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His Dark Materials Discussion: 'Lost Boy' will break your heart in more ways than one

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Dec 3, 2019

His Dark Materials continues to unfold in unexpected yet deeply fulfilling ways, allowing Philip Pullman's tale to blossom as it should while also shaking up the narrative in a way that better fits the format. As Lyra and the Gyptians continue their quest to rescue the lost children, they are met with another devastating loss that only adds fuel to their righteous fire.

Plus, fans get a real, tangible look at fan favorite Will Parry, whose arrival is unanticipated but wildly exciting. As if this show needed another wonderfully written character to root for, Will is here to be a responsible and compassionate foil to Lyra's impetuousness. If you aren't ready to die for this gentle boy by the end of "Lost Boy," you might have a hunk of coal in your chest instead of a heart.

Warning: This discussion contains spoilers for Season 1, Episode 5 of His Dark Materials.

Credit: BBC

Looking For Bolvangar

Jessica: Not to get all Sara Lee up in the comments section, but Lin-Manuel Miranda can totally get it, y'all. I know I'm supposed to be paying attention to the march North and how tense everyone seems to be, but it's so hard when this show insists on outfitting Lee Scoresby in all that delicious leather and allowing him to deliver so much snark with just a few lines of dialogue.

The Gyptians are heading to Bolvangar, which sounds appropriately ominous and totally like the place you'd expect weird experiments on children to be taking place — but while everyone else is getting their steps in, Lee's content to hop a ride on a sled and spout off bits of wisdom like "Why walk when you can ride?" Why, indeed. I appreciated this time we spent with Lyra and the rest because it really helped to build up a couple of relationships that will be key later on in the story, between her and Lee and her and Iorek. Still, our girl's gotta be tired. The trek North is long and cold and filled with Lord Faa pestering her about what the alethiometer wants them to do next. Not the adventure I'm looking for.

Alyssa: Yeah, when Lyra tells Lee that he's not an easy man to like … girl, I sincerely disagree. I feel like I need to go on the record again and express my contrition over ever doubting that Miranda could pull off Scoresby. I was wrong, he is a charming rogue, and he's got the kindest eyes in the world. I AM SORRY I DOUBTED. But yes, despite the presence of a badass armored bear, the trudge North seems to be less than a great time. It's cold, everyone is sad and stressed, worst road trip ever.

I can't say I blame Lyra when she starts to get a little restless and jumps at the idea that the alethiometer is sending her on a side mission. Something terrible is happening in a fishing village, and Lyra wants to find the ghost that's doing it. She explains that it's perfectly rational to let a 12-year-old go off on a dangerous mission on her own, and shockingly, John Fa and Farder Coram think it's a bad idea. I'm usually against The Man trying to keep a good girl down, but I see their point this time. Dangerous! So many missing children already! They have a job to do, and they don't see Lyra f***ing off into the wilderness as a way to keep things moving.

Jessica: Normally, I'd agree. Solo day trips across the frozen tundra are not suitable activities for young girls with mothers like Mrs. Coulter. However, I can see why Lyra's so frustrated by this "adult" nonsense. She can't take two steps without Lord Fa wanting to know what the alethiometer says they should do next. She's basically leading this expedition, she's a vital component to its success. If the girl wants to take a quick jaunt to a haunted valley town, I say let her. I trust Lyra to handle herself more than I trust any of these adults right now. But the whole debate about Lyra leaving to go Ghostbustin' brings about some uncomfortable conversations. First, she goes to Farder Coram, who's totally against the idea. Then she goes to Ma Costa, who's so focused on getting her son back that even the thought of Lyra taking a break to do something else must sting. Ma's a gem and says she needs time to think about it and while that's happening, Farder Coram and Seraphina finally get their reunion and guys, it's TENSE.

