don’t necessarily think that. But, you know, the truth is that what the average television producer thinks of the mentality of the average television viewer is probably not that different from what many of us think it was the mentality of the average child.
S8: Laura, it’s the BBC.
S5: Well, I don’t know. I mean, you can clearly see there have been efforts made to either simplify the storyline or kind of bring a sort of tricky ideas to, you know, to sort of more familiar motifs like changes to the scene that we talked about in the last episode with Lyra and the demon less. Boy, the focus being on the grief of my Costa and the Egyptians, rather than the complex interaction between Lyra and the adults who are sort of recoiling from this boy because of his his sort of mutilated state. So, yeah, I mean, I do think that they may be dumbing it down at certain points, but I don’t think that they’re necessarily doing that because they think it’s a kid’s show.
S4: No, they’re doing that for the adults who they want to watch this and not be turned off by those big questions. But Philip Pullman thinks he can only answer with a children’s book. Exactly. So let’s discuss this episode and what happens in it. We are involving for almost the entire episode. At the beginning, Lyra gets taken to a cafeteria where she sees Roger. They immediately lock eyes. And there’s this really nice moment where Pan sneaks over to Roger’s demon and they whisper to each other and he’s like, Cecilia. Are you in the right headspace to receive information that could possibly hurt you? And they work out that Lyra is gonna be Lizzy. She is Lizzy. She’s pretending to be a different kid. She doesn’t want them to know she really is. A nervous doctor takes Lyra Lizzie’s photo and she asks him if he’s looking for dust in those photos.
S9: Are you looking for those pictures again? Just to be safe. Where are you taking pictures? Measuring dust. E. She does in these pictures. We told you about just one of the other girls. No, they didn’t. Where are you from? And you see, the thing is that I wash regularly. You find any dust on me. Well, perhaps a little more complicated than you might think.
S1: There’s a fire drill and Lyra starts a snowball fight out there in the yard. Then she and Roger steal away in search of a way out. And then they find a room. And in the room are cages. And then the cages are stop.
S10: Gilda, please, Dan..
S1: Gilda, we need to included. It’s an important part of the show. It’s awful. Oh, thank you. It’s OK. It’s just a story. I hate it. I wish we’d never watched it. Me, too. Look, the fact that our demons don’t want to hear this at all. Well, you know, just how awful it is to see the cages are filled with demons, the lost demons of the children who have been severed, who have undergone intercession. There’s an empty cage where Billy Costa’s demon ratter used to be.
S11: So let’s take a closer look at intersession and what it really means. Saki. I don’t like it any more than you, but we need to talk about it on the show. I’m going into the next room. Me too. You’re being a baby. Gilda, I thought you were subtle.
S6: OK. Indecision is the process of severing the link between a person and a demon. It’s the great evil of this first book. It’s the horror that Lyra confronts and ball of anger. And it’s unspeakably frightening and disgusting to the people of lyra’s world. Laura, can you walk us through how intercession works and how can a psychic link between two creatures be cut by a physical object like a blade?
S12: Well, we’ve already seen how the elite the ometer by being made as a sort of alloy between two rare metals can somehow communicate or channel or speak for some force that is obviously more than its simple mechanical parts. And in this case, this blade that’s part of this machinery is also made of some special kind of metal that is capable of severing this connection. This gives us a strong sense that that the connection between the demon and the human is something similar to the force that operates, the elite, the ometer, because it requires an alloy to sort of make or sever that connection.
S6: There’s some connection between then those two forces.
S12: Yeah, it seems like it might be supernatural in the same way that the elite the ometer seems like it might be supernatural and the demons itself seem like they might be supernatural. But there is this sense that this aspect of the library’s world can be interacted with via what we would call science, what they call experimental theology. But what we would call science.
