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 in this world. 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 and season two, Episode five, The Skoller. We’re Slate’s resident scholars of experimental theology. I’m Dan Coates. I’m a writer at Slate. And my deman is a Prairieville named Gilda.
S3: I’m Laura Miller and books and culture columnist for Slate. And my demon is a sea otter named Sukie.
S2: And this episode Lehren will steal the Aletha ometer back from Lord Borrell.
S4: Cardinal McPhail begins the Great Magisterium Purge. Mary Malone goes on a trip and Mrs. Coulter considers bluejeans. A lot of exciting things happen in this episode. We’re going to go in-depth today into the scholar of the title are really the scholars because this episode makes the argument that you can’t talk about Mary Malone without talking about Mrs. Coulter.
S3: As always, on the authority, we’re talking about the world of his dark materials without spoiling the story of his dark materials, will fill in some blanks. Talk about the way the book treats these scenes and investigate characters, but we won’t discuss what’s in store. So unless you’re allergic to knowing anything outside the bounds of the TV show, you should find our podcasts spoiler free.
S4: And we’re here to answer your questions. If you’ve got a burning question about his dark materials and you can’t figure out how to ask your Lethe ometer email, ask the authority at Slate Dotcom this week, we’ve got the same question from two different listeners, Dan Leterrier and David Hendricks.
S3: They both want to know if the windows are just sitting there, the windows between the worlds. That is, why haven’t more people walked through them? Can only some people see them?
S4: Well, Dan and Dave, in this week’s episode, Mrs. Coulter asks basically the same thing. Of course, Lord Broils like, oh, no, no one else could ever be as smart as me and find the windows. But he’s wrong. People do find these windows all the time. Windows that previous bearer’s barriers before Will left open. John Perry found one, for example. He found it because it had existed in the frozen north of Alaska for centuries. The Eskimos, according to the books, had used it all that time as part of an initiation ceremony for medicine men and also cats find them right. Cats find the will finds his first one because of catwalks right there.
S3: Right, right. But for the most part, the bears seem to have been careful to cut the windows and inconspicuous places like the wilds of Alaska, although the one that will finds in the book in the subtle knife, the one that the cat walks through isn’t in Alaska.
S2: It isn’t even in the protected little garden of the TV show. It’s on a kind of a median island in the middle of Sunderland Avenue in Oxford, right where it intersects the Oxford Ring Road. You can look up this location on a map and see that the on Google Street View, the horn beam trees are still there, the horn beam trees that the Philip Hammond describes. Here’s how the window is described in the subtle knife when Will finds it.
S4: And this might help listeners understand why it is that more people don’t walk through these windows all the time. It looked as if someone had cut a patch out of the air about two yards from the edge of the road, a patch roughly square in shape and less than a yard across. If you were level with a patch that it was Ajan, it was nearly invisible and it was completely invisible from behind. You could see it only from the side nearest the road and you couldn’t see it easily even from there, because all you could see through it was exactly the same kind of thing that lay in front of it on this side, a patch of grass lit by a streetlight, but will do without the slightest doubt that the patch of grass on the other side was in a different world.
S3: Yeah. Nevertheless, as we’ve pointed out, he only sees it because he sees the cat walk through it. So arguably it’s hard to see the windows unless you’re actually looking for them. And there’s a reason for you to be looking for one there. I think that that could be the case, since so much of how the subtle knife works has to do with being in a certain frame of mind. Right.
S4: Dust looks for you if you’re looking for it. Right. And even John Perry, who says to leave Scoresby that he walked through that first window in Alaska by accident while sort of getting lost in a blizzard, was looking for window, as he may have been himself, been in that frame of mind. If you go looking for something, it comes to you as well. So I buy this theory. So let’s talk about this episode and all that happens in it. We’re going to get to our deep dive on Mary Malone and Miss Culture in a bit. But I want to start out by talking about the action centerpiece of this episode, which is the heist, Lyra and Wills Heist of the Aletha Ometer from Sir Charles Latrobe’s extremely fancy house. They figure out that Latrobe’s house corresponds and his world and his Oxford with the location of the tower and she Ghazi in the world that they’re hanging out in, will finally, after a lot of experimentation, learns not to strain at the knife like he’s trying to deadlift a bookcase. He learns to just be chill about it and he starts to get better at cutting these windows between worlds.
