‘His Dark Materials’ Season 1, Episode 8 Recap: “Betrayal”

Image courtesy of 'His Dark Materials' Twitter

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This week saw the epic finale of season one of His Dark Materials. Make sure you gear up for this episode with plenty of tissues at the ready.

The two pre-credit scenes set a sinister tone for the episode. We begin with the Magisterium suiting up in tactical gear aboard their airships, preparing to attack Asriel’s lab. Mrs. Coulter loads a pistol. Meanwhile, Asriel and his daemon, Stelmaria, discuss that the aurora is strong and that the child is with them. Stelmaria declares, “It’s time.”

Pan and Lyra enter Asriel’s lab, and Asriel expresses interest in how Lyra came to arrive on Iorek’s back and have him as a guardian. When she refuses to give him a clear answer, he tells her that she should have stayed safe in Jordan College. Lyra wants to know why he lied about being her father, and the two share a comical moment when Lyra jokes that his choice in women is as bad as his taste in bears. However, Asriel quickly shuts down the moment as the conversation is becoming too sentimental. When Lyra becomes teary, he scolds her, saying, “Lyra Belacqua, you are stronger than that.” Lyra corrects him saying her surname is Silvertongue, as it was given to her by someone who actually loves her. She wishes to leave in the morning and offers Asriel the alethiometer. He turns it down, saying that he doesn’t need it. Lyra is outraged that she kept it safe for so long, through all her struggles, and he doesn’t even want it. You can see the visible disappointment Lyra has when her idol, her father, has let her down. However, Asriel points out that he has never called himself a father.

Image courtesy of ‘His Dark Materials’ Twitter

Mrs. Coulter and her daemon are visibly uneasy aboard the airship. Father MacPhail enters and tells her that they should arrive by morning. Mrs. Coulter assures him that no matter how fast they go, Asriel will already be waiting. MacPhail seems confident that they have firepower and belief on their side. However, Mrs. Coulter says that Asriel has his work and taunts MacPhail that he doesn’t want other people to see Asriel’s work, but is also scared to see it himself.

Back at the Magisterium, Fra Pavel finally has an answer for Lord Boreal’s question for the alethiometer. Fra Pavel asked what Grumman discovered. The alethiometer answered, there is a knife in a tower surrounded by angels. Grumman’s son will lead Lord Boreal to it. Fra Pavel is confused by the answer, as Grumman did not have a child in their world. However, Lord Boreal understands.

Asriel is still working when his manservant, Thorold, enters. Asriel warns him that an airship of Magisterium soldiers is on the way. Asriel apologizes that he won’t be there when the Magisterium arrives as he is going up the mountain. He asks Thorold to remain behind to ensure that Lyra is safe. Thorold implores Asriel to say goodbye to Lyra before he leaves.

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Lyra is in the bath when Roger knocks on the door. He and his daemon, Salcilia, adorably walk in and sit backward. Roger tells Lyra that her father spooked him. Lyra admits that Asriel knows that she knows he is her father, and the conversation didn’t go well. Roger comforts her and says parents are more trouble than they’re worth, and he always liked that they were both orphans together.

Meanwhile, in modern Oxford, Boreal has found Thomas dead in the Parry’s home. Boreal is annoyed that the other man who broke in, DI Walters, allowed Will to escape. DI Walters assures Boreal that Will was alone and probably on the streets somewhere. He puts out a call on his radio for all police to be on the lookout for Will as a missing person.

Lyra and Roger have made a blanket fort and are enjoying their time together. They discuss the alethiometer. Lyra said that although she thinks it knows everything, it only tells her what it thinks she should know. However, there is a touching moment when Roger says that although he wouldn’t have chosen to leave Jordan College like Lyra, they are both there because of each other. They have changed each other’s lives. Lyra says that she can’t promise she won’t stop changing it, and they hug.

The two fall asleep in the fort, and Asriel creepily appears to wake Lyra. He takes her to his lab, and he brings up dust. He says he doesn’t know what it is, but the Magisterium believes it is a physical sin that rains down from the sky. They ignored it for a long time until it was discovered that dust only settles on those who have gone through puberty. They made the original sin connection since Eve’s daemon only settled when she ate the apple in Eden. The Magisterium and Mrs. Coulter believe they are saving people from sin. Asriel is interested in the fact that Mrs. Coulter stopped Lyra from being cut from Pan. He tells Lyra that the bond between human and daemon is incredibly powerful; there is a significant release of energy when the link is severed. He shows Lyra photograms he has taken of the aurora, with dust pouring out. He claims that if they can see the city in the sky, they can build a bridge and cross to other worlds. By doing that, they can find out what the dust is and stop the Magisterium. He suggests that she should come with him, but Lyra replies that she has done her part. Asriel tells her that dust makes the alethiometer work. The Master never sent the alethiometer for him. It was for her. In what should be a reassuring moment, he tells her that she didn’t come from nothing, that she is a product of something extraordinary, but his smile doesn’t reach his eyes.

Image courtesy of ‘His Dark Materials’ Twitter

Thorold wakes Lyra as the Magisterium airships approach. He tells her that Asriel and Roger have already gone and that he must get Lyra to safety. Lyra wants to know why Asriel took Roger. She realizes that Asriel intends to use the release of energy during the process to build the bridge. She rushes outside and yells for Iorek to follow Asriel and Roger’s footprints. Iorek calls other bears for backup.

