His Dark Materials: The Fight to the Death   Books Included 
December 15, 2019 3:48 PM - Season 1, Episode 7 - Subscribe

Separated from her friends, Lyra must use all of her methods of deception to thwart a formidable foe. Meanwhile, Mrs Coulter plots her next move.
posted by adrianhon (16 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Pretty good! A lot of heavy lifting for Lyra this ep, but I felt like she pulled it off, even if events felt rather rushed at times – I missed just how Iorek knew where to find her.

- I have this theory that if you get too far from your daemon it teleports back next to you, like a loyal but dense videogame NPC (yes, I know, I know).

- Speaking of which, give us a true HDM adventure game, you cowards! That way we could have all the talking daemons we want. Sadly, I'm reliably informed Philip Pullman dislikes videogames of all kinds, which is a shame since I feel his world is tailor-made for a point-and-click game. Just imagine being able to control your human and their daemon!

- The bear palace is very small considering how big bears are.
posted by adrianhon at 3:51 PM on December 15, 2019

I held back posting this because I feel like a sucker with how much I like the show that's clearly taking liberties with how book-awesome Lyra is. It's carryover from book-emotions!

Kaisa told Iorek where to find Lyra IIRC. Or maybe I just assume that Kaisa and the witches are filling in gaps.

(Serafina's tattoos/scarification/??? look like Lichtenberg figures-- non-gory skin scar images.)

When I read HDM as a kid it took me a while to understand Asriel's reactions to seeing Lyra, then Roger. I think I didn't (probably still don't) absorb the ends of books very well, catching the betrayal that lends next episode its name. Unsurprising that James McAvoy pulled it off nicely IMO. His Scottish really came out.

The other scholar at Svalbard was disappointingly in the middle of sane and non-sane. Could have done more (or less) with that.

Other than a mysteriously nice house (a little depressing would have lent gravitas, I feel?), Will's storyline is working for me.
posted by supercres at 8:55 PM on December 15, 2019 [1 favorite]

Reasonable picture of her arm. Definitely meant to be tattoo in hindsight. Very botanical and fractal. I dig it.
posted by supercres at 8:57 PM on December 15, 2019

Just imagine being able to control your human and their daemon!

I think the whole daemon thing gives the perfect opportunity to sidestep the problem that a lot of narrative-heavy games have, which is the difficulty of maintaining the illusion that the player has any control over the narrative: suppose you as the player only get to control the daemon, so you would act like a kind of metaphysical superego, but there wouldn't be the pretense of having direct control over events.
posted by Pyry at 1:44 PM on December 16, 2019 [4 favorites]

How did Lyra survive her fall from the hot air balloon?
posted by EXISTENZ IS PAUSED at 5:50 PM on December 16, 2019 [2 favorites]

I loved it all, my only two complaints are:

1) I wish they had showed more of how uneasy and uncertain the other bears were about the new ways, I really loved that she was able in the books to get her way to Iofur because the bears weren’t sure what he would want because everything was so weird.

2) I don’t like that they worked super hard to give Will zero culpability for the killing. For him to consider himself a murderer at this point really seems like a huge stretch. It seems part and parcel of nerfing the children’s wildness.
posted by corb at 10:07 PM on December 16, 2019 [2 favorites]

The acting continues to be amazing, the script and direction to veer between electrifying and leadenly gauche clunky. Anyhow I re-read the books and it turns out I hardly remember them AT ALL. How they're going to film the last one I can't imagine. Pullman doesn't half get didactic in The Amber Spyglass (which in my opinion is Death to Fiction) it has a definite whiff of Perelandra about it in spite of Pullman's scorn for CS Lewis.

I found out a bit about locations which are mostly in Wales and a bit in Oxford and also very much in the studio: Radio Times.

Wales predominantly served as the set for the drama with the Brecon Beacons standing in for some of the sweeping landscapes in the series ... the crew did go to Oxford to shoot some exterior scenes ... Other filming locations included the Bridge of Sighs, the Botanical Gardens and New College Lane. The Express.

The beautiful ruined glasshouse with the door to our world is the Orangery at Blaise Castle, Bristol. Since it's a public attraction I'd like to read something about the process of filming there. How long did it take? How long was it closed for? Where did they put the flowers? Just logistics.

Someone on reddit identified Will's house and sure enough it's part of an award winning Grade II listed development, 1-6 Little Orchard, Dinas Powys, built in the 70s. And again (not sure if this is the same house as in the previous link.)