S3: We should also be clear that Sir Charles LaterA and Lord Borio are the same guy.
S4: Oh yeah, I use them interchangeably, Sir Charles Latcham, when he’s being particularly stuffy and rich and he’s Lord Borrell when he’s flirting with Mrs. Coulter.
S3: So like Lyra with the Aletha Amateur, Will has proven to be a pretty quick study with the knife. He is like a few difficulties at first, but then he masters it or he at least succeeds at it. And there’s even a scene where in this episode where Pann says, oh, he’s getting good at this. And Lyra says he is. And Perati, see the former former knife, are complimented well on how quickly he learns to use it. There’s something about Will and Lyra that enables them to use these artifacts like the Aletha ometer and the knife almost instinctively or let’s say intuitively, when other different people have to work very hard at it. And partly this is because both devices have intentions of their own. The knife choose as well as its bearer. And the Aletha ometer clearly sees an important purpose for Lyra in the greater scheme of things that she’s caught up in, much in the same way that the witches prophecy does. But and this is an important point. Will and Lyra are still children and the other people we see trying to learn how to use the elite, the ometer and the knife are adults. We’ll find out later why that distinction is so important.
S4: It’s interesting to think about the devices having intentions of their own. And it’s also interesting to think that it’s possible those intentions aren’t the same. That Olivia ometer and the knife seem to be operating under similar principles and maybe even by similar mechanisms. But that doesn’t mean that they want the same things necessarily, and that becomes an issue later on in the story. So if a while there, while we was practicing the knife and while they’re trying to figure out where they should be cutting these windows, they run into Tullio, who’s now a shell of his former self because he’s been eaten by Spectre’s. He’s been consoled or at least plucked out by his sisters, Angelica and Paolo. And they are pissed at what has happened to him and pissed when Byron will foolishly start apologizing for it. Angelica says, will get you.
S3: Yes, they blame Will and Lyra because Will has the knife and the knife was the only thing that was protecting Tullio from the spectre. So they consider Will and Laura to have done this to Tullio. An important point for Pulman and one that he makes over and over again in this book is that children may be innocent in some sense, but they are not necessarily good in this book. In particular, we see children behaving in malevolent ways and frightening ways. And this is something that Will says more than once he has seen just as the result of having his mentally ill mother, you know, either being ostracized by other kids or actually witnessing kids picking on him. His mother, so he has seen the dark side of children in a way that even Lyra hasn’t.
S4: Yes, all the children who deal with Lyra in Oxford maybe feel that they have seen the dark side of children through that. She goes after them. So that night, Will and Laura enact their plan, which is basically to cut their way from the outside world into Lord Borel’s house with hopefully without him ever knowing that they’re doing it. The knife is a really good tool for heisting, which is maybe I mean, come to think of it, the whole entire reason the Lord Borrell wants it in the first place. So Lyra rings the doorbell to distract him while we’ll sneaks into the basement library. But everything gets all thrown awry when Mrs. Coulter discovers him trying to get the Aletha obiter. And boy, does this seem this scene diverge from the book.
S3: It really does in the book, Lyra and will have this sort of elaborate sort of scheme and they use the knife to creep stealthily around Lord Oriels House moving between this world and Cheetah guys and back again so they can be completely unseen. It’s just like it’s like a stealth video game in a way. And and in the process of doing this, they eavesdrop on a conversation between Boyle and Miss Coulter, which reveals a lot of key information, such as what Azriel is up to, which is something that doesn’t even come up in this episode, and the fact that his anomaly in the book has changed the windows between the world so that it’s now possible for people to travel from Lyra’s world directly to Will’s world without going through Chitungwiza, the series probably pretty sensibly is decided to just forget that whole development. Loreal also explains in the book that he’s been working as a spy in Will’s world, and that’s the source of sort of his power and influence in the series. He started a company like a startup guy, which is just to I mean, that’s why he’s driving a Tesla.
