This episode of His Dark Materials packed an emotional wallop while fully introducing the character book readers have been waiting to see. We finally get answers about what exactly is going on at Bolvangar and about the fate of Billy Costa. This sequence is one of the most devastating from the novels, and it ultimately translated well to the screen. Once again, Dafne Keen delivers a knockout performance as Lyra, and Anne-Marie Duff broke my heart as Ma Costa. Amir Wilson also does a great job as Will, and I’m already excited to see him play some future book events. So without further ado, here’s what happened in “The Lost Boy.”
We open the episode with Kaisa narrating the prophecy concerning Lyra. But there’s one crucial addition, Will Parry, a boy from our world – cue book readers’ cheers of delight. As we get our first glimpse of Will, Lyra is bantering with Lee Scoresby. Their relationship provides lightness to the scene, and it’s fun to watch Lyra be her troublemaking self with him. She asks if he thinks they will succeed in their mission to get the children back. He expresses doubts but tells Lyra he believes it’s possible because he knows she needs him to. As the caravan travels on, we flash to a scene from our world.
Will’s mother is being watched by Boreal and the men from the Magisterium who were sent to keep tabs on her. They note that Will is his mother’s primary caregiver and that he returns home from lunch each day to make sure she’s well. Boreal asks if social services are involved, and the man watching them says no. He says that Will seems like a good kid as he and his mother disappear inside the house. Boreal silently stares after them and says nothing.
Lyra and John Faa meet, and he asks Lyra to consult the alethiometer. He wants to know how well-defended Bolvangar is, and the device responds that Tartars heavily guard it. Lyra also gets flashes of a warning about something else from the device, but can’t interpret it. She goes to Farder Coram and tells him what she saw about the next village, which she understands as being haunted by a ghost. She wants to go alone to find it now, which Farder Coram is against. They need Lyra and can’t wait much longer to rescue the children. He points out that Ma Costa shouldn’t have to wait to get her son back because Lyra wants to follow a whim. Lyra pushes back, saying that she needs to go, but he is firm in his decision.
Lyra runs to Ma Costa, telling her about the vision and her need to leave. She also mentions her conversation with Farder Coram and how he mentioned Ma Costa to get Lyra to stay. She asks for her trust, if not in her than in the alethiometer. Ma Costa says she needs time to think before granting her permission.
Back in our world, Will walks back to school, where another boy taunts him as a freak. His mother Elaine leaves the house to walk but is stopped by Boreal posing as an old friend of John Parry’s. She informs him that John has been dead for thirteen years after an accident on his expedition to Alaska. They never found the bodies. He pretends to be shocked and sad, offering her his card if he can be of any help. Elaine is wary but takes the card anyway.
Back at school, Will is practicing for a boxing fight with another boy. His mother enters, and it’s clear she depends on Will more than is normal. She tells him about the visitor as the other boy mocks him and his mother. His coach offers to let her stay, but she leaves. She is struggling with some kind of mental health issues, and the other boy calls her “mental.” Will hits him, and they fight until the coach breaks it up. He tells Will to go after his mother.
Elaine tells Will that there were men following her, but Will brushes it off as another delusion. Elaine begins counting the stones in the wall, and Will redirects her so he can get his things. It’s a heavy burden on a young boy. His heartbreaking, resigned attitude is powerful, and Amir Wilson’s performance as Will is excellent. When Will retrieves his belongings, his coach offers his support. He asks if Elaine needs more care, and Will quickly shuts down the idea of involving others.
Lyra and Ma Costa sit under the stars. Kaisa tells Lyra her instincts to find the “ghost” are correct and that she should follow them. Kaisa leaves to join Farder Coram, who waits for Serafina. When she arrives, he says they need her help. They are outmanned for the battle. Serafina scoffs at this sudden show of bravery, but he passionately explains his reasons, even mentioning their dead son. Serafina reveals that Asriel’s theory about multiple worlds is correct and that witches have known this for thousands of years. She says that a great war is coming. She agrees to help them with the children as much as she can and kisses Farder Coram goodbye. He tells her there hasn’t been a day he hasn’t thought of her or their son. It’s a sad and beautiful moment. The next day, Lyra convinces John Faa to let her look for the ghost. Iorek accompanies her, somewhat reluctantly as he doesn’t usually let humans ride him. Lee is amused and sends them both off as Lyra joyously rides Iorek.
