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Recap / His Dark Materials S 1 E 1 Lyras Jordan

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Young Lyra Belacqua is raised as a ward of Jordan College in Oxford. Her closest friends are her daemon Pantalaimon (nicknamed Pan) and a servant boy named Roger Parslow. Lyra admires her uncle, Lord Asriel, a polar explorer whose research into Dust and what he believes is a multiverse is regarded heretical by the ruling Magisterium. Lyra saves Asriel from being poisoned by the Master of Jordan College, who foresees Lyra's future importance through an alethiometer, one of only six ever made. After Asriel leaves on another polar expedition, the Master arranges for Lyra to stay with Marisa Coulter, also an explorer who offers to groom Lyra as her protégée in London and promises to search for Roger. Meanwhile, the mysterious "Gobblers" have kidnapped a Gyptian boy named Billy Costa and later kidnap Roger. The Master gives Lyra the alethiometer that belongs to her uncle. The Master says it tells the truth and is for Lyra's protection. He warns her to tell no one, including Mrs Coulter, that she possesses it. Lyra accompanies the charismatic Mrs Coulter to London in the hope of finding Roger. The Gyptians pursue the Gobblers to London.

This episode provides examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Uncle in this case. Lord Asriel nearly breaks Lyra's arm when she saves him from being poisoned.
  • Adaptation Amalgamation: The opening scene of Lyra being delivered to Jordan as a baby during the "Great Flood" is entirely taken from the ending of La Belle Sauvage from The Book of Dust.
  • Adaptational Deviation: Lyra hides to watch Asriel's presentation in the storage bench of the drawing room, not in the wardrobe. Perhaps they didn't want the Narnia parallel to be too noticeable just yet, or perhaps the practicalities of a visual media made it easier to film the views they needed to and/or more believable Lyra could watch without being seen through a grate than through the crack between a wardrobe's doors.
  • Adaptational Early Appearance: Multiple:
    • Will's silhouette appears in the opening credits, several episodes before his actor appears, and an entire book before his character does.
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    • Both Father Macphail and Lord Boreal are introduced here. The latter was only briefly seen roughly a third of the way through the first book, and the former was a Disc-One Final Boss for Mrs. Coulter in The Amber Spyglass.
  • Adaptational Expansion: The introduction to the Gyptians through Tony Costa's initiation, and Billy's disappearance, does not happen on screen in The Golden Compass, mostly because because the book is almost entirely from Lyra's perspective.
  • Adult Fear: Large scale. John Faa and Fader Coram report to Tony and Benjamin that the Gobblers have taken children from six different communities. Ma Costa later breaks down privately with Tony when it's clear Billy isn't coming back.
  • Adventurer Archaeologist: Played with. Asriel seems to be more of an adventure physicist.
  • Animal Stereotypes: Present from the get go, and not always played straight. Asriel at one point knocks over a decanter of wine the way a cat would (his daemon Stelmaria is a snow leopard) but it's justified because he needs to pretend to have broken it accidentally. Mrs. Coulter also caresses Lyra's face like a monkey grooming its young.
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  • Armour-Piercing Question: As Asriel is leaving on an airship, Lyra asks him if the one her parents died in looked similar. This catches him up short for a moment, before he can barely utter a Little "No".
  • As You Know: Roger and Lyra's opening conversation regarding what their daemon's will settle as is almost certainly one they would have had to have had multiple times before.
  • Batman Gambit: Mrs. Coulter leaves to board an airship, and tells Lyra she can come or not, while Lyra is distressed about Roger's disappearance. She makes it aboard in the last second, and Mrs. Coulter's reaction spells out that this was exactly what she intended.
  • Blatant Lies: Twice:
    • Asriel shatters the decanter of poisoned wine after Lyra warns him of it's poison, then tells the poisoner to his face that he broke it by accident. His expression the whole time dares the poisoner to contradict him.
    • Mrs. Coulter tells Lyra that she is unaccustomed to the grandeur of Jordan College, and Lyra will have to instruct her in proper table manners. However, it's clear from her expression that she's joking.
  • The Bore: Charles the Librarian. At least Lyra and Pan seem to think so.
  • Cryptic Conversation: Lyra's final conversation with Charles and the Master. Especially once they give her the alethiometer.
  • Doorstep Baby: Asriel pretty much abandons Lyra at Jordan this way, although he does at least take the time to tell the Master that she needs to be protected.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Lyra's introduction after the time skip shows her to be impassioned, athletic, cheerfully oblivious to rules, and fierce friends with Roger.
  • Finger-Licking Poison: Lord Asriel does this after Lyra warns him about the poisoned wine.
  • Foreshadowing: Deserves its own page.
  • Humans Are Special: Roger tries to defend Lyra to Asriel by saying she is special. His response:
    Lord Asriel: Everyone's special!