S4: It helps to clarify the exact kind of asshole he’s turning into.
S3: Yeah, yeah. So while Will is is sort of hiding and trying to locate the Aletha ometer so he can snatch it in the book and also in the series, the Golden Monkey discovers him. And there’s a lot of sort of rushing around and chasing and the and the golden monkey almost causes Liara to be captured. But then the cat that will end Lyra saved in cheetah Gaza from being a you know, the children were were tormenting it. That cat attacks the monkey and then jumps back through the window back to Cheetah Gaza. Will is definitely a person who is much favoured by cats. So in the in the in the book, the two of them escape. And there’s not really any real interaction between Lyra and her mother that is put off for yet another day, let alone a battle between their demons.
S4: So, yeah, here instead we get a whole scene. That’s a confrontation between Mrs Coulter and Lyra, in which Mrs Coulter seems to be holding out a kind of olive branch in the form of the leafy ometer she offers to give her the leafy ometer. She says she wants to teach her about dust. It seems like what she wants is to bond with Liara to reclaim her in some way, perhaps inspired by conversations in this episode she’s had with Borrell and with Miriam alone. And she tells her, stay away from that boy. She will do you nothing but harm, which suggests real shades of her own past. The way that her dalliance with TasRail ruined her prospects in her world, Baira says, I’m nothing like you. And she hisses at Mrs Coulter. And then Pann leaps at the monkey demon.
S5: You know, this sort of answers the question you had from an early episode, which question you wanted to know how big demons could get when they were still changeable while pAnd turns into a soki.
S4: What do you think that is a fissure now to grab a honey badger? I turned into one of those once. Great teeth doesn’t give, etc..
S5: There are more white on the top of their heads though. Wolverine maybe. That seems right anyway, when you’re changeable and you go on the attack, you get as big as you can get so that Wolverine or whatever it is, has got to be about the upper limit of pant size.
S4: I mean, it sure works because he really throws that monkey around. Laura. What do you think about this big change to the book?
S3: I have to say, I don’t really love the scene. And it’s particularly for the fight between the demons, which I just feel is too intense of a confrontation at a sort of middling point in the plot. I mean, it is true that there is nothing that will make a girl more angry than to tell her that she’s like her mother. But to me, it feels like it could have been played way down. Although I. I also feel like I’m also the person who who doesn’t care about fight scenes and generally views them as a as a really great time to head into the kitchen looking for a snack. So I may not be the right person.
S4: I really liked this divergence, actually. And I’m the one who’s often complaining about this shit. But, you know, the sort of Ocean’s Eleven style sneaky theft that’s in the books is intricate and fun. But I found this much more exciting and scary. Both her encounter with Mrs. Coulter and Will’s encounter with Borrell and the exchange between Mrs. Coulter and Lyra seems revelatory for Laura Wright, who later says she she doesn’t like the way that she felt when Pann attacked the demon. And it’s really you re watching it as it is not that much of a fight. It is this Wolverine just fucking tossing this monkey around.
S3: Yeah, it’s a reversal of that scene where the the monkey subdues pan in Mrs. Coulter’s flat in London, right?
S4: Yeah. And she says she doesn’t like that feeling. But it seems to me that for whatever it is that the series has cooking up for Mrs Coulter and her relationship with Lyra, which seems to me to be maybe very different from what the books cook up for the culmination of that relationship, this seems to me to be a potentially important moment. And so let’s zip back to the beginning of this episode and talk about what Mrs Coulter has gone through in her visit to our Oxford.
