If there was any confusion early on as to the biggest threat to our protagonists, “Armour” erases any and all doubts. From her face-to-face with the Magisterium Cardinal to her tête-à-tête with Iofur, the Northern bear king, Marisa Coulter solidifies herself as the most dangerous player in the game.
Despite her limited screen-time, Mrs. Coulter’s role in “Armour” is every bit as impressive as her previous appearances. Even the troll-ish Cardinal and his merry band of Magisterium toadies can’t keep up with her. It’s by her hand that Asriel, a thorn in the Magisterium’s side, is imprisoned in the North, courtesy of the armored bears. Though she promises Asriel to the Cardinal in exchange for asking a question to Fra Pavel, Mrs. Coulter has no intention of keeping her word. It makes sense, considering the organization itself is made up of scheming snakes. Yet, as fascinating as her maneuvering is, Mrs. Coulter’s question to the alethiometer-reading Pavel garners the most attention. “Who is Lyra Belacqua?” she asks and considering that Lyra is her daughter, Mrs. Coulter’s query lies toward something greater; a destiny for the young girl that she could use to (perhaps) break through the boundaries between worlds.
Speaking of Lyra, the young protagonist continues to grow into her character. While she’s yet to go an episode without mentioning her bestie Roger, as her world becomes bigger, Lyra’s taking more of the initiative no matter how others try to sway her. Part of Lyra’s ability lies in those around her underestimating her while her fiery strength of character and cleverness helps her navigate situations that, on the surface, seem likely to fail.
On her and Fardar Coram’s initial attempts to convince Iorek to fight for their cause, the armor bear, wallowing in his own hell of self-pity and shame, spurns them. That rejection nor John Faa’s proclamation of refusing to fight with Iorek (due to the bear’s reputation) does not dissuade Lyra from what she feels to be right. She helps Iorek find his armor and the bear repays the debt by following them North. Considering what may await them, having Iorek by their side—not to mention the swashbuckling aeronaut, Lee Scoresby (Lin-Manuel Maranda, Mary Poppins Returns, Do No Harm)—is a key addition to the Gyptian caravan determined to retrieve their stolen children.
As positive as the start of His Dark Materials has been, the series has lacked a character that popped on screen. Don’t get me wrong, people like Mrs. Coulter and Boreal, the best of the bunch thus far (in part due to their unidentified motivations) are positively fascinating. But until Lee Scoresby, the series was decidedly lacking in the charisma department.
Though he may be an infusion of the stereotypical adventurer, Lee carries an excitement and charm about him like this world’s Indiana Jones (though considering his scoundrel-like nature, Han Solo may be a more apt comparison). He arrives in Trollesund on a mission to repay the debt he owes Iorek, and though he’s not wholly successful, Lee ends up partnering with Lyra and the armored bear on their journey North. With a character like Lee, there’s no telling what surprises he may have hidden in his past, all I know is Lee’s devil-may-care attitude is a much-needed salve for a series that has, to this point been heavier on the dour and serious.
Now that the protagonists are heading North, the slow burn of the first four episodes can make way for some much-needed action. This week was a bridge between worlds, so to speak; leaving behind the cities and towns and along with it, the semblance of normal. And as abnormal as the entire business of daemons may be, the real adventure begins with a promise of the truly fascinating: Dust and its relation to other worlds and, thanks to Coram’s connections, witches. Though overly measured at times, “Armour” does a fine job completing the foundation for the second half of the season, posing more questions in its hour runtime than the three previous installments and, seemingly ushering in a more up-tempo narrative in the coming weeks.
- Though he has less than five minutes of actual screen time, Boreal once again makes his presence known. Strong-arming the ‘Ratty’ Pavel to answer Boreal’s question regarding where to find Grumman’s discovery, the Magisterium enforcer continues on his own quest that may fall beyond the Cardinal’s sanction. I still can’t determine where his loyalties lie: is it to the Magisterium or, like Mrs. Coulter, is Boreal a man concerned with his own agenda?
- I cannot say enough about Mrs. Coulter and her devious nature. Thus far, no one has been able to keep up with her ability to think two and three moves ahead. Not only did her machinations knock Iorek out of the Northern Kingship race, but pulling that lever indebted the current king, Iofur, to her. Coulter’s words to the bear king regarding Asriel also confirms that she couldn’t care less about the Magisterium’s goals, particularly if they interfere with her own plans.
- For the first time since Lyra got a peek at Mrs. Coulter’s notes do we get an inkling of what the Oblation Board has planned for the kidnapped children. Dr. Lanselius mentions the Maystadt process (intercession). It has something to do with Dust’s relation to children. Will mastery over this Dust allow the Board access to other worlds or is it something even more nefarious?