His Dark Materials: The Daemon-Cages   Books Included 
December 8, 2019 7:36 PM - Season 1, Episode 6 - Subscribe

Lyra discovers the horrific truth behind the Gobbler’s activities in the North. She must use all her wits to help free those around her and avoid suffering a terrible fate.
posted by supercres (12 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Posted this to say: show is definitely on an upward trajectory, right? I enjoyed this episode, without caveats. A couple nits but nothing major. Things were skipped but the pacing felt right. My non-book watch partner’s question had all been addressed (if subtly) in past episodes.

Humanless daemons are way more affecting than daemonless humans (abandoned pets 😢) but I think that would be the case even if we saw everyone’s daemons all the time.

LMM’s Scoresby is growing on me. His buddy comedy with Iorek and that scene with Serafina helped immensely— any bit of “show don’t tell” in a storm. Loved seeing a glimpse of John Parry mostly bc Andrew Scott. CLIFF GHASTS.
posted by supercres at 7:46 PM on December 8, 2019 [1 favorite]

OK I haven't finished actually watching the episode, but let me say: in Finnish there aren't silent or 'ornamental' letters, so "Pekkala" is emphatically not pronounced "pe-kala" but rather "pek-kala". Those two Ks do actually matter! Like I'd forgive rolled-Rs or the difference between 'aa' and 'a' which don't really exist in English, but the difference between "Pekala" and "Pekkala" is definitely pronounceable in English.
posted by Pyry at 1:42 PM on December 10, 2019 [2 favorites]

Oh man we had very different reactions to the episode, but it may be because I /just/ recently did a reread of the books and so everything is really, really clear to me right now.

I stand by the fact that Pullman understood children - even brave children - much better than anyone who has adapted his materials thus far, and it was more obvious than ever in this episode.
His Lyra doesn't have a plan for how to fuck shit up. She opens the daemon cages (which never happened here, I'm assuming for budget reasons?) because it seems like a good idea, not because there's a plan. There's no concerted way of destroying the facility. And she warns the children to run, but she doesn't refuse to leave without them or tell Roger to go back for them. She takes the children with her because they come with her, and with the arrogance of childhood blithely assumes that telling them to be ready is enough.

Things I did like (a lot):

Ma Costa having zero time for conflicted Balangar guards. This point in the show is really clear, no matter how much you agonize over putting children in cages, when you put children in cages, you get your neck broke when people come for you.

The fucking incredible actress who plays Mrs. Coulter, who has clearly done studying of the body language of a howler monkey so that she can mimic the reactions a monkey would have in many cases - the shouting was /perfect/. Also the abject horror and the instinctive crouching movements. This is the perfect casting and she will always be my perfect Mrs. Coulter, even if I don't like all the rewrites. I do like the implication that she's chasing the end of sin because in the end she suffered from it too, from her temptation and the consequences, though.
posted by corb at 6:40 PM on December 10, 2019 [12 favorites]

I do like the implication that she's chasing the end of sin because in the end she suffered from it too, from her temptation and the consequences, though.

I liked that too. I don’t remember it at all from the books— was it there? It has been quite some time since I have read them.
posted by nat at 11:45 PM on December 10, 2019

Mrs. Coulter is definitely the high point of this adaptation. I thought the scientist neck snap was really more comical than they probably intended it to be.

I think they also missed out on the opportunity to actually show the severing, but perhaps that kind of metaphysical gore wouldn't fly with whatever rating they're targeting. Nevertheless, implied horror only really works if the audience is already primed to believe the implication is horrible, and I don't think the series has really communicated the importance of the whole daemon thing very well.
posted by Pyry at 7:26 AM on December 11, 2019 [2 favorites]

I agree, the whole daemon thing was completely fumbled.
Pan: Unhelpful nag
Hester: someone for Lee to do exposition at and clunky comic relief (that awful kind of "negging as comedy" that only works in a specific context that we didn't get)
The monkey: An extra set of hands for Mrs. Coulter who looks sad most of the time
Everyone else: Silent observers

