His Dark Materials Season 1, Episode 1: “Lyra’s Jordan”

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S1: Sanctions they have been trying to keep us where they want us. Watch demons disappear when you die. And. Yet keep making these nasty skeletons behind. With. Our.

S2: Children back. Welcome to the authority Slate’s His Dark Materials podcast. Each week we’ll be discussing HBO his new series but we’ll also be diving deep into Lara’s world with help from Philip Pullman’s original trilogy. But first let’s introduce ourselves.

S3: We’re the hosts of the authority where Slate’s resident scholars of experimental theology. I’m Dan Kois and my demon is a prairie vole named Gilda.

S4: I’m Laura Miller and my demon is the sea otter named Saki.

S5: Hi Laura. Hi. So before we get started maybe we should present our bone a few days. Laura can you start.

S4: Okay well I read Philip Pullman’s original trilogy when it first came out because I started to hear so many great things about it from the different book editors and children’s librarians that I knew and then I wrote a profile of Philip Pullman about 14 years ago for The New Yorker. It was when the original movie adaptation of The Golden Compass came out. So I have met Philip Pullman. I have spoken to him for many hours.

S5: I have ridden in his car and been in his house and I have eaten pea soup made by Philip Pullman himself Laura who is Slate’s Book Critic also wrote Slate’s review of this new HBO series which ran on Friday extremely well qualified. My qualifications are that I’ve read the books 10 million times and I named my daughter Lyra. All right so it sounds good to me.

S3: Today on the authority we’re going to talk about Episode 1 of the HBO series it’s called liar’s Jordan. It covers basically up to page 74 of the Golden Compass which is the first book and his Dark Materials trilogy. It introduces us to many of our major characters. It sets the story in motion. We’re also going to discuss Jordan College the place that Lyra was raised. How does it reflect the ways that Laura’s world is different from ours on the authority. We’re gonna do our best to talk about the world of the books without spoiling the story of the books or the series so we’ll fill in the blanks for those of you haven’t read the books in a while or at all.

S6: We’ll discuss things like demons Gippsland’s dust Panzer Bjorn in great detail but we won’t give away what’s in store for Lyra or Azriel or anyone else. Nevertheless some stuff we talk about might be considered spoiler adjacent by people who have a serious allergy to knowing anything about a story ahead of time. So to those people I say read the books. All right so Episode 1 liras Jordan let’s start Laura by talking about the three main characters we meet in this episode the characters who will really be driving this story for some time to come. And the first of course is our heroine Lyra. How would you describe Lyra.

S4: What Pullman describes her as as a little savage. She has been not raised by wolves but raised by scholars who are absent minded and more concerned with other things although they are very very fond of her and so she’s been allowed to run wild. We see a little bit of that in the series with Lyra running all around the ancient confines of Jordan college with her friend her best friend Roger. But what’s not quite in there is Lara’s history with all of the other children in Oxford which is a rich and highly conflicted fantasy realm for her in many ways. She and the children from other colleges or from other parts of the town there’s Big Town and Gown clash. They’re always at mock war with each other and she’s has a lot of adventures and she’s always getting dirty. She’s kind of a tomboy and she’s wild and she’s defiant and she’s curious but she is not bookish at all.

S6: Yeah we see a little bit of that in the series and this premiere episode in her as you say running around the roofs we see her lack of bookish ness and how bored she is during her lesson with the librarian of Jordan College one of the scholars who’s had to teach her. But yeah we don’t see that sort of rich relationship she has with the whole town of Oxford where they’re know throwing mud clods at River kids after lying in wait for them.

S7: But we do get a sense of the sort of affection that she has for the place and the way that she she knows every nook and cranny of Jordan college. She’s played by Daphne Keene a young actress who I think was 14 or so when this was shot. Her demon is panto Lyman who like all demons of kids who have not quite come of age is changeable. Your demon of course is your alter ego is sort of your soul and another body in the form of an animal in this world that his Dark Materials takes place and when you’re a kid that demon is changeable it can change from second to second to any animal you can think of from a moth to you know a large dog to who knows maybe something bigger. You have ever think about what animal.

