“Theft”

Listen to this episode

S1: Welcome to the Authority Slits, his Dark Materials podcast, it’s season two, Episode three, Theft, where Slate’s resident scholars of experimental theology. My name is Laura Miller. I’m a books and culture columnist for Slate, and my dad even is a sea otter named Sukie.

S2: I’m Dan. I’m a writer at Slate and my Deman as a Prairieville named Gilda.

S3: All right. We’re here to talk about Episode three in the second season of his Dark Materials. And in this episode, everybody’s looking for someone. The witches and this culture are trying to find. Lyra, the pale faced man is looking for a will. Lee Scoresby is looking for Stanislas Gruman, who has something that might help Lyra. And will it Lyra are looking for Will’s father at the direction of the elite, the ometer. And then there’s Lord Borrell, who’s looking for not someone, but something, an object that will be very important in the story ahead of us, the man that made that doorway.

Advertisement

S4: Arsenite. I think he’s hiding in the town, the one with the carved into the surrounded tightly, actually bringing a knife to me.

S3: And I’ll give you two on this episode covers chapters five through seven of the subtle knife. The witches are on the brink of war with the Magisterium, and Mary Malone is learning how to communicate with dust. Meanwhile, in Oxford, Lyra alludes a scary cop, discovers movies and has released the ometer stolen by Lord Borio. One of the kids in Sheeter, Gaza assures Will that, no, no, no, there’s nobody up in that tower in the middle of town. Why would you even think such a thing? And finally, Scoresby visits yet another Arctic frontier town in search of Gruman and gets captured by the Magisterium, then figures out something important about this culture while he’s in the dungeons. Today, we’ll take a closer look at Lee, everybody’s favorite cowboy aeronaut.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

S5: As always, on the authority, we’re going to do our best to talk about the worlds of Philip Pullman’s books without spoiling ahead the story of the book. So we’ll fill in the blanks for those of you who haven’t read the books in a while or maybe at all, we’ll discuss demons and witches and least Scoresby in great detail. But we won’t give away what’s in store for any of the characters. Nevertheless, some stuff we talk about might be considered spoiler adjacent if you’re a person with a serious allergy to knowing anything ahead of time. So buyer beware.

S3: And we’re here to answer your questions. If you’ve got a burning question about his dark materials or you can’t figure out how to work your Lethe ometer, just email us at Ask the Authority, all one word at Slate dot com.

Advertisement

S5: Thanks to listener Jack Nadler, who was inspired by the architecture of Cheap magazine to send us a photo of a tower in Florence that he saw during a visit about a decade back. It’s the Peirsol Michelangelo and it’s got those exact cool staircases that Liara and will sit on. The ones we talked about last episode, the ones that Laura said reminded her of the M.C. Escher staircases in the opening credits. This raises an issue for me that we didn’t talk about before, which is just that Chitungwiza is Italy, like it’s clearly Italy, it’s got Florentine architecture. It’s got an Italian name, the tasty Italian bread. There’s that, the deli and jelly. But I feel like I still don’t fully understand how it is. The Liara walk through a window in the north and will walk through a window in Oxford and they both ended up in some other worlds version of Italy, like there’s a match between the Oxford of Will’s world and the Oxford of Lyras World. So how can they go from both those worlds to Italy? Some, you know, thousands of miles away. Please, Laura, explain what we know about how she away works.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

S3: I don’t know if I can completely explain it, but as Borrell has said, Cheeta, Gaza is a crossroads world, which might be one of the reasons why the production design has those crisscrossing sort of stairways. And we’ll find out more about why it is a crossroads world in Episode four. There does seem to be the spatial correspondence between Wilsford and Lyras, Oxford, and then she did. But it’s important to remember that Lyra did not arrive directly at Cheetah Girls, that she walked for some time before getting there, and she traveled to the world, to the university, to Gozi through Avril’s anomaly, which was ripped into the fabric of the Arctic and in her world. And when we’re talking about Azriel anomaly, which is a theme that is just kind of humming under much of the action in season two, all bets are off, right?