S3: So Borio brings her to Oxford and he’s giving her he’s bringing her the best coffee in Oxford. And she’s looking at all of these people who seem to her to be well, who can tell she sees a woman with a laptop and a baby. There’s obviously a lot going on in her head looking at this alternate version of the world. And meanwhile, Lord Borrell, who has always seemed so supremely smooth, just becomes a complete dork, you know, and he’s boasting about his stupid collection and he’s showing off his stereo speakers, no less. I mean, the only way that could have made it worse was by giving him a collection of electric guitars and having him show them to her. But of all of his games, his seduction game is drastically remedial. He has no idea how to seduce a woman, especially a woman like Mrs Coulter. And she is really unimpressed.
S4: I will say any sound out of his speakers is really extraordinary, as he says. But yes, you’re right. It’s like the only thing that could have been worse is if he pulled out his vinyl. Like, let me play a little something for you. For those who are curious, that smooth track that he has chosen as a popular London soul duo from the mid 90s called The Lighthouse Family made no impact whatsoever in the United States, but very popular briefly in the 90s in the UK. It is definitely what would be playing in the lounge at two a.m..
S3: What Mrs Culter is interested in is not Lord Borrell, but it is his mention of Mary Malone and the fact that Lyra was interested enough in Mary Malone to stop by her lap so she decides she wants to meet her. And Borrell insists that she changes her clothes because Mary Malone would definitely be suspicious if a femme fatale stepped straight out of a film noir and showed up in her office.
S4: This episode answers the eternal question would Marissa Coulter wear jeans? And the answer is no. She would.
S3: No, no, no, no. There’s a great little moment in the scene where she’s about she’s about to change and she sort of shoots him out of the room. And Borrell stands there and he makes this little sound, which is her trademark mannerism. You know, you could you could make a supercute of Mrs. Coulter going, oh, oh.
S4: I got to say, in general, this episode is the most comedy rich of any episode so far, like just this little scene of her. You know, perusing jeans is fantastic. And the comedy, I think, only continues when Mrs. Coulter locks her monkey demon in the bedroom. So she can head off to the college on her own comedy, beg to differ.
S4: Yes, Gilda, I supposed a demon would not enjoy the scene at all.
S5: It’s positively cruel what she does to that poor monkey.
S4: Wait, are you seriously implying that you feel sorry for the monkey? He’s a perversion of a self respecting demon.
S3: But isn’t he what his human has made him? I mean, isn’t Mrs. Coulter self-hatred? What makes him act that way?
S4: He still has a choice. He could behave better.
S5: Look, I’m no fan of the monkey, but this episode is so mean to him, locking him in a bedroom, getting attacked and thrown around by Pam. That’s awful. And making him wear a seatbelt. Don’t you dare laugh at that.
S4: I always wear a seat belt when Laura and I drive in the car. It’s just safer and so cute in his little harness. Totally humiliating. Oh, God. So after her makeover, Mrs. Coulter stops by Mary Malone’s lab and like to encounter a few episodes back between Mrs. Clinton and Scoresby. This scene and the series is a complete invention. It does not appear in the books. So we’re going to focus on it and this week’s Deep Dive, because I think it’s useful to think about who is Mary Malone and what does her life tell us about the life of Mrs. Coulter. So, Laura, we know that Mary Malone used to be a nun before she became a scientist. She talks about that the show gives her a sister and some nieces, but no other strong family connections or romantic connections. So what do we know about Dr. Mary Malone without spoiling too much about what we might learn about her later? What is it about her that makes her your favorite character?