S8: Satellites. When he stop changing well. I think about it. Pat and I talk about it. Pain. From the line. I don’t. I think I’ll settle as a sloth or guinea pig. You said you wanted something coming like a fox. From. You. What do you think Sicily. Satellites. How. In. Or.

S7: Out when you come of age in this world. Your demons settles settles on a shape and when in impact we see a little ceremony where this happens for another child. At one point in this episode we’ll talk about that in a moment. I love the description that former gives of her as a little savage and that has always been the way that I have thought of this character. She knows that she is good at lying. She thinks of herself as a kind of faithless person a person who can do anything bad because she’s already sort of lost. And so she often tries to protect others close to her by lying and their standard being deceptive in their stead.

S9: She in this version of Lyra yearns for adventure. She finds Jordan college a little bit stifling and wants to go north. I’m curious how this portrayal is gonna evolve. I mean in an hour in an HBO series where there’s so much you have to establish all you really get from Lara at this point is tomboy a little bored at school yearns for adventure but there’s so much that is rich about her and her conception of herself. That’s often the hardest thing to portray you know on a screen.

S4: I really like the actress Daphne king in this part. I feel like she’s a much better physical match too to Lyra or my idea of Lyra than Dakota blue Richards who is the sort of more dainty and pretty actress who played her in the film version. There’s something sort of hungry about her that I think fits the character. She’s not interested in being she’s interested in doing and experiencing you know she she’s not that interested in what other people think of her. And I feel that that this actress really gets that across. She has a great energy. I mean I’m I see what you mean about Lyra having an inner life that’s kind of hard to represent but I think we’re gonna see that more through what she does than through how she simply emotes or behaves emotionally because I don’t think she knows herself that well. There is this moment in the in the first episode where she meets Mrs. Colter and that’s her first encounter with this kind of very alluring femininity which kind of overwhelms her the way Miss Mrs. culture is able to overwhelm so many people.

S10: I wrote you know why I’m here. The Masters asked if I can find a place for you. And naturally I wanted to meet you first. And now that I’ve met you. I like you and I want to offer you a position as my assistant. Now I need to learn fast and I won’t take any snacking but. I think with your enthusiasm and my know how we could make quite a team go to the north. Well we’ll go to London first. And you’d have to be prepared to leave tomorrow.

S4: It’s not really clear if that’s going to mark a transition from for her from. From her becoming very self-conscious which is what Mrs. culture is she’s always calculating her effect on other people. And you almost are kind of surprised that she is so taken with her. I don’t know it suggests that there are these that there’s this other possibility for her that has not really been achieved yet.

S5: It is a tough task to show the inner life of someone who as you say doesn’t exactly know herself. You mentioned Mrs. culture so let’s talk about Mrs. culture. She is a glamorous woman who sort of strides into Jordan College an environment where there aren’t really that many women at all. There’s you know we see when we see all the scholars assembled in the retiring room there’s no women among them. Lyra you know in the books talks about how you know other schools have women scholars. And she finds them quite silly because she’s such a Jordan College snob.

S6: And so this vision of like a very assertive femininity that strides into this environment in it and completely takes charge of that environment is very striking to her. Also a bit more about Mrs. Coulter and what we know about her.

S4: Well she is a mysterious figure. We know earlier in the books that there’s something sinister about her. She has a position that is very unclear. She seems very obviously to be powerful but we don’t know the source of her power especially since she seems to live in a world where men occupy most of the positions of authority. And she is incredibly charming. I think that the actress who plays her Ruth Wilson is not quite as beautiful as the Mrs. Coulter who is described in the book who’s just whose physical presence is just sort of overwhelming to people because she’s so beautiful. I like men swoon at her feet often. Yes yes. But the compensation that we get for that because in the movie she was played by Nicole Kidman who does have. Who does possess that kind of brute physical beauty. But Ruth Wilson is so great at conveying her charm how you can both feel how effective it is and at the same time mistrust it when it’s not turned on you. And so we see her charming liar by pretending that she doesn’t know how to behave at this fancy dinner the college dinner and how Lyra is going to have to show her which fork to use a little curse. She obviously knows which word to use in any situation. And you know questioning her and getting so much information out of her and you know manipulating her and you know you can feel a little uneasy and at the same time just understand how someone could be completely wowed by this person.