The Magisterium airships arrive at Asriel’s lab. They break in but find no one there. MacPhail asks Mrs. Coulter if she has any idea where Asriel might be or what he has been working on. He is swiftly knocked out by Thorold. Thorold holds Mrs. Coulter at gunpoint, but she knows that he won’t hurt her. Mrs. Coulter knows that Asriel has gone up the mountain and is doing something related to the dust. She also works out that his equations point to some energy release. Thorold will tell her nothing. She says that she will spare him. She will tell the Magisterium that MacPhail is staying behind to analyze what they’ve found. Mrs. Coulter will take the rest of the troops up the mountain after Asriel, giving Thorold the chance to leave.

In the modern world, Will has taken refuge in a café and sees news articles of himself as a missing person on his phone. A police officer walks in behind him, and after they glance at one another. Will quickly leaves. He knows he has not gone unnoticed.

On the mountain, Asriel is setting up his equipment. Roger is under the impression that they are setting up a surprise for Lyra and that she will join them with Thorold soon. Lyra is swiftly approaching the mountain on Iorek’s back. However, the bears stop when they see the Magisterium airships approaching. The airships launch an artillery attack as Lyra tries to find somewhere safe to hide as explosions go off around her. The bears appear to be fighting a losing battle, and Iorek yells that he’ll get her to the mountain as fire rains down behind them.

Roger spots the attack and worries that Lyra is down there. While Roger is distracted, Asriel uncovers the cages and grabs Roger from behind. Roger struggles, but it is futile, especially as Asriel’s daemon takes Salcilia in her mouth. They place Roger and Salcilia in the cages.

Lyra and Iorek are racing there as fast as possible, but reach an ice bridge which is too fragile for Iorek to cross. Lyra must cross alone. They thank one another, Lyra hugs him and places a kiss on his muzzle. Lyra crosses the bridge carefully, almost falling at one point but eventually reaches the other side safely.

Image courtesy of ‘His Dark Materials’ Twitter

Lyra rapidly climbs the mountain as Roger begs Asriel to let him out. Asriel apologizes that Roger will be a casualty of the war, but the war will free humanity forever. Pan flies up and sees Roger and Salcilia in cages. Lyra tries to climb faster. Salcilia heartbreakingly pleads that she doesn’t want to be parted from Roger as Asriel begins lowering the blade between them. Lyra makes it to the cages where she and Roger touch gloves just as the blade comes down. Salcilia disintegrates, and a massive burst of energy blasts Lyra backward, and off the ledge she was on.

Asriel grins as a beam of energy comes down from the sky. The energy beam stops as it opens a beautiful portal. Mrs. Coulter appears behind him with her pistol. Asriel senses this and pulls out his gun. He tells her that she is too late to stop him. She says that she can’t stop the experiment, but she can stop him. Otherwise, the Magisterium will. He replies that when the world sees the possibilities, the Magisterium will have no power anymore, the oppression, abuse, and suppression of knowledge will stop. Asriel asks Mrs. Coulter to come with him. They can see and feel the sun from another world. His fight wasn’t just with the Magisterium, but a far more dangerous power. He promises a new start for them both, and they kiss. However, she pulls away and tells him that her child is in this world, and her place is with Lyra. They say goodbye as Asriel walks through the portal, disappearing.

Image courtesy of ‘His Dark Materials’ Twitter

Lyra regains consciousness as Mrs. Coulter walks around, leaving the mountain. Lyra hides behind a rock to avoid detection. She goes back up to the peak and finds Roger dead. Crying, she pulls him from the cage. Lyra blames herself and laments that she didn’t get to say goodbye or apologize. Pan says that they need to find the dust. They’ve always thought it was bad because grownups told them, but what if it isn’t. What if it needs protecting? Lyra is hesitant that they’ll be utterly alone in a different world, but Pan reminds her that they’ve always been alone apart from Roger. Lyra bids a heartbreaking goodbye to Roger, kissing him on the forehead. Pan reassures Roger that they won’t let his death be in vain.

Will found a hiding place amongst some bushes after encountering some police officers on the road. He is still in hiding when he sees a cat climb through a broken fence. Will follows and finds another portal. The scenes switch back and forth between Lyra and Will, both preparing to go through the portals. Will reaches a hand through as sirens go off behind him. Lyra picks up Pan and gives one last backward glance to Roger. They both step through the portals. The final shot is of Roger still on the mountaintop, the portal still blazing fiercely as a more mournful version of the theme music begins to play.

Image courtesy of ‘His Dark Materials’ Twitter

This was a fantastic finish to a tremendous finale. I have so many questions that will hopefully be answered next season. Are Lyra, Will, and Asriel going to all end up in the same world? Why can Mrs. Coulter separate from her daemon? What part will Iorek and Lee play now? Will we see more of Andrew Scott as Grumman? I can’t wait for the next season of His Dark Materials, which hopefully returns next year.

Lynette

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Lynette has been a lifelong nerd and over the last few years finally learned to let her freak flag fly. She likes to dip her toe into almost every fandom but is particularly passionate about Supernatural, Stranger Things, Marvel and Disney. When she isn’t binge watching programs, she loves to swim, sing and (true to her Ravenclaw nature) read. Lynette joined the Nerds and Beyond staff in 2019 and loves sharing her nerdy knowledge with the world.

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