They did the BBC thing of having one auteur do all the episodes but I think they would have benefitted more from a writers room approach so that the writing wasn't so clunky and dry and unbalanced. Lots of "what", hardly any "why". Big mouthfuls of peanut butter this show, no jelly.
posted by bleep at 2:18 PM on December 12, 2019 [2 favorites]

Oh and the witch's daemon who is also an exposition device and not even the right animal.
posted by bleep at 2:20 PM on December 12, 2019 [1 favorite]

Basically the way that they portray daemons is the way Pullman describes a removed daemon. When Mrs. Coulter says daemons bring impure thoughts as an adult I don't think we've been shown how that could even take place since they don't share thoughts. So like what, they just start being rude in different ways?
posted by bleep at 4:02 PM on December 12, 2019 [1 favorite]

The look of hope on the monkey's face as Mrs Coulter opened the tin box broke my heart a little.
posted by betweenthebars at 5:28 PM on December 12, 2019 [3 favorites]

And man, I dunno. This episode was OK, but it went from buildup to battle to _whoop_ off y'go Lyra! And on the one hand, sure, that's how a child would experience the fighting, on the other hand it felt sort of like "ok here's some high points we need to hit to cover the bases but not spend too much money doing it"..

posted by Kyol at 6:24 AM on December 16, 2019

Ugh. I think I hate this adaptation, as much as I was wanting to love it.

They are doing a terrible job with the concept of daemons. The severed children were just a bit sad, not basically catatonic. The scene with Roger lecturing them was a total eye-rolling moment... THEY HAVE LOST THEIR SOULS! A pep talk isn't going to help. There are so many scenes without visible daemons. Why do this show if you're not going to absolutely prioritize the most crucial element of the story? So many scenes where Lyra's slamming a door without Pan running through, falling out of a balloon without Pan, etc... where what happens later on with Roger and his daemon isn't going to make ANY sense.

Lyra in this adaptation is so not a firecracker 11-year-old. I liked the young blonde actress who played the leader of the kids at Bolvangar. She had a book-Lyra vibe in her few scenes.

The Bolvangar set was interesting. In the books it was this institutional, kind of generic school/ doctor's office vibe, complete with panel ceiling tiles and a tacky mural of a tropical beach which made it creepy because of the juxtaposition. The set they used in the show looked nifty but expensive, and I wish they had used that money on CGI for more daemons.

Also! They foreshadowed the bit where Lyra learns that flour can explode, but then they didn't do anything with it in the Bolvangar escape scene!!

The only thing I *really* liked was the scenes with the witches fighting. That was a really cool effect.
posted by jschu at 7:39 AM on December 19, 2019 [2 favorites]

The fucking incredible actress who plays Mrs. Coulter, who has clearly done studying of the body language of a howler monkey so that she can mimic the reactions a monkey would have in many cases

Yes this. One spectacular shot in this episode: the glance up to the control room from Lyra's POV after she's removed from the intercision machine, Mrs. Coulter and her daemon looking down, in mirror-image knuckle crouches.

(Also: Mrs. Coulter escapes from being locked in by Lyra by crawling through the air ducts, a callback to her daemon's spy ducts in the London flat.)

The only thing I *really* liked was the scenes with the witches fighting. That was a really cool effect.

I thought that was *only* Serafina at super-speed though, rather than all the witches? That and the cramped close quarters of the fight made it seem a very deus-ex-machina conclusion to the battle; although I guess it always did have a the-eagles-are-coming feeling in the books too.

This episode pretty much broke Myles McNutt; from his AV Club experts review:
and I think he's right. For all the movie's faults it really did get the ubiquity of the daemons right; this world should be teeming with daemons and in this version it frustratingly isn't.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 1:36 PM on January 2, 2020 [2 favorites]

« Older Supergirl: Crisis on Infinite ...   |  Watchmen: A God Walks Into Aba... Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments