The fourth episode of His Dark Materials (BBC Two) gave us two pin-ups for the price of one. The online chatter was all about the arrival of Andrew Scott, aka Fleabag’s Hot Priest. But some of us like it when our hearts pound from a finer vintage. Who should show up, except Terence Stamp, who wears desert boots and sells plum brandy, than the exotic Giacomo Paradisi. He was the bearer of the subtle knife, which will mean anything to you if you are familiar with Philip Pullman’s novels.
I struggled to get into the first episode of this series. It took a lot from viewers who were unfamiliar with the plot of the books. I stuck with it and am now on the rhythm of things, but maybe the show’s creators shared the concern because they served a MasterChef-style voice-over out of nowhere that explained some of the backstory: the wearer, the subtle knife, the Tower, the ghosts. It sat strangely on the show but was undoubtedly helpful in understanding what was going on.
Will Parry (Amir Wilson) became the new bearer of the subtle knife that can cut the fabric that connects worlds. Meanwhile, Texan aeronaut Lee Scoresby (Lin-Manuel Miranda) has tracked down Will’s father, Colonel John Parry (Scott), also named Stanislaus Grumman, or Jopari the shaman – carry on – and the couple hit it off set off from odd couple adventure.
There are quite a few quests. John Parry is looking for the knife bearer and Lord Asriel. Scoresby and wife Coulter (Ruth Wilson) look for Lyra (Dafne Keen). Lyra and Will look for the alethiometer. Lord Boreal (Ariyon Bakare) has found Lyra and Will and the alethiometer and is now looking for the knife. Then there is Dr. Mary Malone (Simone Kirby, one of the best things here) searching for the secrets of the universe and now talking about her dark matter computer. Oh, and don’t forget the witches saddled with the silliest dialogue but turn out to be mind-boggling heroines who wouldn’t look out of place in a Marvel blockbuster.
It all looks wonderful – this is a co-production with HBO, and no expense has been spared – but it remains to be seen if screenwriter Jack Thorne can weave all these threads together as coherently as Pullman.
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His Dark Materials, Andrew Scott, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Fleabag, The Subtle Knife
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