S1: The world’s changing. They’ve all sensed in. The prophecy is clear. Duty is to protect the girl and boy wherever they are. Something happened as well. People are going to be left to. And I’m looking for a girl named Lyra.
S2: Welcome to the authority Slate’s His Dark Materials podcast, it’s season two, Episode six MALLIS. We’re Slate’s resident scholars of experimental theology.
S3: My name is Laura Miller. I’m a books and culture columnist for Slate. And my demon is a sea otter named Sukie.
S4: I’m Dan Kois. I’m a writer at Slate and my deman as a prairie vole named Gilda Ha. What is the problem, Gilda?
S5: I don’t know what the problem is. Maybe you should ask Osserman.
S3: Oh, not this again. Wait, who’s Osserman?
S5: Dan’s other demon.
S4: What? It’s not what it sounds like. I can explain. Yes, please explain. For the second season of the TV show, HBO released this app called My Demon. It’s on your phone and you take a short quiz and it assigns an animal to be your demon. I downloaded it for research. Gilda and I wound up with a monkey named Ousman.
S6: Oh, well, that sounds harmless, Gildo. There’s a ton of online quizzes that assign you a demon. They’re not accurate humans, just like taking the socky.
S5: This app is so much worse. It’s a total mockery of the human demon relationship. Every time Diane opens it, all Osserman does is make stupid jokes and ask Dan about his mood. And if he says he’s feeling energetic, he tells him to exercise, or if he’s stressed, she tells him to listen to music. I mean, duh.
S4: Yes, it’s a little basic. But one thing that’s pretty cool is that you can see your demon in augmented reality mode. You can see me in regular reality mode, and you unlock new animations for your demon by completing activities. There’s a story mode or you can follow along a pants journey. But even that isn’t very exciting. It’s just more of what Gilda was talking about, telling you to walk for a certain distance or watch a video. The app wants you to link it to Apple Health or to Spotify.
S3: It sounds more like a self care app than a demon app.
S4: That’s all it is.
S5: As I keep telling Gilda, they have no business calling that thing a demon. I am the living embodiment of a human soul, and I cannot be replaced by some inane faux wellness, corporate cross promotional data collecting bad joke telling Kweskin.
S6: Maybe I’ll delete the app. Probably a good idea, Laura, maybe you should get back to what you’re going to be covering in today’s show.
S3: OK, in this episode, the characters converge in the world of Chita Garza. The witches are in the rainforest like wilderness outside of the city. And Mary Malone is strolling around, throwing the eating and getting some sun. Lord Borio and Mrs. Coulter have a very interesting encounter with some Spectre’s and Lee and Joe Perry travel through Azriel anomaly and float over it all until they don’t mallis cover sections of chapters 11 through 15 of the subtle knife. This week we’re going to go in depth into Japa himself, that interdimensional man of mystery and many names. He’s Will’s father. He’s a famous German explorer whose head is not, in fact in a box and he’s a shaman. So what’s his deal?
S7: So I’m still amazed that Gilda managed to slam the door somehow, as always, on the authority. We’re going to be talking about the world of his dark materials without spoiling the story of his dark materials. We’ll fill in some blanks. We’ll talk about the way the book treats these scenes and we’ll investigate characters and concepts, but we won’t discuss what’s in store in episodes ahead. So unless you’re allergic to knowing anything outside the bounds of the TV show, you should find our podcast Spoiler Safe.
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 aletha ometer, you can just e-mail us at Ask the Authority, all one word at Slate. Com.
S7: We got a ton of great email this week. Thank you, listeners. Lots of amazing questions and comments. The first one I want to mention is a extremely good joke from the 10 year old daughter of listener Kristen Wilson, who noted that Will’s knife, if a knife cuts off your fingers, it’s not very subtle, is it? So now in the Wilson household, they call it the obvious knife on a more cosmic level.
S3: Lamine Hendricks writes in to ask if there are counterparts to Lyra. Will Mrs. Coulter or any of the other characters in the various universes? Or are individuals unique to each world and Pullmans different universes? That is a good question. What do you say, Dan?