S4: So you put a demon in one box made of this alloy and you put a kid or person in the another box made of this alloy, and then a blade made of the same alloy comes down. And in that instant, this link between the two creatures is cut. But the two creatures still exist. The demons still exist physically. We know that because of those demons in those cages, the child still exists. We know that because we see those children in that room with their head shaved. But the connection between them is cut somehow. And there has been some sign of what that means, of what it means to take away the connection between a person and their demon. Already in in these books and in this series, there is, for example, very early in the books layers experience with those skeletons in the Jordan College crypts. She and Roger are playing in the Crypt Star below Jordan College. She finds a couple of skeletons skulls. Then each one has a coin in its mouth and each coin has a demon carved into it. And they’re symbols of the demons that those scholars had in life. And as a prank, Lyra moved some of them around. And Roger is a gas that she does that. And it seems at first like a totally harmless prank. But in a very vivid scene, Lyra has visited that night by nightmares where ghosts night guests, she calls them, of those scholars, furious at her for having taken away that connection with their demons, even in death. And the next day, she sneaks back down to the crypt and she replaces the coins and she says, sorry, sorry to the skulls. And of course, there is this. We know that if demons get too far away physically from their humans, the death can result, that there’s pain, that there’s death that can be a result of that. But there is also in this world a difference between simply being separated from your demon and undergoing intercession. Separation is something that some people can master with their demons. We know that Mrs. Colter and her monkey, for example, can be further away from each other than a normal person of their demon. Can we? We have seen thanks to Seraphina piccolo’s. Which the this Arctic bird, the witches and 30mins can range miles and miles away from each other to do that, in order to undergo that, they have to they have to undergo this kind of coming of age ceremony, an ordeal that all witches must go through in which they are separated from their demons as they wander through a wasteland in the far north. And so that’s different from interception in which you actually are cutting this emotional link that every person in lyra’s world of use as like the core connection in their life and so important and valuable to them. It seems to me. So, Laura, why is the Magisterium doing this? What does the Magisterium want out of this process? Why are they doing these experiments?
S5: Well, yes. I mean, I always think of how the the witches and Mrs. Colter, separate from their demons is that that bond is there. But they learned how to stretch it much further than most people can. So there’s just this like tiny filament, but they’re still connected in the books. There are adults, for example, there’s a that a terrifyingly sweet sort of lollipop faced nurse character in the series who is about 4000 times more frightening than Mrs. Colter, who’s like the evil Mary Poppins. She has no demon. We look we learn in this episode that her demon has just been taken away from her. And when Lyra realizes this and says to her, you know, who is your demon? What was his name? It’s like she kind of goes on the fritz and George is out. Yeah. Yeah. To be reminded of this. But in the books, people like this have undergone intersession, have their demons with them, but the demons are described as sort of very neat and human has like a little I think it’s a fox or a dog demon that is very neat and precise and controlled and very, very tame, which is the word that is not used in the books, but I think is what Pohlman is trying to get at, because Mrs Coulter later explains to Lyra that instead of having this demon that is an extension of herself, she will still have her demon, but he will be like a lovely little pet. But separate from her and she in the book, she has to pretend that this is an acceptable idea to her work as it fills her with outrage. And she realizes why some of the demons of the adults in both Vanger seem uncanny and wrong. And and and neat is the word used over and over again. There’s something sort of tidy and contained about them.
S12: I mean, I think it’s pretty obvious that the Magisterium thinks there’s some connection between dust and what we would call sin, and that the connection between the demon and the child, once the child comes of age and the demon settles attracts this and they want and they can somehow keep this person from ever having dust or sin attracted to them by eliminating this bond before the demon has the chance to settle. And it seems that what they get from this are subjects who are themselves tamed, docile and controlled, that there’s some connection between agency or freewill and sin, which I think there obviously is.
S4: So the long term goal of the Magisterium, it seems like, is to essentially create an entire docile and subservient population that by virtue of having no free will, will indeed go out and sin no more because they’re incapable of conceiving of it. Or do you think that this is always meant as a way to create sort of a certain select group of servants or workers who are docile, while other people like Mrs Coulter, for example, will never be subject to something like this?
S12: Well, it’s really unclear because Mrs Coulter obviously doesn’t want this to happen to Lyra, but yet she thinks as Lyra challenges her on this, she says, well, if it’s such a good thing, you should want them to do it to me. You should be glad that it’s going to happen to me. And it’s not really clear whether Mrs Culture thinks, well, I do think it would be good when we’ve perfected the process and there isn’t this chance that you’re going to die or become some kind of zombie, or whether it’s that she actually values lyra’s independent century will and doesn’t want to see that destroyed, that she recognises that you’re essentially killing someone’s spirit by doing this. I think one of the interesting things about this idea is that it’s hard to tell the difference between what an authoritarian institution like the church or. Magisterium claims to be doing to protect people and what it might actually be doing to control them, like whether that institution sees any difference between those things. Would this, for example, turn all adults into children so that there’ll be the children of the church and the church will be people’s parents? And and, you know, it’s it’s just really unclear. I think Mrs. Culture actually believes that you can preserve innocence in this way. But it also seems like she is extremely controlling and she can’t really tell the difference between innocence and subservience.
