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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 human beings is not the skeletons behind.
S3: Welcome to the authorities Slate’s his Dark Materials podcast. It’s Season 1, Episode 7, The Fight to the Death.
S4: We’re Slate’s resident scholars of experimental theology. I’m Laura Miller and my demon is the Sea Otten in Sarky.
S5: I’m Dan Coats and my demon is a prairie vole named Gilda.
S6: This episode brings Lyra to Svalbard. The fortress capital of the puns are Bjorn the Armored Bears. She fast talks her way out of the dungeon and into the confidence of Eeyo for Rock Nisson, who is the ruler of the Bears. She has this desperate plan to give Yorick the chance to meet yo for face to face. She persuades you over to challenge York to single combat for the throne, manipulating the king’s desire to be human by convincing him that she is an artificial demon that he can claim by defeating his rival. Eric then crushes your offer in this battle and reclaims his title in this week’s Deep Dive. We’re gonna take a closer look at the Panzer Bjorn and their society. Meanwhile, the Magisterium has mobilized to find and kill Lord Azriel. And in our world, Lord Boreal is terrorizing poor Elaine with insinuations about working for some shadowy intelligence agency. He uses this to try to bully her into giving him her husband’s letters. But Elaine will have none of it.
S5: As always, on the authority, you’re gonna be talking about the world of Philip Pullman’s books without spoiling the actual events that are still to come in the TV show so you can listen even if you haven’t read the books. But if you are extremely spoiler averse, you should know that we’re going to talk about things that might be considered spoiler adjacent.
S6: If you’ve got questions about his dark materials or responses to our show, you can email us at. Ask the authority. All one word at slate.com or you can find us on Twitter. Dan’s at at Dan Coats and I’m at Magician’s Book this week on Twitter. We heard from barefaced lady pretty great. M nom de Gare who writes, I have so many feelings about how Will is portrayed, his ability and need to be unseen. That’s in the books. The character in the books means that he’d never lose it like he does in the boxing ring in the series. It draws too much attention to him. Also, what’s with the detached woodland house, which is supposed to live on an ordinary street in a house with an unkempt front garden in contrast to their neighbors? And that mirrors his mother’s inability to manage their home life. Dan, would you care to weigh in on this?
S7: This one, this tweet really tickled me because barefaced lady is absolutely right. This is totally true. Here’s how Philip Hammond describes Will in the book. This is actually from the subtle knife.
S5: The very first pages will learn how to conceal himself to how to remain unnoticed at school, how not to attract attention from the neighbors, even when his mother was in such a state of fear and badness that she could barely speak. And there is this thread running through the books of how will can almost make himself invisible. He can make himself so boring to adults that they just their eyes slide right past him. And here’s how his house is described, the house where he lives. The clothes where Willen his mother lived was a loop of road and a modern estate with a dozen identical houses of which theirs was by far the shabbiest, the front garden was just a patch of weedy grass. His mother had planted some shrubs earlier in the year, but they traveled and died for lack of watering.
S7: So I just really love that this show has just like made a decision.
S8: And their decision is buildings in our world are beautiful mid-century modern buildings with big walls of glass and they all look like the nicest house in the nicest neighborhood in like the suburbs of Reykjavik, Iceland.
S1: And and they just look great and they just decide there’s trees, trees everywhere, these trees.
S8: They just decided the will. And Elaina’s is going to live in one of these houses. And they explained it away with the money that that John Perry sends back or that he has like arranged for them in this monthly annuity that comes into Alain’s account. And it just doesn’t matter. Their house is beautiful and all the chaos and disorder in their life is taken everywhere. It shows up in her and in his worries, but not in the physical state of the house. Lord Burrill even says this episode when he comes into the house, all you can really tell when a when a family, a happy family lives in a house because the house just looks just fan tastic.
S6: But he is he is totally bullshitting her there because they are not a happy family. They’re completely traumatized and confused and frightened all the time.
S8: But the house looks like a happy family. It’s house it looks like she’s got a completely together. She’s even got a perfect little hiding place under her sewing machine for the packet of letters that everyone’s looking for. And this doesn’t really bother me in the way that it does bother this. The tweeter, the person who tweeted this and I don’t really mind this sense of will as like maybe a slightly more passionate, less able to walk around unnoticed version of will. I think that you can still get done what you need to in the story with this idea of will. And I don’t really mind the idea of this version of Will proceeding through the story and maybe. That fire that we see in the boxing ring explains some of the things that will is going to have to do as this series goes on, which in the books we just are led to believe he does because he must do them because he does what needs to be done. You know, there’s it’s not an accident. That will is CALDWELL right? He’s he is a character who exercises his will through this series. And I don’t mind if we see him exercising a little well on a kid who gets a little out of line when talking about his mom. That endears me to him.
