'His Dark Materials' Episode 3: 'The Spies' reveals who Lyra's mother is and introduces Will Parry

'His Dark Materials' Episode 3: 'The Spies' reveals who Lyra's mother is and introduces Will Parry

After the slow-paced horror of Episode 2 limited to Mrs Coulter's (Ruth Wilson) claustrophobic London flat, we are back sailing on the open waters with the Gyptians in Episode 3 'The Spies'.

The cliffhanger of Lyra Belacqua's (Dafne Keen) kidnapping by the "Gobblers", agents of Mrs Coulter's "General Oblation Board" under the Magesterium, is resolved in the first few minutes.

She is rescued by a street gang of Gyptian youth that includes Tony Costa (Daniel Frogson), Billy's older brother, and Benjamin (Simon Manyonda  Costa). 

After that, the episode goes into laying the groundwork for the rest of the series, packing in three big revelations into the storyline. One, that Mrs Coulter is Lyra's mother and the reason she can't just let Lyra go.

Two, that the mysterious explorer of the North, Stanislaus Grumman (Andrew Scott) with the osprey daemon, is actually Colonel John Parry, from our world and timeline who crossed over to Lyra's world ruled by the Magisterium.


Lord Boreal, is suitably shaken when he realizes that Parry's daemon materialized when he crossed into their world. And Three, the episode introduces Will Parry, Adam to Lyra's Eve, John Parry's son who is now under investigation, along with his sick mother by Lord Boreal's spies in our world. 

Fans of the book, however, are outraged by the deviations but given that this is a TV adaptation with just eight episodes each season, it makes sense to introduce parallel storylines to keep things bustling and busy.

We saw how episodes can drag when we concentrate only on Lyra's side of things in the second episode. In addition, none of the early reveals, like Lyra's parentage have been unearned emotionally.

Mrs Coulter's slip of the tongue came in a moment of rage in the last episode about Lord Asriel being Lyra's father, illuminating her character as the abandoned woman who has to grab power in order to survive.

In this episode, we have Anne-Marie Duff's Ma Costa (Lyra's Gyptian nurse) spill the beans about Mrs Coulter being Lyra's mother only after Lyra screams her frustration on being lied to constantly by adults.


The fear and anger she feels about the secrets about herself that she feels she deserves to know is suitably portrayed by Dafne Keen. It seems appropriate to load Lyra with this information, setting her on the path of adulthood and its complications, before she sets out on her journey to the North. 

 In addition, it colors in the character of Ruth Wilson's Mrs Coulter (a shadowy, sinister and mysterious figure in the books) as someone real and damaged, who loves Lyra even as she tries to imprison her. It explains why she can't let go.    

We see her upend Jordan College with Nazi-style soldiers, send the "landlubber police" into the Gyptians' boats and finally send illegal "spy flies", mechanical insects powered by "bad spirits", to hunt Lyra down.

In a splendid bit of character work, Ruth Wilson tippy toes on the parapet of her balcony as her daemon looks on with undisguised worry and fear. Kudos on the show's CGI team who makes the poor abused monkey as real a character as Wilson.


It's a synergy between human and daemon that hasn't been captured in any visual medium adaptation before. Alas, that synergy is less evident in other daemon-human interactions but we will enjoy what we can get.

Lord Boreal emerges in our world to find a wheel clamp on his car — a nice little real-world touch. There he gets up to speed on Stanislaus Grumman, an explorer in their world, who is originated in our world as Colonel John Parry.

Parry is revealed to have gone on several "Arctic expeditions" and has a son, Will Parry and a sick wife. We are given a brief glimpse of Will Parry (Amir Wilson) as a photograph in the dossier Lord Boreal's spy gives to him.

It is a welcome gift to have Will Parry enter the story so early, giving a chance for audiences to bond with him as a character as they have bonded with Lyra. It will give their forthcoming adventures together far more heft.

In the next episode, we will finally be in the North, the land of witches and armored bears that we have heard mentions of in the previous episodes. 'His Dark Materials' airs Mondays at 9 pm on HBO.


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 His Dark Materials Episode 3 The spies Lyra mother Mrs Coulter reveal will parry introduce