His Dark Materials S3E3 & S3E4: Betrayal After Betrayal

“The Intention Craft” & “Lyra and Her Death”

His Dark Materials S3E4 - Lyra's daemon Pan, in ferret form, stands at the edge of a pier, leaning out as far as possible over the water below

The following contains spoilers for His Dark Materials S3E3, “The Intention Craft,” and S3E4, “Lyra and Her Death” (both written by Jack Thorne and directed by Charles Martin).

Welcome back, dear reader, as we continue our coverage of the final season of His Dark Materials. With these two episodes now behind us, we are halfway through the season. All of the various story arcs for this season now have some forward momentum going. Lyra and Will are crossing the threshold into the Land of the Dead. Lord Asriel has ignited his war with the Authority. Mary Malone is about to meet some new friends. But once again, it’s Mrs. Coulter who steals the show.

Marisa starts Episode 3 as a prisoner of Asriel’s Republic, and ends Episode 4 as a prisoner of MacPhail’s Magisterium. In between though, she has a magnificent arc, taking her through captive, ally and betrayer to both sides of the war. An impressive feat in such a short time.

While Mrs. Coulter is back, as she relays through Father Gomez, she continues to be off her “A” game. She can’t motivate Asriel to come to Lyra’s aid as her father. Similarly, she can’t redirect MacPhail to put his fanaticism aside. In her arrogance, she has destroyed one weapon for good (though it is now thankfully repaired), and enabled another weapon for ill.

His Dark Materials S3E4 - Will and Lyra stand in what appears to be a train station, all cast in a bleak yellow, with people standing around looking at them as they look up at someone
Will and Lyra are directed to Holding Area 32

Lyra and Will

Lyra has a much easier time of persuading Will to her cause. He keeps protesting that his father tasked him with taking the Knife to Lord Asriel, but ultimately decides to follow his mother’s advice to help a friend in need. When Iorek orders him to focus on what is important in order to mend the Knife, it’s thoughts of Lyra that bring Will into focus.

For her part, Lyra is committed to helping a friend as well. She doesn’t want to be exceptional, like her mother and father, she just wants to do this one small good. Lyra wasn’t able to help Roger in time to prevent his death at her father’s hands. Now she is determined that this time she must respond to Roger’s calls for help in her dreams, no matter what the cost. The cost ends up being the loss of her very soul, being severed from her daemon, Pan.

His Dark Materials S3E3 - Lord Asriel yells at someone behind a glass window, while Mrs. Coulter stands skeptically behind him
Asriel murders an angel

Mrs. Coulter and Lord Asriel

Asriel wisely does not trust Mrs. Coulter, but he thinks he can use her. He at least respects her enough to woo her through her mind. He allows her free reign of the camp, knowing she’d be drawn to the Intention Craft. He shows her his captive angel and tries to impress her with his weaponization of her discoveries.

Ultimately, he loses Marisa the moment he pulls his forces off Will and Lyra. With the Knife broken, he is simply unable to see any value in the children. As she told the Council, her only reason for helping the Republic was that they were the only ones left who could protect Lyra. With little choice, he lets her go to “play mother,” knowing that now she has to take her fight directly to the Magisterium.

His Dark Materials S3E4 - Mrs. Coulter gets right up in MacPhail's face, trying to seduce him
MacPhail displays his magnificent abstinence

Mrs. Coulter and Father President MacPhail

MacPhail has been feeling the absence of the Authority on the other end of his prayers lately. From Mrs. Coulter, he learns that both she and Asriel have seen an actual angel, an honor he’s never been allowed, even after becoming the head of the Magisterium. He seems more concerned about that blow to his ego than the fact that Asriel murdered the angel.

Like Lord Asriel, the Father President takes a turn at trying to accept Marisa as an ally and not a prisoner. He grants her a much more limited freedom, which she abuses to go sneak a look at another weapon being built from her discoveries. MacPhail, perhaps with Father Gomez’s help, does a much better job of anticipating Mrs. Coulter’s ultimate betrayal of the Magisterium, managing to betray her first. In the end, he chooses to believe that the Authority has answered his prayers after all, by sending Mrs. Coulter back into his clutches.