Here's Amir Wilson (Will) mentioning the house in an interview: We didn’t have many sets for Will’s world in season 1 because it was mainly filmed on location. But, for example, they found the exterior for my house that they liked, but inside the house the staircase, there was a spiral and I don’t think they liked that. So, they rebuilt the house in front of the studio* and just changed the stairs… It’s funny because, when I was filming Will’s world, it was a month before season 2 so they were preparing and building all the sets we would come across in season 2. So, looking at all these amazing sets and then it’s just my little house on the corner.

Also in the same interview he says they had a different director for the scenes in Will's world, Will McGregor. That makes sense, they have quite a different quality from the epic scenes in Lyra's world and are much better acted.

posted by glasseyes at 3:04 AM on December 18, 2019 [2 favorites]

As I've been reading interviews and reviews Pullman consistently cites and is compared to Milton, Tolkien and CS Lewis. But without being too spoilery the stand out and pervasive influence imo is the Earthsea series, which considers the moral and social and philosophical implications of magic or spirituality as an observable and mutable force, with more sophisticated and thoughtful results than Pullman. And I think Diana Wynne Jones also worked with that theme. I'm surprised I've not read that comparison being made anywhere.
posted by glasseyes at 3:24 AM on December 18, 2019 [1 favorite]

I was prepared to be upset about the killing scene but I thought it was interesting that they made it a collabo between him & the cat given what happens later (the cat daemon). I don't remember how it happened in the book but I think a kid would definitely think of himself as a murderer after something like that.
posted by bleep at 7:33 AM on December 18, 2019 [1 favorite]

I's the same in the book, the henchperson dies because he trips backwards over the cat when Will pushes him and then falls downstairs and breaks his neck.
posted by glasseyes at 8:04 AM on December 18, 2019

That poor stupid guy. You get into computer games as a kid, find you have a knack for it at uni, a friend tells you about soulseek, you start making some cash fixing horse races, you get in over your head and some kid flips you over a bannister.
posted by bleep at 8:16 AM on December 18, 2019 [5 favorites]

This show isn't really working for me--at this point I care more about Thomas than Will.
posted by betweenthebars at 6:36 PM on December 19, 2019

The bear CG was good but kind of really didn't do much towards telling the story of the fight; that Iorek's tricking Iofur. Also missing: the end of the fight is shockingly visceral in the book -- Iorek rips Iofur's lower jaw clean off, a reminder that the bears are brutally strong fighting machines -- but is fully off-screen in this version.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 1:41 PM on January 2, 2020 [2 favorites]

Also the whole thing about Iofur having this expensive & shiny armor that was ultimately useless. Having them fight without the armor on made the whole reason Iorek was trapped in that town be for nothing.
posted by bleep at 1:59 PM on January 2, 2020 [3 favorites]

Yeah, I completely don't understand why they did away with the armor. It made no sense.
posted by tangosnail at 6:56 AM on January 4, 2020

The wife and I have moved completely on to MST3k-style hollering at the TV. I mean I can tell there's something interesting going on in here, but it feels both stupidly compressed and ridiculously drawn out. At this point I no longer honestly really _care_ about the Boreal/Will/John Parry storyline - they've done sweet fuck all to make it even remotely tie in to the main story, it's just sort of something that's happening and we're just along for the ride?

And the whole Bear Palace segment went from Lyra's capture to HEY HEY it's King Iorek in like 30 minutes. The whole displaced king plotline just sort of got wrapped up Just So. Ok fine, it depended on Lyra convincing Iofur to let Iorek actually show up for a fair fight, but even that took like 5 minutes and didn't feel like it had any backstory to explain how Lyra knew Iofur's greatest desire? (The greatest desire that they're doing a terrible goddamn job of showing in practice for the humans but...)

And then we go back to Will's plot which I swear we've spent a full third of the season on for approximately fuck all story development. Boreal Wants The Letters. Gotcha. Why does he want the letters? Is this a magisterium thing or a personal thing? Who knows! The show certainly isn't telling you.

At least the Gyptian plot earlier in the season was sorta kinda reasonably fleshed out. These last few episodes have either been nicely tied up with string and just so or interminable and unexplained.

Grar. I assume it plays better for people who are familiar with the story. And maybe it works all right as a standalone piece of art for the YA audience it's intended for. But eeecccch it's not great for an adult audience who isn't familiar with the source material.
posted by Kyol at 7:47 AM on January 15, 2020 [1 favorite]

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