There are spoilers about the episode in this article.
This episode does not continue where episode one left off, with Specters appearing behind Will and we are left to presume that they have decided that he wasn’t quite old enough yet. We instead rejoin Will and Lyra in Cittàgazze the next morning. Will has agreed to take Lyra to his version of Oxford since he needs to see his mother’s lawyer. She dresses to blend in and they eventually agree that Pan will need to travel in a backpack. Will takes her to the gate and, as usual, Lyra rushes in headfirst and almost gets run over by a car on the other side. Unbeknownst to them, Boreal has been watching the gate and has witnessed them pass through. Once they reach the Oxford colleges, Lyra rushes off to find her home, Jordan College, and finds only a construction site on the spot. She admits that this Oxford isn’t like the Oxford she knows at all.
At the Magisterium, the Cardinal has died, most likely at the hands of Mrs Coulter. Father MacPhail gives an impassioned speech that the Magisterium needs decisive leadership and he promises to hold the witches accountable for this death.
When they find a quiet place to stop, Will and Lyra share stories about their Oxfords, realizing that they both have stories about the botanic gardens. Lyra decides to mention the alethiometer in a rather abstract way, and reveals that she knows that he is a “good murderer”. As expected, with Lyra’s usual lack of tact, Will does not take this well and decides to leave to see his mother. They agree to meet at the botanic gardens at 5 p.m. Will warns Lyra to stay out of trouble; he clearly does not know her very well yet.
Lyra finds a poster for the Pitt Rivers museum which has an exhibit on northern artifacts. She looks through some of them and finds a quiet spot to ask the alethiometer where to find a scholar who can tell her about Dust. It tells her to go to St Peter’s College, to the door with a mountain on it, not to lie to the scholar but also that she needs to help Will find his father. As she is leaving, she runs into Boreal who introduces himself as “Charles” and Lyra introduces herself under her usual pseudonym of “Lizzie”. He tells her that he is a collector of artifacts and has donated many to the museum. He gives her his card and says to get in contact if she wants to know more about any of the artifacts.
Back with the witches, Serafina is scolding Ruta for killing the Cardinal. She has sent Dr. Lanselius as a peace envoy so that they are not drawn into a cycle of revenge. Ruta says that she protected the prophecy since the Magisterium do not know the child’s name and insists that they need to unite the nine clans to destroy the Magisterium whilst it is weak. Serafina admits that she has tried to reach for Lyra but she feels indistinct, like she is behind a veil. She fears that if they cannot reach her, all will be lost.
In Lyra’s usual, lucky way, she finds St Peter’s College and very quickly finds the door with a postcard of a mountain on it. The door is also labelled “Dark Matter Research Unit”. She is surprised to find Mary Malone, a female physicist. As the alethiometer has told her not to lie, Lyra immediately tries to give Mary a brief, two minute description of everything it took us an entire season of the show to watch. This prompts Mary to think that she is a child in distress and offers to phone Lyra’s parents. Lyra convinces Mary to tell her about the particles she is studying because otherwise everything she has done so far will be for nothing.
Boreal arrives at the Magisterium, having missed the funeral of the Cardinal. Mrs. Coulter tells him that the vote for the new cardinal will happen that evening and that Father Graves is tough competition for MacPhail. We also find out that Thorold, Asriel’s manservant, is being held in the basement but the Magisterium has found no trace of Asriel. Boreal enquires after Lyra’s location and whether her daemon has settled, knowing exactly where she is and aware that Mrs. Coulter has no idea. She dismisses him, telling him that Lyra is not his concern.
Dr. Lanselius arrives at the Magisterium as a peace envoy. He emphasizes that the witch who killed the Cardinal acted alone. However, he is accused of being a spy for the witches and conspiring with Asriel. Father Graves asks to question the “prisoner”; clearly he is no longer an envoy. He talks of Lanselius being the son of a witch and accuses the witches of seducing men and then abandoning their children. We also gain a little information about the ritual that the witches go through which allows them to separate from their daemons and he accuses the witches of hiding the ritual. Unfortunately, Lanselius is condemned by MacPhail as a traitor on charges of heresy, collusion and conspiracy and is sentenced to eight years of hard labor, whilst his daemon will be put in captivity.