His Dark Materials S3E4 - Lyra sits on a bench back-to-back with her death, as they look over their shoulders at each other
Lyra converses with her Death

Quick Takes

A couple of quick takes on the rest of the episode:

  • Iorek tells Will to find what matters, and Will thinks of Lyra. Aw, schmoopie!
  • While Ruta and Ogunwe worry over the rebel angels turning on Asriel, depending on what he does with the captive Archangel Alarbus, Asriel is at that very moment killing him. We’ll see if their worries pan out or not.
  • MacPhail plans to sever Mrs. Coulter from her daemon in order to power the bomb, but I have a feeling he’s going to be very disappointed to find out that connect has been severed long ago.
  • I love the Burton-esque feel of the petty bureaucracy that has built up around the portal to the Land of the Dead. “Looks a bit like Hell, but it’s not.” Indeed.
  • Coulter is so deliciously relentless in keeping MacPhail off kilter, with her little remarks about him still hurting himself and constantly calling him Hugh.
  • Commenters on Reddit point out that Lyra believed that the betrayal mentioned in the Prophecy was when she brought Roger to his death at her father’s hands, which is the understated (in the show) reason she is so committed to helping Roger now. The real betrayal though was her choosing Roger over Pan and leaving him there at the dock. This is made more explicit in the novels.

Best lines of the episodes:

  • “Asriel, she’s our daughter and the Magisterium want her dead.” “I think you’ll find they want the pair of us dead too.”
  • “Always seems to come back to me.”
  • “You’re not always right, you know that?”
  • “I know it wasn’t real, but I woke up once or twice and she was holding me. Never been held before.”
  • “You may have good intentions, Will, but that knife has intentions, too.”
  • “Honesty is not a thing to be found, Asriel. You’re either honest or you’re not. And… neither of us are.”
  • “You cluck and you settle your feathers over her like a mother hen.”
  • “How long do we wait?” “Until you die, of course.”
  • “He could never resist temptation. Whereas you… your abstinence is magnificent.”
  • “Feels like we’re in a horror film.” “Why would you want to watch a film that makes you feel horrible?”
  • “If you won’t stop…” “You’ll do what exactly?” “I’ll fetch support.” “Good. We all need support.”
  • “Oh, I’m sorry. One of your party is unsuitable for travel at this time.”
His Dark Materials S3E4 - Dr. Cooper looks closely at a lock of hair as Father Gomez and Father President MacPhail look on behind her
Dr. Cooper has ample material to guide the bomb

In The News

Here I try to point you to a few of the more interesting and informative news items over the last week related to His Dark Materials:

  • This is actually old news, but Radio Times had an article last summer about a festival panel featuring Ruth Wilson (Mrs. Coulter). In it, she talked about the scene we saw in Episode 4 where Mrs. Coulter receives the outfits as a present from her mother, who apparently assisted the Magisterium in finding her. Coulter’s mother is not mentioned in the original trilogy, but does appear in one of Pullman’s follow up novels, The Secret Commonwealth (2019).
  • James McAvoy (Lord Asriel) has a nice interview with Metro, in which he clarifies that the missing Lord Asriel episode from Season 2 never actually got filmed. Thus dashing any hopes of it maybe being released as a side project or having footage incorporated into this season.

That’s all for this week. Please let me know your thoughts and feelings about this week’s episodes, and any theories you have on what’s to come, in the comments below.

All images courtesy of HBO

Written by Brien Allen

Brien Allen is the last of the original crazy people who responded to this nutjob on Facebook wanting to start an online blog prior to Twin Peaks S3. Some of his other favorite shows have been Vr.5, Buffy, Lost, Stargate: Universe, The OA, and Counterpart. He's an OG BBSer, Trekkie, Blue Blaze Irregular, and former semi-professional improviser. He is also a staunch defender of putting two spaces after a period, but has been told to shut up and color.

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