S6: Right. What we understand from this episode we understand that there’s something else going on besides what we see because we as adults can see the way that the ways that She’s dazzling Lyra but that doesn’t mean we aren’t dazzled ourselves as well. She’s very very good at that.

S5: Her demon is a golden monkey who in the books is never named. I don’t know if he’ll be named in this series eventually. Demons are almost always are the opposite sex from the person. So Mrs. culture has a male monkey demon whereas Labor is a team and painterly and as a boy. And he is appropriately creepy as all monkeys are.

S3: And so I think the easiest way to know that something’s up with Mrs. Coulter is that just like a one shot of her demon it just gives me the fucking creeps. All right. So the third being character we meet here is actually the first one we truly meet in this episode we see him in the very first shot basically flying into Jordan college some years before but on the night of a great flood. It’s Lord as real he’s played by James McAvoy. That first scene actually comes from the Book of dust. The first book in that new trilogy that Philip Pullman is actually in the middle of writing the first book that was called La Belle so large. And it’s a it’s a scene in that where in the midst of a great flood that affects all of England around the time of Larry’s birth Florida Israel who is is Labor’s uncle drops her off at Jordan College and to the master and asks for academic sanctuary for her that isn’t in the original His Dark Materials books. It’s alluded to but as a prologue to this story it really sort of sets the tone he’s described in the books as a tall man with powerful shoulders a fierce dark face and eyes that seem to flash and glitter with savage laughter. It was a face to be dominated by or to fight never a face to patronize or pity. He is cruel in the books. What’s driving him and what do you think of him so far in this HBO series.

S4: Well I do feel that James McAvoy is miscast as this character who is meant to be this sort of imposing figure he’s he’s based on Lord Byron likes so many characters of this type. You know James McAvoy is on the weedy side but. But he is also a very excellent actor and so I’m sure that he will continue to be more persuasive in this role than he might seem at first glance. He is sort of the personification of a certain kind of stormy Rome romantic hero who is obsessive and brooding and kind of remote and that’s his role in Lara’s life. He is her the only relative that she knows she has and he is not around very much. And he’s incredibly dashing and everything that he does is something she longs to be part of but he doesn’t really have time for her and he literally has that line in this episode where he’s you know ready to head back off to the Arctic for his further explorations in this forbidden science that he is obsessed with. And he says to her Lyra I just don’t have time for you right now. And I think that is sort of the essence of their relationship at this point. He he is not really paying attention to her. And I was just reading back over my transcripts of my interviews with Phillip when I was researching this piece and it’s striking that you know his father who died when Phillip was fairly small is a similar figure. He was an RAAF pilot. He was you know always off sent on these missions that you know were not totally clear and to his young children seemed incredibly glamorous and adult and dangerous. And he was supposedly shot down over Africa in his plane. And so Philip never really knew him. And I think that there’s probably a certain amount of that in Lord Israel in both the book and this adaptation just as Lyra has a little autobiographical things stolen from Philip who when he went to Oxford Used to run around on the roof of his college to the dismay and outrage of the fellows of the college. So. So I think that there that there is this definite idea of the distant paternal figure to Lord Azriel that is both. Well I think it’s actually a fairly common sort of mid century relationship to two fathers. They were often distance figures.

S5: I’m not in love with James McAvoy and this yet as you say he does seem a little miscast physically. But I also think that he’s not miscast exactly because I think his casting and the way they deliver him in this episode is one of the only examples I saw this premiere of a kind of softening of the source material.

S6: It seems like one goal of this series is to make to Israel a little bit less challenging of a character a little bit less of a character who as you say doesn’t actually really care about other people. A myriad of worlds of which the Magisterium controls only wonder. A myriad of well made physical over these rooms that most distasteful of substances. Just.

