'His Dark Materials' Episode 5 review: Lyra finds 'The Lost Boy' Billy Costa as she plunges head-first into the icy horrors of the North
'The Lost Boy' brings out the true horror of the "intercision" process being carried out on children before their demons settle at The Station in Bolvangar.
Spoilers ahead for 'His Dark Materials' Episode 5 of 'The Lost Boy'
In its most chilling episode yet, 'The Lost Boy' brings out the true horror of the "intercision" process being carried out on children before their demons settle at The Station in Bolvangar. There is also a touch of melancholy as we meet Will Parry (Amir Wilson), whose fate is "bound" to Lyra's, but who hails from our world and our timeline.
Will is a young carer who has to be the adult taking care of a mentally-fragile mother (Nina Sosanya) who has "episodes" but who knows more about the disappearance of his father, John Parry (Andrew Scott), than she is letting on. John Parry has, as we know, adopted the identity of Stanislaus Grumman the explorer in Lyra's world and he seems to have revealed this secret to his wife in a series of letters that she refuses to let Will see.
But when Lord Boreal (Ariyon Bakare) stops by, introducing himself as "John's friend" and she sees a man watching their house, she has a panic attack and tries to tell Will, which he dismisses as another one of her episodes. He is intrigued by the letters but stops short of reading them.
Around the same time, Boreal's spy tells him that John Parry knew about the "window" to another world before he went on the Arctic expedition since he made arrangements for a monthly subsistence income to be deposited in his wife's account that would last for a "marathon", not a "sprint". He tells Boreal there has to be a paper trail in the house that would tell them where John Parry's "window" was located.
In Lyra's world, the Gyptians labor across the mountainous terrain with their gear and weapons. Lyra (Dafne Keen) consults the alethiometer about the battle ahead. The truth-telling gadget tells her she has to go to a fishing village nearby to find a "ghost". Even though she is scared, she makes the journey and steps into a lonely hut to find Billy Costa, blue and near-death, and without Ratters, his daemon.
He is a far cry from the twinkly-eyed boy we saw in Episode 1 before he was taken by the Gobblers. He is the "ghost" barely alive after being "cut" from his daemon, his soulless dead eyes showing no recognition when his mother and brother hug him. But when his mother, Ma Costa (Anne-Marie Duff) gives him permission to die, he sighs, like an adult who has seen too much and breathes his last breath.
The show takes the liberty of exchanging an unknown child in the book to the character of Billy Costa. The horror that runs through the Gyptian camp is worth the 'on-screen' sacrifice of Billy Costa (who escapes well and alive in the books). It brings alive the true horror of intercision and the evil at Bolvangar that the Gyptians are gearing up to fight.
There is also the mesmeric appearance of Serafina Pekkala (Ruta Gedmintas) who has a painful but warm reunion with Fader Coram (James Cosmo) who leaves to gather her sister-witches for the fight at Bolvangar. She also reveals to Coram that Lord Asriel (James McAvoy), though held captive by the Svalbardian bear (under Iofur), is being allowed to carry on his research and that his research is "important". She tells him that other worlds are "just heartbeats" away but cannot be touched or felt except near the Aurora Borealis where the "fabric of the world is thin".
The last few moments of the episodes are horrifying as the "Tartars" who are serving the Magisterium attack the Gyptian camp at night, killing some Gyptians and capturing Lyra and Pan. The camera shoots from Lyra's perspective -- a confusing jumble of glimpses of Tartars clad in their heavy clothes and their wolf daemons -- as they trap her in a cage and escorts her into a cold and sterile facility.
The "doctor" argues with the Tartar before trying to grab Pan (who immediately turns into a moth). Self-preservation creeps in and when the doctor asks Lyra her name, she replies "Lizzy" and makes up a story about coming to the North with her father to sell goods.
She is asked to undress and asked to put on some clean clothes. The clothes are, to Lyra's horror, just like the ones Billy Costa was wearing when she found him. She is then sure of what she suspected. She's in Bolvangar, "the fields of evil".
It is a perfect cliffhanger to an episode that brings what is at the stake to the table. The joyous scenes -- like Iorek running across the Arctic snow with Lyra on his back or Lee Scoresby's heart-warming paternal moments with Lyra -- something Lyra has never had with Lord Asriel -- only serve to highlight the dark tones of the rest of the episode. Lyra has left the fun and games of warm sunny Jordon, Oxford behind, and has plunged head-first into the icy horrors of the North. And this episode just hammers that fact home.
'His Dark Materials' airs every Monday at 9 p.m. on HBO.