‘His Dark Materials’ Season 2, Episode 4 Recap: “Tower of the Angels”

15 Min Read
Image Courtesy of HBO.

There are spoilers about the episode in this article.

This week’s episode begins with a narration that reminds me of The Lord of the Rings. It outlines how the guild of philosophers forged the subtle knife, which allowed the bearer to cut the fabric that joined worlds. They built a tower and hid the knife to keep it secret, and used it for their own benefit. Spectres were already a problem in Cittàgazze, but when Asriel’s window appeared, the Spectres became a pestilence, and everyone in Cittàgazze was either killed or fled. The narration ends on a hopeful note that the knife could be used to save everyone in the right hands.

We return to Lee Scoresby, who is continuing on his quest to find Grumman. A daemon in the shape of an osprey (voiced by Phoebe Waller-Bridge) appears and comments that they have been expecting Lee. The daemon beckons Lee to follow her and flies away.

Image Courtesy of HBO.

Boreal visits Oliver, Mary’s colleague. He is shown their equipment and says that he is aware that due to lack of funding, their research will be shut down in a few days. After being introduced to Mary, Boreal offers to help fund them and mentions that they could get defense funding. At this point, Mary asks Boreal to leave and scolds Oliver, telling him that they can’t let their research fall into the wrong hands.

Lee is led by the daemon to a hut where Grumman appears, who is revealed to be Will’s father (Andrew Scott finally makes his appearance!) He admits that he goes by many names, including Jopari. Lee tells him that he is here to ask for help, but Grumman disagrees and tells Lee that he summoned him. He shows Lee that he used a necklace, which Lee is shocked to find used to be his mother’s.

Will and Lyra are trying to figure out how to get into the tower. They explore the city, thinking that there may be a tunnel into the tower. Pan finds a door with an angel on, matching the angels on the tower. Spectres are still lurking in the background while the two enter the tower.

Image Courtesy of HBO.

At the same time, Grumman is also telling Lee the story about the knife as it is the object that could help protect Lyra. He doesn’t have the knife but wants to find the bearer. He plans to take the bearer to Asriel, which Lee isn’t happy about as he doesn’t like Asriel. Grumman argues that Lee should put that aside as there will soon be a war between those who want to repress knowledge and those that seek it. Asriel needs the knife for the right side to win. Lee argues that he only came to help Lyra and Grumman is of no use to him if he doesn’t have the knife. Lee makes an impassioned speech about how he loves Lyra like a daughter, more than Asriel ever did. At this, Grumman admits that he left behind his son.

As Will and Lyra emerge at the top of the tower through a trapdoor, they find an older man (Terence Stamp) tied up and hurt. He introduces himself as Giacomo Paradisi, the bearer of the knife, but warns them that there is a boy hiding in the tower who has stolen the knife. They untie him, and as they do, the boy emerges from the trapdoor. He begins yelling at them and threatens them with the knife. Lyra tries to remain calm for once and says that they need the knife. The boy swings the knife at them and cuts clean through a gold statue. The boy attacks Will, and a dramatic fight ensues, including a dangerous moment when they are wrestling on a ledge having broken through a window. The knife is knocked away from the boy, and they both run to reach the knife. The boy gets there first. He swings the knife at Will, cutting off two of his fingers. Giacomo encourages Will to continue fighting, and Will seems to receive a burst of adrenaline. He repeatedly punches the boy and grabs the knife. The knife seems to shine as Will wields it. Giacomo warns the boy to run while he still can. Lyra runs to Will and reveals the two fingers that have been severed, and Will passes out.

Image Courtesy of HBO.

He awakens in Giacomo’s quarters in shock. Giacomo talks about the knife as though it is conscious, saying the knife knows when to leave one hand and settle on another. Giacomo removes his glove and reveals that he is also missing the same two fingers. He tells Will that he is the new bearer of the subtle knife.

Image Courtesy of HBO.

Grumman tells Lee that he left his wife and son behind as he thought his work was more important. He tried to return, but the window he came through had disappeared. He became a scholar and a shaman to find his way back. Although he found doorways to other worlds, he couldn’t find his way back to his own. He did, however, eventually get a daemon, so Lyra may be right that Will may have a daemon. Grumman says he accepted his limitations, and if he wants to be a good father, he will leave behind a world where his son is free and able to think for himself. Lee accepts Grumman’s argument and agrees to take Grumman where he needs to go if he will swear that Lyra will be under the protection of the knife. Grumman agrees but warns Lee that the bearer of the knife may have his own agenda.

