His Dark Materials 2×02 “The Cave” starts to give context to the greater mythology of the show, while reinforcing the most important message from “The City of Magpies”: This is no longer just Lyra’s story. Will and Lyra’s fates are, from now on, intrinsically tied together.
Book fans, of course, already knew this, and I don’t think anyone who’s just watched the show will be surprised, at this point. The show has been anything but subtle about building a connection between these two kids. It’s just that, as they sit there, at the end of the episode, looking out at the Botanical Gardens together, it all feels much more certain, and much more important.
To be sure, Lyra still has no answers about dust, but in Mary Malone, she found someone who might actually help her understand. And though Will is, perhaps, more alone than ever, in Lyra, he’s found someone who is not just willing, but determined to help him track down his father.
So let’s talk about both Will and Lyra’s journeys toward that final moment in the episode, Mrs. Coulters motivations and the whole dark matter vs. dust idea, as we discuss “The Cave”:
DON’T LEAVE LYRA ALONE!
Was I the only one basically going: No, Will, don’t leave Lyra alone in a world she doesn’t know? Or like, don’t leave Lyra alone ever again? Is that possible? She’s a magnet for trouble, and though at the end, she does get back to Will, that doesn’t mean it would have been better if she hadn’t been spotted. I mean, I guess she wouldn’t have met Mary either, but come on, Will …you gotta be better at this.
I realize this is supremely unfair on Will, I’m sure Lyra wouldn’t exactly have been helpful on his errands, but like, you two are on the run, and you possess about 83% more common sense than Lyra, dear Will, so this is just the way it’s gonna be. Please don’t let her wander off …she’s as likely to get hit by a car as to get kidnapped. Or worse.
MRS. COULTER’S ENDGAME
Ruth Wilson’s Mrs. Coulter remains one of the most interesting characters on this show, if only because we have no idea what her endgame is. She wants Lyra, that’s for sure, but why does she want her? What will she do once she comes face to face with Lyra again? It’s clear that her feelings for her have changed since she last had Lyra in her clutches, but have they changed enough that Lyra could consider …trusting her?
Let’s remember that Lyra already trusted her other parent, and yeah, that didn’t exactly go very well, even if Asriel has proven to be the most reliable parent of the two – not a high bar to clear. But it’s Mrs. Coulter that is getting the screen time, so it’s Mrs. Coulter we should be focused on. Asriel is a problem for another day.
Book readers have an answer to this question, but even with an answer, Mrs. Coutler remains one of the best characters on this show, because even when you think you know what she really feels and wants, there’s enough uncertainty in the performance to give you pause, and to keep you engaged.
I’ve been looking forward to the introduction of Mary Malone, not just for Mary’s sake, but because I’ve been looking forward to Lyra’s world finally colliding with ours, and for the philosophical questions that were raised in the first season to turn into actual scientific questions when confronted with a different way of seeing things.
This, to me, remains one of the most interesting thing about Pullman’s view of the world, and the mythology he managed to create. It’s science vs. religion, and if we’ve learned something from 2020 is that if you want to hold onto the second one, that cannot happen in the absence of the first. That way only leads to pain.
MEANT TO BE
It’s easy to see Will and Lyra are meant to be. It’s just that when we use those words we’re typically referencing a romantic connection, and there’s nothing romantic to the connection between Will and Lyra at this point. Not just because they’re kids – though there’s a lot of that – but also because they are just not coming into it with that mindset. They’re looking for a partner, a friend, nothing more.
And that’s perfectly alright. In fact, it’s beautiful. Not every connection has to be romantic for it to be meaningful, and in a TV landscape that increasingly looks to add romance to everything, it’s actually refreshing to see His Dark Materials not only accept, but lean into Will and Lyra as some sort of platonic soulmates who, right now, don’t need anything but each other except …well, friendship.
Sometimes that can be the greatest gift of all, after all.
Agree? Disagree? What did you think of His Dark Materials 2×02 “The Cave”? Share with us in the comments below!
His Dark Materials airs Mondays at 9/8c on HBO.