Advertisement

S5: It’s not just that it it created this window that goes God knows where, but also that it’s created havoc in the natural universes of all these different worlds. It’s there’s some sense in the books that it’s redirected rivers and melted glaciers and change the fog. Yeah. Created fog everywhere. And the bears can’t find food and all this stuff. So, yeah, I guess it’s true that that anomaly makes everything a mess. And it’s useful, I think, to think of Chitungwiza as a crossroads world or a world that you go through to get somewhere else where maybe some of the rules of what corresponds to what might be a little bit different. We also got a note from a listener named Andy Critchfield who points out that the Spectre’s and she Tagore’s do not look like dementia’s so much as they look like the smoke monster from Lost. And he is correct. And we regret the error onward.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

S3: OK, but we begin this episode with the destruction of whatever sort of home the witches had. This has never been that clear to us. So this is yet another front in the Magisterium, increasingly all out war on heretics. That is, whatever people or parts of libraries world they don’t already control both physically and ideologically. But it’s also the act of one man from McPhail in a bid to consolidate his power within the church. Meanwhile, we’re getting a bit more information about Will’s father, John Perry, and why he has attracted the attention of some. Kind of shadowy British intelligence service who want the cache of letters that will as carrying, there’s a growing sense that this episode of all kinds of powerful but maybe indistinct forces bearing down on Lyra and her friends, that scene of the witches mourning their island or whatever it is, is very powerful.

Advertisement

S5: But I mostly thought it was great that Sarafina Pecola finally has a reason for her Mascaro to be running down her face instead of it just being a fashion choice, as it typically is. Fortunately. Well, Eira have found a hideout and chief legacy, a place where there are no adults to control them because there are no adults at all, because no adults can follow them there without being attacked by the Spectre’s Lyra.

S3: Whoever wants to find out more about dust from merit alone, and this leads her back to our Oxford and to danger in the form of the pale faced man who nearly captures her. Dan, what do we know about this guy?

Advertisement

S2: Yeah, so this is the guy who shows up in Mary Malone’s office when when Lyra comes back to visit her. And he’s a guy we’ve seen before. He we saw him last season in cahoots with Lord Borrell. We saw him in Will’s house when Wil escaped with the letters and the other henchmen of Lord Barrells was killed in the books. His name is Walters. He works for an outfit called Special Branch Special Branch, which is one of the many British military intelligence services. The Army’s, you know, like MI6. There’s also Amite. There’s like Amies one through nineteen. It turns out. I like to imagine that Maiwand is just like cake baking and May 19 as nuclear explosions. So his job is he is tasked with finding John Perry’s letters to his wife, Will’s mother. We hear from Will’s grandparents in the last episode that that’s what the police really want, the police in the form of this guy, Walters, who’s posing as a just a regular ordinary policeman. Special Branch seems to suspect that John Perry found a way to travel between worlds and they want to know where that portal is that he discovered that allowed him to do so. But they don’t understand is that there are actually two portals, right, in Oxford, although if, you know, if the pale faced man walked through Will’s portal that she took away, he wouldn’t be realising much of anything for long.

S3: Meanwhile, these Scoresby is on the hunt for Stanislaw Gruman in Lyras world, and he’s pumped the clientele of this sort of honky tonk saloon and Novas Embla.

S6: Let’s listen to some of those conversations. You heard of a Stanislaus Gruman strange man in the top curious about everything. You know where he is. You know he was a geologist or an archaeologist. Some say he became a shaman and went to live way or from the wilderness with some folk at the NSA. And that’s interesting. The last I heard, he died. He died. A trader told me Gruman got his leg caught in a trap. Cut it right to the bone. We had a man in here last week said Gruman survived that trap.

Advertisement

S3: He said the sketchy seeming bartender at the same Hirschi hotel directly to an observatory where he questions the lone scientist stationed there. But this guy turns out to be a total religious fanatic who attacks Lee for seeking a heretic. And Lee is defending himself and he accidentally kills the man and then the Magisterium show up and capture him. OK, so in this episode, we’re going to take a closer look at Lee, who he is and the role he plays in Lyra and Wills story. Dan Lee is a particularly favorite character of Pullmans. I know that because he told me that. And in some ways he is the sort of classic idealized American movie cowboy figure, sort of a composite of a bunch of characters from Westerns that are a little British boy like Pulman would have grown up loving and finding a little bit exotic.

S2: Lee comes from Texas, which in Lyras world is part of New Denmark, not America. One funny thing about the historic materials books is that like the Harry Potter books, they basically don’t give a shit about America at all. America is just not a power in British fantasy universes. It’s quite refreshing.