S7: Well, we mostly don’t know for sure, but characters think about it and speculated one of my favorite sections of the subtle knife has Liara and well, considering it together, it’s while Wil and Lyra are walking through the forest and the cheetah Gaza world. And, you know, Will is telling later about his life in Oxford. He tells her about how he only found the window to another world because he just happened to see a cat hop through it. And Lyra tells him how she only set off on this adventure because she happened to stick around the retiring room to stop the master of Jordan College from placing Lord Israel in the section ends like this. Both of them sat silent on the moss covered rock and the slant of sunlight through the old pines and thought how many tiny chances had conspired to bring them to this place. Each of those chances might have gone a different way. Perhaps in another world, another will had not seen the window in Sunderland Avenue and had wandered on tired and lost toward the Midlands until he was caught. And in another world, another Pangilinan had persuaded another Lyra not to stay in the retiring room, and another Lord Azriel had been poisoned, and another Roger had survived to play with that Lyra forever on the roofs and in the alleys of another unchanging Oxford. There are many worlds in his dark materials and some of them, as we’ll see and as we’ve seen, don’t seem to correspond with any particular other world that’s familiar to us. But the two oxfords, Laura, and the similarities between them seem to me less like different worlds and more like the same world in different universes, where somewhere back in history, tiny choices caused some kind of divergence. And so there are similarities between them that are obvious, but differences between them that are obvious. And there’s one really fascinating piece of evidence that, in fact, there are counterparts that people in one world can have counterparts in another. And that’s when Lyra is in the Pit Rivers Museum and Wilsford, she sees this photograph of Samoyed hunters and she identifies them as the exact same men who kidnapped her from the Egyptians and took her to bowl Vanger back in her world. And there’s this totally dizzying moment where she sees in the museum the very sledged she was riding on, displayed as an exhibit with its rope frayed and reenacted in exactly the same spot. And she thinks, what were these mysteries? Was there only one world, after all, which spent its time dreaming of others? I really love that. All right, one more reader question. The questions were really good this week. Sara last week wrote, It’s very curious to me that the patriarchal nature of Lyras world means the men’s demons. Most of them, anyway, are female, and yet women are relegated to lesser status. Sarah thinks it stands to reason that having this visible reminder of both the female and the male and each person would lead to a more equitable society, and yet somehow men managed to control it. Laura, what do you think about this?
S3: You know, well, it’s true that every person who lives in Lyras universe has this evidence right before their eyes. That part of themselves belongs to a different gender. I think you could also say that having that demon be, you know, literally a physically separate creature from the person could make it easier to think of that part of the self as being something they can keep a distance from as something that is both them, but not really them.
S8: In the same way that Mr. Coulter is obviously keeping part of herself at arm’s length by giving her own demon the cold shoulder by being alienated from her own demon, you can see the idea that maybe if the female part of you is a completely separate being in a in a gender essentialist world, you become even more gender essentialist and think that the male part is focused within you.
S3: Yeah, you could just say, well, now everything that is possibly feminine has been subtracted from me and placed in this outside entity. And so I am purely, you know, one or the other.
S4: It’s notable to me that Joe Perry is the only man we ever hear, I think, in anywhere in these books on the fact that his demon is female and who finds it wondrous to discover that. So I like to think of Joe Perry not only as a interdimensional man of mystery, but as a pioneering feminist in Lyras world.
S3: So many hats he wears over his little man bun. Yeah. So onto the episode. This this one is very much devoted to positioning the characters for meetings and confrontations in the finale, but it does open with a really important introduction. While the witches are regrouping in the wild outside of Chita Garza, they look up into the sky and they see angels fly past and they look kind of like horizontal comets. Now, up until this point, we’ve only heard the angel speak, and that is through Mary Malone’s computer in the book Rouda Scottie flies up. She’s she’s on her own, I think. And she flies up to investigate this phenomenon. And she follows the angels and she speaks with them and she gets a lot of information from them. But in this episode, or at least in the series so far, we only see them from far away. And she and Seraphin agree that if Azriel has allied with the Angels, he will be extremely powerful in the coming war with the Magisterium. So they decide together that Rouda should go off and search for Israel and join forces with him. Then what do you think of this change with how the angels are introduced, you know, and what the idea of making them, keeping them so far in the distance?