S3: Well, what I love about Mary is her curiosity. And we talked in the last episode about what Pullman considers to be goodness in a person. And I think that this quality curiosity is part of that. But there’s a difference between the sort of open curiosity of Mary Malone and the more directed curiosity of, say, Lord Borrell or Mrs. Coulter or even Lord Azriel. Mary isn’t after power glory. She’s not single minded. She’s not blinkered the way those characters are. There’s this sort of patient humility to her curiosity. She wants to understand the world around her and she also wants to understand her effect on it. She is not the type to travel between the universes without considering the consequences to the world or creatures besides herself. And precisely because she’s open in this way that she is able to readily grasp that is from another world. I mean, Mary’s not a fool. She mistrusts Lord Borio. She knows the pale faced man is up to no good, but she has this openness to what she sees. That is in some ways the essence of of of a scientist. And she doesn’t insist on imposing an existing framework on it. So she’s she’s willing and able to make the leap to appreciating who Lyra really is in the book.
S4: A lot of this openness is sort of presented in these little asides of, well, we’re about to lose our funding. So I might as well or well, this wouldn’t even be the weirdest thing that’s happened to me today. So I guess I’ll give it a try. You know, I guess I’ll have my etching up to the to the to the computer, to the cave. But I think it’s not only that and I agree with you that this openness and curiosity, that is the difference between her kind of science and the quote unquote science the Lord Azriel is pursuing, which is really a single minded quest for something which we don’t quite know what it is yet. You know, he has he makes a lot of big statements. But what it is he actually intends to do is sort of between him and his demon. I what I really like about her, as well as the way that her open mindedness seems to track with the muddiness of the thing that she’s studying. Right. These these shadow particles are themselves mysteries and mysteries that only come to you when you open yourself up, as she says, when you open your mind in a particular way in order to observe them, they’re observing you as much as you’re observing them. And I like that this character note about her, this openness and curiosity is the exact reason why when led gently in the right direction by Lyra, she is the person the dust chooses to communicate with in the way that it does. And of course, she’s in the right place. She’s got the lab and the computers and everything. But it’s clear that the dust does this because she’s right. She’s the person who just feels as though is the right person to take the next step. The giant step, the Mary Malone takes on this episode. And and you mentioned that she’s no fool, but she also is open to new experiences and open to new ideas. And so that’s why it’s very touching to see the scene between Mary Malone and Mrs Colter, in which Mary Malone. Is cautious with Mrs. Culture, but she’s also interested in her, she’s interested in what this what she believes to be the scientist and what she believes to be the mother of this extraordinary person who she’s met. Laura Silver tongue, what this person might offer her, what she might be able to glean to learn from her. So let’s listen to a little bit of this scene between Mary and Mrs. Coulter.
S6: I wanted to apologize to you in person in case she was a nuisance. She wasn’t a nuisance in the slightest. I loved meeting Laura. It was the most interesting conversation I’ve had in ages. The ideas she has, what it is, it is about the morality of dark matter or what she calls just her grasp on quantum physics is astonishing. And the compass relationship. Yes. How she’s able to understand it, I have no idea. It’s extraordinary.
S4: What do you think it means for Mrs. Coulter to hear these things about Laura from this to her very odd person, this female scholar?
S3: Well, I think she realizes that in a way she barely knows Laura, that she’s never really had a conversation with her that would enable her to see what Mary’s seeing in Laura. When the two of them briefly lived together in London, Mrs. Coulter treated Lyra like a sort of mini me. You know, she was basically instructing her on how to be like her, and that is how to control herself, how to be feminine in this very conventional way, and how to regard the world as she does, as, you know, like a sort of network of advantages that she can latch on to if she’s skillful enough. So this is like a problem that some parents have this inability to perceive their children as independent people and not just as extensions of themselves. And it’s in line with Mrs. Coulter’s idea that there was really only one kind of person that she could be and therefore only one kind of person that Laura could be.