S7: And it’s all mixed up for her and her life, too. Like it’s clear that she obviously values her own free will and her own agency. Yet she clearly uses sexuality in some ways in her in her interactions with people as she uses the power of that.
S6: But she also talks about the grief and damage that’s the result of her own, quote unquote, sin did to her life. Right. The affair that she had with Lord Azriel, which she says almost ruined her for some time. And so it’s very mixed up for her as well, what these things do to you. And so I’m very curious as to whether she thinks it’s clear that she doesn’t want this for herself. But is there some part of her that thinks if this had been done to me once, I would be a different person, but would I in some way be a more satisfactory person? It’s not it’s not totally clear to me.
S12: Yeah. Her love for Lyra is forcing this question on her because it’s it’s not possible to sever a demon from an adult person. It’s just too late. And she may have been going on this course.
S7: But it’s not blow away. But it’s not too late, is it? Because that’s what happened to those nurses. It turns.
S5: I mean, you turn them in. I like that happens. That happened when they were younger.
S4: Oh, I don’t think that’s true. Actually, I think that those are. I’m not sure that it’s made clear in the text, but I think that they were severed as adults and made blank. But you think that they are kids who were once in there and have grown up to be adult employees of the place?
S12: My impression is that they were, sir, they are the survivors of the earlier experiments, because if they could do it to adults, why wouldn’t they be doing to adults? I mean, they she literally says it’s too late for it for the adults. Once, you know, once they they’re demons settle just as attracted to them. And then it’s too late.
S6: That’s very interesting. Listeners right into us. And tell us which one of us is right. All right. So where else does this appear in his dark materials world or worlds as we know about it in the books, for example, one researcher in Bull Vanger, it says Grayling’s did it better when he’s talking about how difficult it is to do this process without just killing everyone while you do it, which is suggestion that this world’s version of the Inuit people, the scrawlings once performed this operation in some way. And there’s other examples from these worlds Leard. As Earl mentions, castrati who seem to have had the same role in the medieval or Renaissance Church here in lyra’s world as they did in ours, Tony Costa tells Liora about breathless ones these legendary monsters of the North who are people who have had their lungs pulled out of their bodies through their ribs, and they must walk around halfway between life and death through the through the woods with their demons forever pumping their lungs or else they’ll die. And then there’s zombies who are referred to as being from Africa. And in these stories, who have no will of their own, who just work all day and all night without complaining who it’s with, made explicit. Are people who’ve had their who’ve been severed from their demons. I don’t know if it happened as adults or if it happened as children, but it’s explosive that that happened to them. Are there coming of age ceremonies in our world that this resembles?
S12: Well, I mean, with castration, you have boys or young men who have their testicles removed because that will give them these very high soprano voices or they can keep the high voices of their boyhood as singers, or they can work as eunuchs in certain situations where for one reason or another, a man with fully operational genitals shouldn’t be there like in a harem or something. So and then there’s also female genital mutilation practised by some tribal cultures. And these are all examples of societies where certain people are deemed to be used by others. You know, like we need these angelic voices or we need a man who can work in. HARUM But who won’t be a sexual threat to the owner of the Haram? I mean, these are all kind of class based things. So maybe, maybe the Magisterium is trying to create a class of basically psychic castrato. I mean, another possible similarity is lobotomy. Yeah. Which was performed on, you know, people who had various kinds of mental illness or emotional disturbances. Theoretically, for their own good, but possibly just to make them more docile in the institutions where they were sort of relegated to live. But that’s not the same as somebody being mutilated in some fundamental way because you want them to basically serve other people.
