In the second episode of HBO & the BBC’s His Dark Materials, some big truths come to light… no thanks to the alethiometer.
Roger is being held captive by the “gobblers,” where he’s been reunited with the missing Gyptian boy, Billy Costa (Tyler Howitt). Along with a group of other kidnapped children, Roger and Billy are moved from one dingy room to another by their captors, effectively evading would-be rescuers like Billy’s community.
Lyra is being held in a very different type of prison. She and Pantalaimon (voice of Kit Connor) have been settled in Mrs. Coulter’s (Ruth Wilson) opulent London penthouse. Although Lyra’s new bed is so soft and pillow-laden that she feels like she’s drowning in the luxury of it, and although Mrs. Coulter introduces Lyra to all of the arctic explorers she’s ever dreamed of meeting, it becomes increasingly clear that Mrs. Coulter is not quite what she appears.
Mrs. Coulter insists that Lyra leave the search for Roger entirely to her. She outfits Lyra with a restrictive new wardrobe and rules to follow. She limits her movements within (and away from) the apartment with locked doors to which only she has keys.
At nighttime, Pan notices noises in the walls. Lyra initially dismisses the noises as being from the pipes, but ultimately she agrees to follow them with Pan and finds Mrs. Coulter’s dæmon, a golden monkey, in her study while Mrs. Coulter is at the other end of the apartment. Lyra is baffled, as it’s supposed to be very painful to be separated by any distance from your dæmon. Mrs. Coulter finds her out of bed and looking into the study and insists that Lyra is mistaken, implying that she’s essentially dreamed it while sleepwalking.
One day, a Magisterium representative comes to the penthouse to deliver a warning message to Mrs. Coulter from his Cardinal. They catch Lyra eavesdropping, and after the Magisterium man and his flunky depart, Mrs. Coulter shows her true colors for the first time. Her dæmon attacks Pan, driving Lyra to the floor in symbiotic pain.
When Lyra protests that her uncle won’t let Mrs. Coulter treat her like this, Mrs. Coulter comments on what a terrible father he’s been, wounding Lyra more deeply with the revelation of Lord Asriel’s (James McAvoy) true relationship to her than she ever could have with her attack dæmon.
Not long after, Mrs. Coulter and her dæmon leave the apartment without telling Lyra and lock her and Pan in alone. Pan instigates an investigation to try to determine who/what Mrs. Coulter is and what she’s up to. The study door is locked, but Pan finds an access point through the vents, confirming that the golden monkey has been moving independently through the apartment’s walls and likely spying on them. They crawl through the vents into the study, where Lyra finds a folder full of blueprints for a “station,” and plans apparently for a way to separate humans from their dæmons, hidden behind one of the desk drawers. She also sees a number of pieces of correspondence from the “General Oblation Board of London.”
They manage to get out of the study and back to Lyra’s room just before Mrs. Coulter returns… from visiting the children she’s keeping captive. She visited Roger, Billy and the others and led them through the farce of writing letters to their loved ones to explain that they’ve been selected to go on a journey to the North. As soon as she left the excited children, she burned their letters.
Behind the scenes, the Magisterium has tasked Carlo Boreal (Ariyon Bakare) with uncovering more about the adventurer Asriel reportedly found part of in the North. The Master (Clarke Peters) invokes academic sanctuary, refusing to grant access to his colleague’s skull, which has already been treated and moved to Jordan College’s crypt. So Boreal simply sneaks into the crypt with his snake dæmon, and when he examines the freshest skull there he becomes convinced that it’s a fake, and that Asriel is behind it.
Boreal makes his way to an abandoned greenhouse, where he walks cautiously up a decaying staircase… and through a barely visible window into another world– our world. He emerges in modern-day Oxford, where he gets into a parked car and plugs in a smartphone. He texts someone for a meeting, and later joins a man from our world in a cafe. The man is in his employ, and Boreal tasks him with finding the missing adventurer, identifiable by his osprey dæmon, whom he now believes has found a window into this other world and crossed over.
When Boreal returns to his own world, he dons a tuxedo and heads to a swank soirée at Mrs. Coulter’s, where Lyra is serving flutes of champagne to fancy guests. One of the guests turns out to be a journalist who has crashed the party. She pulls Lyra out to the terrace for a tête-à-tête, where she congratulates the girl on avoiding the danger of the gobblers by moving in with their boss. She explains to a confused Lyra that the “General Oblation Board,” is the gobblers, and Mrs. Coulter is the General Oblation Board.
The journalist wants Lyra to snoop for her, but Lyra refuses and rushes away in panic. Pan notices that the elevator is unlocked, and they run to get in it. Lyra doesn’t want to leave without the inscrutable alethiometer, so she runs back to her room and grabs the white purse she’s started keeping it in.
Meanwhile, Boreal grabs the journalist and takes her and her butterfly dæmon downstairs in the elevator to a waiting car. She begs him not to hurt her, but he catches her dæmon in his hand and crushes it, killing them both instantly.
Lyra and Pan escape through a window, using their roof-navigating skills from Oxford to easily climb down the building. Mrs. Coulter and her dæmon figure out what they’ve done, but they don’t give chase.
That night, as Roger and Billy are being led away to begin their journey “North,” Lyra and Pan seek shelter in a doorway in a cold alley. Lyra tries to rest, but their attention is drawn by a noise. When they step into the alley to find its source, they see a dæmon looking at them and are grabbed from behind by a shadowy figure.
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