‘His Dark Materials’ Season 2, Episode 5 ‘The Scholar’ Recap: Children’s Theft
BY Stephanie Larson
Published 2 years ago
Oh, Ruth Wilson. You never cease to amaze.
This week’s His Dark Materials episode is focused on Will (Amir Wilson) and Lyra (Dafne Keen) getting the alethiometer back, however, this is definitely Mrs. Coulter’s episode. Wilson has taken it up a notch and has made it all the harder to dislike Lyra’s mother.
In this week’s episode of His Dark Materials titled “The Scholar,” Will and Lyra come up with a plan to retrieve the alethiometer from Charles Latrom’s/ Boreal (Ariyon Bakare) house as Will starts getting the hang of the knife more. Meanwhile, Boreal has successfully lured Mrs. Coulter into Will’s Oxford and is trying to win her affections. The most interesting part of Mrs. Coulter’s journey there, however, is her meeting with Mary Malone (Simone Kirby). Who knew that Mrs. Coulter, a woman of so much capability and power, can be jealous of anybody else? Other than that, Mary is also beginning her new journey.
Now, let’s get into this week’s episode of His Dark Materials.
Mrs. Coulter Crosses Over
Mrs. Coulter isn’t one to say no to the prospect of discovering a new world. Fueled by her desire to find Lyra as well as her own scholarly curiosity, she follows Boreal to Will’s Oxford and to his home. There, Boreal shows off his collection of artifacts and expensive historical knick-knacks probably hoping to impress her. But Mrs. Coulter came only for one thing: Lyra.
Boreal then reveals he has stolen Lyra’s alethiometer. Sadly for him, even with that reassurance, Mrs. Coulter is less inclined to show interest in him despite the new things of that world that he’s showing her up until he mentions Dr. Malone and her meeting with Lyra. What takes Mrs. Coulter’s attention about Dr. Malone though is the fact that she runs her own department. Insisting that she has to meet Dr. Malone for Lyra’s safety, Mrs. Coulter convinces Boreal to let her go see Malone. But, of course, she has to blend in.
As expected and hilariously so, Mrs. Coulter finds jeans tasteless and picks them up from the pile of clothes Boreal provided like a piece of trash. Instead, she goes for a nice pair of trousers, a beautiful fuchsia blouse, and a black blazer. She also forgoes the 50s hairstyle and opts for a sleek low bun. She looked different, yes, but she simply transformed into a modern villain, formidable and will ever be ready to stab you on the back.
Surprising Boreal, she leaves her daemon behind and insists she go alone. And in answer to his questions, Mrs. Coulter mentions having incredible discipline and even alludes to witches. It still doesn’t answer how she can do it though.
Two Scholars Meet
In Dr. Malone’s office, Mrs. Coulter finds some time to herself to look through some of Mary’s papers and research. When Mary arrives, she surprisingly does little effort to hide her identity. Mrs. Coulter simply introduces herself as an experimental theologian who also happens to be Lyra’s mother. At that, Mary relaxes and launches into an expression of admiration for Lyra.
The kid, as Mary said, has an amazing grasp on quantum physics and has given her an interesting view about the morality of dark matter. At the end of it, Mary muses that Mrs. Coulter must be so proud of her daughter. And with something like a realization of something she has long known, Mrs. Coulter replies, “I am.”
Changing the topic, Mary now sets her curiosity to Mrs. Coulter’s profession and she pops a question that has long been the center of debate, “Where would you say theology comes to science?” Mrs. Coulter’s answer, however controversial to some, is just as surprising as it is simple. Looking confused why someone would ask that, she firmly asks back, “Where does it not?”
Mary is left speechless for a minute but upon recovering, she starts asking more questions – What was Mrs. Coulter’s doctorate? Did she publish any papers? – all of which made Mrs. Coulter more and more uncomfortable. Finally, when Mary turned her back to grab some coffee for them both, Mrs. Coulter set off.
Later, Mary looks up her strange visitor but only finds that Mrs. Coulter doesn’t exist, on the internet, at least. Suddenly, The Cave powers up and the dark matter/ dust reveals her part to play in all of this. Ominously, it tells Mary, “You must play the serpent.” It then instructs her to find the doorway to Cittagazze and to save the girl and the boy. Once it has passed on the message, it tells Mary that her work there was finished and that they will not speak again in that world. Then, The Cave dies, abandoned by dust, by the angels, that have been waiting to deliver Mary her destiny.
At home, Mary tells her sister her plans to distance herself from her research. As if preparing to be gone for quite some time, she tells her sister she might be going overseas. At that point, she still seems unconvinced but later that night, she follows the shadow’s instructions and finds the doorway Will and Lyra used to get into Cittagazze.
The Unrest Grows
On the other hand, back in Lyra’s world, the Magisterium is growing more restless especially with the recent attacks of the witches. Everyone trying to recruit people into Adriel’s cause were being arrested and silenced, however, Father Graves (Sean Gilder) still believes that the Magisterium should completely deny the existence of the anomaly/ the doorway.
