In Review: His Dark Materials – The Fight to the Death

Lyra must do her best to convince the king of the panserbjorns, Iofur Raknisson, to put his reign on the line.

Synopsis: Lyra must do her best to convince the king of the panserbjorns, Iofur Raknisson, to put his reign on the line. Meanwhile, Iorek Byrnison makes his return to Svalbard after a long exile.



This week’s episode had the theme of cunning vs brute strength as Lyra, captured by armoured bears loyal to Iofur Raknison, manipulated the false king into fighting Iorek Byrnisson and losing his throne. Alongside this was the very adult fear faced by Will and his mother Elaine, as Lord Boreal’s thugs broke into their house and attempted to find Colonel Parry’s letters to his son. Jack Thorne, the writer, did an excellent job of creating and sustaining the tension throughout as well as providing us with some truly tender moments. I loved when Iorek told Lyra she would not lose him and when Lyra rushed to his side after Iorek was injured by Iofur Raknisson during the bears’ fight. It was great to see James McAvoy’s Lord Asriel again at the end of the episode and I liked the interaction between Lee Scoresby (Lin-Manuel Miranda) and Serafina Pekkala (Ruta Gedmintas). Also good was Mr. Hanway (Ray Fearon) stepping up to the plate and helping Will and his mother after their home was broken into.



Ruth Wilson shows phenomenal charisma and presence throughout this episode, as well as some great vileness at the start when she murders the Bolvanger nurse. Dafne Keen portrays Lyra’s development into a trickster hero very well, and there is one shot when she, Roger and Iorek are planning to rescue Asriel where this young actress absolutely channels Ruth Wilson and makes us utterly believe that they are mother and daughter. Peter Serafinowicz gives us a great malevolent Iofur Raknisson, the dark mirror to the heroic Iorek Byrnisson, played here with great tenderness by Joe Tandberg. Ariyon Bakare portrays Lord Boreal’s passive menace which becomes more aggressive brilliantly in the scene with him and Elaine Parry (Nina Sosanya) who shows great courage in standing up to Lord Boreal despite her doubts as to what is real or not. Lin-Manuel Miranda shows us the frustration of Lee Scoresby at his crashed airship and losing Lyra as well as his joy when Serafina Pekkala tells him that Lyra is still alive. Gary Lewis gives us a brilliant portrayal of the insane Thorold who tells Lyra she cannot possibly escape from Iofur Raknisson’s prison. James McAvoy delivers a great performance as Lord Asriel when Lyra meets him again, raging at her presence at first but then seeming untrustworthy by the episode’s end, as he plans to reveal to Lyra what he has been working on.


Incidental Music

The score in this episode really helped to create the tension and the atmosphere, for example at the start when Lyra is lost and alone as well as when Lord Boreal visits Elaine Parry and tries to manipulate her. There was also some beautiful instrumental music when Will takes his mother to Mr. Hanway’s house.



There are some utterly gorgeous shots of Bolvanger and Svalbard in this episode, as well as the CGI of Iorek and Iofur fighting. The special effects team have done a really great job of making Iofur Raknisson’s physicality a dark mirror of Iorek Byrnisson’s as well, which complements Peter Serafinowicz’s voice acting perfectly. I really enjoyed the scene where the armoured bears genuflected to Iorek by removing their helmets, which was very well done. The fight between Iorek and Iofur was brilliant, and I found it interesting that the camera focused on Lyra while Iorek killed Iofur in the background, perhaps showing Lyra’s good heart and innocence.


Overall, a gripping and satisfying episode which built the tension for next week’s finale.

His Dark Materials - The Fight to the Death
  • 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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