Advertisement
Advertisement

S5: He grew up lidded playing cowboys and Indians with Stephen Hester reenacting the Battle of the Alamo. Although in his world that was a battle between the Danes and the French. Somehow the full ramifications of colonialism in Lyras world have never been fully explained.

S3: I don’t think a lot of what we know about Lee’s past comes from a novella that Philip Pullman published after the first trilogy was done. And that novel is called Once Upon a Time in the North. Dan, what does that book tell us about Lee?

S5: It was published in 2008. It’s a very small, very charming little hardback under one hundred pages. I mean, the first thing is I would recommend that everyone read it. If you haven’t already, even if you haven’t read the historic materials books, there’s just very slim adventure story as fun as hell. And you can read it in like an hour and it’s just like a little like adrenaline shot of Philip Pullman, universal right to your nervous system. It tells the stories at 35 years before the events of his dark materials. It’s a time when Lee Scoresby has just gotten his hot air balloon, is just getting into aeronautics. He’s still learning how to fly it. In fact, he is learning out of a book that he that the guy who sold him the balloon gave him about. Basically, it’s like a balloon flying for dummies. But he only has the first half of the book because it was torn in half and he never got the second half. You know, and that’s all of a piece with a sort of with a picture of a sort of rapscallion ne’er do well, young lady that this book presents. He sets it down in a Russian town. He gets mixed up in a shipping dispute with some local politicians. He courts an extremely dumb young woman. It’s very fun. It’s an origin story for very for two very important things in Lee’s life, things he remains attached to decades later, Yorick, who he meets for the first time and has his first adventure with Add, his trusty Winchester rifle, which Lee wields throughout the books. The lee of this TV series, I think owes a lot to the Lee of this book. You know, in the novels, Lee is a lot older when he meets Lyra during their adventures. He’s I mean, he’s basically 60. And there are a lot of sections where Lee’s thinking about all the money he’s been socking away in his Wells Fargo account for retirement. But the Lin Manuel Miranda version is clearly nowhere near retirement. He’s not thinking about that at all. He’s he’s a lot more like the Lee of Once upon a Time. And in the north, he’s he’s younger. He’s out for adventure. He’s totally full of beans.

Advertisement
Advertisement

S3: But he also dislikes violence, which is an interesting point. And he’s very troubled at having killed the scientists in the observatory, even though it was completely in self-defense. And we get the scene of Hester discussing this with him. And I like the way that that illustrates one of the ways that that demons work. A demon is not necessarily exactly a person’s conscience, but it’s definitely one side of these internal conversations that we have within ourselves, like how should I feel about this thing that I just did that is really against my principles?

S5: Right. It’s interesting that we see it in good people and bad people. Right. And from McPhail does it well. Now, Cardinal McPhail does it when he heads when he signs the order to bomb the bomb, which island? We see his demon telling him, well, it’s a sin, but you’ll have to atone for it. Demons sort of play that they’re the voice in our head in a good way, reminding us of our principles and maybe helping us figure out the answer to a question because they get to play the other side of the question. Lee is is purportedly named for. Lee Van Cleef, who played the bloodthirsty villain and like 10 million Westerns, including a bunch of Sergio Leone spaghetti Westerns, but Lee, unlike those villains, as you say, just has no appetite for violence here. At a crucial moment in the book, The Subtle Knife, he says to Hesser, I don’t like taking lives. And every time he does take a life, we really see him feel it. And that’s part of the strict moral code by which he runs his business and by which he runs his personal life. He you know, he’s the kind of guy who makes a pledge. He keeps it. It’s important to him that others behave with honor. It’s all very sort of traditionally upright, upstanding cowboy hero stuff. And it’s always been a part of the US. I have always thought sort of the fundamentally two dimensional nature of this character.

Advertisement
Advertisement

S3: He’s like a knight in a in an old Arthurian romance. You know, he’s governed by the sort of code of chivalry. OK, so getting past that, do you think that you like we get this scene in the series that doesn’t appear in the books. After the Magisterium captures and imprisons Lee, Mrs. Coulter finds out he’s there and she comes in to question him. And we’ve already seen Mrs. Coulter tell off the new cardinal and we know that she’s hot on the trail of the witches prophecy concerning Lyra. She last saw Lyra riding off in Lee’s airship, so she is pretty sure she knows where she is, although she’s wrong about that. And she says that she’s going to torture him if he doesn’t reveal where Lyra is. In the books, these two characters never meet. So in this scene, when Lee tells us, Coulter, that her threats won’t work because an abusive father left him with a super high tolerance for pain, the series is adding a major new element to Lee’s back story and not just to Lee’s back story.

