Emerging this week as a critical ally for Lyra and Will on His Dark Materials: “The Scholar.” Dr. Mary Malone (Simone Kirby) steps into the spotlight as a protector for the dynamic duo, while simultaneously opening Mrs. Coulter’s (Ruth Wilson) eyes to what could have been…
Will (Amir Wilson) and Lyra (Dafne Keen) have a plan. Now that they have the subtle knife, they’ll cut a window into Will’s world, directly inside Lord Boreal’s (Ariyon Bakare) home, and just pop in to retrieve the alethiometer.
They figure out pretty quickly that the Cittàgazze world and Boreal’s neighborhood overlap in some cosmic way that lets Will open small windows until they find their way into Boreal’s collection room. Once they have a sense of where they need to enter, they agree that Lyra will draw Boreal away from the room by ringing the doorbell, allowing Will to sneak in and get their prize.
The plot hits a couple of snags.
First, they run into Angelica (Bella Ramsey) and Paola (Ella Schrey-Yeats), weeping as they embrace zombified post-specter Tullio (Lewis MacDougall) in a street. Angelica pounces on them, somehow understanding that Tullio had been using the knife to keep specters at bay, that Will now possesses the knife and that Tullio’s state is linked to this transfer of silverware. She warns them that she’ll get them, which rattles Will.
Then, they miss completely that Boreal has brought Mrs. Coulter into Will’s world. When they peek into the room to find the alethiometer, she’s out of view– and why would they ever think Lyra’s mother would be there?
When they finally execute their plan, Lyra is successful in getting Boreal to the door, but Will gets a shock when he steps into the room and sees a woman there. He gets another when a golden monkey beats him to the alethiometer!
Lyra runs into the house when she hears Will shouting, and then she gets a huge shock when she discovers her mother in the wrong world and dressed for the occasion (thanks to Boreal having shopped for her).
Boreal follows Lyra, then sees Will with the knife and goes for him. As they scuffle, Lyra gives her mother a taste of her own medicine and makes Pan (voice of Kit Connor) attack her mother’s dæmon the way her mother did to her in London. It’s rough for everyone, but the kids prevail and escape back to the Cittàgazze world, where Lyra vows to use the alethiometer to help Will find his father.
Having her dæmon mauled isn’t the only blow Marisa Coulter receives in Will’s world. Her first stop on arrival is a visit to Dr. Mary Malone (sans dæmon, like a witch) to learn what the scholar has been speaking to her daughter about. When Mary learns who Marisa is, she bubbles about Lyra’s ideas and the quality of their conversation. Marisa tells Mary that she studies experimental theology, but she’s stymied when asked about her doctorate or articles she’s published. Marisa sneaks out as soon as Mary turns her back, escaping to Boreal’s for a drink.
While Lord Boreal is clearly trying to get it on with Marisa and admits he wants her to share his successful life in this Oxford, Marisa is shaken by a glimpse of the woman she might have been if the Magisterium’s sexism hadn’t held her back in her own world. She was a top student, but she wasn’t allowed a degree because she was a woman. She could have published articles, as long as a man received credit. And when she asks Boreal what he remembers of the scandal surrounding her affair with Asriel, he asks why they’re talking about him and she shouts that they are talking about HER.
Both Marisa Coulter and the audience find themselves wondering how much a product of her environment this woman is. Who would she have been if she’d been allowed to be a scholar and a mother without shame?
That’s the state she’s in when Lyra attacks her, setting the stage for us to sympathize with them both when Lyra later tells Will that her mother sometimes seems so nice, but she mustn’t allow herself to trust her.
Meanwhile, Cardinal MacPhail (Will Keen) is floundering a bit without Marisa whispering in his ear. He’s got the top job now, but he isn’t crafty. When Father Graves (Sean Gilder) delivers the news about the witches attacking their men at the “anomaly,” he accuses his rival of heretical doubt and has him jailed. Then he asks his alethiometer reader to find Mrs. Coulter, who hasn’t been seen since his promotion.
Back in Will’s Oxford, Mary is perplexed by Marisa’s abrupt departure. She returns to her Cave, where the angels tell her point blank that her work there is done, they won’t speak to her in that world again and that she needs to protect the girl and the boy. They give her cryptic instructions that send her straight away from work to The Bible, where she refreshes her memory on how to be a serpent (as directed), and then to the window Boreal uses to pass between worlds. She easily fools a porter who has been placed there to keep everyone except Boreal and Mrs. Coulter out, then finds the window and walks into the Cittàgazze world.
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