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‘His Dark Materials’ Season 1, Episode 7 ‘The Fight To The Death’ Review: King Iorek

BY Stephanie Larson

Published 5 years ago

'His Dark Materials' Season 1, Episode 7 'The Fight To The Death' Review: King Iorek

I’ve said it countless times that His Dark Materials just keeps getting better and better with each episode. But, unfortunately, this week’s episode titled ‘Fight to the Death’ is an exception. It’s simply terribly underwhelming especially following last week’s events in Bolvangar. There are many key plot points moving forward in this episode, however, the episode didn’t manage to convey the magnitude, triumph, and excitement of these moments.

We get a bear fight, a great view of the Iofur’s castle, and that haunting meeting with Asriel. But, that’s as far as it goes. The visuals were again amazing. I think that’s one thing His Dark Materials have kept very consistent. But, not even the bear fight scene managed to properly feature Iorek’s victory in taking back his kingdom. In addition to that, this episode might’ve also had the most storytelling gaps. Vital backstories in His Dark Materials such as how Iofur truly managed to get the throne from Iorek were missing. And even the motivations of the Magisterium’s actions towards the end of the episode were quite hard to understand even for those who’ve read the books.

On the bright side, however, Dafne Keen once again showcased her acting prowess especially in her scenes with Iofur. True to her character’s new name, Lyra Silvertongue, Keen showed Lyra could be just as cunning as her parents. Now, here’s what she’s been up to in this week’s episode of His Dark Materials.

Welcome to Svalbard

After the destruction of Bolvangar, everyone was forced to abandon the project. Because of this, Mrs. Coulter (Ruth Wilson) once again comes close to the edge much like she did when she lost Lyra the first time. By the courtyard, she finds one of the daemonless nurses. Half out of her mind, the poor woman doesn’t understand why they need to leave Bolvangar. But, seeing her causes something to click in Mrs. Coulter. After a short fruitless conversation, Mrs. Coulter is suddenly on top of her strangling her. And suddenly as it had come over her, Mrs. Coulter lets her go and acts remorseful over it.

His Dark Materials Season 1 Episode 7


Meanwhile, after her fall, Lyra wakes up in a ravine and is found by a Svalbard bear. She is then taken to Iofur’s castle which is just as magnificent as it was in the books. There, she meets Jotham Santella (Asheq Akhtar), a maddened scholar who tells her where Asriel’s been kept and what he’s currently doing. Despite his madness, the scholar helpfully gives away what awaits Iorek once he gets to the castle. His most helpful intel, however, is revealing Iofur’s greatest desire – to get his own daemon.

To give more context, that is the main reason Iofur (Joi Johannsson) partnered up with Mrs. Coulter. Aside from being accepted by the Magisterium, Iofur wants most to be like a human with his own daemon and everything. In the books of His Dark Materials, he has even decked out his castle and his armor as such a human would. He even carries around a small doll in the likeness of Mrs. Coulter. Creepy right?

Tricking A Bear in His Dark Materials

Anyhow, after realizing Iofur’s greatest desire, Lyra concocts a dangerous plan. Calling on Iofur’s attention, Lyra pretends to be Iorek’s daemon. Spinning her story, Lyra tells the bear king that Mrs. Coulter managed to give artificial daemons to bears, the first one being Iorek, and Mrs. Coulter left Iofur out in the dark. And the only reason Lyra could be so far from Iorek was that she was like a witches daemon.  Continuing her pretense, Lyra tells Iofur that she’d much rather be his daemon rather than Iorek’s. However, for her to be fully his, Iofur must defeat Iorek in single combat. The winner would also be crowned the real king of Svalbard.

Dafne Keen in His Dark Materials Season 1 Episode 7


To prove herself, Lyra asks Iofur to ask her a question only a daemon would find out. And fortunately for her, the kind of the bears is already desperate enough as it is. So, King Iofur asks her to tell him what is the first creature he killed. Before she tells him, she asks to do her thing away from his eyes which Iofur grants. So, Lyra hides behind a pillar and whips out the alethiometer. First, she asks how far Iorek is. Then, she asks Iofur’s question.

As it turns out, the first creature Iofur killed was his own father. See, killing another bear is a huge sacrilege in the bear kingdom. And this should’ve sent Iofur in exile as well. However, nobody knows about it. Now that Lyra’s in on his secret, she uses it to brandish praise on Iofur like never before. Then, she skillfully manipulates him into challenging Iorek into a battle urging him to own the idea to prove himself, king, once and for all. Going on a stretch, she also asks to meet Iorek at the gates so he wouldn’t be suspicious of their deal.

Will Gets Pulled Into the Fold

On the other hand, in the other world of His Dark Materials, Lord Boreal (Ariyon Bakare) has grown impatient with waiting. So, he knocks on the Perrys household himself and talks to Elaine (Nina Sosanya). Practically forcing himself inside, he pretends to be part of an intelligence agency with vital intel about John Perry. As he tells Elaine, he and his team think that John is alive. But, they have found that he might’ve been involved in the disappearance of dangerous objects before he himself disappeared. They can bring him back, however, they’d need Elaine’s help. Unfortunately for Boreal, no matter how unstable Elaine’s mental condition is, her loyalty is hard as steel. So, he leaves the house empty-handed of any letters.