S4: I will say, though, that I I’ve always liked the idea that Will has this sort of it’s not a superpower.
S6: It’s just like a skill of going unnoticed. However, that is not a great quality for a character that you’re going to have onscreen, like a character that is that how are you going to convey that? He’s gonna have to be completely boring and unexceptional looking, which is gonna make him a heart. I mean, how do you how would you get that across, really? It’s a it’s a it’s a tough nut to crack. And I do miss that because I think that that’s a great idea. But I can also see why it just doesn’t play.
S5: Yeah, it’s a TV show. Casta, extremely handsome young man. And just go for it. Yeah. A listener named Wendy. Emails to ask. I just wanted your thoughts on the hot minute that Sarah, Athina and Lee spent talking in the hot air balloon and Episode 6. I wonder if it was just because the actors are both so attractive or or if the dynamic of the scene changed as Lee’s age bracket in the series changed. But I felt serious flirting if witches can flirt or even romantic vibes between them. I was really disappointed by that because of what we know of Sarafina and Father Corum. Am I reading too much into it? What do you guys think? Well, so Lee and Sarafina also got a hot minute here in Episode 7, Laura. Are you now shipping Lee and Sarafina? Are we meant to be?
S6: Well, I I mean, I don’t because I have the opposite of the shipping impulse. I’m always hoping that characters that are platonic friends will stay platonic friends. But I do know exactly what Wendy means by this. I think that this is the result of how they’ve decided to portray Seraphina.
S9: You know, she speaks in this breathy voice that sounds kind of sultry. And she’s always got this sort of Mona Lisa closed mouth smile, which also seems sort of seductive. But I don’t really know that we actually see Lee responding to that. I mean, she seems to be behaving seductively, but he doesn’t seem to be taking her up on it. I don’t think. And I wonder if it’s just a miscalculation in how they’ve chosen to sort of convey the sort of strangeness of the witches, like, you know, she’s kind of scantily clad and writing her off the shoulder strips of fabric. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I don’t I don’t get the impression because their conversations have nothing personal about them. They’re always about Lyra or fate. I mean, she she occasionally will say, well, we’ll still need you. But there’s nothing about her feelings about him or anything in anything they say to each other. And yet because of her manner and the way that she speaks, she seems to be coming on to him.
S10: Yeah, I think if you like, if you just put a hot Romanian and almost no clothes in a hot air balloon with someone, it’s got here that you’re just gonna get that impression. But I agree that that Lin-Manuel Miranda is playing it right. He’s not playing he’s not flirting at all in those scenes.
S5: And in fact, he’s I mean, he’s kind of forced to like to to throw out a bunch of extremely clunky Jack Thawne dialogue about how important Lyra is and like how I just hope I’m strong enough to help her. A a lovely sentiment, but definitely the least sexy line anyone has ever said top.
S11: I’m just a hustler. Played my part. I was useful for a piece, but no use to you.
S12: You’re wrong. And it’s Lyra who will meet you. This is still about fate. Course it is. She needs me. She needs all of us. Then I hope I’m strong enough.
S6: We also received an email from a listener named Marcy who asks if demons ever eat or drink. Excellent question. I have no idea. To be perfectly frank, but I can’t recall a single instance in the books of one of them doing so well in the subtle knife.
S5: Pan does peck at crumbs on a table as a goldfinch.
S1: That’s just something to do. Something gold, finchy. I’m not an order per say, but I do love swimming. Thanks. Thanks to the demon peanut gallery here.
S6: Martha also asks if Mrs Coulter’s demon ever speaks. No. This is another quality that makes Mrs Coulter’s demon unusual. His name is never given. He’s able to go much further away from her than is physically possible for the other demons, and he doesn’t ever seem to speak even to her.
S5: We’ve also had some long debates with listeners about the severed staff members had ball of anger and whether or not they were separated from the demons as children or as adults. But this seems to be one of the logistical gray areas of his dark materials. Yet another matter that Philip Pullman didn’t really actually completely think through. Gilda, you want to chime in here? No, thank you.
S4: Let’s start by jumping right into the Panzer Bjorn, because most of the episode takes place in Svalbard, their city. In the book he over has been redecorating the fortress with all sorts of gaudy frippery like marble and solid gold faucets. And he has a court full of sycophants who imitate his wannabe habit of carrying around a rag doll as the demon’s substitute. So that’s much more emphasized in the book that the he is not being a true bear, that he is is is drifting into this kind of falseness and trying to be human in emulating humans. And it’s like it’s a failed emulation, you know, it’s just vulgar is actually the word that Lyra has for his palace. And but but the but the important thing is that because he’s not being a true bear, he’s susceptible to being deceived, because as we’ve already been instructed by the series, real, real bears cannot be tricked.