S11: None of us can hear this. I’m afraid you often hear this Martha.

S6: Because it’s such a necessary discussion he has this line as he’s leaving Oxford on his Zeppelin where Roger Lazarus friend runs up to the Zeppelin after his thrown Lyra off and said she can’t come to earth with him. And Roger’s yelling up to him as the Zeppelin motors are roaring and Roger yells about Lyra she’s special and as real yells back everyone’s special which just struck me as the thing that the Lord Admiral I know from the books would never say in one million years he absolutely does not think that anyone is special Ripley and he has little regard or concern for for anyone as you say that just struck me as so odd and I’m curious to see the ways in which this character is going to shift from that sort of archetypal character that we were given in the books.

S4: Well I think you could say that saying that everyone is special is pretty much the equivalent of saying no one is special. He may in principle agree with with this. He has certain he has principles. You know he’s not merely in search of his own pleasure or power. He is consumed with the idea of you know sort of scientific discovery or or or or conquering the unknown which is why he’s so obsessed with dust and the north and the sort of I want to say scientific pursuits but they’re sort of a cross or a weird fusion of science and exploration and adventure. But you know he wants to know and in that sense he is your sort of classic Prometheus figure where all he cares about is getting the knowledge of fire no matter what price has to be paid. Including by himself. And he wants the forbidden he wants to you know you can see where Lyra gets this from Nina she wants. She wants to break the rules and that is something that he also wants to do. He’s not exactly selfish she’s just one of those people that thinks that because he’s in pursuit of a higher good it doesn’t really matter how he behaves as you write in your review of the series the trilogy and Pullman sort of worldview is really remarkable in children’s literature because it places value on adulthood.

S6: It’s not. It’s like so many children’s books it’s not memorializing childhood is like a lost Eden that we should all wish we could return to for Pullman and for the characters as particularly Lord Azriel in this book right to be an adult as you say is to gain access to a kind of presence that is both painful and splendid it just become more real. And seeing this character go through that a character who I think we are going to follow through the course the script in character I think we’re gonna follow through the course of the story as we do as Raylan Lyra and everyone else seemed crucial. I was glad that that was in there.

S4: I agree. I thought this was a wonderful scene partly because it balances the divided upper class community of the college and the Magisterium and Lord as real and his in his relationships to the tire rest of the world with the communalism of the Egyptians. So we get a sense of them as this very tightly United tribe they’re defined for us as sort of outcasts who have found unity with each other. And it also gives us a sense of what the settling of a demon means in as world we can be pretty sure that this is only one of many coming of age ceremonies that exist in Lara’s world for this particular moment in someone’s life just the way that we have all kinds of ceremonies in our own world for the coming of age of people when they’re around 13 or 14 or 15 or whatever we decide that transition right is. And so we get both. It’s an it’s a very economical piece of storytelling because it lets us know this fact about demons which is very very important and it lets us understand what it is that’s so compelling about the Egyptians.

S6: I suppose liras debutante ball it is has already been scheduled and will be coming up shortly. It also introduces us to the gobblers because at the end of that ceremony Egyptian boy is kidnapped and later in the episode Lara’s friend Roger the kitchen boy is also kidnapped by these characters who we briefly refer to that that Roger says everyone knows they’re stealing children all over England. Lyra claims that they’re made up that they’re not real. And she presumably will soon learn that they are in fact real because they’ve now taken her best friend Roger. And the episode gives us some looks at life at Jordan College. I want to zoom in a little bit and take a closer look at this place. Jordan College which is a home to life which has been home to Clara for 11 years and which the episode ends with them all leaving. But it still seems like a formative crucial location both for the plot and for the sort of overarching conflict that’s at the heart of this story. So can you tell us a little bit about Jordan College and and what relationship it bears to the actual Oxford of our world.

S4: Sure. Well it sort of based on Exeter College which is where Philip Pullman took his undergraduate degree. The way colleges work in Oxford is that while they’re all bound together in the in the university they are as you said semi independent and they have scholars or fellows who live in them and undergraduates also live in them for at least some of their their time at the college and so they provide a a smaller academic community within the larger community of the university. And people have loyalties to them that can run very deep. They also are a little bit like aristocrats in that they own a lot of property and get a lot of income from land either renting out land to people who use it for various reasons or or obtaining other income from from the properties that they own which is how the colleges in Oxford support themselves.