S4: It’s interesting, even in the books, when we meet the Angels and even when we meet and deal with individual angels, there’s still a little bit off in the distance. They’re just so weird and inhuman and intentionally incomprehensible in a way beyond human can. My hunch and I’ll be curious to see whether this is right, is that the series might wait to really get in deep with the Angels until season three, which honestly is probably fine considering how much new stuff has already been thrown at us. And this season to then bring like the otherworldliness of angels into this, you know, right toward the tail end when there’s still so much stuff to cover, might be like too much. I might be OK with this.
S3: Yeah, we have in season two, we have multiple worlds. And I think that’s one of the catchphrases of the series in. There are new worlds to explore, but angels are something that it’s just not even really a new world. So that’s like going to ratchet things up quite a bit when they come into play. OK, so back to Gaza. The urchins of the city come after and Lyra in revenge for Tullio getting eaten by one of the Spectre’s and the witches swoop in at the last minute to save them. Then suddenly they’re all witches and our two heroes just sort of magically out of the silly and wandering around in this lush samite tropical setting full of grottos and waterfalls and caves. It’s really kind of gorgeous. But that raises an interesting question. Can the witches carry humans through the air or or did the series just skip over a big chunk of travel time to get them out of the city more quickly than Mrs. Coulter getting back to London for Muscovy?
S8: I bet the witches could pick them up and carry them if they want to, but I don’t think that’s what happened here. And the book I went back and checked and the trip from Chitungwiza, where the witches fly in to rescue them from the urchins who are about to try and kill them to the cave in the woods is not actually that far. I mean, it’s a 30 minute walk. If you’re healthy, it takes them nearly two hours because well as feeling so bad from his hand. But even if Philip and just sort of slides right past it, you know, he deals with it in two sentences of off screen commentary, basically because it’s boring. It’s boring that they’re walking their Gaza. In general, I find the geography of it really interesting because the city is compact but dense. But it’s so steep that I actually think that the walk up to the tower would take you forever and be really arduous. Yet people are just constantly stopping by the tower for a quick look, see, and then going somewhere else in the city. But I actually think it would take like an hour to get up to the tower from the base where, you know, the little isthmus that joins the island near island of Chitungwiza to the the mainland. But that’s the isthmus that they walk. And I think the series just sort of slips past it because it’s just them walking and, well, complaining about his his arm or whatever. And his his hand is getting worse and worse, despite the fact that in this episode, the witches put a spell on it to heal it. And it doesn’t seem to be getting better. And so the witches want to bring both children back to Lyras World where they could find more powerful medicine. And this is the nagging conflict in the episode and one that doesn’t quite get resolved. And I have a couple of questions about it. You know, the witches want to spirit away so they can protect her. They want to they want to protect her role in the prophecy will mistrusts the witches. Lyra trusts them, even though in the in the series version of the story, she’s never met them before. She just like knows Sarafina Pecola and understands her, whereas in the books she has many encounters with her in the Golden Compass and therefore knows her intimately by the time she shows up again in the subtle knife. A fine question raised by some small viewers and my family was if they need better herbs from their world, why doesn’t we’ll just cut a window and go get some herbs from our world. The easy answer, probably, as it seems, is that Will is not willing yet to show that, which is exactly what the subtle knife can do, or the obvious knife, if you prefer. They know that it repels Spectre’s, but they don’t necessarily know everything you can do and will because he mistrust them, seems to want to leave it that way. His goal is just to push on to find his father with Lyra by themselves, wherever his father is. What he doesn’t know quite yet is that that same father is now in charge of Gaza, flying toward them in Lee’s balloon pursued by Magisterium Zeppelins.
S3: One of the things I find so funny about this episode is that almost every other character is stressed out on some urgent quest they’re running away from. People are trying to kill them. There’s inspectors, there’s the magisterium, there’s the there’s Will’s wound. Zeppelins chasing a balloon. Yeah, but Mary Malone is just meandering through to Gaza in her sneakers with a backpack like a tourist. And, you know, every so often she stops to throw the itching and she sits on the steps leafing through the book of changes, which makes her look even more like a tourist who’s sort of paused in her sightseeing to browse through a copy of Let’s Go to Gaza, the rough guide that she took. And she even you know, there’s even this moment where she, you know, goes out to the little beach and she stops to sit in the sun for a while just to bask a bit. And we get a brief glimpse of the angel wings over her head to remind us that they are protecting her from the Spectre’s. But I have to say that given how much time Mary has spent in that lab and rainy old England, I think she’s entitled to soak up some sun, which is what her sister has been telling her for ages.
