REVIEW: His Dark Materials, S2 Ep4 – Tower of the Angels

His Dark Materials S2 E4 A

His Dark Materials finally introduces a crucial weapon and Will begins to fulfill his destiny while Mary speaks to Angels, Witches fight back, Mrs. Coulter steps through a window, and Lee Scoresby meets a shaman.

A lot goes down in this episode but the most significant is the introduction of the Subtle Knife also known as Æsahættr, a unique item created by a guild of philosophers with the power to cut through worlds. The knife, and its bearer, are the focus of this episode as various characters in different worlds refer to it. The opening scenes depicting the knife’s origins are very reminiscent of the opening scenes of The Lord of the Rings, as one reviewer points out, and also refer to an important tool that has the potential for great destruction.

As Will and Lyra explore the Tower of the Angels in search of the knife, they get way more than they bargained for. They meet Giacomo Paradisi (played with gravitas by Terence Stamp), the former bearer of the knife. A frantic young man named Tullio arrives, having stolen the weapon, and he and Will get embroiled in a struggle for possession. In the ensuing fight, two of Will’s fingers are sliced by the knife, which turns out to be the sign that he is the next bearer.

Despite his injuries, Will fights back and acquires the knife. Giacomo Paradisi carefully trains him in the ways of the knife and in a short span of time, teaches him the essentials, particularly how Will can cut windows into other worlds. The old man then bids farewell to the children so that he can die on his own terms. Later on, we see what becomes of poor Tullio as, deprived of the protection of the knife, he falls victim to the spectres.

Amir Wilson really comes into his own in this episode since it cements Will as the second hero of His Dark Materials, after Lyra already established herself in season one. I can’t say it enough but it was really a smart decision to introduce Will in the first season because the audience already becomes invested in his story and it was very easy to appreciate his new destiny because we have come to know him so well.

His Dark Materials S2 Ep 4Will and Lyra’s bond continues to grow in this episode, as the nature of the daemon-human bond is also explored. When Tullio hurts Pan, Lyra falls to the ground in pain as well. But more interestingly, when Pan moves closer to Will to comfort the latter, and Will touches the daemon, Lyra is instantly shocked by the intimate contact. Will is ignorant of the taboo of touching other people’s daemons, of course, and Lyra bears him no ill will for it. She is just beginning to understand the depth of her own attachment to her new friend and these intense feelings are difficult to process given what they are already experiencing. But it’s another testament to the relationship developing between them, even if they do not fully understand it yet.

Lee Scoresby finally meets the elusive Stanislaus Grumman who, as the audience well knows, is actually John Parry, Will’s missing father. Parry has become a shaman, trapped in Lyra’s world and unable to return to his own. He has devoted his life to studying the unknown and he is aware of the importance of the subtle knife and the crucial role it can play in the war Asriel is about to wage.

Andrew Scott portrays Parry with his characteristic intensity and charisma, the man never fails to draw you in, and so he does with Lee Scoresby. Though Parry came from a world without daemons, he soon gets his own and she is voiced by none other than Phoebe Waller-Bridge. So that’s a nice treat for Fleabag fans.

There’s an interesting chemistry between “Jopari” and Lee as both share their struggles with being fathers/father-figures. Lee is determined to do right by Lyra and so is John Parry, in his own way. For all his wisdom and learning, he doesn’t yet know how intertwined his destiny is with that of his son.

His Dark Materials is also interested in people of principle, and while emphasizing that Will is one of these unique souls, it does the same with Mary Malone. After “Sir Charles Latrom” visits the lab and offers a significant amount of funding to continue the research into dark matter, Mary turns down the offer, immediately suspicious of the mysterious benefactor’s motives. It doesn’t help that he had creepy way of saying that he admires women with “a good work ethic.” That’s a red flag if ever there was one.

Her virtue is rewarded and when she tries once again to communicate with the shadow particles, this time they respond. His Dark Materials tackles a lot of complex themes and concepts and Dust is one of these. While Dust has mainly communicated with Lyra through the alethiometer, it is now more explicit when speaking with Mary Malone. Just like Will, Mary is about to be pulled into a destiny far beyond her wildest imagination.

Mrs. Coulter meets with Boreal and he invites her to enter another world with him, promising that she will finally be able to get Lyra back. She seems skeptical at first but then, her own curiosity gets the better of her and she steps through the portal. She and Boreal briefly pass through Cittàgazze where she gets a glimpse of a spectre but seems unmoved. Monstrous creatures though they may be, the spectres will meet their match in Mrs. Coulter.

But she’s not the only one crossing worlds. The episode concludes with the Witches launching an attack on the airships of the Magisterium and making quick work of these. It is clear that the Witches have been holding back on fighting mankind but when they are provoked, they are truly a force to be reckoned with. They destroy the ships right before soaring through the “anomaly” or the portal into another world that Asriel created. Lyra and Will are about to get some very powerful allies.