S5: And the scene in which Yorick explains that to liar was a nice little scene in the series. And it’s a very nice little scene in the book. In the book, there’s this added moment where where Yorick encourages Lyra to fence with him. She gets a stick and she makes all these sort of like fancy feints and fakes. And he just like stares at her like a statue and never responds to a single one of her fakes. And then finally, she gets bored and just like stabs antimony instantly flicks the stick away and she’s just completely unable to deceive him in any way.
S13: I told you, have to fight will come back. He’s going to kill you. You tricked him so you wouldn’t just kill you at the gates.
S14: You tricked him. So he’s doing the right thing. You were our need to fight him to end his tyranny copies. You won my wrath.
S5: The real thing and I love this idea of bears, it’s not even that they care about being lied to. It’s like they are immune to lies. They view embroideries upon the truth as just like totally uninteresting and beneath them. And so another way that we know that Ufer isn’t a true bear in the sense that Yorick thinks of bears and in the sense that the books think of bears is how he decorates himself. Which true bears would view as a kind of falsehood that’s beneath them, the same way that a lie is beneath them. He wears fancy gold leaf on his claws and his armor like the fortress. It’s fall. Baade is covered in these threads of gold.
S6: Yeah. And so one of the first things that yawk promises to do with his new regime is to get rid of all of this bling and go back to the good old fashioned bare metal of iron, he says.
S5: You over Ragnarsson has polluted Svalbard. I am here to cleanse it.
S4: Yeah. So the Pensabene are not the only talking animals in lyra’s world. We should point out because arctic foxes can also speak, but in a sort of rudimentary where they’re like these trickster animals. The bears seem to be the only animals who have an actual culture. They’ve got these patronymic Scandinavian surnames that suggest that they’re recording their lineage. And it’s very important to remember that the the armored bears in lyra’s world have opposable thumbs, which is how they’re able to do this sort of master metalwork.
S5: I mean, in some ways, they’re a little like the dwarves and token in that respect, although unlike the dwarves, they don’t give a crap for jewels and stuff other than Hofer. True. Yeah, but that metalworking is really important and the armor they make out of it is crucial to the bears. As we’ve heard, they make it out of sky iron, which is metal harvested from meteorites that have fallen upon small Bardin and its surroundings. And that armor is what they think of as their soul. yawk refers to it really is as important to him as lyra’s demon is to her. And when Yorke gets his armor back in Charleston, that is the thing that makes him a complete being. Again, no longer dependent on drink and no longer in despair. During the battle between Yorick and Ufer, Lyra compares your ex rough-hewn, but perfectly fitting armor with your first gaudy golden armor.
S15: And she season the difference between not not just the armor, but the bears themselves, their souls, the two different ways of being a bear that they represent.
S6: I’ve always thought that the Panzer Bjorn and in Golden Compass were based on pagan Nordic tribe slike the Vikings, and that the sweetness and fakery of yourfirst tempts to emulate humanity. The idea that it’s polluting to do this seem like a parallel to the Christian izing of those people. I mean, before they had this kind of, you know, harsh but pure sort of barbaric culture. You know, they don’t have an ideal society by any means. I mean, they barely have a society at all. But their culture is honest. It’s honor based. And there has the sort of primitive grandeur that Lyra really admires.
S15: Yeah. That fellow Pohlman clearly admires as well. And the society that they have. As as bare bones it is as it is, as you point out, is important to them, and so the pollution of that society matters to Yorick and presumably to the other bears. And you know this because becoming an outcast from that society is a crushing thing to happen to bear. That’s what happened to New York.
S5: It happens to him because he killed a bear in a duel, which is a different set of circumstances in bear world from the battle to the death to York and you over eventually get into the books. We learned that your first set him up, by the way. And and it’s your first fault that you’re killed this other bear. But York is crushed by being cast out from Svalbard. And we’re told that outcasts are so despised that if they try to return this fall bard, they are killed by fire. Hurlers, which seemed to be sort of catapults that throw, you know, blop balls of flame at you from afar, bears otherwise view those as a very dishonorable weapon to use against other bears. There are only four humans or people like that, but it’s to avoid Yorick meeting that fate that Lyra must convince you over to meet him one on one for a very special fight to the death. And when you are gets there, he hardly even recognizes the society he’s been cast out from.
