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Recap / His Dark Materials S 1 E 3 The Spies

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Billy's older brother, Tony Costa, and his friend, Benjamin, rescue Lyra and Pan from the Gobblers and take her to the Gyptians' camp. Lyra accepts their protection, and also agrees to help them find Roger and the other missing children. Following a raid on Jordan College, Mrs Coulter learns that Lyra has an Aleithiometer and sends two robotic "spy flies" to track her. Boreal crosses back to the alternate World where Thomas informs him that Grumman is an explorer from his world named John Parry. Thomas also reveals that Parry has a wife and child in that world. Boreal hires another man to find them. Ma Costa reveals that Mrs Coulter is Lyra's mother through an affair with Asriel. Asriel then killed Mrs Coulter's husband in a fight and hid Lyra at Jordan College. Lyra helps Gyptian king, John Faa, to persuade the others to travel North and find the captive children. Tony and Benjamin raid Mrs Coulter's apartment, finding a list of missing children including Billy Costa. The boys are discovered; Tony narrowly escapes but Benjamin deliberately falls down the lift shaft, killing himself, to avoid being captured by Mrs Coulter. Lyra discovers she intuitively can read the Aleithiometer (which tells her Benjamin has died) before she and Pan are attacked by the spy flies. Farder Coram captures one spy, but the other escapes and returns to Mrs Coulter, divulging Lyra's location.

This episode provides examples of:

  • Adaptational Early Appearance: Will Parry appears here in a photograph, when he wasn't introduced until the opening of The Subtle Knife.
  • Animal Stereotypes: Played disturbingly straight. Mrs. Coulter attacks Benjamin by slapping him with the heels of her hands, while the Golden Monkey does the same thing to his daemon. Combined with the bullet in his shoulder, this almost completely debilitates Benjamin.
  • Better to Die than Be Killed: After Benjamin is wounded by Mrs. Coulter, he quickly realizes he is either about to die from the wound, or will be tortured by the Magisterium until he betrays the Gyptians. He chooses instead to throw himself down her elevator shaft.
  • BFG: Mrs. Coulter brings out a hefty pistol to attack Benjamin and Tony when they break into her Penthouse.
  • Big Brother Is Watching: The Gyptians begin viewing the Zepplins this way, as the Magisterium uses them to look down on them.
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  • Bloodier and Gorier: Inverted by adaptation. In the book, Tony and the Gyptians kill the Gobblers who kidnap Lyra, and one explicitly from an arrow through the neck. Here they just capture them and and let one escape.
  • Brick Joke: Last episode, Boreal found parking tickets on his car in our world. He didn't seem to understand what they are and dismissed them. Here he returns to his car and finds it booted, much to his confusion.
  • Catch-22 Dilemma: A legal one as part of Lyra's backstory. Edward Coulter broke into Asriel's house with the intent of killing Lyra, and Asriel killed him in her defence. While the defence case was legal, Coulter was also technically acting legally because of a loophole that allowed him to "defend the violation of his wife". The state solved this by confiscating Asriel's wealth and property and placing Lyra in a nunnery.
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  • Cradling Your Kill: Mrs. Coulter cradles Benjamin after shooting him. Only he's Not Quite Dead.
  • Defiant to the End: Benjamin, through and through.
    Benjamin: I betray my family for no one.
  • Dirty Coward: Boreal accuses Thomas of being too scared to follow him through the doorway. Thomas confirms that the idea terrifies him.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Mrs. Coulter leading the Magisterium raid on Jordan College is framed to look like a Nazi purge of academics.
  • Do Wrong, Right: Part of Mrs. Coulter's Insane Troll Logic is reasoning that Scholastic Sanctuary is needless, because if knowledge and original thinking needs protecting, the ones doing the protecting should be clever enough to hide it from the Magisterium.
  • Entertainingly Wrong: Mrs. Coulter spends the opening convinced the Master knows where Lyra is. He honestly has no idea.
  • "Eureka!" Moment: Lyra and Pan finally begin to read the Aleithiometer after Fader Coram gives them a basic rundown of its mechanics.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Fra Pavel is disgusted by Mrs. Coulter's raid on Jordan College.
  • Evil Is Petty: Mrs. Coulter starts her interrogation of the Master by taking his book, tearing out pages, and burning them in front of him.
  • Forced to Watch: Part of Mrs. Coulter's interrogation of Benjamin is making him watch the Golden Monkey attack his daemon. Unfortunately for her, she greatly underestimates his determination.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: Tony escapes the Penthouse by fleeing through Lyra's former bedroom. It's briefly shown that Mrs. Coulter has torn apart the room, with overturned furniture and feathers everywhere.
  • Growing Up Sucks: Lyra discusses this with Fader Coram, as she doesn't want Pan to settle into a fixed form. Fader Coram advises that loving the final form the daemon takes is a part of learning to love oneself.
  • Heroic Second Wind: Benjamin is able to summon the strength to escape Mrs. Coulter's grip after she shoots him, enough to pull a Heroic Suicide.
  • Hired Gun: The Pale-Faced Man (as he's named in the credits) that Boreal contacts to follow the Parry's appears to be a combination of this and private investigator.
  • Internal Reveal: Fader Coram is able to give Lyra a basic rundown of the mechanics of asking a question of the Aleithiometer, and interpreting the answer. It proves the turning point for her to make the connection and begin to use it herself.
  • Kidnapped by an Ally: It’s revealed that Lyra and Pan were taken away from the Gobblers by Tony and Benjamin.
  • Killed Off for Real: Benjamin de Ruyter.
  • Like a Daughter to Me: Ma Costa views Lyra this way, having previously been her wet nurse as a child. Lyra is at first deeply suspicious of her, but warms to her once Ma Costa begins opening up and being honest with her in a way Mrs. Coulter never was.
  • My Greatest Second Chance: Ma Costa appeals to Lyra to let her help protect Lyra, as she had failed during Edward Coulter's attack when Lyra was an infant. Lyra agrees.
  • Mysterious Protector: John Faa and Fader Coram reveal that the Gyptians have been secretly this to Lyra for her entire life, although their rescue of her from the Gobblers was coincidental. They won't tell her why though.
  • Oh, Crap!: Benjamin and Tony have a collective double-whammy when they are confronted by the Golden Monkey. Firstly because this means Mrs. Coulter is now alerted to their presence, and secondly because the Monkey is present without her, which had previously been established to be disturbing to anyone with a daemon.
  • Perpetual-Motion Monster: Mrs. Coulter unleashes the Spyflies to search for Lyra. They are ambiguously mechanical flying beetles, programmed to hunt specific targets. They don't seem to need to eat or recharge, and they just keep going.
  • Police Are Useless: John Faa outright invokes this when speaking to the Gyptian Assembly, citing how no authorities are bothering to investigate the missing children, and outright violating Gyptian sovereignty by raiding their boats.
  • Rogue Agent: Twice:
    • Thomas discovers that Boreal's investigation into Gruman is not sanctioned, or even known about, by the Magisterium.
    • Benjamin and Tony attempt to raid Mrs. Coulter's penthouse, against the order of Fader Coram. This backfires hard.
  • Rousing Speech: John Faa gives an epic one to rouse the Gyptians to unite to face the Gobblers. They end up throwing their full support behind him.
  • Screw the Rules, I Make Them!: Mrs. Coulter's tendency to do this begins annoying the Magisterium, as she violates Scholastic Sanctuary with her raid on Jordan Collage, and later the Watercourse Bill by infringing on Gyptian sovereign territory by having the boats searched.
  • This Cannot Be!: Boreal is incredulous that Gruman could originally be from our world, as he has a daemon, and only people from his world have them. Thomas counters that they actually have no way of knowing if that is actually true.
  • Torture Always Works: Played with. The Gyptians are able to get one bit of information out of their Gobbler hostage: the children are being taken north. However, this is so general that all they can do is plan to head to Trollesand and figure out what to do from there.
  • Unpleasant Parent Reveal: In an effort to keep Lyra from running away from the Gyptians, Ma Costa reveals that Mrs. Coulter is Lyra's biological mother. Lyra is understandably quite upset by this.
  • Wham Line: "She's your mother, Lyra."
  • Worthy Adversary: Boreal is beginning to view Gruman as this, as he had never met someone else fearless enough to cross between worlds before.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: Mrs. Coulter thinks the Gyptians are very little threat to the Oblation Board, only being concerned with them after suspecting they are sheltering Lyra. Benjamin proving they are willing to sacrifice their lives to stop her puts a lie to that idea.