S6: Yeah, humiliate me until I’ve said enough sorry to make up for whatever thing he decided that day would justify his temper.

S7: You do know, don’t you? You know, because your parents just like, well, of course, it got worse it.

S3: You know nothing about me.

S5: OK, Dan, tell me, what do you think of this, Ed. I am not a fan of this, Ed. It feels like like a very basic screenwriting hack, like the first idea you have when you’re thinking, well, I got to give this character some some back story. What should I give them? I guess they were abused as a child. And then it’s like, well, I’ve got these two characters I need back story for. I guess they were both abused as children. And one reason that I feel like it really doesn’t work is because it’s trying to direct tie between these two characters who I strongly feel don’t have that much in common, like Mrs. Coulter. Sure, a history of abuse would explain a lot about her emotional reserve and about her own predilection for abusing those that she cares about. But like, why would you then draw a line between her and Lea of all people? Like what on earth about Lee Scoresby, carefree, wisecracking Texan says domineering, hateful, abusive father. I just don’t see it. And I will give it to Lin Manuel Miranda, who through much of this series has been a real scholar of the the shouting and grinning school of acting. This is he does a good job in the scene and is clearly his Emmy clip. He really holds his own against Ruth Wilson, which is hard to do. She’s very good. She’s very it just as good in this scene as she is in every scene. She’s a perfectly intense. But then seeing Lee Scoresby, wisecracking guy all of a sudden turn into this intense, very empathetic, in tune with his and and his enemies feelings person just doesn’t seem to make any sense at all. Nevertheless. That last moment with Hester telling him you did good is like legitimately touching. It still seems like screenwriting overreach to me. You know, I’ve I’ve always loved about Lee. He has always been very determinedly two dimensional. He’s he’s a cowboy aeronaut. Like that is not the point of a cowboy era, not as not as deep reserves of interior trauma. It’s that he’s a cowboy who flies a balloon. He’s a comic book character in a delightful way. He’s Philip Pullman getting in touch with the heroes of his own childhood on the page. And so this attempt to, like, wrestle him into the three dimensional suit that that is our contemporary idea of what a sympathetic character must wear feels really misguided. And I don’t know that I’m justified necessarily in feeling this way, because, for example, we’ve praised the series over the course of this podcast at the ways that it’s made Mrs. Coulter much more complex through things like back story and by exploring further her relationships with the patriarchy within which she lives. So why do I love that? But I don’t love this attempt to make life more complex. What did you think?

Advertisement
Advertisement

S3: Well. I think that it does make sense in a certain way, and yet also I can see why it would bother you. And let me explain what my theory of this scene is. I think I get the sense that one of the things the series is doing with Mrs. Coulter by making her really. One of the two I mean, in the in the book, Will and Lyra are the two main characters and Mrs. Coulter is almost like a cipher in the series. She comes across as one of the main characters. She’s basically oleanders. Yeah.

S5: Yeah. One of the paths we follow to the story is her path from beginning to end, it seems like.