S6: It’s true. And the motivation, the motivation for you. What does your offer really have to gain from this single combat battle? I mean, he’s already the king and York is not a viable challenger. What lures him into basically risking his crown is his desire to have a demon, because lyra’s convinced him that she is Yorke’s artificial demon that has been given to him by this culture and she’s double crossed overbuy, but not letting him have a demon. It’s also important that in trying to be like humans, Ufer is bringing something decadent to civils part. It’s even more important that demons and baptism and and fashion. Which would you see more in in the book and in the series?
S4: Svalbard looks pretty much as you imagine it would have been when Erik was there is just kind of like damp and cold. And there’s all this blood on the floor, walrus blood everywhere. Right. Yes. And in the end, the guy who who lyra’s briefly imprisoned with the scholar had been brought there to start a university. So this is another human affectation that he often has taken on. But all of these human traits and enterprises, they go against the innate nature of bears. So by following your father’s path, the bears of Svalbard can only hope to be second rate humans the way that he is. And Pohlman clearly views that as an inferior choice to being a first rate bear.
S5: There is this line in in Northern Lights, but not in the Golden Compass, which is to say it’s in the British edition of the originally published first edition of this book. But in the American publication, which did, you know, cut out some stuff and change a lot of other stuff for the more simplistic American audiences, there is this line that I found in writing about the Golden Compass, but I’ve never read myself, so I don’t even know the context in which it appears. But I think it’s something that Lyra thinks during the battle between the over and Yorick, where she where this realm that you offer is trying to create is a realm where bears are, quote, unconscious semi humans conscious only of a torturing inferiority. So all those other bears around you over who are we’re trying to follow his lead. We’re trying to be human like him. Understand this. It seems innately, according to Pohlman, they understand that they’re only being second rate humans, which is, as you say, a far inferior choice to being the bears that they were born to be in the series, in the TV series.
S7: A lot of this gets flattened out. I mean, unsurprisingly. Right. This is this is a complicated set of things to convey about setting and a society that that may not appear ever again in this TV series.
S15: Right. You know, in the TV series, York wants to end his tyranny. He wants to end yourfirst tyranny. He says, we would never really see any tyranny. This is the end of death in this palace, he says. I mean, the series basically makes you over like a garden variety dictator, but it is so uninterested in that characterization that doesn’t even really bother to give us a scene of him being like violent and tyrannical. We just see him sitting on a big throne. The universal symbol of tyranny. But you know what? I didn’t really care about that. Like that didn’t make a big difference to me. If you’re going to flatten something out in these books. I think the weird, like very slightly silly culture of the bears is something to do that too, because it doesn’t matter in a deeper way. I don’t think to the grander themes of this series, of this book series or this TV series, like for instance, you talked about those rag dolls that the rag doll Yeol for Karis to mock to have. Sort of a demon for himself. And then the way that the other bears also start carrying those rag dolls around, there is no way that that would not have looked totally insane on screen. So I I do not miss that at all. And this goes for the fight, I think, too. You know, I think you were a little taken aback that the bears didn’t wear their armor for that fight. And I was at first to it. And and what did you think about how the fact that this fight to the death didn’t have all that pomp and circumstance that it has in the book as well?
S6: Yeah. In the book it is there’s it’s almost like a jousting match or something because there’s this whole elaborate like they sweep this area where the combat is going to take place as is swept in, all of the bears gather around and it’s like there’s this big crowd watching this. And he offers armor is sort of cleaned. And they read guildies and they sharpen his claws. I mean, like he goes through this whole elaborate preparation and then they have these ritual statements that they make. You know, there’s the sense that, I mean, bears have duels, but the duels are not usually to the death. But this is so this is an unusual event even in the book. So but so it has the significance this way. I mean, I. For me, that was even less of an issue than the fact that they weren’t wearing their armor for some reason. I mean, what is the point of having armor if you’re not going to wear it in a fight to the death? Yeah, to the death. I mean, it was a bizarre choice given how important the armor is.
S4: And it like they could have explained, oh, well, in this type of fight, you don’t get to have your armor or something. I mean, that would definitely make it more fair because in the book he over has much more his armor covers more of him and it’s very splendid and intimidating, although Lyra feels like it fits your ex armor fits him better, it feels more natural to him because he’s more of a true bear. But I. Yeah, it’s just I was baffled by that. I mean, I think that the special effects on the bears are excellent. They seem very bare. Like I believe that this is kind of a way that bears would fight. You know, their fur looks great. Maybe they just want to show off how good their fur technology was. I don’t know. But but it just seemed baffling to me that they didn’t have their armor on.
