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His Dark Materials - Tower of the Angels - Review: "Another Stage-Setter"

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His Dark Materials opened up this week with a stage-setting, more methodical approach that focused on Lee Scoresby and his hunt for Lyra, whilst Will and Lyra had some revelations of their own in turn that affects them massively going forward. Let’s start with Lee Scoresby. Across the board, everyone is looking for Lyra and Will – all with different motives in mind.

Lee is a wanted man looking for a wanted man – he’s on the trail of Grumman, a man who goes by many names. In one world he was Will’s father (in another, he was Moriarty… that’s a Sherlock reference for you) and now, he’s known as Topari. Andrew Scott adds an air of mystery and enigma to his character – he’s posing as a shaman with mysterious wind powers. His motives for not going back to Will are simple: he can’t. So, he’s focused his efforts elsewhere on doing whatever he can for him on Lyra’s world, not knowing that Will is in turn, devoted to hunting for his father. Topari and Lee get on like a house on fire, Scott & Lin-Manuel Miranda’s chemistry is palpable, and it’s such a good nod for Fleabag fans to have Phoebe Waller-Bridge be the voice of Topari’s Daemon. The revelation that Lyra has an important part to play in ending destiny itself and her quest is brought up again, with both characters now united on a quest to find her, racing against Marisa Coulter in turn who has teamed up with Lord Boreal on her side to gain a valuable ally.

And now Mrs. Coulter has made it to CittĂ gazze, with Lord Boreal in turn. How they avoid the spectres remains to be seen, but they’re treading in dangerous waters and I can’t help but feel like Boreal’s omission of their existence was deliberate, as now both adults, as with Will, are in dangerous waters. And what of the children on the city? They have a bigger part to play in the grand scheme of things, too. As evidenced by the fact that the Knife was almost stolen from Will before he could become the bearer, but now giving him a weapon to wield along with Lyra’s alethiometer – if she is to ever get it back – gives both characters important pieces of the puzzle that will be needed at a later date. The confrontation in the Clock Tower was exciting and filled with tension: I really liked how it was brought to life before our eyes.

This episode felt like it was designed to get everyone to where they needed to be in order for the series to kick into second gear. Lord Boreal and Mrs. Coulter are now on the city. Will has the Subtle Knife, and hot on their heels are Topari and Lee. The Witches have made the journey North too, blitzing the Magistirum’s airships in a brutally one-sided assault that was almost a little too rushed for my liking, I would have loved to have seen more of it unfold. If anything, next week’s episode is sure to make this one look like the calm before the storm: anchored perhaps, by the biggest revelation yet.

And that is Dust. Shadows are Dust, and Dust is Angels. Angels gave consciousness to mankind, and exist among the stars. It’s a life-changing revelation for anyone, especially Mary – that her science and Lyra’s dust are one and the same. Their reasoning behind doing so is something that ends the episode on a sinister note: Vengeance. A greater evil may be headed our way than any that we have had so far, and His Dark Materials has put the pieces in place for its introduction in an earth-shattering way.

His Dark Materials did a very blunt job at highlighting the themes of the storyline this episode, with the Shaman showing up to outwardly confirm the two ideological perspectives of both forces at war with each other. One wishes to repress and command, whilst the other is in search of freedom, the ability to explore and create. Both forces, as shown in this episode, are lining up to do battle – with Lyra and Will, two children that are slowly coming of age in the middle of it all.

One of the downsides with this episode is that the show is in still set-up mode, like the episode before it felt geared towards getting every character where they need to be, and as a result it ups the stakes for the final set of episodes all the more. Hopefully next week will start to see the payoff of some of this, there’s only too much set-up His Dark Materials can revel in as it risks the payoff not delivering on the premise. But based on how good the show has been so far: we have no reason to doubt the quality of what comes next.

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