S3: Right. And I think we’re going to see, as we have seen in the past, Mrs. Coulter being confronted with people who have dealt with the challenges that she’s faced in different ways from the ways that she has. So we saw when Dr. Gonzalez was testifying before the Magisterium about the witches, we saw this moment where he was talking about their freedom or their deeper understanding of the natural world. We saw the camera cut away to Mrs. Coulter’s face and obviously this statement. It is a way of suggesting that there might be other ways for her to find meaning and power in her world besides working within the Magisterium. How I read this scene is that Lee and Mrs. Coulter may have had similar childhood experiences, but they dealt with it in completely different ways. And one of the things that. I think really messes with her in this scene is not just that he’s bringing up the feelings of vulnerability and powerlessness that she had as an abused child, but also that I’m pretty sure she believes that everything she does is is not is almost not a choice. That the the world or the situation that she has been given compels her to behave in these in the way that she has. And if she meets someone like Lee, who you know, we don’t know what’s happened to Lee since he had those experiences, maybe he just dealt with them in a completely different way by I guess as a therapist would say, processing them. Maybe one of the reasons why he adheres to such a such a rigorous moral code is because he doesn’t want to be an arbitrary, cruel figure to use the power that he has in a way that’s wrong. And that’s why being you know, that’s why the structure of right and wrong is so important to him or loyalty is so important to him or being constant is so important to him. Now, in a way, this is you know, I can see why a Lee fan might not like this, because then it just turns Lee into like an object lesson from sculptor as opposed to a character in his own right. But since you don’t really want him to be that much of a character in his own right, I don’t mind it. I totally get that. It is a little bit cheesy to have, you know, this dark secret be this thing that, you know, just feels like it is a kind of a generic dark secret in a way. But I do think it makes sense for Mrs. Culture. And I do think that one of the things the series is doing is confronting this culture with ways of dealing with the kinds of experiences that she’s had, the confinement, a big woman in her society, versus the freedom of the which is the cruelty that she exhibits versus the nobility of Lee, how you know, the way that he has taken that same traumatic experience and done something different with it, and that this is kind of breaking the character open. And we do see that scene where she can she can barely stand on her own afterwards in the hallway and the the monkey comes up and just holds her hand. And she’s usually kind of cold to the monkey, but she accepts this comfort from from from her monkey demon at this moment because she’s so shaken.

Advertisement
Advertisement

S2: I mean, the other thing that he talks about in that conversation that really shakes her is Lyra and his love for Lyra and his respect for her. And I do think it really shakes her to see the clear bond that has been created, I’m sure to her mind, almost instantaneously, based on nothing between this aeronaut and her daughter, the daughter who she is now chasing after and. Right. She rightfully believes despises her.

S5: And so in that way, he’s another kind of object lesson for her, another example of the ways that her she thinks predetermined path has pushed her into becoming a person who isn’t loved or respected by the other person she seemingly cares most about, at least at least she professes to. And I buy all that. I agree that if you’re going to have be a two dimensional character, why not also have him in the service of building another character and building the storyline? And I have no idea if this is the way that the development of this property went. But that scene just really screamed to me like that, like the producers and the screenwriters saying to themselves, at some point in the process, we got to get a big actor for this and we’re not going to get a big actor unless we give them a big scene where they talk about something serious.

S3: So, OK, I got five minutes and I’m going to write it, but could also be down that that the screenwriting is is kind of on the nose in the scene like I think a a more. A more. Gifted, adept screenwriter might have been able to make that scene less a little less obvious, and she’s right.

Advertisement
Advertisement

S5: It’s a lot of speaking the subtext.

S3: You know, one last thing I do want to add is that one of the things that was a little bit weird for me always about the trilogy is that Lee does seem kind of under motivated and his total devotion to Lyra. Yeah, but if he basically season her, the vulnerable child that he once was and again, he’s transcending this past by instead of harming the child, rescuing the child. It does. I mean, he has known her for very long and he’s basically just thrown over his whole life to sort of, you know, help her. And it maybe gives him a little bit more of a motivation.

S5: Oh, that’s an interesting idea. The notion that he sees in her the kid he once was and he, you know, as much as he wishes that someone had once thrown all their cards into helping him out, he now is going to do this for this kid. Yeah, certainly it is true that there’s absolutely no reason why you should buy in completely and and love Lyra so deeply based on their very short interaction. Other than that, we we do, too, where we love her when we read these books. And so every time that anyone, whether Yorick or Lee or anyone else, is like Lyras, the greatest were like, yes, agreed. Finally, someone else sees it.