S4: It’s nice, I think I sort of think of it as her academic sabbatical. Like academics are only supposed to get that every seven or eight years. Yeah, some of them go to Florence. She goes to someplace that’s even better than Florence because no one’s even discovered it yet. Yeah, while she’s walking around she to Gaza, she meets Paula and Angelica in this very surprising scene that is not in the books at all, in which the two little girls meet her, realize she’s from another world, and then ask her for a hug because they’re feeling so sad. And then Mary offers to take them up to the mountains to try and find their families. And it’s very sweet, a little out of character for these urchins who had just seconds ago saw trying to kill Lyra and Will and seeming incredibly evil and scary.
S8: Yeah, right. Right. It is a good reminder that there’s still little kids. What do you think it does for Mary to have her have this experience?
S3: I think that part of it is that Mary is just so I mean, she’s so decent that it would be a little bit weird for her to see these sort of orphaned urchins and not be concerned about their well-being. I also think that it does stress well, of course, the children, they seem really horrible. But the idea seems to be that the series is presenting is that one of the reasons they’re so horrible is that they’re so bereft. And as soon as they see this nice adult woman, all they want is to be mothered, you know, and Mary Malone or she doesn’t actually have children herself, has obviously been positioned as the good mother for her own opposition to mass culture. The good mother for Lyra, the one who listens to her and believes her and cares about what Lyra wants, as opposed to just trying to, you know, and fold her into her own plots the way Mrs. Coulter does.
S4: Yeah. Like, imagine if Angelica and Paola had found Mrs. Coulter and Chitungwiza instead, they’d be they’d be like murdering people in seconds.
S3: So true. Meanwhile, back at the Magisterium, Cardinal McPhail finally gets his Aletha ometer rating from Ropeable, who’s been looking through his books. And what he has wanted to know is what Mrs. Coulter is up to, what she after. And the answer is that she’s looking for Lyra. And that begs the question of why is labor so important and what is this other name that the witches are talking about? Here’s the clip where they go into it.
S2: The name is her destiny. It foretells she will be in the position of the one who brought about her downfall. Mother of us all cause of all sin. What is the child’s name, the ELISA ometer does not forecast if it comes about that she is tempted by the serpent, then it is likely she will fall. Then Dustin said, trial for name from Pather.
S4: Speak the name. So that scene cuts away before a panel can answer a little bit coy, his dark materials. At this point, I feel like most viewers must have figured out the name of the series is still not ready to divulge it.
S7: I’m sure it will happen soon. Later on, we see McPhail giving a speech to his head Ferrars announcing that Lyor will be the first person to make a sacrifice in the name of the authority, which when I heard it, made me realize, oh, that makes her a little Jesusa.
S8: That’s a that places her in the role in the Magisterium theology that Jesus occupies in Christian theology. And it reminds me that in this world there right there is no Jesus like that. The Christian church doesn’t have a Jesus figure. We know there’s an Old Testament. We hear Azriel reading from their book of Genesis. But is there like a New Testament?
S3: Well, it’s it’s true. It’s a really this is a really murky issue. It’s true that Christian theology and specifically Jesus Christ himself make I’m thinking no, no appearance that I can recall at all in the trilogy. And some Christian and particularly Catholic critics of the series have complained about this. It should be noted that magisterium is a word that the Catholic Church uses for itself sometimes. But it seems to me that Pulman just doesn’t really want to get into the specifics of the religion itself. He’s mostly interested in the church, the magisterium as a worldly authority, and the way that it justifies its abuse of power for other worldly reasons that we, the audience, mostly recognize as pretexts and at least in some cases. So some of the officials of the Magisterium do seem to believe sincerely in some sort of creed of atonement or whatever. We seem from Excel, you know, burning his hand after ordering the attacks on the witches. But I think the ultimate goal, really, of the organization, even if it’s using these, you know, even if there are these individual interventions happening against the idea of sin. Is that the ultimate purpose of at all is the supremacy and power of the church? And I don’t think that Pullman thinks that the specifics of any particular theology is that important if the behavior of the people who are running the institutional religion is basically the same, which is power seeking and thought squelching. So now at this point, we come to one of the more striking moments in this episode. We’ve seen Mrs. Coulter and Lord Borrell enter Chita Garza through the window that will discovered. And they’re looking around the city for Lyra in, you know, much more nervously than Mary Malonis. And Mrs. Coulter sees one of the zombie like adult victims of inspectors. And instead of being horrified, she just seems kind of intrigued and fascinated. And then finally, a specter appears down at the other end of the street and Boreal slowly backs into a storefront and closes the door and locks it behind him, which suggests that he’s not actually that concerned about mass culture. But instead of her being gobbled up while he escapes, she seems completely unafraid and she’s somehow able to keep the Spectre’s from attacking her. In fact, she seems able to control them. How does she do it?
