This week, the penultimate episode of His Dark Materials season one moved the plot far forward, especially with Will’s storyline. We finally get the bear fight we’ve been waiting for, and the forces pushing Lyra toward her destiny grow stronger. Read on to see what happened in “The Fight To The Death.”
The episode opens on the ruins of Bolvangar, with Mrs. Coulter standing over the wreckage. She’s perfectly still and terrifying. She turns to the camera and lets out a silent howl, fully venting her rage. She collects herself and walks through the snowy structure until she encounters Sister Clara, one of the nurses, who hasn’t left with the rest. Mrs. Coulter tries to question her to see if she saw which way Lyra went, but the confused and terrified nurse doesn’t know. In a fit of frustration, Mrs. Coulter attacks and nearly strangles Clara. She instantly apologizes, but Clara is so far gone that all she can do is mutter, “I don’t know where to go” over and over.
In the mountains, Lyra is in the snow after falling out of Lee’s balloon. She’s only a little bruised and immediately calls out for Iorek and Lee. She walks through the mountain pass and sees a bear who she assumes is Iorek. But it is a different bear, and Lyra backs away as it comes towards her, growling.
The bear leads her to Svalbard, the city controlled by the bears (and where Lord Asriel is being held captive). They lock her in a cell, and she and Pan consult the alethiometer to see if anyone is rescuing them. It reveals that Iorek knows where they are and is on his way. Just then, another prisoner speaks up. It’s Jotham Santelia, a Scholar. When Lyra reveals her father is Asriel, Jotham laughs bitterly. Asriel was able to convince Iofur Rakinson, the bears’ leader, to let him continue his work in his laboratory while Jotham remained in the dungeon. But Asriel is still under guard, and Jotham isn’t optimistic about their chances of escape. He reminds Lyra that Iorek should have been king and that Iofur hates him for that, even though he ultimately stole the throne from him. The bears will kill Iorek on sight.
Lyra, clever like her father, starts to devise a plan. Iofur most desires to be a human, with a daemon to call his own. Jotham failed to give him one, which is why he is imprisoned. Lyra demands to speak to Iofur, telling Pan to stay hidden.
Lord Boreal is surveilling Will and his mother again, watching an old news story about John Parry’s expedition. Parry mentions letters, and Boreal realizes those letters may still be in Will’s house.
Lyra is escorted to meet Iofur. He is imposing, and Lyra immediately bows. She tells Iofur that she is Iorek’s daemon, a human since humans’ daemons are animals. When Iofur questions how she can travel so far without Iorek, she claims that she can travel like a witch’s daemon. She claims she became his daemon at Bolvangar, stretching the truth of what Mrs. Coulter was doing there. Lyra says that she’d rather be his daemon, but that the only way she can is if Iofur beats Iorek in single combat.
Iofur is suspicious, and asks her a question only a daemon could know: who was the first creature he killed? Lyra claims she has to be by herself in a room to find the answer. Iofur allows this, and Lyra consults the alethiometer to get the answer. She returns to Iofur and answers his question: it was his father. Lyra plays Iofur, telling him how strong he is and how powerful she thinks he is. Iofur believes her and gets ready to battle Iorek for the throne once and for all.
Boreal goes to Will’s, knocking on the door and encountering Elaine. She’s rightfully suspicious, but before she can lock the door, he opens it. He lies and says he has information about Will’s father, pushing past her into the house. He claims he works in intelligence, telling Elaine that around the time that John disappeared 13 years ago, several valuable objects went missing. He thinks that they can find John with the right information, but Elaine can’t believe he could be alive. Boreal mentions the letters, and Elaine demands he produce a search warrant. Boreal threatens that Will could end up in foster care if she pushes the issue. Elaine holds firm, saying, “I’m frightened of everything. Being frightened of you is just one more thing.” Boreal’s snake daemon shows itself and frightens Elaine, with Boreal pretending she’s seeing things. He threatens to return with the correct paperwork, and a scared Elaine sobs into a pillow as he leaves. Boreal returns to the car, where two men are waiting. Boreal says that whatever it takes, he needs those letters.
Iorek arrives and finds Lyra, who tells him her plan. She’s worried Iorek will die, but he’s confident he will prevail. Iofur calls him in, and the two bears remove their armor and fight. It’s an ugly scene that is unfortunately limited by the CGI; the book fight is even more graphic than what is depicted. Iorek seems defeated, but when Iofur threatens Lyra, Iorek fights back and kills Iofur. Lyra tends to Iorek’s wounds, telling him about Jotham and asking him to free the scientist. Iorek agrees and says that Lyra is one of them now. He gives her a new name: Lyra Silvertongue.
Will leaves school and sees his panicked mother outside. She tells him what she saw. At first, Will thinks it’s another of her delusions, but when she mentions that the man thinks his father is still alive, Will is visibly hopeful, while still cautious. He escorts his mother home.
Iorek takes Lyra back to the mountains where Roger is waiting. Lyra checks the alethiometer, which reveals that Lee’s balloon crashed, but he is safe. It also tells her that Mrs. Coulter and the Magisterium are on their way. Lyra thinks that Asriel will need the alethiometer to defeat Mrs. Coulter and wants to bring it to him. Iorek vows to help her.
Back at the Magisterium, everyone is preparing to head north as news of Iofur Rakinson’s death spreads. Mrs. Coulter spots Father MacPhail, who berates her for her failures. She is genuinely shocked to hear that Iofur is dead, but recovers and begins to manipulate MacPhail. She insists that she knows Asriel and that they will need her to defeat him. Ruth Wilson nails her performance yet again, playing both the emotional and calculating sides of Mrs. Coulter so that the audience is never quite sure what her true motives are. Mrs. Coulter leaves for the north with the crew.
As Will and his mother arrive home, the men from the car are ransacking the house. Will, realizing the danger, rushes his mother out of the house. He tells her he believes her, leading Elaine to his coach’s house. He tells him that there was a break in and that they can’t call the police. Will tells his coach that if the police see his mother in this state, then he will be taken into care. He asks for the coach to watch his mother while he goes to clean up the house. Will hugs his mother goodbye and heads back to the house for the letters.
Lee is at the wreckage of his balloon when Serafina arrives. She tells him that Iorek reclaimed his throne. Lee is overjoyed. Serafina also returns his gun, telling him that Lyra will need him for the great war ahead. Iorek, Roger, and Lyra arrive at Asriel’s laboratory as Mrs. Coulter and the Magisterium fighters board their airship for the north.
Will gets home and cautiously goes inside. He heads to his mother’s safe looking for the letters and packs them into his bag. He hears a noise as the men return to the house. They begin to search, and as one approaches Will, Will punches him. The man trips over the cat and over the stair railing, dying. Will, sick with fear and now worried he will be charged with murder, runs out with the letters. He goes back to the coach’s house, but not wanting to put his mother in danger, runs away.
Roger and Lyra share a sweet moment before going in to see Asriel (a moment made bittersweet for anyone who knows what’s coming). Asriel, not seeing Roger, is furious that Lyra is here. He also seems scared, yelling, “I did not send for you” multiple times. When his daemon notices Roger, Asriel calms down. But why is Asriel so interested in Roger? And why was he so worried that Lyra came alone? All questions that will have to wait until next week’s season finale to be answered.
His Dark Materials airs Mondays at 9 p.m. ET on HBO.