In Review: His Dark Materials – The Scholar (Series 2 Episode 5)

Will and Lyra plan to steal the aleithiometer back from Boreal, but face a challenge in the form of an unforeseen guest. Mary takes a leap of faith
The Scholar

Synopsis: In The Scholar. Will and Lyra plan to steal the aleithiometer back from Boreal, but face a challenge in the form of an unforeseen guest. Mary takes a leap of faith.


Why not check out our reviews of episodes one, two, three and four ?



This week’s episode sees the relationship between Mrs. Coulter (Ruth Wilsonand Lord Boreal (Ariyon Bakare) become more complex. Also shown is Cardinal MacPhail’s (Will KeenPalpatine-like descent into despotism, as he orders Father Graves (Sean Gilderto be imprisoned for heresy. Back in Will’s world, Mrs. Coulter visits Mary Malone (Simone Kirby) after locking her daemon away in Boreal’s home. A google search of Marisa Coulter by Malone comes up blank, and the “angels” inform our favourite physicist that she must protect Will and Lyra. Meanwhile in Cittagazze, Will and Lyra come across the desouled Tullio (Lewis MacDougall) whereupon Angelica (Bella Ramsey) screams at them for allowing the spectres to get him. This cuts to a scene between Mary Malone and her friend Zoe (Julie Haleduring which we see how being exposed to the universe’s mysteries has changed Malone. Furthermore, in our world, Boreal and Mrs. Coulter have an emotionally charged conversation which ends when Lyra appears on Charles’s doorstep. As this is taking place Will uses the knife to sneak into Boreal’s home, and a showdown ensues.. Lyra uses Pan to torture Marisa’s daemon, and Will and Boreal tussle. We see a sadistic side to Lyra as she takes revenge on her mother during which Will overcomes Boreal. Grabbing the aleithiometer Will opens a door back to Cittagazze through which he and Lyra escape. A tender scene between our two young heroes unfolds. Contrasted against this is a tenser and more angry scene between Boreal and Mrs. Coulter. Rounding this episode off is a scene where Mary Malone discovers the doorway to Cittagazze, after inveigling her way past a security guard (John MacNeill).



Ruth Wilson shone brightly in this episode. She got a great moment of deadpan comedy in the scene where she discards a pair of blue jeans. Also humourous was her reaction to Boreal’s music. Wilson did a phenomenal job of showing us a multifaceted Marisa Coulter this week. Her mastery of acting really came through in the scene where she made Boreal give her his car keys. We also got to see more of Coulter’s motivation, as it is revealed that she was prevented from publishing academic papers in her own world due to her gender. Wilson brings Coulter’s arc full circle in the space of 50 minutes, which requires a phenomenal talent. By the end of the episode Marisa is back to her manipulative ways, using Lord Boreal’s failure against him. Ariyon Bakare achieves a real human moment when he asks Coulter if she would share her life with him. Wilson sells Coulter’s understated cruelty of her reaction to this beautifully. Bakare also shows some great villainy during his showdown with Will. His final scene with Wilson is well acted by both performers. Bella Ramsey did a great job of showing Angelica’s rage at her loss of Tullio which is complemented by Dafne Keen and Amir Wilson’s performances. Furthermore, Keen and Wilson convey their characters’ touching friendship in their final scene very well. I loved Will’s line “I’d be lucky to be anything like you” when Lyra expresses her fear of turning out like her mother. Will Keen showed Cardinal MacPhail’s controlled anger well during the Magisterium scene. Also good was the humour when David Langham‘s Father Garret delivered the line “Women” [are heretics].

Incidental Music

The Scholar’s incidental music was very strong once again. The theme that accompanied Mrs. Coulter entering Boreal’s home was so mysterious and really set up the idea that she was changing. When Will practiced opening the doorways the musical score was utterly glorious, making us feel that the possibilities were infinite. The music used when Mary Malone received her final message from the “angels” did a wonderful job of putting across the call to adventure that Malone had received. Additionally, the climax of the episode was incredibly well set up and created by the theme music, which had me on the edge of my seat.



What CGI was in this episode was used well enough. Pan’s vicious assault on the golden monkey was brutal to watch. Even more so due to the plucky, everyman quality that Kit Connor plays Pan with, which is utterly subverted here. Also good was the “angels” CGI which has wisely been used for the last time here to retain its awe and mystery. Worthy of special mention is the FX of the alternate worlds, which would not have been possible even 10 years ago.



A tense, climactic, brilliantly acted episode.

His Dark Materials - The Scholar (Series 2 Episode 5)
  • Story
  • Acting
  • Incidental Music
  • CGI

Autistic writer who loves sci-fi, cosplay and poetry. Actor with Theatre of the Senses. He/him.
    One Comment
  • eqechoes
    14 December 2020 at 6:32 am -

    Still, car keys? Within the timeline of the episode she learned how to drive plenty quick.

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