S7: I also miss the armor. I like the idea that they maybe just didn’t do it because they because they like the movie Cats wanted to show off their digital fur technology. I definitely did not miss all of that ritual. I had always thought it sort of made no sense in Pullman’s telling about this society, which wasn’t in other ways so unhuman, like had developed this ritual, which I have seen in like every gladiator movie I’ve ever seen, where people fight to the death. And I just couldn’t imagine York like doing all that, also that speechifying without looking silly. And I kind of liked that the solution they came up with was he’s so worried about Lyra and so angry that he doesn’t give a shit about any of that. He just goes right for your first fucking throat like a goddamn bear. I mean, the problem of course is that it has been established that their claws are so sharp and their jaws are so powerful that without armor, one of them would have killed the other. Basically at the first swipe, that would have been right. Yeah. And also, I couldn’t tell who was who during the fight. They were just two big white furry blobs whacking at each other. But whatever. I I didn’t mind it as much as I might have. If you told me beforehand they won’t be wearing their armor for the fight.
S4: Yeah. Well they did have different markings on their head. I was kind of surprised that I was able to tell them apart as well as I could because they’ve given you for this kind of warpaint look on his forehead. But at any rate, another thing that is kind of difficult to get across in this fight, but it’s so important in the storyline, is that York wins because he takes advantage of his knowledge that EOH Four can be tricked by tricking him himself, and he learns that you ever can be tricked from Lyra. Lyra has tricked you over and she tells yawk that and Yarkas a ha. So what he does is he pretends to be wounded and to not be able to use one of his legs or feet or whatever at all. And then at the moment that he offers sort of being very vainglorious and boasting of his victory and, you know, kind of lording it over him, he springs at hand and that’s. It’s in the back in the book. It’s like it’s pretty grisly. He just basically rips off.
S6: Oh, I’m going to read it out loud. e.r.’s entirely. I know it’s like a horror movie.
S7: I mean, so yeah, we don’t see it in the show. They basically sorry it happens in the background while IRA arise. But she does not avert her highs in the book and it is extremely metal. Let me read it to you. Mm hmm.
S16: So Yorick Bernsen rose up against the over, exploding upward from his firm footing on the dry rock and slashing with a ferocious left hand at the exposed jaw of your four ragnarsson. It was a horrifying blow. It tore the lower part of his jaw clean off so that it flew through the air, scattering blood drops in the snow. Many yards away, your offers red tongue lol’d down, dripping over his open throat. The barracking was suddenly voiceless, bite less hopeless. Yorick needed nothing more. He lunged, and then his teeth were in your first throat. And he shook and shook. This way, that way, lifting the huge body off the ground and battering it down as if you over were no more than a seal at the water’s edge. Then he ripped upward, and your four wrecked goodson’s life came away in his teeth. That also he eats your first heart.
S4: It’s awesome, because it’s really that if if anything sort of puts the stamp of the sort of ferocity of their culture on this whole passage in the book, it’s that scene. But I mean, one, you if you showed that that any sense that the book might be for children or people with tender thoughts about these books from their own childhood and kind of squeamish stomachs would be wiped away, it’d be extremely gruesome to depict on the screen. But also it would kind of make nonsense out of the whole idea that York has come to end the killing. All right. This is the bizarre I mean, I’ve found that line to be so ridiculous that it was that to me that that line to end his tyranny and then like there will be no more killing. I was like, what? Come on. That was one of the worst Jack Thorne isms in the episode. But but let’s move on to the rest of the episode. I wanted to call out one aspect of the scene where Lyra is briefly locked in the dungeon and there’s this scholar who’s imprisoned in there with her in the book. One of the really funny things about this scene is that the scholar is completely obsessed with this rival scholar back in Oxford. So as soon as he finds out that lyra’s from Oxford, all he wants to do is talk about this other guy and how, you know, what a fraud he he is and and how he doesn’t do any decent research like he’s sitting there in this jail in the Arctic Circle, the prisoner of the camp, the polar bears. And all he could think about is this other scholar in his field who he he wants to whose reputation he wants to destroy and how he can’t get published. And I I’ve always found that to be completely hilarious. And obviously, the truest sign that Pullman lives in a college town is that depiction of academic, petty, academic rivalry. And I it reminded me of this review of the TV series that was written by Camilla Long for The Times of London, in which she complains that she doesn’t like Pullman’s books. And then he finds that they’re, you know, kind of spin achi and humourless. And this little satirical flourish completely demolishes that criticism.