S4: So talking to this person who has seen Laura in this completely different way and who clearly comes from a completely different idea and is an expression of a completely different idea of what women can be in this world, I think is a really potent moment for Mrs. Coulter on a couple of different levels as she starts to think about not only that, she never really saw Laura and barely knows her, but that the the version, as you say, of herself that she was presenting to Laura is a version that she is becoming more and more disillusioned with. And Mary asked Mrs. Coulter to tell her more about her research, experimental theology, which, of course, she’s never heard of because it doesn’t exist in her world. She asked her what she’s published or the questions that scientists ask each other when they respect each other, when they’re genuinely curious in each other’s work. And as soon as that happens, Mrs. Coulter is out the fucking door. And this scene, you know, in a way similar to the culturally Scoresby scene, the scene plays a little bit like fan fiction, kind of right. It’s two characters who never meet. But you’re curious about what would happen if they do meet. In fact, I went straight over to an archive of our own to see if such fan fiction exists. And there is, in fact, a story written just a couple of weeks ago, at least one that is a version of this very encounter of Mrs. Kolchak’s showing up at Marion Malone’s office to talk to her. Now, that scene is a bit more sexually charged, as is the tradition often in fan fiction. But it’s it has similar dynamics and and it plays with similar things. And so it was so fascinating for me to see this. And I really liked it as an addition to this world. What did you think of this edition of This World?
S3: I really liked this, too. One, of course, Ruth Wilson, amazing actress. And in her face, we see so many things. We see one, you know, her realization that this daughter that she loved so much, she barely knows. We see to her picking up this paper with Mary Millan’s name on it. And in that she is feeling just the loss and the waste of her her talents and her intellect. I mean, she is sort of on top in her own world. I mean, she’s always so elegant and poised and in command, however subtly she, you know, exerts her power. But Mary really makes her feel inadequate. And then, you know, another thing that I I’m just realizing, as I think about this, is that she also there’s you know, she leaves when Mary says, oh, I’ll make you a cup of coffee, let’s sit down and talk. And it made me think about whether Mrs. Coulter has any friends, and I don’t think she really does. And so she’s also possibly seeing someone who in another life could have been her friend another best. A version of herself, you know, just all the things that make this woman who seems so desirable and so coiffed and and and effective, you know, just feel completely broken and inadequate.
S4: Yeah, I think that’s exactly right. And I’ve never really thought about whether Mrs. Coulter has friends, because how could a creature so elevated even need friends? She has her social circle that comes to the party. But, yeah, I don’t think that she has anyone really to talk to. And unlike everyone else in her world, she doesn’t even really have her demon to talk to. She doesn’t have that lifelong companion who everyone is supposed to have. So she’s even more isolated than anyone else in her world. Isn’t the notion of just sitting down with this person who, if she had lived a different life, could have just been a colleague or a friend or someone she just likes to shoot? The shit about experimental theology with is painful for her. And you see these these losses, you know, sort of piling up and they all come out in a way, in the conversation afterwards that shoot the scene between culture and boreal in the library in which Lord Borrell asks her, well, what did you think of Mary Malone and her answer? And then the way that Borrell interprets that answer is really fascinating to me. Let’s listen to a little bit of that moment.
S6: How do you define impertinent?
S7: Teligent treif.
S4: I found it arrogant, like many women in this world. Do you find me all right?
S8: Of course not. Take a breath, you clearly upset.
S7: Did you know when I was an honorary scholar, I achieved the highest results in our final examination, but because I was a woman, I was denied a doctorate by the Magisterium? I’ve written plenty of papers, but they’re only published if I agree to let a man take the credit.
S4: So I’m so interested by what is happening to mersa culture right now. So right before the scene, we see her rejecting her monkey demon. Sorry, Gilda. That’s what she does right after this scene is the moment where Lyra and Whale break in and we see her make this kind of offering to her daughter. So what do you think the show is doing with this character? What direction is it pointing her in? And Laura, do you think that it works?