S13: There is a real connection, though, I think, between the way that lobotomy or shock treatment, for example, was sometimes used on people who who weren’t necessarily suffering from any particular mental illness, but who were just troubled. Some are inexplicable in some way. And that happened in some societies and wealthy families that that like the answer for a person who had in some way too much freewill expressed in some kind of societally inappropriate manner was to do this thing to them that was meant simply to like manage them. Yes. And they all seem tied together in some way.
S6: And and the version that Philip Pullman has created is unique to his world, but bears a resemblance to all of these means of control. And I think you’re right, that control is the is the most important thing that the church can say. All it wants to say about wanting to to protect these children from the dangers of sin. But they would not be willing to do it to their own children. As Mrs. Culture is not willing to do it to Lyra. And it just so happens that the people they do to do it to end up serving some role inside the church or for the benefit of the church that they wouldn’t have other people do. And in fact, we’ll see this later in the books. Perhaps also later in the series, not only if your belief is correct, Laura, about the nurses at Bole Vanger, but about other people who are used by other characters in certain ways after they’ve had some version of this procedure. All right. So let’s talk about that roomful of demons that Lyra and Roger end up in and how it’s portrayed in the show versus how it’s portrayed in the book.
S14: I’m sorry that our demons got so upset, but in a way, it’s good that that you listeners heard that because this idea of demons cut from their humans, I think should be that upsetting to anyone, to anyone who sees that that’s certainly upsetting. It is in the book. And I’d like to read a little passage from the book when Lyra finds these demons in the cages and just how awful and piteous these demons are in the book. She’s actually witnessing the demon cages with Sarafina piccolo’s. Demon corsia. In a series of glass cases on shelves around the walls were all the demons of the separate children, ghostlike forms of cats or birds or rats or other creatures, each bewildered and frightened and as pale as spoke, the witch’s demon give a cry of anger, and Lyra clutched Pento Laman to her and said, Don’t look, don’t look. Where are the children of these demons? Said the ghost demon, shaking with rage. Lyra looked over her shoulder at the poor cage demons who are clustering forward, pressing their pale faces to the glass. Lyra could hear faint cries of pain and misery.
S15: Yeah, I mean, I’ve been thinking a bit about how how much difficulty the series has in conveying the bond between the demon and the human. And this scene that you’ve just read really brings up one of the the issues that I think is making it hard for them to make the point, which is that when Lyra wants comfort or, you know, she’s shocked by this sight of these seven demons, she picks up pan and she holds him close.
S5: And many, many instances in the books when Lyra needs to comfort herself, which is this famous thing that a child needs to learn how to do in order to fall asleep at night and deal with all different kinds of of trials and setbacks. It’s like a stage of human development, not knowing how to comfort yourself. She kind of cuddles pan. She holds him close. And I think one of the reasons why the demons in the series were not getting the sense of how close the demons and the humans are is because they almost never the people are almost never holding. The demons are interacting with them in this way that the lyra just turns to just instinctively when she’s shocked or frightened.
S7: You know, she holds Pande close and she sort of cuddles him or hell, even sometimes go inside her clothes and take that skin to skin contact is crucial. At moments of high stressors or frightening?
S12: Well, we sometimes see like especially Lord Burrill Snake Demon coming out of his clothes, but that’s more just creepy or uncanny. The sort of physicality of the human demon relationship is sort of missing in this series. And I think there is a link there with how people feel about their beloved pets. You know, like so much of that relationship is about the physicality of holding or petting or sleeping with with these animals. And in the series, they’re always sort of separate from the human beings. I assume for reasons of the difficulty of doing a sort of special effect of somebody holding like a little Urman that doesn’t actually exist. It’s much harder then to just put the Urman like next to her on a windowsill. So I think that consistently the series has a really hard time getting across the primal nature of that bond.
S7: It’s such a simple thing to show, but you’re absolutely right that the only two instances I can think of in the series of a demon touching a person are Lord Burrill Snake coming out of a sleeve, and that one fucking magisterium guy who’s beetle crawled on his face.