S5: I have an opposing view, which is that that is the stupidest scene in all three of the books. And I am so right that it’s not funny. It goes on for ever. It’s so boring. All we want is for Lyra to meet the fuckin bear king. And this dummy is sitting in this dungeon talking about shit we don’t care about for like pages. It is endless. Oh my god.
S1: I mean, when I saw that guy, the Syrians to agree to disagree. Well, he’s found that to be hilarious.
S7: Well, I mean, what? So I do think you’re right that the Kimbell along is wrong. The books are not humorless.
S5: Where I find humor in the books is almost always through lyra’s eyes and her sort of misapprehensions of her own capabilities. And then the moments where she playfully happily lies straight to people’s faces or fools them for the greater good in ways that I always find hilarious and delightful.
S7: So there it’s not that the books are humorless, but I do find that when Philip Pullman strives for humor in scenes that are meant to be like obviously satirical, I find it just like gruesomely bad.
S15: And and some of the scenes, and it happens very seldom in this trilogy, happens more often in the Book of Dust in the new trilogy. And those are often the scenes that I am just like, Buddy. Some Ed needs to tell you to knock this off. But he is he is beyond editing at this point. But I’m glad that the scholar was there. So you got a little bit of him. I’m sorry he didn’t give you all his complaining. I was deeply grateful not to see those scenes.
S6: Well, even though I have always really liked that scene, I I obviously it doesn’t really work on the screen.
S4: I mean, would you say that one of the things you would have found funny in the small barred passages of the book is how easily Lyra manipulates Seehofer.
S9: I mean, one of the things that we do we don’t see in the series is just like her skill, like she’s like. It’s like she always seems to be lying in the series. Lyra always seems to be lying because she’s sort of desperate and backed into a corner.
S13: You’re a pessimist. First back to captain. But it you knew I would have much reliability. What a team.
S14: Now you far away from me.
S17: I’m like you. What, Justine? I. I can travel and we stay connected.
S13: As for how he got me, it was a bull’s eye. Skulled probably can tell you everything they would do that child cutie. All kinds of other things, too, including making artificial tenents.
S4: Whereas the life written books lying is like a art for her.
S9: You know, it’s part of her personal style and she’s so skilled at@@ at manipulating the vanity of other people.
S5: She she’s so good at lying to you over and she gets into it and enjoys it so much that at one point Pan has to like nip her on the finger to keep it from going overboard because she’s just having such a great time.
S9: Yeah. And because she has power, I mean that’s that’s she’s she’s intoxicated by it because she has basically like is playing the king of the pounds or beyond like a violin. You know, he’s like she could talk him into anything.
S5: And I find that one of the funniest scenes in the book is how foolish she makes him look and how she instantly figures out what it is that he wants to hear and delivers it to him in the sweetest voice possible. I love that scene.
S6: Yeah. Okay. So back in our world, we see Lord Burrill trying to trick Elaine into giving him John Perez letters. First, he pretends to be an old friend. Then he pretends to be someone from some shadowy intelligence agency who could maybe help her get her husband back.
S18: Are you aware that if you were obscuring evidence from Her Majesty’s government? I’ve seen no evidence that you were to Her Majesty’s Valentine and I’ve seen your side. I could end up in care.
S19: Too no, too risky. I’m frightened of everything being frightened of use, just one more thing.
S6: But she just won’t have any of it. And so when he fails to get her to give him the letters he sends his henchmen to toss Elaine and Will’s house so.
S7: Well, because of that, because he walks in with his mom into a house that has clearly been ransacked. He’s now convinced that not all of Alain’s paranoia has been unfounded this whole time, but she’s still very unstable. He’s still very worried about her. And so he drops his mom off at the house of his boxing coach, which is, I must say, a real improvement over what happens in the book, which is that he drops her off at the house of his piano teacher from five years ago. Then he heads back to his own house where he encounters the henchmen late at night, once again looking for the letters. And with the help of his cat, he kills one of them on purpose. He’s just shoving him out of the way. But the cat trips the guy. The guy hurtles off a balcony. He breaks his neck down at the bottom. And so farewell that one guy who was so infatuated by Lord Boral’s demon that he would commit computer fraud to learn more about him. Guys, that will A-rabs his dad’s letters and he heads off for parts unknown.
S6: Yeah. Now, one thing I do really like about the crosscutting between the two worlds in in this series is that there does seem to be some care that there’s a thematic connection. I mean, often the dialogue in the series is so painfully on the nose and often, you know, lyra’s characters made like a little bit too much, too much of a virtuous child and a virtuous, straightforward child instead of an expert fibber. But I do think that the makers of the series have a pretty good grasp of the sort of thematic undertones of a lot of the fantasy stuff in Pullman’s world. So when we first met Elaine, it was during the episode where Lyra finds Billy Costa. And you know, Billy Costa is sort of disabled in a way that’s more extreme than the things that are hampering Elaine. But the parallel does suggest that, you know, he’s basically like catatonic. And the and the parallel does suggest that there’s there’s something similar to mental illness in losing your demon. And the two things sort of reflect each other in a way.
