We’re now halfway through the first series of His Dark Materials and a comfortable familiarity now comes with the show’s weekly airing. The opening title sequence remains captivating with all its foreshadowing details, the show remains beautiful to look at, and everyone is more confident in their roles. With that said, it is still a relief to know the series can still throw unexpected curveballs into the mix, something we certainly see in ‘The Lost Boy’.
For a few episodes now, His Dark Materials has been dancing around one of the trilogy’s central characters: Will Parry. Having set up Lyra’s journey successfully, it makes sense to introduce Will now, even though he doesn’t show up until the second book. With each series set to cover one book, the opening of Series 2 would likely have been quite jarring had we not met Will beforehand, given that Northern Lights doesn’t take place in our world at all. So, while logically it makes sense to have Will’s story begin now, whether the show will be able to balance his story and Lyra’s effectively is another matter entirely.
Lyra and Iorek’s friendship is as endearing as their journey through the snows of the North is breath-taking
‘The Lost Boy’ is an episode of two halves. The first half focuses on Lyra’s journey further north with her new friends Lee and Iorek. The scenes featuring these three characters are easily the episode’s highlights, as already they are developing a strong rapport. Lee makes for an excellent surrogate father figure and Lyra and Iorek’s friendship is as endearing as their journey through the snows of the North is breath-taking. As the Gyptians head into the snow, a compelling mystery unfolds as Lyra tries to search for a ghost, leading to a gut punch of a revelation which clarifies exactly what our heroes are up against. The acting all round is phenomenal, particularly from Dafne Keen and Ann Marie-Duff who express the pain and horror their characters are going through perfectly.
Around a number of great moments however, there are some clunky exchanges of dialogue. Serafina the Witch feels more expositional than emotional in her first appearance, and the same applies to her daemon who feels as though he’s reading out his lines for the first time as he says them. Another problem with the episode comes with the horror, in that it relies on the separation of a daemon from a person, an idea which in the books is truly abhorrent. The show on the other hand has struggled to incorporate daemons into the show so far, meaning the scene itself doesn’t have the immediate punch required. For a series which has gained confidence with every episode, it is slightly disappointing seeing characters explain themes and ideas rather than let the audience infer them. The episode’s climax however manages to escalate the danger once again, making it clear things are only going to get darker from here.
For a series which has gained confidence with every episode, it is slightly disappointing seeing characters explain themes and ideas rather than let the audience infer them
The second half of the episode focuses on Will and therefore suffers slightly from being an introduction, in comparison to Lyra’s journey is in full swing. Once again, a lot is explained, about how Will is similar to his father and how he is important, though it’s too early in the story for either of those qualities to be shown. We see Will being bullied, but his bullies are laughable in how extreme they are, and not enough context is given to who Will is as a person at this stage to make him work as a lead in the way Lyra was introduced. His relationship with his mother work however, which gives me hope for their continuing involvement in this part of the story, but the pacing of individual scenes is slow-going and can’t compete with the tension in Lyra’s half of the episode.
By the end of ‘The Lost Boy’ we have moved forward in the narrative. With Lyra in greater danger than ever and Will now properly introduced, the stage is set for both characters to find themselves at the heart of something far greater than either could ever have predicted. While not the strongest episode, it does what it has to do, and hopefully the final three episodes will run more smoothly with the necessary set-up in place.
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