Giacomo teaches Will that there are two sides to the knife. There is an edge that can cut through any material and ward off and kill Spectres. Lyra recognizes that the colors on the knife are the same as those on the blade that was used to separate daemons and humans at Bolvangar. The other edge of the blade can cut between worlds. Giacomo says that it is not just the knife that needs to cut but that the bearer also needs to put their mind at the tip of the knife. Will must look for a small, almost invisible, gap between worlds. Will tries to make a cut but fails and becomes disheartened. Lyra tries to encourage him and is shocked when Pan also tries to comfort him by rubbing himself against Will’s hand. People are not supposed to touch one another’s daemons. Lyra shares her struggles with using the alethiometer and suggests that Will can’t shut out the pain but needs to accept it. This strengthens Will’s resolve, and he tries again.

Ruta and Serafina are distraught at the destruction of their homes and the number of witches who have been killed, which Ruta feels guilty about. Serafina tells Ruta about Lyra being in a different world and asks her to join them in going through the anomaly. Ruta agrees but warns her that Magisterium gunships heavily guard the anomaly. However, they need to find Asriel to finish what he started and make the Magisterium pay.

Will is still struggling to make a cut between worlds and eventually succeeds. He sees thin strings that connect with the knife, and they are all openings to different worlds. He manages to make a cut into another world, and Giacomo then teaches him how to close the window. Will succeeds with very little effort, zipping the window by pinching it together with his fingers. Giacomo emphasizes that there are four rules that he should follow. Firstly, he must never open a window without closing it. Secondly, he should never let anyone else use the knife. Thirdly, he must not use it for base purposes, show it off or let it inflate his ego. Lastly, he must keep it a secret so that it doesn’t fall into the wrong hands. Giacomo says that the knife will protect him, but he also needs to promise to protect it. He tells them they must go, but Will argues that without the knife, the Spectres will get him. Giacomo says that he has fulfilled his duty and he wants to meet his destiny in private. Giacomo bids them farewell and then returns to the top of the tower.

Boreal summons Mrs. Coulter to lunch and reveals that he has found a window, and in a different Oxford, he has found Lyra. He tells Mrs. Coulter about the bargain with Lyra and says he has something precious of hers that she will return for. He promises that when Lyra returns, Mrs. Coulter can take her as a gift. He strokes Mrs. Coulter’s hand, making his intentions clear. She smiles in an uncomfortable manner but agrees and tells him to take her to this other world.

Will and Lyra watch from outside the tower as the Spectres ascend to the top. Before the Spectres get him, Giacomo swallows poison and sadly dies.

Boreal leads Mrs. Coulter to the window. She goes through and finds herself in Cittàgazze. Boreal follows and tells her that they need to move quickly. Mrs. Coulter pauses and sees the Spectres following them.

Image Courtesy of HBO.

The boy who attacked Will earlier is also wandering the streets while being followed by the Spectres. Clearly, he was hoping that the knife may have been a way to save himself. He tries various locked doors and ends up running for his life. Unfortunately, when he pauses, thinking he has outrun them, they appear behind him and pounce on him.

Will is taking a bath when Lyra brings him towels (walking backward so that she does not see him.) They decide that they need to get the alethiometer back so that they will steal it.

Lee leads Grumman to another balloon that he has stashed in the woods. He says that they need to hope for good wind since the Magisterium will be looking for a balloon. Although Hester is skeptical, Grumman shows off some of what he can do by summoning the wind. Lee hollers, glad they are on their way to help Lyra.

Mary once again tries to hook herself up to the Cave. She focuses, and a voice tells her to ask a question. She converses with the dark matter, confirming that they are shadows and the same thing as Dust. It also confirms that it is conscious, not human, and that there are uncountable billions of them. It says they are angels as they are creatures made up of shadow matter, which is the same as spirit. The voice says that it has always been there, guiding mankind, even in evolution. However, Mary is left very concerned when they say that they did so because of vengeance.

The final scene of the episode leaves us on a dramatic cliffhanger. The witches attack the Magisterium gunships, and we watch as Serafina tears through one on her own. Once the gunships are down, the witches all fly through the anomaly.

This week was much more action-packed than the first few episodes. It was also a star-studded cast this week. We can’t wait to see what happens next week! His Dark Materials airs Mondays at 9 p.m. ET on HBO and HBO Max.

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By Lynette
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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