His Dark Materials: Armour   Books Included 
November 24, 2019 3:12 PM - Season 1, Episode 4 - Subscribe

Lyra and the Gyptians arrive in the North and seek the help of the Witches' Consul, Texan aeronaut Lee Scoresby and an armoured bear in service to the town.
posted by adrianhon (16 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Lin Manuel Miranda was... good? I like how he leaned into the whole shit-eating grin aspect rather than trying to do the impossible and mimic Sam Elliott. Not perfect but certainly not as bad as I feared.

- Why on Earth did we see Lyra using the alethiometer out in public in Trollesund?! A very clunky way of moving the plot along.

- Down a glass of fine Tokaji wine every time you hear "scholastic sanctuary."

- Fra Pavel is using Altavista while our girl Lyra's on Google.

- Maybe it's the CG, maybe it's the enormous locations budget, maybe it's the story, but this is really reminding me of a point-and-click adventure with all the miniquests. Using the alethiometer = Loom-style puzzles.

- Why don't the Magesterium just wipe out the small Gyptian band and blame it on some accident? Clearly they have fast-enough communication in this world. Too few forces in the North?

- Loved the PINBALLTROLLMAN table in the bar.
posted by adrianhon at 3:18 PM on November 24, 2019 [4 favorites]

The first few scenes with LMM really felt weird, like he was "acting." I suppose that's the character choice - Lee is a fellow always telling a story to someone somewhere, even if just himself.

Mirrored in the way that Lee's daemon narrates the bar fight. Really shows their link and builds character for both. Would love to see more characterful Daemon use like that going forward.

What is going on with Coulter's Daemon. She doesn't like to touch it - slaps it away again this episode. And it seems so sad!
posted by Wulfhere at 7:30 PM on November 24, 2019 [2 favorites]

Iorek’s voice acting felt strange. Very stage actor-ish; I think LMM suffered from the same thing.

First glimpses of the deceptive manipulative Lyra. Not quite as antiheroic as she sometimes is in the books, but I’ll take anything that extends her characterization. we know it’ll bite her with the bears (looking forward to more Iofur) and a lot more next season of course. Hoping to see it on full display in Bolvangar too. Let her be a shitty impulsive lying kid, Hooper!

Looking forward to the witches like crazy. Kaisa was great.

Lack of daemons in a small room of MC and two Magesterium types? (Did I miss a mouse or snake hiding somewhere?) Not so great.
posted by supercres at 7:48 PM on November 24, 2019

The Magesterium flunkies tend to have conveniently small or shy daemons like snakes, flies, and other insects, so it's feasible we wouldn't see them. They lampshaded this with Lord Boreal explaining in ep 2 that they don't always feel like showing their daemons. It's not ideal – clearly the budget is limiting their creative ambitions – but I'm at peace with it. Perhaps in 2029 we'll get yet another adaptation with even more daemons.

I forgot about how much I enjoyed Hester! Most of the daemons other than Pan are evil or silent, it's nice to have one with a sense of humour.
posted by adrianhon at 9:24 AM on November 25, 2019

Wasn't Scoresby hanging out in the town and keeping an eye on Iorek (or Eye-or-ek as I called him in 8th grade)? I thought it was dumb to have Scoresby doing exposition at Hester, it kind of undercuts the idea of daemons. Of course she would know exactly where they were going. I feel this way about how they use Pan too, it makes daemons seem more like a helpful companion than a part of your soul.
posted by bleep at 6:52 PM on November 25, 2019

For my money, that was the every best episode so far and easily the one most like the book.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:51 PM on November 25, 2019 [4 favorites]

Yeah same. Also in this one I started thinking of it like a filmed stage play and actually enjoyed all of it much more.
posted by bleep at 9:24 PM on November 25, 2019 [2 favorites]

Also I realize now I always pictured Kaisa as a pelican. They should have went with that.
posted by bleep at 9:27 PM on November 25, 2019

Kaisa is a snow goose in the books :)

I am frustrated by this show. I realllly want to love it because the books mean so much to me. But so many parts are just not quite right.

Lyra at this stage of the books is a feisty, impulsive, guileless, kinda bratty, sassy KID. I feel like show Lyra is too old and kind of one-note... moody. Book Lyra can turn on the charm. At this point she's worried about Roger but she's still a kid. First thing she does when she meets Lee is eagerly ask for a ride in his balloon, like the eleven-year-old she is. We haven't seen that side of her where she effortlessly, delightfully lies to tell a story, or just makes shit up to get the nearest adult off her case!