Back in our world, Will makes dinner for himself and his mother. She tells him he is just like his father, but Will says he doesn’t believe her. Elaine says she’s sorry and that she loves him. He tenderly tells her not to talk like that, but Elaine launches into a speech about his father. It’s obvious she loved him, and she tells Will to take up his mantle. Will is curious, and his mother says this world is broken and that extraordinary people need to fix it.
But then she notices that the carpet has been moved and runs to her room, paranoid. Will follows, and it appears this is a regular thing for them. But based on what we saw earlier with Boreal, it’s reasonable to assume that at least this time, his mother is correct. She pulls a folder from a safe that contains letters, and Will asks what they are. She says they’re letters from his father, but also says he’s not ready to read them and that she must keep him safe.
Lyra and Iorek pause for a break. As they eat, Lyra asks if Iorek is a Svalbard bear. He explains that he once was a prince there, but killed another bear and was exiled. He tells her if Asriel is a prisoner of the bears, then he will not escape. Lyra optimistically tells him that Asriel will trick the bears and escape, and despite Iorek’s best efforts to convince her otherwise, Lyra remains hopeful.
Will sneaks back to his mother’s safe, trying to read the letters. Elaine suddenly appears, telling him it’s okay for him to read the letters. He contemplates opening the safe but leaves it. Lyra and Iorek arrive at the village, which is deserted and dark. They approach the building from Lyra’s vision as Pan expresses his fear. It’s an excellent way to illustrate how connected Pan and Lyra are, and it adds even more devastation to what they find inside. It’s Billy Costa, pale and alone, without his daemon. They race him back to Ma Costa and the Gyptians, and the family realizes that the Billy they knew is gone. He’s catatonic without his daemon, his soul.
It’s now clear what horror awaits them at Bolvangar. Lee tells Lyra that the Magisterium is taking people’s souls to control them. He tells her he’s proud of her for finding Billy and following her instincts, leading her away so the Costas can grieve privately. Meanwhile, Ma Costa and Tony hold Billy as she sings him a lullaby. She tells him it’s okay to let go and be with his daemon Ratter, and Billy dies in her arms. It’s horrific. Anne-Marie Duff’s anguished performance is hard to watch and drives home how vital daemons are to this world.
In our world, Will is sleeping as his mother wanders the house. She sees that a door to the outside is ajar, and the man in the car is still watching her. Thomas and Boreal discuss the fact that John Parry’s account has been slowly making payments to Elaine since he disappeared, which proves that he knew he’d be away for a long time. Thomas thinks he knew about the window between worlds, and that there may be a paper trail in the house.
Lee awakens Lyra to tell her Billy died. She asks to see him, and they go to Billy’s funeral pyre. It’s a somber scene, and John Faa remarks that know they know the horrors the Magisterium is capable. Ma Costa says that they can’t just fight; they have to kill. They light Billy’s pyre and sing as Ma Costa sobs in Tony’s arms. Darkness falls as everyone tries to sleep, but masked men enter the camp and silently kill those on the watch. Pan warns Lyra that there’s something outside. She leaves to take a look and is captured by the men.
Lyra is taken to a doctor who examines her, and Lyra lies about her identity. The doctor remarks that Lyra is “young enough after all” when she sees Pan change form. Not knowing she is Mrs. Coulter’s daughter, the nurses in charge take her to an exam room. Pan sees the clothes they want Lyra to change into and realizes it’s the same clothes Billy was found wearing. This is Bolvangar, and Lyra is in trouble.
His Dark Materials airs Mondays at 9 p.m. ET on HBO.