Cardinal MacPhail, on the other hand, remains firm that they shouldn’t and that the Magisterium still holds the people’s faith. He only sees Father Graves’ recommendations as a sign of doubt in the authority of the Magisterium so he has him arrested, effectively getting rid of his opposition. In line with that though, MacPhail is also desperate to know where Mrs. Coulter has gone and has Fra Pavel, their alethiometer reader to look into it.
The Specters’ Devastation
Meanwhile, in Cittagazze, Will is quickly getting the hang of the knife. After a few more practices, he’s able to open and close windows with ease. As his confidence in using the knife grows, he and Lyra start looking for the exact spot they can open a window into Will’s Oxford to get into Boreal’s house undetected.
While trying to figure out how to get the alethiometer once they’re in, Lyra and Will stumble on what remains of Tulio, Angelica (Bella Ramsay) and Paola’s (Ella Schrey-Yeats) brother. They see the girls clambering on their brother, desperately holding onto him as if that will bring back whatever the specters took from him. When Angelica sees them, she screams at them, blaming them for Tulio’s fate. Lyra tries to empathize, however, Angelica pushes her away. Instead, she leaves them a warning that they will be coming for them.
Back in Will’s Oxford, Mrs. Coulter returns to Boreal’s home distraught. Although her meeting with Mary didn’t prove as fruitful, it did bring up emotions that are so unlike Mrs. Coulter. It becomes more apparent when Boreal asks her what she thought of Malone and she answered, “impertinent, intelligent…free” The last word, she only whispered.
Dr. Malone had everything Mrs. Coulter wanted. She recalls that when she was an honorary scholar, the Magisterium denied her a doctorate simply because she was a woman despite getting the highest scored. She wrote plenty of papers, however, they only agreed to publish it if she’d hand over the credit to a man. Even when she brings up her scandal with Asriel, Boreal’s first instinct is to think that they’re talking about Asriel instead of her.
Turning her anger on Boreal, she questions him if he really thought he was the first person to crossover worlds. After all, others could have also found it. More specifically, she thinks Boreal doesn’t deserve it given what he’s done with the opportunity. Her exact words are, “This world is full of ideas, ideas our world is hungry for, and yet you have spent your time trading trinkets.” What’s more scalding though is her response to his desperate yearning for her. “If you actually got me, you wouldn’t know what to do with me.” (See, this is why you just can’t hate Mrs. Coulter.)
A Daughter’s Anger
Suddenly, the doorbell rings and there’s Lyra at the door. Boreal goes to greet her while Mrs. Coulter stays behind. Meanwhile, Will cuts a window into the room but he’s surprised to see Mrs. Coulter there. He manages to hide behind the sofa before she could see him but just as he’s reaching for the alethiometer, Mrs. Coulter’s golden monkey jumps and up and swipes it away from him, alerting Mrs. Coulter as well.
At that moment, Lyra bursts into the room but halts when she sees her mother. Boreal is close behind and after pushing Lyra towards her mom, he focuses on Will. As Boreal tries to take the knife from Will, Mrs. Coulter offers the alethiometer to Lyra, almost begging for her to come back, promising that she’ll teach Lyra what she wants to know and how to use the power she has of reading the alethiometer. Torn, Lyra freezes. When her mother tells her that she is just like her, however, Lyra’s anger boils over.
“I am nothing like you,” she spats before sicking Pan on the golden monkey. Mrs. Coulter immediately falls to the ground in pain and for the first time since they met, she is at Lyra’s mercy. The longer the daemons fight, however, the more Mrs. Coulter gains control of herself. Despite the pain, Mrs. Coulter slowly gets up on her feet, terrifying Lyra despite her anger.
Fortunately, Will, who knocked out Boreal with a vase, swipes the alethiometer and snaps Lyra out of the trance she has with her mother. Quickly cutting a window, Lyra, Will, and Pan slip through mere seconds before the monkey can get its hands on them.
Back in Cittagazze, Lyra sincerely thanks Will. She also admits to him that that woman was indeed her mother and that she doesn’t want to be like her. Instead, she wants to be like Ma Costa or Lee Scoresby. Will, on the other hand, doesn’t think so. To him, they’d be lucky to be anything like Lyra.
‘His Dark Materials: The Scholar’ Overall Verdict
Mrs. Coulter is a polarizing character and so far, this is one of my favorite episodes of her. It hasn’t been explicitly mentioned in His Dark Materials but despite Mrs. Coulter’s intellect and tactical intelligence, her world is still caught up in outdated values. She is the contrast to Dr. Malone who is respected and given a leadership position irrelevant to her sex.
I appreciate that they gave this to her, that they didn’t just paint her as a cruel mother who has messed up notions of maternal love. Continuing from her meeting with Lee Scoresby, it further humanizes her and makes us understand her motivations that were somewhat unclear before.
Also, who can ignore Mary and The Cave? I was pleasantly surprised how smoothly His Dark Materials got that part down. Now, I’m really really excited to see Mary’s adventures with the Mulefa. I know that might still be far in the future but nevertheless, Mary has started her journey.
His Dark Materials continue Sunday, December 13th, with “Malice” at 9/8c on HBO.