I realize CGI is hard and complicated but there are so many scenes that are missing the daemon aspect. Pan barely ever changes, and I think that's part of why Lyra seems so blah. He is a white ermine in 90% of scenes. I wish they would show him changing to reflect Lyra's sense of fun, gain an advantage in fights, or mimic whatever adult's daemon that Lyra is talking to. For example, in the book when they are first with Mrs. Coulter and Lyra is still entranced by her, he changes to be a monkey. When Lyra goes outside after being cooped up on the boat, he becomes a seagull to stretch his wings and enjoy the fresh air. I was glad he was an arctic fox for parts of this episode.

There aren't enough daemons in the backgrounds. There was a wide shot in this episode where Pan was no where to be seen. I feel like even if they have a stuffed animal mouse or something to sit on her shoulder, that would suffice. I feel like if I hadn't read the books, I would think that daemons are kind of like imaginary friends... or that only some people have them. I realize they can only do so much, but the daemon-human connection is literally the whole point of the story.

I'm not sure about LMM's Lee Scoresby. Hester is perfect though.
posted by jschu at 10:32 AM on November 26, 2019 [3 favorites]

Yeah maybe if they had slowed down and had one episode cover way less narrative ground it would have more time for fun.
posted by bleep at 11:59 AM on November 26, 2019

Don't know if it was linked earlier, but BBC did an interesting video about how they used actual daemon puppets (instead of a tennis ball) for CGI stand-ins during filming, and also why Pan didn't change as much (the answer is money, but also they have some artistic choices for the changes he did make).

It kind of makes me wish they had been able to use puppets for all the daemons.
posted by emjaybee at 5:23 PM on November 27, 2019 [1 favorite]

I did wonder if they'd tried Kaisa as a goose and found it looked just too funny.
posted by lokta at 8:17 AM on November 29, 2019

"I did wonder if they'd tried Kaisa as a goose and found it looked just too funny."

They were too worried about "Press Y to Summon Serafina Pekkala" memes.
posted by komara at 8:45 PM on November 29, 2019 [6 favorites]

Wait wait wait wait hold on hold on hold on hold on I'm just rethinking everything
posted by bleep at 8:54 PM on November 29, 2019

This is bombshell news
posted by bleep at 8:55 PM on November 29, 2019 [2 favorites]

So I read the books on release, watched the earlier movie etc etc but for whatever reason they never sank hooks in my brain to the degree that JRRT and an earlier critic of the Professor’s work, Michael Moorcock, did. The movie just jettisoned a bunch of the academically-oriented and derived subtext. This show is definitively not doing so, and it is helping me to reorient toward the initial material.

With regard to this episode, while the show has been passable and acceptable to date, it became compelling with this instance, primarily due to LMM. This was unexpected by me. I absolutely concur that his line delivery, presence, and physical motion were contrived and theatrical. At some point I remarked that it seemed as though he was singing his dialog. Whatever; it WORKED.

The other aspect of this episode that was compelling was the visualization of Iorek (“Yorick”, fucking-A, that shot went WELL over my head, Phil). The bear’s physicality and fantastic larger-than-our-bear size were very strongly, and affectingly for me due to *reasons*, executed.

(Reasons: Many years ago my wife and I whiled away an afternoon at the Seattle zoo, a progressive place with relatively large and naturalistically designed enclosures for the animals. The grizzly bear enclosure is one of the larger ones and as is the case for many similar zoos often the inhabitants of the enclosures seek to hide from the observing public.

We happened to walk past a small, relatively hidden plexiglas viewport which provided a view into a cave-like shelter with a body of water inside, presumably a locale in which the bears are fed and can pass into interior quarters when they wish.

I noticed one of the grizzlies at the mouth of the cave looking up and out, maybe at the exterior observation rail, just beyond the mouth of the cave, maybe twenty feet away from the viewport. I asked my wife to hang on and come look at the bear with me, and we stopped and closely approached the porthole.

As we came close, the bear caught us in his peripheral vision and first turned to look at us, and then stood to turn and face us on all fours. Then he began walking toward the window. Slowly at first but after a couple of steps he accelerated into a run.

Both of us experienced a profound adrenal fear reaction and began to pull away. Somehow I had the presence of mind to whisper “Stay put, we are totally safe” into her ear and we did not turn and flee.

The bear slammed into the wall and used the momentum of the charge to whack at the window with an enormous paw, six inch claws scrabbling on scarred plexi. The thump of the bear’s weight jarred us on the other side of the wall. The bear then thrust his head into the bear side of the window and gave us the stinkeye before roaring at the window.

We took the hint and backed off.

But I am proud to say that my wife and I stood our ground in the face of an angry adult grizzly bear’s charge. It was incredibly intense and a very difficult thing to do.)
posted by mwhybark at 9:52 PM on December 3, 2019 [4 favorites]

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