Episode four of His Dark Materials may not be action-packed but it is a binge-worthy episode of the new drama that revealed some of our all-time favorite characters at last and even made us laugh a little.
After having to watch scene after scene of kidnapped children, which even if it is the main plotline is undoubtedly depressing, fans were finally rewarded when episode four began with the long-awaited appearance of the one and only Lin-Manuel Miranda as the skilled aeronaut Lee Scoresby. Not only was he in his hot air balloon but he was even singing! Really with such an upbeat start, we’re over our emotional injuries of last week’s episode and ready to dive back into the adventure.
Right off the bat, you can tell Miranda is gonna have fun with this character as he tries to light up a cigarette on the dock of an oil port with an officer in plain sight. Perfect casting for the sly character, Lee then shifts the officer’s scolding into an initial inquiry into a bear, and while book fans are reeling at this point we’re not about to meet the story-changing Iorek Byrnison just yet.
Setting aside Lee for just a moment, we close up back on our heroine, Lyra, and the Gyptian crew who are headed north to free the missing children. Stopping in a coastal northern village, Farder Coram brings Lyra along as he tries to make his case with the representative of the official witch consul, Dr. Martin Lenselius, to summon the great witch queen of Lake Enara, Seraphina Pikkala, to their cause. Although we don’t actually get to glimpse these witches in this episode, Coram’s war rhetoric and Lyra’s innate unnatural ability to read the alethiometer convinces him to summon Seraphina using her distinct cloud pine, meaning she could be on the way soon.
Yet, one success won’t settle the war as Dr. Martin warns them. The Magisterium has muscle, and as we later learn they even have witches working with them in their diabolical project with the kidnapped children. What he suggests they do is inquire as to where they can obtain the services of an armored bear.
And now we can really fangirl because Iorek is finally going to be on the scene in all his angry self-depressing drunken glory! It’s about time. If you’re not familiar with this character prepare for a cuddly-looking vicious new favorite.
We find Iorek in the metal works, hidden behind the wall as Lyra and Coram try to talk to him and covered in oil and grease when he finally emerges. But he’s not shy, he’s angry. He sees that the “child cutters” are taking the kidnapped children through this town, and that the townspeople pretend not to notice, and that through all this his armor, which is the equivalent of his own daemon, has been stolen. He’s understandably wary of Lyra’s offer of work and turns his back on them without a second thought.
Pivoting back to Lee, we know he’s here for Iorek too. At one point during his adventures, Iorek saved Lee’s life and he’s here to see that Iorek goes free at last. After a hilarious scene of losing a fight in a saloon, Lee crosses path with Lyra, mostly because he’s yelling about a bear in public. While they’re both looking for Iorek it’s for different reasons and they’re not ready to be allies just yet. Lyra needs to earn his trust, Lee needs to find his armor, and yet Iorek, ashamed of how far he’s fallen, pushes them both away like that self-sabotaging friend we all know.
Amid all this Mrs. Coulter has been busy. We have no update about the spy fly that must have flown back to her with Lyra’s whereabouts but let’s not forget about it just yet. Instead, she is occupied with the Magisterium who called her into their sterilized community-college looking headquarters to punish her for breaking scholastic sanctuary. After an awkward attempt at being funny, she then shifts into beast mode before our very eyes. Not only will she not be taking their punishment but they will also continue to support her project, still the child kidnapping one, and will give her access to the alethiometer. In exchange, she will give them Lord Asriel who is captured by the armored bears who are controlled by her. And while the Magisterium officials immediately fall over in acceptance of this offer we come to see that the armored bears never actually answered to Mrs. Coulter. She bluffed the whole thing and they believed her. Which just goes to show rigid solemn men in power can really be idiots.
To be clear that also includes the police officer who thinks he can fool Lee. After flexing his substantive knowledge of the law, Lee calls him out on Iorek’s debt point-blank insisting that is fraud, a claim that is corroborated by Lyra and her alethiometer. Defying the Gyptian King, Lyra uses the alethiometer again to learn where the town hid Iorek’s armor. Of course, telling a violent mistreated bear where his weapon of war is being hidden by selfish humans is probably not the best game plan, but let’s remember Lyra is a child, and when Iorek regains his armor and seeks vengeance she is also the only one who can stop him before there is a bloodbath.
And on that note of cheerful note the episode wraps up with Seraphina’s daemon confirming her acceptance of Coram’s request, Lee introducing himself to the Gyptians and joining them, and Iorek having regained his armor and ready to fight. Overall, this episode was mostly about getting the loveable team together at last. We haven’t seen Billy or Roger in the last couple of episodes, but with only four episodes left in this season the lines are being drawn, the war is building, and the battle for the kidnapped children is on the horizon, and if it’s anything like what we’ve seen so far it will be worth the watch.