S5: Yeah there as I mentioned in the book that one of Jordan college like owns an office block in Manchester or something in addition to everything else.

S12: Yes and there’s that there’s a story about how you could walk from one place to another I think from Oxford to London. Only setting foot on land that Jordan College owns and I believe that was sort of another college at Oxford but I can’t remember remember whether it was Christchurch or or maudlin but there’s there’s another college that has that reputation Exeter is not the oldest or the richest College at Oxford and there’s a couple of others who have claims to both of those titles and I don’t think there’s any one that has both but in this story it is the sort of quintessential Oxford college except and this is one of the funny things that has often puzzled me about both the television version of Jordan College and also the book version is that there don’t seem to be any undergraduates there. Everyone who is living in the college is an older fellow or what they’re called fellows at Oxford and they’re called scholars here but they don’t seem to be teaching anybody but Lyra which I find sort of odd you know if this was the average Oxford College she would also be surrounded by eighteen year old men which I don’t know might be weird in its own way but the method of teaching is a kind of a one on one thing where people write the student writes a paper and then reads it aloud to their dawn and that or their tutor rather and that’s the way that you were educated there so the scene where Lyra is being lectured by the librarian one on one is actually pretty close to to how you would be educated at Oxford but there don’t seem to be the lectures. It’s just that it’s a kind of a peculiar institution in that he’s only you know Pullman only put in the things that he found interesting for his story and so in some ways it’s not actually that close to what what an Oxford college would be.

S5: We do see other versions of Jordan College and some other books that Pullman has written in the book of dust trilogy. We get a slightly better sense of what it is like to be a student in that place by Yes and in the world of these books you like. None of these scholars ever actually have to like teach any kids. They’re very you know they’re much more interested in talking about the latest developments in experimental theology the field of which Jordan College is apparently the leading research institution in the world experimental theology is is is sort of the defining academic discipline that drives the the scholarly questions behind this book and is the field in which this question of dust. The the thing that Lord Israel shows all the collected scholars in the retiring room on his slides of the photos he took while he was up in the north. That’s what dust pertains to is this field of experimental theology. Jordan College is described in the books as a place that had never been planned. It had grown piecemeal with past and present overlapping at every spot and the final effect was one of jumbled and squalid grandeur. And then I want to read one other bit which I just really really love and has always really stuck with me from these books and is a great example of what Pullman is one of the many things that Pullman is really good at. What was above ground was only a small fraction of the whole like some enormous fungus whose root system extended over acres Jordan finding itself jostling for space above ground with other colleges at the University had begun sometime in the middle age to spread below the surface tunnels shafts vaults cellar staircases had so hollowed out the earth below Jordan and for some yards around it that there was almost as much air below ground as above. Jordan College stood on a sort of froth of St. and we see that as Lyra and Roger run around the tunnels and chambers and in fact into a crypt underneath Jordan College where Lyra hides inside like a stone vault and surprises Roger. I would like lying next to bones. She’s extremely not fearful. But I like that idea of world underground that’s as rich and full as what you see above is a pretty it’s a pretty potent image and it really gives you a sense of the the age of this institution and had a long tradition behind it.

S6: We see that long tradition and a little bit of the fierce independence of Jordan college not only within the context of Oxford but within the larger geopolitics of England that we’re in in this world. In a scene where Lord Israel drops Lyra off at Jordan College when she’s a baby and and demands of the master the Lyra fall under the principle of scholastic sanctuary. Can you explain that.

