No one manages to get very far in terms of distance in “Malice”, but massive leaps are made in progressing the story forward. Things are about to collide in a massive way, and this penultimate episode is swiftly moving the pieces into place.
“Malice” is one of the episodes where little happens but a lot happens. All of the various plotlines are beginning to converge, which makes a lot of sense, considering the season finale is next week.
The children of Cittagazze try to kill Lyra and Will, forcing them to run. They are rescued by Serafina; she and the other witches want to return to their world in order to help heal Will’s wound from the Subtle Knife, but Will is desperate to find his father, especially once he learns they’re in the same world. The witches agree to help Lyra find Will’s father, but they are attacked by Specters. Will fights them off with the Knife.
Lee and Jopari are closing in on Lyra and Will, although they don’t really know it yet. They see a swarm of Specters when they fly over Cittagazze, and Jopari realizes that the Knife must no longer be in the tower. As they fly, Lee spots three Magisterium airships. Jopari uses his shaman abilities to call up a storm and stir the animals; lightning strikes one of the airships, and a flock of crows brings down another. The third starts to turn, but not before shooting out Lee’s gas canister, forcing them to make an emergency landing.
Mary takes the opportunity to explore Cittagazze and draws the interest of Angelica and the other children, who are shocked that adult Mary is not being attacked by the Specters. They ask her to stay, and she tells them she is on an important mission; she offers to take them to the hills to rejoin the adults.
Marisa and Boreal journey to Cittagazze in search of Lyra and Will. Boreal is understandably afraid of the Specters, but Marisa is not. When a swarm approaches them, Boreal retreats inside and locks the doors behind him. Marisa slowly advances and is somehow able to ward them off, even control them. Boreal is excited at the possibilities, and Marisa suggests that they celebrate this new advantage, but really she just wants the opportunity to kill him.
“Malice” is an aptly named episode. From the children of Cittagazze banding together to kill Lyra and Will to Marisa flat out murdering Boreal, this episode goes a long way towards showing us the darker side of human nature.
No one demonstrates that more than Mrs. Coulter, who suppresses what makes her human in order to walk straight into a flock of Specters. Somehow this translates into her being able to control them, which is something that was never adequately explained in the book and unfortunately isn’t really expanded on here. Obviously, Marisa, who has studied Dust for much of her adult life, would know quite a lot about it, and once she realized that Specters must be attracted to it – which is why they only go after adults – she was probably able to figure out how to prevent them from attacking her. But how this means they follow her commands, I have no idea.
“Strength is salvation,” says Mrs. Coulter as she burns her hand on a candle. (I originally heard “strength is selfish” but apparently that was incorrect.) The way she says this after murdering Boreal makes it sound as though that’s her justification for killing him. She believes he would have held her back, that his ambitions were too small. “Strength” seems to be not letting her humanity get in the way – as when she suppresses it for the Specters.
His Dark Materials is very much a story about the loss of innocence. Despite the fact that the show hasn’t yet revealed what Lyra’s “other” name is, we can pretty much assume from context clues that it’s Eve – as in Adam and Eve, original sin, et cetera. Fra Pavel told MacPhail that there was still a chance Lyra “may not be tempted”, and the Angels speaking to Mary have told her that she must “play the serpent”. We also were told by the witches’ Daemons that if Lyra is aware of the prophecy, she won’t be able to make the decision she needs to.
That’s why I like the inclusion of Mary meeting Angelica and Paola in “Malice”; this scene isn’t in the book, but it helps demonstrate Mary’s character. She’s very kind and compassionate. She offers the girls food, she gives a hug when asked, and she volunteers to see them safely to their adults. This scene also shows that Angelica and the others aren’t evil. They are children who’ve been traumatized; they’re scared and emotional, and children don’t have a fully developed sense of right and wrong. These children in particular don’t have adult supervision; they’re angry, so they want to hurt. It doesn’t occur to them that this is a bad thing.
With only one episode left in this season, “Malice” has maneuvered everyone into place. It’s very dialogue-heavy and lags a bit because of this, but the chemistry between the actors makes up for it.
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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