S3: Well, I mean, there’s two ways to look at this. As we talked about in the last episode, Mrs. Coulter is being confronted by one figure after another who represents an alternate path. She might have taken the witches in their freedom, Scoresby and his ability to get past the abuse in his past and not perpetuate it. And now Mary Malone, who isn’t rich or powerful or glamorous like a sculptor, but who has been able to fulfill herself in a way Miss Coulter has never been able to do so when she’s looking at Lyra. She could either see, finally an opportunity for connection and to be genuine and to be nurturing and to be a mother. I mean, we do see her looking at a mother with a baby in a stroller at the beginning of the episode. Or she could be seeing in Lyra a version of herself with all that potential and courage. And maybe that’s who I really is. But Lyra does not want to be told that she’s like her mother. And if she weakens at all during that offer, you know, I’ll teach you about dust. It’s not completely clear to me that that Lyra is a wannabe scholar. So I don’t know how even genuine this reaching out is. If if she is not if Mrs. Coulter is not, in fact, reaching out to sort of the girl she once was more than to the girl that Lyra actually is and certainly genuine in the sense that it’s as of right now, it’s all that Mrs. Coulter knows about her. Yes. Yes, it’s true. It’s true. She knows that Lyra has been going to the to the lab and and talking to Miriam alone and asking about dust and learning about dust. But she had she lived with Lyra for a while. And Lyra is not like I guess Lyra will maybe eventually become a scholar. But the child she’s she is right now is more of an adventurer than anything else. So it’s it’s you could look at it either way. I think it’s it’s open to both interpretations. But what is really clear is that the meeting with Mary Malone has just really cracked Mrs. Coulter open. And after that, she has to go back to Lord Borel’s lair and he’s just fatuous in the way he patronises her and views her as a collectible. And and it causes her to lash out at him in a way that she hasn’t so far in the past.
S4: I think you’re right that this meeting has been crucial for her. And I think that the scholars plural that are the subject of this episode are going to continue to be very important in watching the directions that they go from this meeting. I think it’s going to be good to view this meeting as an inflection point for each of them and that the the path that sends them on are going to be crucial to the way that this series ends and the way that the series views the the roles that its primary grown women can play and the future of the worlds that it encompasses. So, yeah, so Borrell doesn’t take the hint from Marissa Coulter that she her continued hints that she is just not the lady for him and he straight up says, like, I’m showing you all this. I was showing you this because I thought this might be a life that you would want to share. First of all, you he’s already made it clear he does not like arrogant women as he views the women of this world. And second of all, we’ve had a bunch of questions about Laborie all throughout. We tried to untangle him a little last episode. Are there new things that we learn about him here? What what does this episode tell us about Kaleb Aureole?
S3: I mean, it confirms that he is some kind of profiteer, that he’s the collector, that his attitude towards Mrs. Coulter is that of a collector, which she accuses him of. And he just, you know, his inability to see that, of course, she’s incredibly elegant. How could he not think she was arrogant? And, you know, like has he not been paying any attention at all? So, you know, it could be just that he’s just way more of an idiot than he seemed before. I mean, I feel like this episode really flips him. I guess, you know, this is partly a symptom of what Pulman himself sometimes calls his Potemkin village approach to like worldbuilding. He would get questions from fans about aspects of Lyras world and how demons work. And there were questions he’d never considered because, as he often put it, he wants to create enough of a world to make an environment for the story to move forward. But he’s not like one of these model railroad builder builder type. Authors like J.R. Tolkien, he he just wants to move the story forward, and I have a feeling that while he was mostly talking about the environments and the setting for his novels, it might also be the case that Lord Borrell is a bit of a Potemkin village character and a Potemkin village is maybe I should explain that it’s like the false fronts of old Western buildings that were used as sets for movie productions when people didn’t want to have to build the whole building. And it was something that was set up when Isar I don’t know which one was traveling around Russia. People would put up these villages that looked these fake villages that looked great so that the czar would be would be complacent about the excellent condition of the Russian countryside when exactly the opposite was the case.