S4: So even though Elaine doesn’t have a demon, there is this sort of suggestion that that there’s a similarity between what’s happened to Billy Coston, what’s happening to her. And then in this episode, we have Lyra successfully tricking the king of the bears and boreal failing to trick Elaine. And I have to say, when we sort of get towards the very end of this episode, we realize that Lyra has also been deceived in a way, but she’s been deceived by herself. She’s convinced herself that her father is like a hero. And then in the last moments of the scene, you’re like, oh, no, we got him a bad guy. And you realize that while Lyra is a is a good liar, that one of the problems is that she’s also been lying to herself with Elaine. She she doesn’t have that good of a grasp of reality, but she knows who she is. She knows what her shortcomings are. And that’s one of the reasons why it’s difficult for Boreal to trick her.
S5: Right. Knowing who you are not lying to yourself makes you less susceptible to the lies of others. So even though Boreal can, you know, can connive his way through the entire magisterium, he can’t fool away. And despite all of her seeming frailty, I really did love that line and that scene that Elaine delivers. I’m frightened of everything being frightened of use. Just one more thing. That is a good line, Jack Thorn. Good job. Even a blind squirrel finds a nut every once in a while.
S4: Now, speaking of things that are frightening, we open this episode in the ruins of Bull Vanger. Miss Coulter spends this like moment. We only see the back of her in her fabulous jacket with the fur epaulets staring at the ruins of her her device. And then she turns around and she gives this really kind of therule screen.
S5: Allas really something that scream of rage. It mirrored a scream last week, which I’ve already seen starting to be Mehmed online of Lyra and Mrs. Coulter screaming at each other on either side of the door, sort of letting it all out in one unison moments. It also mirrored a moment this week when Lord Burrill leaves Alain’s house and she screams into a pillow, but also mirrors another moment this week with the over sort of roaring and rage bears scream. And I actually kind of it sort of seems like maybe Jack Thorne had just like one really good idea and he’s just running with it as long as he can at moments of high emotion. People scream, whatever. Often that’s true. But another addition that really, really worked for me was the shocking scene of Mrs. Colter strangling the creepy nurse.
S6: She’s not creepy.
S18: It’s really awful what happened to her. You see which way I went.
S20: I dont know his life. Mrs. Could. Then you are no use to me. I’d like to be a fierce. I would like to see. Happy here. This is the best place you could possibly be.
S5: Laura, what did you think of that scene that’s of Mrs. Coulter strangling this nurse, but then stopping just in time?
S4: I thought it was so chilling. And I think that what we’re meant to to sort of realize from the scream and then from her sudden weird decision to just kill this random person is that she is just seething with rage. You know, that she has this composed sort of smiling appearance. And then underneath, she’s just she’s not a cold character, although she can behave coldly. She’s just incredibly furious all the time. We also see scenes of her sort of walking through the ranks of the leather clad magisterium as they’re packing up their airship to go wipe out as real. And she’s got her her boots and her tightly cinched sort of super fabulous trenchcoat. And there is a lot of sort of Nazi imagery to this. You know, she’s not exactly wearing a like a leather trench coat, like some kind of SS chief. But there is just this sense of, you know, there’s a lot of the fascist imagery of the man.
S5: Magisterium is on display here in a sort of militaristic sense, even though Zeppelins, though the Nazis did not use Zeppelins, as far as I know there is something Germanic about them, I think, because I just associate them with the Hindenburg. But they they for some reason it really works for me to have them flying around in those airships. And combined with the Nazi imagery, it’s giving me a real vibe for sure.
S6: Yeah. Yeah. So they are are coming after Lord Estriol and Lyra is also running to him. And and we have a kind of a completely unnecessary scene where Roger and and your karnik and we shall go with you in this kind of it’s a very bitter set of bargain-basement Peter Jackson sort of moment.
S1: Bordelons, the word I believe you’re looking for in this very Sardinian.
S4: And so she she heads off to find him. And so much of this, like basically we’re told that the goal up until they get to Ball Vanger is to rescue the kids. But then after that, it’s to rescue Laura TasRail and to get him the elite. The ometer like that’s the thing that everybody’s going after or that our heroes are going after. And so Lyra finally arrives that at Azriel is Dr. Frankenstein workshop.