After Will briefly checks on his mother by watching her through a window, he visits his mother’s lawyer to ask for money. He is told that he cannot access it because he is a minor. He is informed that he could ask the trustees, two of which are his grandparents who live in Oxford. Will was unaware he had grandparents that were alive and living so close after his mother lost touch with them due to a dispute over his father’s estate.
Back in the lab, Mary tells Lyra about dark matter particles. She has been using a computer to map how the particles interact with different objects and has found that they seem to prefer man-made objects, particularly a Chinese box she owns. Mary also tested herself and the particles made contact when she put her mind into a state of expectation without impatience, leading Mary to believe that the particles seem to be conscious. Lyra makes the connection that it seems to be the same mental state she uses with the alethiometer. She reveals it to Mary and to prove it works, asks it what Mary used to do as a job, revealing that she used to be a nun. Lyra tells her that the Magisterium believe Dust is evil and could be original sin. Mary replies that sometimes people fear what they do not understand.
Will visits his grandparents and questions why he doesn’t know them. They admit that they were upset when his father went missing and thoughtless words were said. His grandmother is very happy he has found them but when he admits that he is there about the money, his grandfather says his mother must have sent him and storms off. His grandfather phones a policeman, DI Walters, to inform him of Will’s location. Walters instructs him to keep Will there and that he is on his way. Meanwhile, Will gets suspicious when his grandmother mentions that the police are looking for the letters written between his mother and father. He deliberately spills his tea and when his grandmother goes to get something to clean up, he runs.
Lyra asks to see Mary’s computer and Mary hooks Lyra up to the program. Lyra focuses her mind in the same way she does when she uses the alethiometer and Mary is astonished to see the best display she’s ever seen. Lyra asks the particles if they are Dust and assumes the answer is yes when the particles seem to dance around the screen. Lyra then focuses more and the particles arrange themselves into the same symbols used by the alethiometer. She translates the message that Mary has something important to do, but Mary must make the connection herself. Where she is going, she will also need her Chinese box. The symbols change to an hourglass and remind Lyra of the time as she is late for her meeting with Will. She leaves quickly and agrees to come back tomorrow.
During a conversation with MacPhail about the upcoming vote, Mrs. Coulter encourages him to be a man of big actions to outdo Father Graves. She encourages him to make a show of strength against the witches to put himself in the lead for being voted Cardinal.
Will is furious with Lyra when she arrives to the botanic garden late as he was worried that she had been caught. He questions why he bothers with her and she reveals that he needs her to find his father. When he is skeptical, Lyra finally trusts him enough to reveal the alethiometer. She proves that she is telling the truth by giving him more details about the incident at his house when he became the “good murderer”. He asks whether his mother is alright and Lyra reassures him that she is worried but safe. Will realizes that he has to leave his mother in order to keep her safe. There is a sweet and peaceful moment that the two share in the botanic garden when they realize that they both can’t trust people they thought they could, but that they can trust one another. I can’t help but feel this may be the calm before the storm for the two of them but I love the friendship that is developing.
MacPhail signs an order to launch airships against the witches. His daemon seems very sinister and says that even if it is a necessary sin, it is still a sin and needs to be atoned for. MacPhail holds his hand over a candle and burns his palm.
Mrs. Coulter goes to the basement to see Thorold. She asks him about Lyra’s whereabouts and is shocked to learn that Lyra was at the lab and that she only just escaped being cut when Roger took her place. It finally dawns on her that Lyra is no longer in their world and that she followed Asriel through the window.
The last scenes are dramatically juxtaposed as we switch between the two. We visit the quiet of the Magisterium as MacPhail is unanimously voted the new Cardinal. He thanks Mrs. Coulter for her help but she seems to have run out of patience with the Magisterium now that she knows they cannot help her get to her daughter. She tells MacPhail that she has used him as a pawn in her scheme. If he wants his past to remain buried, he will ignore what she is doing whilst she gets what she wants. Meanwhile, we see the airships loaded with barrels of explosives. These are dropped on the witches and Ruta and Serafina watch horrified as their islands burns.
His Dark Materials airs Mondays at 9 p.m. ET on HBO and HBO Max.