S4: It’s pretty amazing power in it. It clearly shocks boreal that movement of him withdrawing into the cafe and leaving her in the plaza as one of the great moments of comedy in this episode. A little bit later, we see her sitting at a table with Borio and they’re celebrating this kind of alliance she has created with Spectre’s. And she explains why she believes she has made this connection to them. Let’s listen. Tell me something.
S9: I will tell you anything you like. How do you control them? Well, they consume what makes us human. So I just hid that. I suppress myself.
S8: So this totally thrills Boreal, who thinks the two of them are going to become like the power couple of the multiverse with her as the Spectre whisperer and him the bearer of the subtle knife. And he tells Mrs. Coulter that, you know, now that he comes to think of it, she is his equal in every way, but not so fast. Borrell, you burn this place, a window, all the things you’ve kept for me.
S9: It would have been so much easier if you told me about IRA when you first had her. You did so much for me to think, I don’t know that. But your ambitions were small. They would have always ended here. While I don’t need you, you would only hold me back.
S3: OK, so in the book, Mrs. Coulter tells Borrell that the Spectre’s serve her because she because they know that she will bring them more victims. Diane, what did you think about the alternate explanation for how Mrs. Culture controls these monsters?
S4: It is a way more interesting character choice, right? Like the Pullmans version of she’s evil. They recognize her evil. And therefore what she knows exactly what they appeal to, what she knows, exactly what appeals to them, which is the desire to eat more people. That’s like fun. But it’s like a a very two dimensional villains choice here. It continues a thread that the show has been tugging at for a while about the distance she is creating between herself and her own human urges and emotions, you know, like her ability to separate from her demon. When when Borrell noticed that about her, she mentioned the witches. But she also framed it charmingly, I thought, as in terms of exquisite self-control, she says, oh, you haven’t met a woman who can control herself, Borrell. And I’m really fascinated by it. I will say her golden monkey does not seem like he’s a fan.
S3: No. Now, we also see her afterwards holding her hand over a candle, just like Froben Fail did after ordering the airstrikes on the witches. And we know that when he did this, he offered it up as a kind of penance. That’s what he and his demon discussed. What do you think, Dan? Is Mrs. Coulter sincerely paying for the sin of murdering Borio? It seems that seems kind of out of character.
S4: No, I don’t think so at all. I didn’t read, like, penance to me at all. Seemed like a way of differentiating her from MacPhail, who himself is not that great of a dude, but who at least his faith seems at least somewhat sincere. Right. It seems like to me a kind of final separation of herself from her humanity or at least an attempt to do so. She mutters this mantra of strength, of salvation to her monkey demon who looks honestly just appalled by the whole thing. I will note that I kept score. I went back and checked. MacPhail kept his hand over the candle for only 11 seconds. Mrs. Coulter makes it a full 15 seconds. So good job, Mrs. Coulter.
S3: Yeah, I mean, clearly what we’re seeing is that she is. Not suffering for the sake of suffering, but suffering to prove that she can withstand it, that she has this self-control, that she can, you know, force herself to endure all of these things and in that she will be saved, which is, I think probably, you know, the the the big error of her life is that she was confronted with all of these challenges and injustices. And her response was to simply crush her own feelings about it.
