Skip to main content

'His Dark Materials' 2.06 Review: Malice

'His Dark Materials' offers up a slow but satisfying penultimate episode.

Will, Lyra, and Pan sit overlooking a beautiful gorge
(Image: © HBO)

Our Verdict

Weighed down by too many plotlines, the penultimate episode is a bit of a slow starter but offers a satisfying lead into the finale.

For

  • ✨Amir Wilson and Dafne Keen are a truly great pairing.
  • ✨Ruth Wilson is back to her evil best as Coulter.
  • ✨Ariyon Bakare should get all the awards for his Boreal.
  • ✨Organically sets up a great conflict for the finale

Against

  • ✨RIP Lord Boreal you were too great (a villain) for this world.
  • ✨Too many plotlines slow this episode down.
  • ✨Honestly who cares about the Magisterium at this point?
  • ✨The witches were almost good this time... almost

This post contains spoilers for His Dark Materials.
Check out our last review here

As we near the second season's end, His Dark Materials continues to fare much better than its predecessor, even if the sophomore offering has still suffered from a little unevenness here and there. "Malice" struggles with some of the problems from the beginning of this season as it tries to tie together a number of loose threads before the finale next week. With the scope of the storytelling so broad and dense, it's understandable that the series might suffer from trying to pack more in, but seeing as in the books things only get weirder and wilder from here, it'll be interesting to see how it manages to cope when it returns for season three. For now, though, we begin with the witches--one of the weakest parts of the second season--who have decided to finally interfere in Asriel (James McAvoy) and Lyra's (Dafne Keen) business, aiming to hunt down the former to recruit him to their war and save the latter for their prophecy. 

Despite how brilliant and brave they were last episode, Will and Lyra are very much in need of saving so it's lucky that Seraphina (Ruta Gedmintas) turned up just as our heroes are about to be killed by the children of the Cittàgazze. Will (Amir Wilson) and Lyra's failure to assimilate with them has been a thread this season which came to a head when Will killed a boy who attacked him with the Subtle Knife. It led to Will becoming its bearer but put them on a collision course with the dead boy's siblings. While an ever-flagging Will--who is suffering from an illness due to his wounds from the fight--is loath to trust the witches, Lyra can't help but be enchanted by the magical women. The fact that they still haven't told her she's the subject of a dangerous world-saving prophecy means that Will might be the one we should be listening to here. 

Keene and Wilson have been so brilliant this season that it's hard to be as enthused about the show when they're not on screen. There's a chemistry and dynamism between them that anchors the series in a vulnerability and humanity which is at the heart of why it works. But their wonderful performances are a double edged sword in episodes like this where there are multiple threads to be tied up, simply because the rest of the show isn't as engaging as Lyra and Will's journey. Saying that, we do get some very interesting moments with Dr. Mary Malone (Simone Kirby) as she navigates Cittàgazze and comes across the feral children who live there. The kindness that Kirby imbues Mary with makes her one of the most intriguing and vital characters on the show, but it also puts her at risk as she takes the Cittàgazze children under her wing as she searches for her young friends... who, lest we not forget, the Cittàgazze kids were just trying to kill.

While Lyra and Will try to convince Seraphina to allow them to continue their quest to locate Will's father, the fates are already working to make that happen. If you recall, earlier this season Lee Scoresby (Lin Manuel-Miranda) hunted down a shaman named Jopari (Andrew Scott), who also used to be the man known as John Parry A.K.A. Will's father. In order to protect Lyra, Lee agreed to help Jopari hunt down the bearer of the Subtle Knife, but neither know that the bearer is now Will or that Lyra is alongside him. It's one of the more satisfying ways that the series has connected its often disparate threads, and thanks to the alethiometer, Lyra and Will discover that his father is now in the same world as them and that they're close to finally meeting. 

The Cittàgazze is practically crawling with visitors this episode as Coulter (Ruth Wilson) and Boreal (Ariyon Bakare) head into the window world to find Lyra. Boreal is rightfully terrified as the city is haunted by the spectres, but Coulter is not afraid. In one of the cooler scenes this week, she faces down with the soul-suckers in dramatic fashion. See, it turns out that Coulter can control the beings, rendering Lyra and Will's safe haven completely useless. They might not need it much longer, though, as Jopari and Lee fly over the city just as Coulter realizes the power she has over the creatures, the two men heading to the forest where the children and witches are working together to heal Will. Back in the city, Boreal and Coulter celebrate their newfound power but Coulter quickly reveals that she has no interest in collaborating with Boreal and instead poisons her erstwhile ally, leaving him dead beside her as she finishes her drink. 

Back in Lyra's world, the Magisterium are less than happy about Coulter hunting down Lyra and decide the best way to combat their one-time servant is to kill the girl themselves. We end this week with an aerial showdown with the Magisterium's airpships versus Jopari and Lee. We finally get a glimpse of Jopari's powers--after much teasing and taunting at Lee's expense--when he calls a swell of birds to attack the enemy ships. While the creatures save the men from the Magisterium's hail of bullets, they do end up crashing towards the forest. But we don't see them land before the credits begin to roll. 

The big question as we move into the season finale is whether or not His Dark Materials will be able to stick the landing. Overall, this has been a far better season than the first, but it hasn't always been consistent. Luckily, now that all of our major players are in the Cittàgazze we should get a finale centered solely on Lyra and Will's quest for survival. We're incredibly excited to see Will and John Parry reunited as well as seeing Lee face down with Coulter and those who would dare to harm his friend. How will they all fare? Well, we'll have to wait until next week to see, but until then have a safe and healthy holiday filled with magic and love!