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‘His Dark Materials’ Season 1, Episode 4 ‘Armour’ Review: Bears and Aeronauts

BY Stephanie Larson

Published 4 years ago

'His Dark Materials' Season 1, Episode 4 'Armour' Review: Bears and Aeronauts

I knew there was a reason Lin-Manuel Miranda was the first cast for His Dark Materials! He is simply amazing as Lee Scoresby. And although he doesn’t bear the mustache or any obvious Texan-likeness, his witty, charismatic, and upbeat take on the character is just as likable. Plus, he and Dafne Keen’s Lyra make a pretty great and hilarious duo. I simply can’t get enough of them.

In addition to that, His Dark Materials’ Iorek Byrnison is one impressive feat for the show even more than what they have already achieved with the daemons. Every movement, every step, and even every facial expression are stunningly made with care. And with that, we have a frightening talking bear that makes us want to believe that there is such a world with something like him in it. It also helps that Joe Tandberg does amazing voice work for Iorek.

Ever since His Dark Materials announced their cast, fans have been waiting to see Lin-Manuel’s Lee Scoresby and Iorek Byrnison. And one sure thing about this episode is that they certainly did not disappoint. So, before anything else, let’s dive into the first meeting with the bear and the aeronaut.

Lee Scoresby, The Aeronaut

If someone told me we’d first be meeting Lee Scoresby while he’s singing in his air balloon, I would have laughed. But, here’s Lin-Manuel Miranda going both Hamilton and Mary Poppins on his first outing as the aeronaut in His Dark Materials. Just as the Gyptians are sailing towards Trollesund, Lee is flying just above them as well. When he lands, his first conversation is with the Sysselman (Harry Potter‘s very own Harry Melling) about his quest for Iorek. Unfortunately, just like everybody in that town, he doesn’t want to give up where Iorek is.

Lin-Manuel Miranda in His Dark Materials Season 1 Episode 4


Later on, Lee visits the tavern. And he starts off nice and easy, acting like a man just looking for cards to play. But, the men there can’t be fooled. When Lee finally spits out the word bear, fists start flying. Apparently, Iorek’s quite a sensitive topic. For a time, Lee manages to stand his ground with some hilarious commentary from his daemon Hester. But, the locals ultimately kick him out. He does, however, manage to nick three watches and a wallet.

Iorek Byrnison, The Armored Bear

Meanwhile, Lyra and Farder Coram (James Cosmo) head out to meet the consul Dr. Lenselius (Omid Djalili) to deliver a request for help to the witch queen Serafina Pekkala. In addition to that, they also gather from the doctor that the children do pass through Trollesund. But, they don’t stay long. They’re taken further inland where they’re forced to go through Intercision.

Before Lyra and Farder Coram can leave, Dr. Lenselius requests to see the alethiometer his spies had seen Lyra holding. And he requests for her to demonstrate her skill with it by identifying which cloud pine in his collection belonged to Serafina Pekkala. Sure enough, Lyra picks the right one. In reward, Dr. Lenselius gives her a piece of it to use to call Serafina Pekkala if she were ever in need. He also advises them to acquire the services of a particular armored bear to aid them in their journey.

Dafne Keen in His Dark Materials Season 1 Episode 4


Following Dr. Lenselius’ direction, Lyra and Farder Coram find Iorek Byrnison. However, no matter what they say to the great bear, Iorek refuses to go with them. Lyra even brazenly taunts him but, in the end, he tells them, “I am not for sale.” After their little defeat, Farder Coram warns Lyra to be more careful about her brazen actions. And in turn, Lyra asks how Farder Coram came to know a witch.

As Farder Coram recounts, he and Serafina Pekkala loved each other. They had a son but, an epidemic took him from them. While Serafina flew off in rage wanting to tear the world apart, Farder Coram wanted to mourn in peace. And since then, he never saw her again. As he’s telling the story, his voice breaks, and tears spring to his eyes, evidence that his heart is still aching.

Mrs. Coulter’s Question to the Alethiometer

Back in London, Mrs. Coulter is summoned by the Magisterium in the account of her recent scuffle with Jordan College. As punishment for the trouble she’s been causing, Cardinal Sturrock (Ian Peck) transfers control of the General Oblation Board to Father MacPhail (Will Keen) who is just as surprised as Mrs. Coulter. But, it doesn’t even last a minute as Mrs. Coulter reveals that she has Lord Asriel.

Ruth Wilson in His Dark Materials Season 1 Episode 4


Currently, he’s the prisoner of armored bears who’re under Mrs. Coulter’s control. And all she asks in return of her handing him over to the Magisterium is that they allow her to see their project to the end and ask their alethiometer one question. As the Cardinal notes, it’s a heavy price to pay. But, it seems that their desire to get ahold of Asriel is stronger. So, Mrs. Coulter is allowed to consult Fra Pavel (Frank Bourke), the Magisterium’s alethiometer reader. Her only question is “Who is Lyra Belacqua?”

The City in the Aurora

Back in the North, Lyra finally meets Lee as he’s shouting about the bear in the town square. And as Lyra questions him about Iorek, Lee realizes that she knows where he is. The thing is, she won’t tell him yet at least. Because as she said, “We need him and I’m not sure you won’t take him from us.”