S4: Yeah. And, you know, I do think that you’re potentially right that in that this character serves various needs for Philip men to just get things moving and that that’s the kind of character who often seems the most inconsistent in an adaptation, the character who is purely a plot character, but who when you when you he’s inhabited by an actual living, breathing actor, particularly a good actor, just like doesn’t track. Exactly. And as we’ve said in the books, he’s much more of a doofus. And in this scene he seems much more under even under Mrs Coulter’s spell, not even wooing her, but just sort of like bewitched by her. And that happens again and again to him. And so I think that hunting for characterisation that remains consistent for Lord Borrell in this story may be maybe a hunch that will just disappoint people. But maybe there’s maybe there’s something that still awaits him that will surprise us in the series. I certainly have a good enough actor for it that if there’s some turn he’s going to take that we don’t understand. I believe that this actor can absolutely pull it off me. So I agree. Yeah. So after the Aletha Amateur stolen, Borrell now explains to Mrs Coulter why he thinks they can’t go after the children. And she talks about the Spectre’s that they inhabit this world and that they get adults. And it’s when he says that they get adults and not children, that Mrs Coulter makes this connection between Spectre’s and dust. And she says something curious, something that seems like it’s going to have ramifications. Well, once you understand something, you can master it.
S3: Yeah, this series is and the trilogy is kind of a long quest to understand dust. And while it’s true, once you can understand something, you are more likely to be able to master it. But mastering dust seems like a pretty tall order. Yeah, well, we’ll see what she pulls off. Meanwhile, over at the Magisterium, the frogs are already starting to rumble with discontent under the new Cardinal McPhail. They’re losing control of the north, which is just blew up a bunch of their Zeppelins. So Cardinal McPhail pulls a Stalin and basically comes up with a pretext for accusing Father Graves of doubt and throwing them into the dungeons. And then he orders from Pavel, who seems completely gormless in the scene, to find out what Mrs Coulter is up to using the Ilithyia SM.
S4: So we should have full results on that one in the next seven to eight months. And dear Marium, alone in her lab after her encounter with Mrs Coulter gets a message from dust. Let’s listen to that message.
S2: Find the entrance, so I checked the closing credits this week and I learned that this voice, Abdus, the voice we like so much. It is the, I assume, heavily processed voice of the actress Sophie Okonedo, and that that voice has a name. The name is not just the name is Zephania.
S3: Hmm. That’s a mysterious and exotic name. Mary does succeed in a being. The dust gives her these orders. You must deceive the Guardian. They all sound like the orders given to a character in a Greek myth. But that’s exactly what she does. Lord Boyle has set up some kind of checkpoint at the window where the horn beam trees are and she goes there and there’s a guy who’s guarding it and she kind of tricks him to think if she’s Mrs. Coulter, which is a nice touch, she is the good mother figure to Mrs. Coulter’s bad. And then she walks through the window and boom, she’s in she to Gaza.
S4: The ease with which she fooled that guardian suggests that once again, Lord Auriol, Sir Charles Luttrell may not be as clever as we once thought he was.
S2: If you judge a person by the worth of the people he employs, he seems to have a Trump like ability to find just the most hapless, idiotic henchman and set them off in various jobs that they then completely fail to do in the books.
S4: There’s actually the the guard actually has a line that’s like, well, good thing you’re not married, Malone, because I’ve been told to arrest her if I see her and she’s like, oh, no, I’m not her.
S2: So Mary Malone is No. One. She’s a gutsy Zephania. The voice promised her that she would be protected. Presumably she meant from Spectre’s. And boy, do I hope she’s right, because I do not want the series taking a turn and just immediately having Mary Malone be devoured by Spectre’s. That would suck. I expect we’ll find out what happens in Episode six MALLIS. So please join us then for that episode. In the meantime, talk to us. We want to hear from you on Twitter.
S3: I’m at the end, Chris and Laura is at Magician’s Book and you can email us a question or a comment at Ask the Authority, all one word at Slate dot com.
S2: Our producer is Phil Cercas, Slate’s editorial director for audio is Gabriel Roth. I’m Dan. I’m Gilda. I’m Laura Miller. I’m Soki. And remember, without stories, we wouldn’t be human beings at all.
S5: I’m Soki and I’m quite safe in the car. Shey.