Things are starting to come together on His Dark Materials. In “Tower of the Angels”, we not only met Will’s long-absent, presumed-dead father, but we also learned all about the Subtle Knife, saw Mary make headway with her experiments, and watched the witches join the hunt for Lyra.
“Tower of the Angels” was a bit of an information dump, but it’s important information, and when you’re adapting something that was a book, sometimes there’s no good way to reveal exposition in dialogue form. All of this knowledge about the Knife is vital to understanding the story, so let’s review the key points: the Guild created the Knife and used it selfishly, which created the Specters. There is one Bearer at a time, marked by the loss of two fingers. And, most importantly, the Knife can cut through literally anything, even the space between worlds.
Will also got an info dump about the Knife – things like don’t leave any windows open, don’t use the Knife as a knife, and don’t let anyone know about it. He also gets a crash course in how to open windows between the worlds, and while the ringing sound of some kind of a sword being unsheathed every time there was a closeup on the Knife was annoying, I thought they did a fantastic job with the special effects for that part.
And I have to say, when you take into account the giant hole Asriel blew in the sky, yes, indeed, the Knife is inarguably more subtle.
Now, the issue with “Tower of the Angels” was that we got all of that exposition about the Knife more than once, from different sources. The opening scene, with the history of Cittagazze, felt superfluous with all of the other explanations peppered throughout the episode. However, it seems that much of the information in that opening narration would have been featured in the Asriel-centric episode that we won’t be getting, because of the current pandemic.
So while this was a fairly dialogue-heavy episode, this was also a more exciting episode than we’ve had in a while, due largely to the fight over the knife in the tower. This was an excellently choreographed fight, and I had completely forgotten that Will loses those fingers, so when it happened I blinked and wasn’t even sure what I’d seen. And while I hated that the kid kicked Pan in his desperation, I can appreciate that it helped illustrate just what a Daemon is to someone from Lyra’s world; it’s probably the best demonstration Will will get.
I do wish they hadn’t explained the taboo with touching someone else’s Daemon. It felt very blunt and unnecessary. Pan comforting Will is a very important scene, but I think it would have worked better if it has just been Lyra reacting to it without the explanation. We would have been able to infer that something was up.
Poor Tullio. He wasn’t evil, just desperate. He knew the Specters would be coming for him soon, and he knew the Knife would protect him. He just didn’t want to die. You can’t really blame him. The Specters are supremely terrifying, and a great metaphor for innocents suffering for the sins of others.
Meanwhile, Lee was finally able to track down Stanislav Grumman, also known as Will’s father, who in this world goes by the name Jopari. (John Parry, get it?) It’s revealed that it was Jopari who was guiding Lee’s balloon, as he somehow is in possession of Lee’s mother’s ring. Jopari tells Lee all about the Subtle Knife, but Lee becomes suspicious when it turns out that Jopari believes the Knife must be given to Asriel. Still, the two do eventually agree to team up.
Also, Jopari is, like, a magician or something. (Shaman, actually, but still.) He is able to call up a gust of wind to help fly Lee’s balloon. I can’t remember if his mysterious abilities are ever explained or if we’re just supposed to shrug and go, “This might as well happen.”
I really like Jopari’s Daemon. She’s sassy. “We had hoped you’d be more hare than tortoise.”
Boreal, under his Charles Latrom pseudonym, goes to visit Mary at the university and graciously offers to fund her research. But she doesn’t trust his offer, believing he will use their experiments for nefarious purposes. Still, without Lyra to aid in her research, Mary has precious little time to show some real results. By the end of “Tower of the Angels”, she is able to enter a state much like when Lyra reads the alethiometer and makes contact with the shadow particles. The particles speak to her and answer her many questions, but the biggest reveal is that they are angels. And they are out for vengeance.
I loved the Mary scene. It was so perfect – very sinister. I loved how the images were coming off the screen; it reinforces the idea that Dust, matter, shadow particles, whatever, is all around us.
Lastly, we have the scenes with Mrs. Coulter and Boreal. I loved Boreal’s dig at Asriel about how he didn’t need to blow a hole in the sky, and I also loved Mrs. Coulter’s subdued pride at how Lyra always manages to get out of traps. We also got confirmation that Boreal comes through Cittagazze whenever he goes between worlds, and don’t think I didn’t see that lingering glance Mrs. Coulter gave the Specter.
With “Tower of the Angels”, we are officially more than halfway through the season (which, as previously mentioned, is one episode short), so things are about to start happening super quickly. I am very excited about where this is going.
Author: Jamie Sugah
Jamie has a BA in English with a focus in creative writing from The Ohio State University. She self-published her first novel, The Perils of Long Hair on a Windy Day, which is available through Amazon. She is currently an archivist and lives in New York City with her demon ninja vampire cat. She covers television, books, movies, anime, and conventions in the NYC area.
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