In Review: His Dark Materials (S2 – Ep1) – The City of Magpies

Mrs. Coulter interrogates a suspected heretic
Dark Materials

Synopsis: Dramatised from Philip Pullman’s acclaimed His Dark Materials trilogy of novels, the fantasy drama returns to find Lyra and Will in the strange and deserted city of Cittagazze. Meanwhile, the Magisterium, in the shape of Mrs. Coulter (Ruth Wilson), interrogates a suspected heretic.



The first episode of series 2 of His Dark Materials took us deeper into its world. We saw Will (Amir Parry) and Lyra (Dafne Keen) meet each other and form a tentative friendship. Additionally, this episode also showed us Mrs. Coulter’s (Ruth Wilson) continued machinations as she attempts to manipulate the Magisterium. This outing largely succeeded at juggling the various characters and viewpoints that it presented. Furthermore, we got a great buildup of tension throughout the episode which led to an impressive cliffhanger. Interspersed with this we got to see Mrs. Coulter at her most dangerous and most malicious. The scenes in the ruined city of Cittagazze were by turns sweet and ominous, which can be seen as a metaphor for growing up. It was great to see Lee Scoresby again even though his role in the episode was very limited. I also liked that Lyra was reluctant to continue with her journey and needed to be encouraged by Will. As well as this, the scenes where Will and Lyra are shown to both have secrets were very well done.



This episode was Ruth Wilson’s. I loved her restrained intensity when Mrs. Coulter addressed Cardinal Sturrock and Father Garret. Wilson’s clipped, professional delivery of her lines during the torture scenes had me on the edge of my seat. This also provided a contrast with the more straightforward character of Lyra. Dafne Keen gave us a somewhat adequate Lyra this week, although I did like Keen’s delivery of this line: “I don’t need a stand up bath. Do I?” Keen’s interactions with Amir Wilson’s Will were great, although most of this was down to Wilson. His reaction to Pantalaimon was superb as was his tentative acceptance of Lyra’s soul being outside her body. I found Jade Anouka’s Ruta Skadi rather weak in the witches’ council scene. I thought that Anouka acted much better in the moment when she murdered Katja Sirkka, played brilliantly by Marama Corlett. Bella Ramsey and Ella Schrey-Yeats were great in the exposition scene of Cittagazze and later as villains hurting a cat.



The CGI in His Dark Materials continues to impress. I loved the updated title sequence that included the Subtle Knife and the new worlds. The special effect of the spectre forming behind Will at the episode’s climax was great. This was a brilliant payoff to the threat of the spectres. I also enjoyed the FX of the witches flying through the storm to attack the Magisterium. This was an effective way of comparing the roiling darkness of the natural world with the evil and viciousness inside Mrs. Coulter. Pantalaimon is realised most efficiently. I thought it was a clever touch that Will could speak directly to Pantalaimon instead of Lyra. Those who are familiar with the books will recognise what this is setting up.


Incidental Music:

The incidental music was a hand in glove fit for its scenes. The score that played at the beginning of the episode put across that these were events of great significance well. The helter skelter music when Lyra chased Angelica and Paola really made that scene what it was. The music when Lyra walks away from Will, and when they bicker really made me feel that a friendship was forming between them. The theme that played when Mrs. Coulter was manipulating Father MacPhail really put across again that events of great importance were taking place.



A strong and very welcome return to our screens for His Dark Materials.



His Dark Materials (S2 - Ep1) - The City of Magpies
  • Story
  • Acting
  • CGI
  • Incidental Music

Autistic writer who loves sci-fi, cosplay and poetry. Actor with Theatre of the Senses. He/him.
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