S4: Right. To put herself through hell in order to excel in the worlds in which she’s been forced to try to show that she can she can take it. So in this episode, we also get a little bit more from Joe, a.k.a. John Perry, a.k.a. Stanislaus Gruman, a.k.a. the hot shamen about why he has summoned Lee to take him to the knife bear. Let’s listen.
S2: So we find the bear of the subtle knife and what then we tell him what his task is. That task includes protecting Lyra. It will protect us all.
S4: So we’ve got that, but honestly, even by the very end of this episode, all we really know about Jobbery is that he loves being enigmatic and that he’s told me he needs to bring the knife bare to Azriel in order to create a world where his son can think freely. So in this episode, let’s take a closer look at Joe Jobbery. Laura, what do we know about this Royal Marine, the shamon, this man of many names?
S3: Well, most of what we know from the books comes from Will’s memories of what his mother has told him about his father, which this highly romanticized accounts. And then this packet of letters that John Perry sent home from his final expedition, the very letters that the pale face man and the other authorities from our world were ransacking his home and terrorizing his mother to try to get their hands on.
S4: And in the books, we we get long excerpts from these letters and John Perry’s voice, which are like big, interesting information dumps, right?
S3: Yes. And Will sits in Gaza reading them. We got a little scene of him doing that in the series because he he’s been told that by his mother that he’s going to take on his father’s mantle and he is obsessed with the idea that he is going to carry on for his father. So those letters do, in fact, contain the exact coordinates in our world for the window that John Perry found into Chita Garza. The letters also reveal that he was looking for an anomaly in Alaska after hearing rumors about it, although the public explanation for his expedition was that they were searching for evidence of early human settlements in that area. So then during a blizzard on this expedition, he and some members of his party accidentally passed through the anomaly into Chita Garza. He was the only member of that group to survive the Spector’s long enough to find a window into Lyras world. And that’s where he’s been living all this time.
S4: We don’t get a lot of details in the series about how John Perry got his demon, Psion Koja. She’s an Osprey. But according to the books, interestingly, it didn’t just like happen the second he walked into Layer’s world. It was like he stepped through the window and poof, he had a demon simply by virtue of being there. It happened after work, he became a student of a man named Ivan Telson. Tulchin, not sure, not a character in the series, a shaman who belonged to a Tartar tribe called the NSA doctors. They seem roughly equivalent to like Central Asian people in our world. Perry says that Ivan Tulchin taught him about the spirit world.
S7: And I’m really interested in the notion that the just as it requires a kind of ordeal to learn to separate from your demon like the trial, which is put themselves through, it requires study and a connection to the spirit world to discover your demon if you weren’t born with one.
S3: Yeah, that’s an interesting and fascinating point.
S4: We don’t know a lot about shamans and Pullmans fictional world. They have some of the powers of witches. I’d like witches. They’re born human. They can’t fly. But as Perry, Riley puts Italy where he needed to fly. So he summoned Lee, who’s got a balloon. We also see that like witches, Perry can control the weather. He can summon flocks of birds to attack the Magisterium aircraft. In the book, The Subtle Knife, he even can control Spectre’s, he sends one up to kill the pilot of one of the Zeppelins. It’s quite a terrible scene. The show doesn’t have him do that. But nevertheless, the combination of what we see in this episode of the show and what we know from the books about Joe Perry’s abilities, it makes a connection between John Perry and Mrs. Coulter, one that I think the show is kind of tentatively exploring through Andrew Scott’s performance. I think there is something a little bit inhuman about John Perry. Right. He’s very emotionally detached. He loves giving these enigmatic answers while doing mysterious things. He seems a little bit above the world. He’s under the impression that his man bun looks great when actually look stupid.
S3: I mean, he has magical powers. And he’s also been a scholar of experimental theology under the name of Stanislas Grumman in Europe. In fact, he was for a while a student at Jordan College. He published an important paper on the properties of the magnetic poles, once again demonstrating the sexism of Lyras world.
S4: He just waltzes into the world and publishes a paper for Mrs Coulter, lives there her whole life and doesn’t get to.