Alyssa: I am hesitant to give Farder Coram a hard time for holding Lyra back because the man is GOING THROUGH IT. I've said it once, I've said it a hundred times, but James Cosmo is breaking my goddamn heart on this show. His reunion with Seraphina is full of deep sorry and more than a little resentment on both sides — he's mad that she's not fully on board with the fight to save children, she wishes he had found this fight when they lost their son — but you can still tell that this is a couple that once loved each other deeply. My heart, it bleeds. Seraphina lets Coram know that yes, things are even worse than they believed, but that the Gyptians probably shouldn't count on the Witches' help, at least in significant amounts. The Magisterium has their hooks into the clans, and they aren't as united as they once were. However, she tells Coram that she will always return to help him and that Kaisa will keep her informed. As she leaves, his voice breaks as he tells her that not a moment has gone by where he hasn't thought of her or their son, and reader, I lost it.

Jessica: I am verklempt just thinking about it. Despite this heartbreaking reunion, it was nice to finally meet a witch. Seraphina is as mystical and powerful as I'd hoped, gracefully flying in on a gust of wind, full of cool tats and sporting a cute pixie cut. I know we gush about daemons on this show but damn, I'd love to be a witch in Philip Pullman's universe in my next life. Still, it was disheartening to hear that the witches might not be the ally the Gyptians hoped they'd be in this fight. It makes you wonder just who Lyra and her crew can count on to go up against the Magisterium because sure, Iorek's great, but the alethiometer is warning of armies with guns and other serious weaponry so we're gonna need more numbers.

Alyssa: They need numbers and they need more knowledge about what they're facing, which is ultimately why Ma Costa realizes that Lyra needs to be allowed to pursue what the alethiometer is warning her about. Yes, they know where they're headed, but the Gyptians really have no idea what awaits them in Bolvangar. So, with Ma Costa's blessing, Lyra finally convinces Lord Fa that she needs to go. So, she and Iorek set off for the fishing village, and while they almost certainly face horrific danger, I am so jealous that Lyra gets to gallop off on a bear that I can't think about anything else.

The Parrys' Peril

Jessica: Lyra is living her best life right now on the back of an armored bear. Sadly, our sweet cinnamon roll Will Parry can't say the same. This episode gave us our first real glimpse of the boy who is destined to be a vital part of this story, a kid living in our world and having a really rough time of it. His dad, John Parry, is the explorer Grumman that Asriel, Boreal, and everyone at Jordan College has been talking about. Will knows his dad went missing on an expedition to Alaska over a decade ago, but his mom Elaine, who struggles with mental health issues, seems to have a better grasp on what her husband was up to. Or at least, why these strange men are watching her house. She's paranoid, rightly so, but Will just sees that as a manifestation of her illness. It's so sad to see their dynamic play out. He's the caretaker, she's constantly apologizing for things she can't help. Alyssa, we must protect Will Parry at all costs.

Alyssa: PROTECT. WILL. AT. ALL. COSTS. Normally, I am a real purist when it comes to adaptations of books that I love, but once again, His Dark Materials is making narrative choices that make so much sense. Introducing Will early works because he is so integral to Lyra's journey in the second and third books. All of this stuff is happening in tandem, so in order to make a more cohesive show, bringing in the Parrys is genius. But yes, Will Parry, precious cinnamon roll of a boy. He has the demeanor of a kid who has had to deal with stuff way above his maturity level, and instead of making him bitter, it has made him very kind. His mother's mental state is heartbreaking, and Will is clearly doing his best to keep their tiny family together. After Boreal frightens his mother, she goes looking for letters from John Parry, letters that Will didn't know existed. That is a pretty irresistible siren call to a boy who knows next to nothing about his absentee dad.

Jessica: Right? And though his mom is clearly not in her right mind, what was she thinking dangling these missives in front of the boy but refusing to let him read them. You can't tell a kid he cooks omelets just like his dead dad and then forbid him from reading old letters you have secretly stored under your sewing machine, Elaine! She comes around eventually but Will says he's not interested. They're her letters and he's got a chip on his shoulder about the whole abandonment thing. Still, I wanted to read those damn letters and I'm kinda pissed we didn't get the chance. How much are we betting that John told Elaine about his real mission in those letters?

Alyssa: I am generally not a betting woman (sorry, Scoresby), but I would bet that is as definite as Will's disinterest in the letters is feigned. I think Elaine knows more than she lets on — is it just me or did it seem like she was feeling towards a break in the barrier between worlds when she was spiraling out? — and it is only a matter of time before this levee breaks. Boreal's men are closing in on the Parrys, so it is inevitable that Will will be thrust into something that will completely reframe how he views the world and his life.