S4: Yeah. Scholastic sanctuary which is not really defined in the original trilogy got a lot more of it in Labelle sabotage is let’s be honest it’s based on a kind of sanctuary that you could only get in churches in medieval Europe and one of the funny things about the way that Oxford is represented in his dark materials trilogy is that it’s passed as a fundamentally religious institution has been erased by Pullman because there is a very strong anti clerical argument in the trilogy as a whole and his work overall in Oxford in the real Oxford for the longest time you had to be a member of the Church of England you had to have some kind of clerical role to even teach. Which is why Charles Dodgson a.k.a. Lewis Carroll was a reverend and you couldn’t and they couldn’t marry the the the fellows and dons could not be married for quite a while until basically the very late nineteenth century it had its roots in a monastic tradition and part of that tradition was a respite from secular authority where you could go into a cathedral usually and claim sanctuary. This was often done by people who were arrested or wanted for theft or murder and then the secular authorities could not come into that space and take you away or commit any violence against you in that space. Now in this version and in the version of his Dark Materials the colleges are a secular shelter from the authority of the church. The Magisterium so it’s a kind of an interesting twist on on the history of our world but it’s a it’s and it’s a fragile institution. I mean it was not in in in our world. It was not true that the church could always protect you from the state. For example Thomas Beckett was killed in a cathedral. But but there was a certain respect for the authority of the church in protecting people and in his dark materials world. There is a respect for Scholastic sanctuary from the magisterium or the Church authority that is not nothing. You know there is a pause in the to the idea of violating that and that is what as real it is relying on when he delivers Lyra to the master of Jordan College and says you know protect her and in the book of death I think he says something like The Master says but she’s not a scholar and then as is will you have to make her one. This is the best I can do. So that gives a certain extra meaning to all those classes that laborers forced to take and how important they are.

S7: And that idea that the that the school provides a kind of shelter from the power of the Magisterium but a tenuous wanted one that is eroding as the Magisterium grows and power is the same idea that animates the Masters attempt to poison as real and we know one of the sort of twists of this first episode that I really have always liked her this first story beat in the books that I’ve always really liked is that the same thing that the Azriel invoked to protect Lyra is the thing now that almost cost him his life because the master feels he has to protect Jordan College and it’s very tenuous standing within the larger geopolitics of this country against the growing power of the Magisterium and that Azriel now the news that he is going to bring and the things he’s going to ask Jordan college to do pose a threat to that should that freedom that you know that academic and Scholastic freedom that he talks about in his speech to the other scholars. And so the relationship between the Magisterium and Jordan College and the Magisterium and the various secular worlds that stand in some regard in opposition to it that we’re going to encounter over the course of this book over the course of the series and that we do encounter over the course of the books is ever shifting and the balance of power in those relationships is always changing. And right now we’re in a moment of ascending power for the Magisterium. It becomes clear when we see that shot inside the Magisterium where these two officials are standing in front of what appears to be the like the most like I’d like the Super to the New Orleans Superdome except for that it’s all gilded and it’s full of seats for like church authorities like oh this is the level of power and wealth that the Magisterium and the and the fascist architecture which is like if you have any familiarity with the 20th century you’re just like Oh now they get these guys these guys maybe don’t have everyone’s best interests at heart.

S6: Yeah. And the way that the master has to navigate that is something I find really fascinating a liar’s relationship with him is so charged and difficult because in our relationship with him is. And so this picture we get of the master and how conflicted he is and how our view evolves just over the course of this episode is pretty well handled I think you know he tries to poison this person who’s important to Lyra but he also clearly cares for her not only in the way he treats Herbert and the way he talks about her with other people and at the end of the episode he gives her a truly precious gift in a leafy orbiter something that he says there are only a few exist in this world. It’s very important. We don’t know a lot about this device right now but we know that it’s a crucial gift that he’s given her and we know that what the master tells Lyra which is also a line straight out of the book which is it tells the truth. It’s extraordinary. Too. It tells you the truth.

S13: That new will have to learn by ourselves. Please know that it is illegal unless approved by the Magisterium. So secrecy is no I don’t want secrets.

S10: As my of course you would allow me to offer anyway.

S13: Lyra look at me. The powers of this world are very strong. Men and women are moved by tides much fiercer than you can imagine. This hopefully will provide you with some protection.