S6: So it’s I can only remember it being useful like a creep factor, not what it actually probably is, which is and and in in the books, demons even of the most despicable characters, cared deeply for other humans with one or two exceptions which are notable in the canon of these books, and at moments of high stress will fly to them and comfort them and love them and cuddle them as a way of helping them feel better. And this happens, you know, to the to the worst killer, to the best character. That bond remains part of being a human being, no matter how broken you are in some other way in almost every single case. And so the fact that for whatever reason, maybe just for reasons of cost, maybe it’s an aesthetic decision that we haven’t that I don’t understand, that we haven’t seen the payoff for being right, that we very rarely see that. And there’s one instance in this episode that I’m going to talk about in a bit where it was glaring that we didn’t see that.
S12: Yeah, I know Pullman has chance through the whole book to build up the readers belief in the importance of this bond. We we don’t just see the pain suffered or the devastation when the bond is broken with them. Tony Makarios just sort of fading away with that, his ratter. But we see just all of those occasions where Lyra holds Pande to her or Pande rushes to Lyra or are, you know, what we do in the series. We do sometimes see the demons fight with each other because that’s obviously easier to produce for whatever reason. But we don’t really get to see them as a comfort. He’s he’s more of like a sidekick. And that’s just that quality, that quality of touch that’s that’s missing.
S6: Later in the episode, Lyra gets taken by those same researchers and placed in the machine herself. This is right before the moment where she’s hoping that all the kids will be able to escape and she is overcome with despair. When this happens. So here I missed the sort of horrible, brutal fight that liar and pan put up where pan. While the researchers are trying to hold onto him. He changes. He like flickers from animal to animal, lie into eagle to bear to try and fight them off. And the researchers demons join in the fight. And Lyra shouts, Why are you doing this to them? But it was still even in the series. Even without that, it was still pretty horrifying and pretty well done. And a moment of real fright. And Mrs. Coulter’s arrival is spectacular. I think her walking through that door because Ruth Wilson is spectacular in that moment of her shutting down the machines and realizing who’s in that box is pretty astonishing.
S12: And one of the advantages that the series has, it just shows us a child trapped in a metal box with like a giant blade about to come down. I mean, here’s an instance where the visual aspect of the series gives it greater power. And so then Mrs. Culture is completely shocked and she rushes in and she frees Lyra from the machine.
S14: But then came the moment that drove me the most crazy of anything I’ve seen on this show yet. And it’s a moment I’m like, truly worried the show cannot recover from for me. We’ll see in episode seven or eight because it is so little, but it’s so important and it speaks exactly to what you were talking about. Laura. So Lyra and Pan are released from their cages and in the book they are crazy with fear. And this is what happens when the golden monkey darted from her side in a flash and tugged Pat Tillman out from the mesh cage as Lyra fell out herself, panting lame and pulled free of the monkey’s paws and stumbled to lyra’s arms. Never, never. She breathed into his fur, and he pressed his beating heart to hers. They clung together like survivors of a shipwreck, shivering on desolate coast. And in the show, Lyra is freed from her cage, and she doesn’t even look at Pan.
S16: She steps forward and stares at Mrs. Colter.
S5: It made us so angry. So no, Mrs Coulter knows that. Lyra knows that she is Mrs Cultures daughter and takes her away to this little room and gives her camomile tea and basically tries to explain the rationale of the gobblers to her and why intersession is a good thing and needs to be done just not to her narrative.
S17: I believe the mass of children college gave you something before you can that right.
S18: And he’s here much.
S17: The trouble is, I believe the only reason he gave it to you was because he wanted it to fall into US rails.
S19: If there’s one thing that man doesn’t need, it’s more ways to do damage. I know he told you not to tell me about. And I know you’re not this cool.
S5: And in the book, this is the Mrs. Colter of the book is more frightening because she’s sort of less human seeming. And Lyra, like a character in a sort of fairy tale, is is suddenly realizing that this beautiful, charming person is really just a wicked witch. And she can’t believe she was so foolish as to be taken with her. But I think that’s what’s happening in this scene, is that the thing that is tripping Mrs. Coulter up is her own strong maternal feelings. She explains to Lyra that she didn’t keep her because it wasn’t really possible. And as real thought he had better ideas for how Lyra should be provided for. And she sort of went along with it. But the impression that I get from this performance is that she just really didn’t understand how important Lyra was to her until she actually set eyes on her. And everything she’s doing since then is that she’s kind of back footed because she just wasn’t prepared for the emotions that she has about this child. And it doesn’t really fit into her plan very well. And there is an element of her relationship to Lyra that is about the sort of power games that she plays, the power amalgamation and the scheming, because when she asks from Pavel’s to ask Lethe ometer, who is Lyra Eloqua, that’s not about her relationship to Lyra. That’s about whatever it is that lyra’s destiny is. And there’s a way that Mrs. Kalter has a plan for that, but she doesn’t have a plan for her own feelings.