Amir Wilson and Nina Sosanya in HIs Dark Materials Season 1 Episode 7


Left with no patience, Boreal tells his lackeys Thomas (Robert Emms) and their PI friend to ransack the house. Later that day, as Elaine heads to Will’s school, the two head in. Their search is held up by Will (Amir Wilson) and his mom’s arrival, however. Finding that their house has been ransacked, Will immediately takes his mom to the safety of his coach’s house. Then, he heads back to retrieve the letters.

Just as Will gets his hands on them, Thomas and the PI also come back. So, Will hides in his bedroom and prepares for the fight of his life. Hearing steps outside, Will charges out and spooks Thomas. Unfortunately, Will’s room is on the second floor. So, when Thomas stumbles back, he sends himself over the railing and lands with a sickening thud downstairs. He might’ve died, I’m not sure, but Will flees the scene as fast as he could. Instead of heading back to his mom, Will chooses to disappear into the night, probably haunted by what he had just done.

The New King of Svalbard and Lyra Silvertounge

Back in Lyra’s world, Lyra meets Iorek at the entrance of the palace. There, she admits what she’s done. And Iorek accepts easily. Stripping both their armors, Iorek and Iofur gear up for battle. Then, both bears charge for each other. Both of them manage to get enough strikes into each other. But, Iofur comes out on top. With Iorek weakened, Iofur grabs him by the throat and drags him to the middle of the courtroom. As he parades around, Lyra comes to Iorek’s aid. When Iofur realizes Lyra tricked him, he prepares to strike the final blow. But, that’s when Iorek strikes back with all his might.

His Dark Materials Season 1 Episode 7


Using the power from his hindlegs, Iorek ferociously attacks Iofur’s vulnerable underside. And he never once allows Iofur to counterattack. After a brief struggle, Iofur falls. And Iorek is rightfully crowned king of the bears. Later on, while Lyra is treating his wounds, Iorek thanks her by giving her a place among them. Then, he proceeds to anoint her with a new name – Lyra Silvertongue.

In the books, however, the battle itself is the bear’s very own ritual. It’s not as simple as a cut-throat duel. Here, both bears were geared up with the finest of their armors. More than that, it would’ve been a lot bloodier than this episode has presented. Iorek rips out Iofur’s heart and eats it at the end of it for Pete’s sake. But, I guess it still is somewhat of a kid’s show. Despite that, this battle is one of the book’s most exciting and powerful battles. It’s the culmination of Iorek’s redemption arc. And it’s one glorious moment of victory for Lyra’s side. Unfortunately, His Dark Materials did away with most of it.


Anyhow, after Iorek’s fight, Serafina Pekkala reports the good news to Lee Scoresby who thought he’s failed everyone after losing Lyra. The sheer joy in the aeronaut’s face and his reaction even celebrated Iorek’s victory more than the win itself. However, as Serafina hands him back his gun, he realizes that the fight isn’t over. Just as he’s starting to pull away once more, Serafina reminds him that he has to be there for Lyra. In fact, everyone does and that does the trick. If there’s something Lee loves more than money, it might just be Lyra.

Tyler Howitt and Dafne Keen in His Dark Materials Season 1 Episode 7


Meanwhile, with the news of Iofur’s death reaching London, the Magisterium scrambles to get all its men up North to hunt down Asriel. Now that their bear king is dead, no one’s keeping tabs on Asriel and his heretical claims. So, he has to die. Unfortunately, their plans don’t include Mrs. Coulter given her recent failure. However, being the cunning woman she is, she manages to get them to reconsider their decision. After all, she knows Asriel and she knows a lot about Dust. In short, she’s still useful to them.

On the other hand, after a short celebration and reunion, Lyra heads further North to her father’s laboratory with Roger (Tyler Howitt) and Iorek. Arriving there, Lyra and Roger make plans of going home. As that simmers out, they exchange words of encouragement as they keep each other wrapped in each other’s arms, almost like a goodbye. It’s like they’re making us love sweet little Roger so much more actually. Then, they knock.

Dafne Keen and James McAvoy in His Dark Materials Season 1 Episode 7


Thorold, Asriel’s assistant greets them and ushers them in. He takes Roger aside to warm up just as Asriel comes down. Upon seeing Lyra, Asriel’s (James McAvoy) face contorts in horror. Barely able to hold himself upright, Asriel screams “No!” in anguish before he rushes to Lyra. “I did not send for you!” he cries repeatedly with the same agitation and horror. Then, just as he tries to shove Lyra out, his daemon calls Roger to his attention. The sight of the other child in the room visibly relaxes Asriel. And soon, his face morphs into that of an expression of greed and excitement.

His Dark Materials continue Sunday, December 22nd, with “Betrayal” at 9/8c on BBC.

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