S3: Most of these activities were part of his long effort to get back to his own world. So while, you know he is sort of otherworldly, I think he kind of got there trying to get back to to his family and he just couldn’t do it. He wasn’t able to do it. And so by the time we see him in the series, he’s very sort of resigned to that at the very beginning of this story when the whole trilogy, you know, the beginning of the Golden Compass, when Azriel shows up to give his incendiary talk at Jordan College and and ask for funding for another expedition. This is what Lyras eavesdropping in the cupboard, he presents the scholars with this frozen head, which he claims is Grumman’s. Dan, why does Israel do that?
S4: I’m not exactly sure he he knows it’s not Grumman’s like for a long time, my assumption was just, you know, some Tataris gave him a head and said it was Grumman’s, which is basically how he explains it to the scholars. But it’s clear that Azrael and John Perry are in cahoots. In fact, I would sort of describe him as like the only real human ally that Israel ever has. Azrael mostly keeps to himself, even abandons faithful servant Thorold to the Magisterium. But he has this longstanding, very complicated plan going with Perry that it seems like for some reason included faking Stanislaus Crimean’s death, maybe was because the Magisterium, as we saw in that scene within the observatory, views Gruman as a heretic. Maybe they were after him. So faking his death might throw them off his trail. Maybe it was to convince the scholars at Jordan of the seriousness of Israel’s purpose by showing them that one of their students, a star student, had been killed in the research of all the stuff.
S3: Yeah, he definitely seems to think that this murder or whatever it is, will convince the scholars that they need to support the expedition.
S4: Right. The reveal is about everyone like is all. So about the severed head. Was not John Perry a severed head? It’s right there on his very attractive shoulders, but it’s shared with his actual head. One property, which is it had been hand, that is, it had had a hole drilled into the skull while the owner of the skull, whoever he was, was still alive. That’s a custom in these books of both the Tartars and the scrawlings that were supposed to make it easier for them to communicate with the spirit world or to think of it another way to travel between worlds. It’s also a real practice in this world that goes back to prehistoric times. And notably, John Perry, living person, also had this done as part of his education as a shaman around the time he discovered his demon. And remember that when Lyra went to the museum and Will’s Oxford deleted it or told her that the skulls that were displayed there had more dust collected around them than the ones that had not been manipulated in that way.
S3: So while the you know, the in our world, the ancient practice of trepanning, as was sometimes sort of seen as like a medical thing, or to let bad spirits out of the head of people who are maybe mentally ill, this really suggests that dust does find something really attractive about this procedure.
S4: Right. That the combination of craft and a literal hole into your brain really gets dust excited.
S3: Yeah, it’s like it’s a lot to ask dust. So Azrael met Gruman in the north when Azriel was conducting his original experiments and documenting Dust’s. Those photographs that he showed to the to the scholars in Jordan were part of that. And it was there that John Perry learned of Israel’s plans for war and resolved to help him by bringing the bearer of the subtle knife to Israel as real, as far as we know, has never been out of his own universe. So he didn’t know about the nice existence until Gruman told him and Gruman learned about it at some point from Giacomo Perry, do you see a.k.a. Terence Stamp, who who died in the episode of the Tower of the Angels and the previous night Bear? But what exactly the knife bearers role is supposed to be in Israel’s cause is still not clear in the series. Is the knife just the super weapon that you know you need to bring to this massive battle? Or does it have some specific purpose? Will surely find out more about that in the next season? I think so.
S4: Through some very handsome meditation, John Perry brings down two of the Zeppelins chasing Lee’s balloon. But while the third is retreating, it brings down the balloon and Lee and John crash land in the forest in the Chitungwiza world somewhere, presumably not so far from where Lyra and Will and the witches are wandering around on their own. So will Lee and John Perry make it to, well, will they discover that the knife bearer and John’s long lost son are somehow one in the same?
S3: We’ll find out in the season finale Episode seven as The Heter join us then. And in the meantime, talk to us on Twitter. I’m at Magician’s Book and Dan is at at Dan Kois or email us a question or comment and ask the authority at Slate.
S4: Dotcom will answer your last questions of the year and our season finale next week.
S3: Our producer is Phil Circus. Slate’s editorial director for audio is Gabriel Roth.
S4: This week’s discussion of the Maidment app was written by Marissa Martinelli. I’m Laura Miller and I’m sorry, I’m Dan Coifs and I guess I’m still OK.
S3: And remember, without stories, we wouldn’t be human beings at all.