S6: Oh, that’s interesting, right? It’s in many ways, it seems like ever since that affair with Lord Azriel, she’s consistently made it a point of not making a way for her own feelings about anything. Right. She has shut that down to some extent to attain the power that she’s attained. And so blindsided Mrs. Colter, who doesn’t know what to do about feeling maternal about this person she previously had dismissed from her life is, to the show’s credit, a much more dramatically interesting and fun choice than just this wicked witch character that she basically is in the book. Yes. So Lyra escapes from Mrs. Colter with the help of that spy fly that she had socked away a couple of episodes ago. She hits the fire alarm. She assembles all the kids and she starts looking for an exit. And then all hell breaks loose. We’ve got tarde hours with guns. We’ve got Yorick knocking heads. We got lisse shooting guys. And then we’ve got mccluster taking out one doctor. The one doctor was sort of worried about stuff and just cracking his neck, doing that next snapping thing that as far as I know, only happens on TV shows. It is not a way that any actual person would ever kill another actual person because it would take both superhuman strength and a genius level like a dancer level mastery of leverage. Tell me, do you remember Vinny Costa? It wasn’t my fault. It was just B-movies. Boy, we’ve come to rescue him.
S7: Come on, guys. We all hate. But that’s how she does it, she just kills that guy right before she kills him. He says, I was only following orders. And between that and they and the shaved heads on all those kids who’ve been severed. Hoo hoo. Roger goes to try and help. I’m getting like a real concentration camp vibe off this. Do you think that’s intentional, a part of the show?
S12: Yeah, I think it it obviously is. I mean, the the female head doctor has a complete Lotty Lenya thing going on. Oh, yeah. Yeah. I think she’s. We’re meant to see her as sort of Ilsa she Wolf. Of the S.S. type character. Yeah. You know, there it’s this this camp is socked away somewhere where no one can interfere with them and it’s full of euphemisms. And and and the children are being pacified in these various ways. I mean, one of the things that I love that they’ve kept from the book is the way that Lyra uses the kidneys of kids like she reawakens it. And these kids write snowball fight as a as a kind of weapon. You know that there’s this unruliness about children. And these children have been cowed. But all it takes is like her ring leader energy to just sort of say, you know, let’s do this. We can have mine. We’re gonna do this. I mean, she finds the other the girl who sort of the alpha girl of the camp, Annie. But there’s a great scene in the book where they sort of like they’re butting heads a little bit and then like Pan establishes dominance. So Annie’s demon and then it’s it’s settled that Lyra is the ring leader of the group of kids, which is something that happens in real life all the time. But in lyra’s world, the demons actually enact it. But you know that she uses the inherent chaos of children as a weapon against both anger.
S15: And it’s sort of regimented, oppressive order.
S6: Right. A place that’s designed to destroy that kid just can’t cope with it when that weapon is wielded against it. It’s it’s been built on the assumption that the kids will always obey. And when they don’t, when they start acting like kids, when they start exhibiting free will and the way that kids do, all the system start breaking apart. And I also like that a lot. Roger gets all those kids to follow him out the door. The kids who’ve been severed. They shuffle along after him in the middle of this battle, this pitched battle in a courtyard, all sudden, Sarafina Picolo just shows up as you like, swishes around like a death eater and she just kills everyone in like two seconds. She is scary as hell. I know that we are supposed to view her as like this great hero showing up. And she actually I found her terrifying how she just like locked eyecontact on Lyra and then fuckin killed everyone. All right. So where does this leave us?