S3: I mean, part of that is just the surface of the plotline. But I. I agree that this was sort of kind of clumsily executed, but I don’t really have that big of a problem with this little bit of back story that he’s been given. And I do feel that it’s interesting the way all of these different people that Mrs. Coulter encounters put pressure on the story. She’s been telling herself about how why she is the way she is. But anyway, let’s go back to the rest of the episode, which feels to me like a kind of a transitional episode. There’s some catching up with. A lot of storylines are pushing this bit a little bit further to set something else up. We see Mary Malone struggling to communicate with dust, trying to do it the way that she’s seen Lyra do it. But of course, we know that Lara does it in this kind of unconscious way. And Mary Malone is not that kind of person. So she’s she’s she’s having a hard time. But then she unwittingly activates the cave when she goes off and cast the etching. And I believe in the in the books that they have, you know, a traditional set of of etching Yaro stocks in the in in the actual lab and the office of the lab. So I believe that’s where she is when she’s doing this. So there there’s some proximity. The etching is a is a very ancient Chinese method of divination that uses these stocks. And the euro stocks is like the most kind of old school way to do it. And there’s this complicated method that is used to generate semi random numbers that form a hexagonal pattern that you then can interpret using this text that’s about 2500 years old. The etching, the translation of the of the name is the book of Changes. And while it may not be obvious to the Western eye that the hexagons of the etching resemble the Aletha ometer, they’re nevertheless understood in Chinese culture to represent certain images like the ones on Lyras Compass or for that matter, images on something like tarot cards, another divination tool that’s used, but this one from the West. And all of these objects in his dark materials are like an interface between human beings and dust, like a way that we can communicate with dust. And the frame of mind that Mary goes into when she’s casting the etching is very different from the frame of mind that she was in when she was sitting at the computer and being frustrated, which is an important point. And when she cast teaching, the message that she gets is actually, I don’t think from the etching itself. I think it’s a quote from lots of the the founder of Daoism, but that the line is to the mind that is still the whole universe surrenders. And that is a very important piece of the whole of the puzzle of how human beings interact with with dust.

Advertisement
Advertisement

S5: It’s really interesting to see the way that Mary interprets dust using the Chang, the sort of long intermediated struggle that she goes through to just get this very simple message. And you compare it, you know, to the way the Lyra interacts with the phenomena, which is so intuitive and instinctive. And there’s just this magical talent that has come to her, this ability to be connected to dust and to read its messages. Mary Malone’s way of of communicating with dust is much more like from Paval or any other Aletha ometer reader and Lyras world one who doesn’t have her sort of preternatural gift. You remember him last season, like painstakingly going through all these enormous books to decode every last little twitch of the needle, according to this ancient knowledge. And it’s not that different for Mary Malone, like trying to suss out what hexagonal shape has been made by these numbers, then referring to her book, which then gives her like not very not particularly useful or specific responses that she that has to try and tease out just knows that shit. And she doesn’t have to go through that whole rigmarole but just still communicates.

S3: Yeah. The answer that that that each can gives her is pretty clear. She just doesn’t understand it. And that’s the other thing about Lyra. Not only is she able to sort of interpret these symbols, but she can convert them into the kind of message that she needs to hear more easily than the adults can write about.

S5: Who is the saint that she asked Paon about an episode to? When she asks where she’ll find the scholar, it’s like Pen, who’s the saint who has such and such. And he goes, Well, it’s Saint Peter, right? Because. All right. So it must be at Saint Peter’s College.

Advertisement
Advertisement

S3: Yeah. Yeah. It’s just she doesn’t she I think it’s almost that because she’s in the. Applying that much intellect to it, it just comes to so much, so much more easily. OK, so another thing that we see in this episode that is a really sweet moment, is Lyra going to the movies then?

S5: What do you think the significance is of the movie that will take her to see which is which is Paddington, Paddington, one at two, very firmly locating this in a very particular time and place? I don’t know that there’s any specific significance to Paddington other than that. It’s an incredibly good movie. It’s also sort of created by the same sort of broader British upmarket culture cabal that that Jack Thorne belongs to. And it is a similarly good and tasteful adaptation of a beloved children’s work. But the thing that I most love about this scene is the idea that the Lyra on watching this movie sees on the screen a talking bear and unlike everyone else in that movie theater, would just be like, oh, OK, sure, yeah. That bears talk. That’s what they do in my experience that she seems not fazed by that at all. I really love how enraptured Lyra is by the movie. I love how she just can’t stop eating popcorn like all the rest of us. And in the book, Lyra loves movies even more. And in fact, there’s a very funny bit in the book about how we’ll take her to a movie, really just to kill some time until the evening when he feels like they’re less likely to be caught or seen. But it ends up creating one of her most endearing moments when she at the end of the movie, she’s like, that was the best thing I ever saw in my entire life. I don’t know why they never invented this in my world. And then and then Will’s like, it’s not late enough. What should we do? And she’s like, let’s watch another movie. So they do. And then later, she declares that there are only two things that are better about Wilsford than her world, which is the cinema and hamburger’s or seems like a very appropriate response for a kid her age. And it’s a very endearing and and connective moment.