Jessica: I honestly didn't think of that but now that you've said it, I wouldn't be surprised if Elaine's OCD counting ritual has some kind of link to Parry and the barriers. The dude put too much on this poor woman. No one should have this kind of knowledge. What's worse, while the intentions behind John's money transfers each month were good — he knew this trip would take him away for a long time and he wanted to make sure his family was provided for — they also provide a paper trail for Boreal to follow. If John knew his journey would take him to other worlds before he embarked, the chances are high that the research he did before leaving is still in that house. Poor Elaine. If Boreal disturbs another rug, I don't know how she'll handle it.

Credit: BBC

The Heartbreaking Truth

Alyssa: While Will is dealing with a lack of insight into reality, Lyra is about to stumble into an overabundance of it. Her side quest with Iorek starts out pleasant enough because riding a bear looks to be as rad as it sounds. They stop for snacks and Iorek reveals a bit more of his backstory. He was once a Svalbard bear of considerable rank, but he killed another bear in a fit of madness and was subsequently banished. Iofer, the shifty fellow we saw in last week's episode, has since taken over as king and Iorek can never return. It's all very Shakespearean. Unfortunately, the tragic backstory isn't nearly as upsetting as what is facing Lyra in that fishing village. When they arrive, it is seemingly abandoned and giving off very bad vibes. Poor, tiny Pan is terrified.

Jessica: How dare they put Pan in this situation. He's clearly uncomfortable, shaking and whining with fear, but Lyra knows the alethiometer wants her to investigate so she does. By herself. While Iorek keeps watch. Because look, riding an armored bear is great, but it becomes hella awkward when that bear thinks you're a coward. Lyra Belacqua is no coward! She ventures into a creepy, run-down shack and what does she find? Billy Costa! Without his daemon. It's bad news, y'all.

Alyssa: This is another change from the book that feels like the right call, as heartbreaking as it is. Making Billy the child that's found without a daemon instead of some random boy raises the stakes in a huge way. It is immediately clear that Billy is deeply unwell without his daemon Ratter, and that's really driven home when he's reunited with his mother and the rest of the Gyptians. What should be a joyous moment is only one of sorrow at the realization that Billy is empty in every sense. He soon passes away in his mother's arms because there is no limit to the pain that this show can fling at Ma Costa. I love the quiet moment between Lee and Lyra when she returns. While the Gyptians have obviously good intentions, Lee feels like the only adult who doesn't want something from Lyra. When he tells her that he is proud of her, I believe him.

Jessica: Guys, I want Lin-Manuel Miranda to tell me he's proud of me! Alas, I'm not as cool or kick*ss as Lyra. She finds Billy and though there's no happily ever after, she should feel good about that. It means she's on the right track, doing the right thing. It also means it's more important than ever to book it to The Station because Roger's still there and who knows what they're doing to the poor kid. While everyone's mourning, a band of raiders infiltrates the camp in the dead of night, killing a few Gyptians and taking Lyra prisoner. She ends up where she wanted to be all along, just in the wrong way, and the episode wraps with her and Pan terrified that whatever experiment was done on Billy and his daemon will be performed on them. And while they're wearing some hideously tacky jumpsuits to boot!

Credit: BBC

What's Next

Alyssa: Not just any hideously tacky jumpsuits, but the same hideously tacky jumpsuit that Billy was found wearing. Yep, Lyra has made it to Bolvangar, but certainly not in the way that she hoped. Still, I am hoping that a reunion with Roger is on the docket for the next episode. Also, Mrs. Coulter's absence was really felt this episode. I know they can only fit in so many things, but we didn't get a single smirk or flash of satin. A crime against television!

Jessica: Especially after everything else this episode put us through. The least they could've done was give us a hint of satin jammies. Still, I hope Lyra gets to reunite with Roger as well and gets the hell out of there before any real harm can be done. If something happens to Pan, I honestly don't know how I'll react. I'd also love a check-in with Asriel at some point, though I'm sure that's far off.

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