  • Lecture as Exposition: Twice used:
    • Charles the Jordan Librarian gives a brief one to Lyra, explaining that only the law of Scholastic Sanctuary allows Jordan College some measure of independence from Magisterium control.
    • Lord Asriel's presentation to the scholars of Jordan College provides a more straight example, going into Dust and the Multiverse.
  • Match Cut: From Lyra spitting out the pilfered wine to the snowstorm Lord Asriel is weathering on Svalbard.
  • Mundane Utility: For the audience. The inside of the Airship Lyra and Mrs. Coulter take at the end. The audience is probably expecting something ritzy and posh, in line with Mrs. Coulter's sensibilities, or something steampunky like the cargo hold of Asriel's private airship. In actuality it looks like nothing so much as a comfortable subway car.
  • Nightmare Fetishist: Lyra at one point asks Asriel if she can see Grumman's frozen head. This provokes an honest-to-goodness smile from Asriel.
  • No Sense of Personal Space: Mrs. Coulter really likes touching and caressing Lyra's face.
  • One Dialogue, Two Conversations: Mrs. Coulter takes time to describe the beauty of being alone up north. Lyra thinks she is referring to the Scenery Porn of the North. This is only partially true. Mrs. Coulter does not disabuse her of this idea.
    Mrs. Coulter: My favourite moment is early morning when the sky is high and the land seems endless. All that's in front of you is fresh, unbroken snow. You feel utterly alone and utterly magnificent.
  • Our Souls Are Different: The opening text followed by the Gyptian Coming Of Age Ceremony are used together to spell this out to the audience.
  • Police Are Useless: Both the Gyptians and Mrs. Coulter conclude that the State Police will be of no help at all in the search for the missing children.
  • Posthumous Character: Dr. Stanislaus Grumman, at least according to Asriel, who claims the Magisterium had him assassinated to hide his 'heretical' research. Asriel shows the scholars of Jordan his frozen head as evidence, although the one who examines it, and whom Asriel claims knew Grumman best, says the identity is inconclusive.
  • Real After All: There has been a rumor going around Oxford that children are being abducted by a group called the Gobblers. Lyra and Tony first believe it's just a rumor, but after Billy and Roger are abducted, they begin to believe. Fader Coram and Mrs. Coulter both independently confirm the truth of their existence, and the Gyptians are preparing an assault on their London lair to try and rescue the children.
  • Refuge in Audacity: Lord Asriel's entire presentation to the scholars of Jordan is a combination of this and Character Filibuster. He just won't stop talking, and when they begin to second guess him, he whips out the frozen head of one of their colleagues to throw them off balance.
  • Related in the Adaptation: Benjamin de Ruyter becomes Tony Costa's Gyptian mentor and big brother figure, whereas in the novel they were only acquaintances and maybe friends.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Connections!: Mrs. Coulter invokes an altruistic version of this, assuring Lyra that they will be able to track down Roger once back in London and able to access Mrs. Coulter's resources. This is what finally convinces Lyra to accompany her after Roger's disappearance.
  • Seen It All: Downplayed, but The Master of Jordan College is only slightly perturbed by Asriel thrusting a baby on him before disappearing into the night.
  • The Smurfette Principle: Played with. Mrs. Coulter immediately makes an impression on Lyra by appearing like this, though Lyra notes she is at least aware of other female scholars. It's emphasized by a tracking shot of Mrs. Coulter walking between the rows of praying men.
  • Spoiler Opening: The opening text spells out the fact that we are seeing a story based in entirely different universe than our own, not just an alternate timeline or fantasy world, the power and dominance of the Magisterium, and and that daemons are the physical manifestation of the human soul. Doubles as an Info Dump.
  • Tampering with Food and Drink: The Master of Jordan has Asriel's favourite vintage of Tokay (white wine in this world) put out for the latter's reception, then slips a packet of powder inside. Lyra spots him doing this, which lets her prevent Asriel from drinking it.
  • Thermal Dissonance: Averted. Asriel burns his finger on a projector when he leaves it on too long and doesn't turn it off properly.
  • Time Skip: After the first three minutes, the narrative skips ahead by twelve years to show Lyra going from infant to pre-adolescent.
  • Vagueness Is Coming: The Master of Jordan warns Charles that the alethiometer has told him that Lyra has to make a journey that includes a great act of betrayal that she will commit.
  • What Is This Thing You Call "Love"?: Mrs. Coulter has a brief moment during her Revealing Hug with Lyra. She is clearly confused by the maternal feelings the hug seems to stir up in her.
  • What You Are in the Dark: Asriel's only moments of affection towards Lyra are when she is asleep. First fiercely protecting her when she is a baby and later gently putting her to bed after she falls asleep when spying for him, complete with Comforting Comforter. He absolutely refuses to show any warmth when she is alert and clearly desperately seeking it.