S6: And so we have this view of him not only as a protector as a kind as a person who could be a kind of father figure to Lyra. Only she’s not looking for that kind of father figure right. She’s looking for the adventurer the paternal figure of Lord Israel who who is who is her real uncle of course and and who lives a life that she wishes she has not the life that she finds herself stuck in. And we see how desperate the Master is to protect this thing that he views as a kind of bastion against the ever growing power of this other force.

S4: He’s also trying to protect Lyra because Lord Israels investigations are exactly the kind of thing that would give the Magisterium pretext to come and get Lyra. Yeah. And we soon realized in the story that Lyra is being sought after for reasons that are not really clear and won’t be for a while.

S7: But in the context of the show we can guess it has something to do with that prophecy that’s alluded to in the opening titles right.

S4: Yes of course yes. But Lyra doesn’t know that and it hasn’t really been explained to us in the past. The storyline itself that anyone but the witches are really talking about this. We’ll actually know the master says she will have a part to play in this. I mean there’s a lot of portentous chosen one language here which admittedly is from the books in which I feel like hasn’t aged that well.

S12: I mean I would my guess would be that Philip Pullman’s argument would be is pretty close to that everyone especially so the idea that you have a special destiny in fact I remember him telling me he doesn’t really believe in destiny although of course he puts a lot of things that his story is that he doesn’t believe exists in real life. But it was sort of less of a shopworn device back then and I kind of wish they had downplayed the prophecy element because it it does seem a bit tired but the twist that this that that book and that the series gives to that right is it’s not like a Harry Potter situation where it’s like he shows up at Hogwarts and everyone’s like Oh God it’s the chosen one.

S9: Harry knows from the get go. I mean almost from day one that there’s something super special about him that what the master tells a librarian in their conversation toward the end of this episode is also comes in the book which is she can’t know you can not know that she has a role to play in this or that there’s anything special about her. If she does it’s like null and void. And so the reason I think that stuff still plays pretty well is because like Rod never knows or acts like a person who is grappling with this issue. What becomes tiring to me about Chosen One’s stories are the sort of endless like Am I really the chosen one and what does that mean stuff which I get sick of. Byron never has that problem. Lyra as you say is a creature of action not a creature of like mulling over her role in the story. And so that suits her very well and propels the story forward in a way I find very satisfying.

S12: Well also what propels the story is that Lyra does not see herself as better than the despite bright lines about how she sees her in the book how she sees her connection to Jordan colleges as you know you know giving her an edge over all of the other children in Oxford. If she does not see Roger or the Egyptians as less important than she is she or she does not see herself as better than them which I think is an important part of why she doesn’t need to know this but it is also true that a lot of these this original this early part of establishing the story and these first few episodes is it’s a lot of what’s driving it or a lot of what’s overshadowing it is Lara’s ignorance of the things that people have not told her that she has to get out of them and the master’s desire to to literally kill Lord Azriel so that larrikin of a few more years of safety is what we have to see that both as a demonstration of how much he loves and cares for her but also as a trap that adults fall into of trying to keep children from growing up.

S4: Which is which is a theme of this of this trilogy. Overall the need that children have to grow up the need they have to learn and to know and the the wrongness of adults trying to arrest that process.

S7: That’s a great point. That’s true that’s exactly what he is trying to do in a way that the book will reveal in many many ways is antithetical to the sort of the the animating philosophy of this trilogy.

S4: And she gets madder and madder as the story goes along with all the stuff that nobody is telling her right. The way you would you know. Like why are you telling me this. You know it’s just it’s it’s part of her. Her own coming of age which is what the overall trilogy is.