James Cosmo in His Dark Materials Season 1 Episode 4


Later that night, Serafina’s daemon Kaisa pays Farder Coram and John Faa (Lucian Msamati) a visit. (For some reason though, His Dark Materials decided to switch out Serafina’s snow goose daemon to a falcon.) Unlike humans, witches can send their daemons far away from them. And Kaisa brings with him some vital information. According to him, the Gobblers or as the witches call them, the dust-hunters, are in Bolvangar which literally means fields of evil. More than anything, he relays that Serafina is willing to support them whichever path they take. As he departs, Farder Coram is left with tears in his eyes.

Meanwhile, as Lyra and Pan are watching the aurora, Lyra sees the silhouette of a city in the dancing lights. But, it disappears as quick as it came. Tony Costa (Daniel Frogson) soon joins her and the two continue to watch the lights as they talk about getting Billy and the others back.

Old Friends Meet Again

On the other hand, while scouring the streets of Trollesund, Lee finally finds Iorek. He’s surprised to see the bear naked without his armor but, he’s nevertheless delighted. Unfortunately, Iorek doesn’t feel the same. As he alludes, he’s done something really bad he can’t talk about, something he feels that he deserves to be judged over. Even as Lee assures him the contrary, Iorek turns his old friend away.

The next day, Lee visits the Sysselman and demands to have Iorek’s armor back. Because according to him, the bear lost ownership of the armor to him in a card game. He even has receipts to prove it. But, the Sysselman reveals that the Magisterium now owns it as Iorek’s currently paying a blood debt. Lee can’t be deterred, however, and puts pressure on the Sysselman about his secret deals with the Magisterium. Unfortunately, when the Sysselman brings out his gun, Lee backs out.

Lin Manuel Miranda in His Dark Materials Season 1 Episode 4


Meanwhile, Lyra discovers that the Gyptians are preparing to leave without Iorek with John Faa set on that decision. Upset, Lyra runs off and later finds herself in the tavern with the aeronaut. Knowing that Lee can help them get Iorek, Lyra pretends to speak for John Faa as she offers him a job. Lee thinks their cause is a losing one. However, as Lyra explains, using cards as a metaphor, sometimes a really bad hand could be the key to winning.

When the conversation drifts back to Iorek, Lyra realizes that Iorek’s obliged to the town because they have his armor. Through the alethiometer, she discovers that the townspeople tricked him out of it. As she wonders why it’s so important to him, Lee explains that a bear’s armor is their soul much like how daemons are to humans. Suddenly, a plan lights up in Lyra’s head and she quickly slips out.

A Bear’s Soul

Lyra heads straight to the yard where Iorek works and offers to tell him where his armor is if he comes with them. Iorek is skeptical at first but, when Lyra brings out the alethiometer, he agrees. With all the metal around him, however, Lyra couldn’t help but wonder why he couldn’t make another one. Iorek explains that it would be nothing compared to his armor which he made exclusively for himself from sky iron. He also adds that if anyone tries to stop him from taking his armor, they die.

His Dark Materials Season 1 Episode 4


After Lyra gives him the exact location of his armor, Iorek springs into action, knocking people down and almost ripping the town apart. Hearing the commotion, the Sysselman immediately prepares the Magisterium’s troops to take on Iorek. When the bear emerges fully clothes with his armor, however, it’s clear they’re no match for him. Iorek easily flicks the soldiers away like ants. And just before he can tear the Sysselman apart, Lyra stops him. Lee also arrives just in time. And together, they talk Iorek down from killing. After a few more explanations and a lot of sales talk to John Faa, the Gyptian king finally agrees to take Lee and Iorek with them.

King Iofur, The King of the Bears

Elsewhere, in London, Lord Boreal (Ariyon Bakare) corners Fra Pavel after hearing of Mrs. Coulter’s visit. But, Fra Pavel wouldn’t disclose what Mrs. Coulter asked. So, Boreal asks to have one question for the alethiometer instead. Given that he apparently has plenty of blackmail for Fra Pavel and his “filthy predilections,” Fra Pavel has no choice but to agree to Boreal’s request. Boreal’s question is “How can I find what Grumman discovered?”

His Dark Materials Season 1 Episode 4


Meanwhile, Mrs. Coulter travels North. In a cave, she meets up with Iofur Raknison, the king of the bears and the current ward of Lord Asriel. As it turns out, she worked with him to overthrow Iorek, the rightful king of the bears in exchange for capturing Asriel. Now that that favor’s up, she strikes another deal with him. Appealing to his deepest and darkest desires, Mrs. Coulter offers Iofur a baptism and acceptance into the Magisterium in exchange for him destroying Asriel’s labs and erasing his research on Dust. All the while, Lyra, Iorek, Lee, and the Gyptians have begun their journey to Bolvangar.

So far, even if this episode has a little less of the rush to it unlike the other episodes, this has been my favorite. It feels like the narrative is pulled together more strongly now. And with everything in place, all we have to wait for is the avalanche of action and revelations that are sure to follow in the next few weeks.

His Dark Materials continue Monday, December 2nd, with “The Lost Boy” at 9/8c on HBO.

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