Advertisement
Advertisement

S3: OK, and so last but not least in this episode, the plot gets a major kick forward when Lord Borrell shows up in his fancy ass Tesla saving Lyra from the guy who apparently I thought he was working with try to capture. I mean, I cannot keep track of this guy and his schemes and his skullduggery and who are his henchmen and allies and who isn’t. But he he rescues her from The Paleface Man, and then it seems like he’s going to make off with her, but then he just lets her out. He seems like such a nice guy. She doesn’t recognize him. And it’s only when she gets out of the car she realizes that he’s taken her aletha ometer.

S5: It seems to me that it’s not a coincidence that he’s there right when she’s being chased by dollface man and that he sees an opportunity to get her directly in his clutches for some period of time and to connect to her. And he doesn’t mind undercutting his henchmen goals, at least for that moment, because it certainly gets him closer to what he wants. Yeah.

S3: Yeah. So he’s just not somebody that you want to be in a league with because he’s just going to he’s out for to find Will and Lara knows where Wil is and and he’s screwed now because Borrell decided he wanted the elite, the orbiter instead. So then Lara and will decide to confront him. They go to his of course, super sleek, highly, you know, automated palatial abode and and and demand it. And he basically tells them that he’ll only give it back to them if they bring him a very special knife from the tree they fly into Gaza. Then what do you think Orioles game is it?

Advertisement
Advertisement

S5: It has never been entirely clear what Borel’s game is he. He wants his knife and he clearly knows about and cares about the connection between worlds in the books. We learn that he’s found his way into a dozen or so other worlds and that he’s been in this one for years, I think for like twelve years, he says. And he’s been working as a spy. He’s been sort of working the levers of power, which he says were easy for him to recognize in this world because of all the work he’d done in Lyras world. Also sort of advancing up the ranks of the of the the the fringes of the magisterium. He got knighted in this world. Just the usual stuff you do if you’re just like brand new to to a world.

S3: No background check on this guy.

S5: The idea that you could just show up in a completely different world with carrying around a tiny snake and be knighted within twelve years is fantastic. But he’s but he’s really smooth. He’s like a cool customer. He’s much smoother and cooler in the TV series than he is in the books, you know, in. He’s a handsome young man and a Tesla with a beautiful house straight out of and suits, lovely suits, lovely, beautiful suits, a like a very luxe accent and the books, he’s like an old creeper and a Rolls-Royce with his horrible perfume scented pocket squares. The Lyra gets really fixated on just the dirtiest old man you can possibly imagine. Yeah, much nicer to deal with and look at in this series, but no clearer, I think, as to what his eventual goals are. We know that he’s a grasper for power. We get the sense that he’s someone who wants in some way to master these other worlds or at least to use the connections between these other worlds to his own benefit. But we don’t exactly know why or how.

Advertisement
Advertisement

S3: We do know that he’s collecting things because he has this elaborate collection in this kind of basement museum thing that he ushers Will and Larapinta into. So maybe he just wants to acquire a lot of stuff.

S5: But I could say and they do get the sense that maybe his predilection for collecting is one of the ways that he’s accumulated as well. Right. Like in this in the way that, you know, Lyra, I can’t remember if this happens in the series, but in the books she has some coins. And Will is like, are you just carrying around solid gold coins? Yeah, because in her world, things have a completely different value than in Will’s world. And so if you’re a canny person who’s good at collecting things and then and then exchanging them for for the currency, whether the social currency or the physical hard currency of whatever world you’re in, you can maybe accumulate a lot of wealth and influence in a short amount of time.

S1: We’ll just have to wait till next week’s episode to find out a little bit more about what this guy is up to. That episode is called The Tower of the Angels, which is the English.

S2: No one’s in the tower are the angels, of course. Well, I don’t know why you think so.

S1: No, there’s nobody up there. Nobody up there at all. So join us next week. And in the meantime, talk to us on Twitter.

S5: I’m at at Magicians book and Dan is at Dan Kois or email us a question or a comment or a photo of a Florentine tower and ask the authority at Slate.

S1: Dotcom was so cool that he sent us that. Our producer is Phil Cercas, Slate’s editorial director for audio is Gabriel Roth. I’m Laura Miller. I’m Dan Joyce. And remember, without stories, we wouldn’t be human beings at all.