S6: That’s like up on like a crag and I’m arctic waste. And and he’s horrible to her. And he’s like, no, no, no. And then that, you know, I didn’t ask for you. And it she doesn’t know what that means. But she knows that once more she’s being rejected by him no matter what she does. And then he lays eyes on Roger. And he is so glad to see this little boy in a way that is instantly very disturbing. And I have to say, I have I found this particular cliffhanger to be one of the most effective ones in the series, because Azriel, he’s not really a schemer like Burrill. He’s never really lied to Lyra again. Lyra has lied to herself about who he is. But because she’s our character, our main character, we sort of let her talk us into the idea that saving him as a good idea or going to meet him is a good idea. And all of a sudden we’re like, whoa, whoa, maybe that was not the thing to do. Now, Dan, I know you were worried at the beginning of the series that it was going to go too easy on Astral and make him into more of a conventional good-guy hero. Are you still worried about that?
S10: Not at all. Now, that’s he was great. Totally worked, in fact, works better than I think it works in the book where Philip Pullman, I think, seems to be pulling his punches to try and maintain some measure of surprise a little bit more. And James McAvoy did not do that. He just he went full on. I would like to eat this child’s brains with a spoon. When he saw Roger ad I I loved, it was totally right. So now you write about that anymore at all?
S1: Yeah. There’s a little bit of scenery chewing there. But it was kind of perfect where guys went out of the show for six episodes. He’s been bored up there and his Frankenstein workshop.
S7: He finally gets a chance to do something. He’s gonna go for it.
S4: Okay, so where do we end this episode? We have Mrs. Coulter has managed to convince the Magisterium to let her accompany them as they close in on Astral, which just kind of suggests that the apple doesn’t fall that far from the tree. I mean, if Lyra learned how to deceive people or if she inherited it in the blood, let’s say we. So who she got it from? And then Lyra is suddenly doubting the wisdom of coming all of this way to find her father. And we don’t know what its plans are, but it’s pretty clear that they’re not good. It seems likely that he wants to go to an alternate universe. But then what’s gonna be the cost of that? And then we have the whole suspense of will the Magisterium and Mrs. Colter get to him before he does this or will they follow him or, you know, what’s going to happen with that?
S5: And we have a will. Who now is a kind of murderer? He’s killed a guy and that is weighing on him is finally on the move. He’s running away from Lord Borrell, but also the audience must suspect he’s running toward wira. Will next week’s season finale end with a meeting? We don’t know. So overall, I I like this episode a lot. I know there are things that I missed, as is always gonna be the case with any adaptation.
S7: But in almost all the cases, I understood why those choices were made and the things that they replaced, the stuff I messed with was good and enjoyable, in part because one thing that this series excels at is action. This this series has been very good with fight scenes, with battles with us, with visual splendor. And this episode is full of it from that fortress, its fall bard with the giant walrus tusks outside the front door to the fight between Yorick and your fur, which is quick and gruesome end and violence to the Dr. Frankenstein workshop up on a crag like it all looks great.
S15: And in many ways this episode benefits from not even from basically dispensing with subtlety. It’s this episode was sort of like it’s as if the makers of his dark materials decided in this episode. We are done with the frippery and and subterfuge of humans. We are making this episode as bears. We are just making it blunt and honest and as big as possible. And I enjoyed that. Even in the scenes where I groaned at the the bear like dialogue, I really enjoyed the splendid, in-your-face visuals. Yeah.
S6: I’m actually going to say the same. I mean, apart from the baffling absence of the armor, I think all of that storyline was handled well and efficiently, except for those terrible lines that poor York is given. And I just want to do a shout out to all of that Arctic scenery, because so much of the sort of romance and atmosphere of the book has to do with this Arctic setting. And I think that is something that the series has done really well.
S10: I want to shout out not only the Fortress Fall Baad, but that one overhead shot of it where you see the front door and then you see Lyra walking up one way on what is clearly like the path that the bears use and then heading off in another direction. There’s just a long trail of blood to the water, which is just clearly where they drag the walruses up.
S3: I love that great detail. Okay, so that’s our episode. We’ll be back next week to discuss episode eight, the season finale, which is called Betrayal Betrayal. You can find us on Twitter. Dan is at Dan Kois and I am at Magician’s Book. Or you can drop us a line. Ask the authority. All one word at Slate.com. I’m Laura Miller. I’m sorry. I’m Dan Kois. I’m Gilda. Our producer is Phil Circus Engineering Assistance from Melissa Kaplan, Slate’s editorial director for Audio. Is Gabriel Roth. And remember, without stories, we wouldn’t be human beings at all until next week.