S5: Well, we have Lord Boral’s henchmen back in our world getting ready to break into Will’s house. And we have the sort of kind of confusingly handled scene where Lyra and Roger and me and Urich kind of pile into leaves airship and head off. Dissolve baad in the in the book. They’re actually in the middle of some kind of or Mrs. Culture is about to recapture Lyra. And then they all sort of jump in Lee’s airship to get away. But in this, it’s like they all get in and they go off on this mission. Then only later when they’ve traveled for a while is lease Grisby suddenly saying, what’s in it for me? You have already agreed to do it. I found that the whole logic of that really confusing, like why did he sort of say, hey, let’s go off to Zolbert. Come on, everybody jump on board and then they’ll head out. And they’re only later he’s like, well, why am I doing it? And asking as Sarafina Pecorella if he’s ever going to get paid.
S8: She convinces him, I guess, just to do this job for exposure like a freelance writer or something. Then they are. They get attacked by Cliff Gas and Lee shoots one of em and Lyra falls out of the balloon and then it cuts to black. It’s a real Cliff Garst hangar. Laura, what did you think of this episode overall?
S5: I felt that I mean, in some parts it was great. I thought that the bull anger was appropriately scary. I really love that nurse character. She’s. She was so terrifying. And, you know, when she mentions Nicholas, her her demon, and she’s kind of immobilized. I thought that was sort of weirdly poignant because I find her absolutely frightening as a character, more so than Sarah. But I also felt like, do you know, the show is still struggling to make the demon human connection as emotionally important for the audience as it is for the characters because of the limitations of the storytelling choices they’ve made or perhaps the limitations of the special effects budget. So I didn’t feel like that landed as well as it could have. I mean, it just there was the emotional impact of Lyra being in some kind of horrible machine, which is just awful. And then the sort of zombie kids. So we know it’s bad, but we don’t really feel the particular way that it’s bad given the human demon relationship. And then I do think that that was it was a little confusing about Lee’s motivations. You know, like it almost seems like the end of The Wizard of Oz when they’re all just jumping into the balloon and then they’re heading back to go.
S12: Is that it as this kind to like, yay, we killed the big bad or we you know, we accomplished our mission and then suddenly he has all these doubts about it. I would never have loved all of the talk about lyra’s destiny either. But I do really like the Sarafina Piccolo character and I I do like her her look and the way that she’s represented. And, you know, the witches are just a fabulous element of Pullman’s universe. And so I was really happy that we got to see more of them in this episode. And I loved the Clift guests, which I always think might be borrowed from H.P. Lovecraft, but I’m not sure. But they’re a wonderful beast, a monster that is just really fun. I like the idea of them just living in these these caves, in this cliffs and jumping out at whatever happens to come by. They’re so nasty looking.
S7: They do seem Lovecraftian. Yeah, that’s that is absolutely correct. Yeah. I think I mean, I think I’m basically in agreement. This is an episode where it’s like the central thing that matters most to me is the thing the episode did worst with. But almost all the other things surrounding it were actually pretty great. Like Bole Vanger was scary and Lyra rousting the kids was super fun and the doctors were creepy. And that nurse a your correctives horrifying. I’d like the addition of a doctor who’s like feeling a little nervous about stuff but keeps doing it anyway and then gets killed because he’s honestly just as bad as all the rest of them. Maybe worse. And and I like the fight like that. That was like a rousing fun battle at the end where he we got to see everyone get bearer’s ahad, including Latonia. So the overall effect on me, despite our deep disappointment with that one scene that we talked. Is is this is a pretty good up, so that like leaves me an interested place. I agree with you that I worry if you are not a reader of the books.
S6: Do you even get that they’re going to Svalbard to to get Laura Isreal and he’s they’re being held by a Bear Lake. Is that clear? I don’t know if you’re not. That’s what’s happening. They’re going to swarbrick. That’s where I learn Israel, isn’t it?
S5: It’s pretty clear. I think it’s pretty clear. Yeah.
S8: Yeah. All right. Well, we’ll hopefully see that in Episode 7, the fight to the death. That’ll be our next show. Hell yeah. I’m ready for a fight to the death.
S3: So join us for that on Twitter. I’m at Dan Kois and Laura is at Magician’s Book. Or you can drop us a line and ask the authority at Slate.com. Our producer is Phil Circus Engineering Assistance from Rosemarie Bellson and Merritt Jacob, Slate’s editorial director for audio is Gabriel Roth. I’m Dan Course. I’m Gilda. I’m Laura Miller. I’m Sakhi. And remember, without stories, we wouldn’t be human beings at all until next week.