S7: The last thing I’ll say about Oxford and Jordan colleges. That’s just before we recorded this last night I re read the book Liar’s Oxford which is a little companion volume that Philip Pullman wrote after the first trilogy came out before the this new trilogy began. It tells a different story of Lara’s life in Oxford and a chart in college. I’m not going to give away really anything about it but I will just say that if you have read the books the first trilogy and you haven’t read this little companion volume which I think is not like a particularly famous book it’s extremely worth reading. Not only because it’s a great yarn and because it gives you a different view of Lyra but because it drives home this relationship that how the relationship between Lyra and her home of Jordan and Oxford evolves over the course of these stories and that’s one of the things we’re going to see over the course of the series is the way that the way Lyra thinks about home her home changes. You know right now it’s a place she’s really proud of but she yearns to escape from it in the sort of traditional here heroic way right. The heroes of these kinds of stories often always feel like they need to get out of the place where they began. You know she finds adventure where she can but she wants to go north and area you know in the books as you said she has even more of a relationship with the city as a whole but it will be really interesting I think to see how her feelings about her adopted home change when she gets out into the world and has a chance to see more of it. And that’s where the episode leaves off with Lyra leaving Jordan and in fact with pretty much everyone leaving Jordan and Oxford Israel has already left in a zeppelin after telling Roger that everyone special Lyra leaves on a Zeppelin with Mrs. Coulter who says that she’s gonna make Lyra her special assistant we see from that Zeppelin Egyptians leaving in their boats to go to London to try and find the gobblers and find the Egyptian kids who have been taken under the leadership of John far and and far decorum. And we see Roger leaving in the final shot of the episode and like in the back of a van it seems like because he got taken by the gobblers and so we’re leaving this place that has been so formative to Lyra that serves as a crucial underpinning to all the adventure that’s going to happen in this book.

S6: And we don’t know when we’ll return just as Lyra doesn’t know when she’ll return. So overall what do you use seems like you’re pretty pro on this episode.

S4: I I really like it. I mean it has a lot of work to do it has to set up both the demons situation the sort of differences between this world and our world like they don’t have trace travel and zeppelins which seems odd but you know and name but yet they also have helicopters because there’s the helicopter after this gyrocopter here. And so you’re just sort of like how exactly does this work. And you know maybe there’s some confusion but hopefully this sort of energy of the storytelling kind of glides you pass like wondering why they have this technology but not that technology. But it basically you know there’s three storylines are actually a ha they’re three. There may be even more that first there’s Lorna Israel’s quest to find out what happened to the Grumman expedition and learn more about dust and whether there really a city in the northern lights there is whatever Mrs. culture is up to and how that has united with Lara’s desire to get out of Oxford and also to head north which is what Lyra ultimately wants although it seems like this culture is dangling that in front of her is a false promise there is what’s happening to the children with with the gobblers and the Egyptians attempt to rescue their kids. And then there’s something going on with the Magisterium so I guess that’s like for storylines that were that we can’t be entirely sure what their involvement is in any of these these other plots. So that’s a lot of narrative to establish and I think it does a pretty great job of that.

S7: This episode really fulfills for me they’d be extremely stupid thing that I thought when the movie came out which was of course that the movie was fine I thought that was disappointing in many ways but like why wouldn’t someone like the BBC or someone just like make like an eight episode mini series where they do the entire books with everything in it. You don’t leave anything out. And I’m delighted that that fanciful dream that I had which seemed dead when the movie ended up dead in the water and never spawned a sequel has in fact come true. And we’re getting the like granular level of storytelling detail that I really wanted when I thought about an adaptation of these books. And we’ll see whether the series gets better or worse or whether it succeeds or fails in doing all that that the younger version of me who read these books and was so entranced by them felt.

S2: But this is a pretty great start I think. Agreed. That brings us to the end of episode one we’ll be back next week to discuss episode two of the HBO series called The idea of North. But before then drop us a line. Ask us a question make an observation argue with us good scholars welcome a hearty debate about dust to the more academic and obscure the better drop a card in the Royal Mail if you like Zeppelin crosses the Atlantic to do Denmark twice a day and we’ll get it pretty quick. Or if you want you can just email us and ask the authority at Slate Scott. That’s ask the authority at Slate dot com. The authority is hosted by me Dan Kois with Laura Miller. On Twitter you can talk to me at our Dan Coats and to Laura at Magician’s Book. Our producers fill circus engineering assistance from Rosemary Belson the editorial director for audio at Slate. Gabriel Roth. And remember without stories we wouldn’t be human beings at all.