Follow TV Tropes


Recap / His Dark Materials S 1 E 6 The Daemon Cages

Go To
Lyra, posing as "Lizzie", mingles with the captive children at Bolvangar and she finds with Roger. She learns that the Gobblers are using an experimental procedure called intercision to surgically sever the children from their daemons. Mrs Coulter later visits Bolvangar and, discovering that Lyra and Pan are about to undergo an intercision, halts it. Mrs Coulter attempts to persuade Lyra to join her, claiming Dust is the source of sin and that all adults are "infected" by it. She wants Lyra to give her the alethiometer, but Lyra tricks her and attacks her with the captured spy-fly. Lyra escapes and destroys the intercision machine and the base's generator. The children are rescued by the Gyptians, Iorek, Scoresby and the witch Serafina Pekkala, who kill the scientists and mercenaries, although Mrs Coulter escapes. The Gyptians return south with the rescued children, while Lyra, Roger and their daemons travel north with Scoresby and Iorek in the hot-air balloon to reach Lord Asriel on Svalbard. However, flying bat-like monsters called cliff-ghasts attack them, and Lyra falls from the airship. Meanwhile, Will Parry reads his father's letters as Thomas and another mercenary spy on him.

This episode provides examples of:

  • Adaptational Superpower Change: In the books, Serefina Pekkala can fly, has a form of Perception Filter, can cast spells, and is Really 700 Years Old. Here she can Flash Step.
  • Air-Vent Passageway: Mrs. Coulter uses them to escape her suite after Lyra locks her inside.
  • Artistic Licence – Gun Safety: Lee kills a Tartar attacking Ma Costa by shooting him with a shotgun from down a hallway. Past the Tartar was the group of children they are trying to rescue. If Lee had missed, or if the bullet had gone through the Tartar, he could have easily killed several people. Later in the balloon, he slowly pulls out a pistol, and keeps his finger on the trigger the whole time.
  • Artistic Licence – Physics: Lee's balloon doesn't react as if it has heavily armoured bear inside.
  • Blatant Lies:
    • Dr. Rendal at one point feebly tries to claim Bolvangar is only a "Philosophical Establishment" not a "Child Chop House".
    • Advertisement:
    • Mrs. Coulter gives the girls dorm a short speech about how much she cares about them, and how it lifts her spirits to see them all happy. Judging from their expressions, they have heard it all before.
  • Big Damn Heroes: The Gyptians attack in force just in time to save the escaping children from being recaptured by the Tartars. Serafina later does it herself to save the pinned down Gyptians.
  • Call-Back: Mrs. Coulter's habit of caressing Lyra's face. Lyra ends up actually placing her mother's hand on her cheek in order to sell her on Lyra loving her. It works so well that Mrs. Coulter can barely hold back tears.
  • Ceiling Cling: Lyra clings to the underside of her bed when Mrs. Coulter inspects the girls dorm. She comes very close to being discovered by the Golden Monkey. It's played realistically and Lyra collapses from exhaustion after a short period.
  • Advertisement:
  • Character Development: The last time Lyra saw Mrs. Coulter, she barely was able to pull off lying to her. Here she cons her with a remarkably straight face.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Lyra uses the Spy Fly to attack Mrs. Coulter long enough to lock her in her room.
  • Comforting Comforter: Will takes a moment in the middle of the night to tuck his mother in.
  • Conditioned to Accept Horror: Several:
    • Implied with Sister Clara, and combined with Being Tortured Makes You Evil. She was one of the earlier recipients of the procedure.
    • The girls dorm has a set of procedures to follow to keep themselves from sticking out whenever Mrs. Coulter visits, in the hope that she will choose one of the boys instead. However, they are not so desensitized as to completely ignore the horror, and rally behind Annie to protect Lyra when called on it. They are just being pragmatic.
  • Cliffhanger: The balloon is attacked by Cliff-Ghasts, and Lyra falls out into the darkness.
  • Dare to Be Badass: Lyra has to give a whispered version of the speech to the children of Bolvangar to convince them to attempt escape.
  • Death by Adaptation: Dr. Cooper is stabbed in the heart by Serafina, when her book counterpart survived until at least midway through The Amber Spyglass.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: As Lyra explores Bolvangar, it looks more and more like a cross between a Boarding School of Horrors and The Gulag.
  • The Dreaded: To the staff of Bolvangar, Mrs. Coulter apparently goes well beyond being a Bad Boss.
  • Emotionless Girl: Subverted. Sister Clara appears to be this, but is actually an Empty Shell, courtesy of being subjected to an early form of intercision. Lyra is able to evoke a memory of her lost daemon, which distracts her long enough for Lyra to escape.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: Mrs. Coulter seems genuinely confused as to why Lyra would be upset about what Bolvangar is doing as long as Lyra is not one of the victims.
  • False Reassurance: When forcing Lyra into the cage, Dr. Rendal tries to reassure her that "It doesn't just feels like a loss."
  • Flash Step: Serafina Pekkala can do so, and massacres the Tartars in the final battle.
  • Gender Flip: Dr. Cooper is male in the books, but is here played by Lia Williams.
  • Genre Shift: The opening is nothing but Horror.
  • Great Escape: Lyra has to concoct a plan to free the children of Bolvangar, and time it with the Gyptians raid.
  • Humanoid Abomination: The Cliff-Ghasts. They look like some horrible combination of humans, bats, and flying squirrels.
  • Hot Drink Cure: Mrs. Coulter gives Lyra an infusion of Chamomile in order to calm her nerves after she was nearly sliced away from Pan. She claims her mother did the same for her as a child.
  • If I Wanted You Dead...: A variation with Mrs. Coulter's tea. Lyra is clearly suspicious:
    Mrs. Coulter: If I was trying to drug you there are many other means to do so other than a drink.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: Dr. Cooper and Rendal both enjoy a drink after a day's work, and toast to "Freedom".
  • Indy Ploy: Faced with Mrs. Coulter asking for the alethiometer and no way to refuse her, Lyra pulls out the tin containing the imprisoned Spy Fly and uses it to attack her.
  • Internal Reveal: Roger learns of Billy's death from Lyra, and of the upcoming Gyptian rescue. Lyra spreads the word to the girls dorm as well.
  • Just Think of the Potential!: Dr. Cooper combines this with a For Science! attitude to justify the atrocities she commits at Bolvangar. Dr. Rendal isn't quite so sure.
  • Kerb-Stomp Battle: The Tartars have no defence against an armoured bear or a witch with superspeed.
  • Like a Daughter to Me: With some prodding, Serafina Pekkala is able to get Lee to admit he's coming to feel this way about Lyra.
  • Madness Mantra: The children who have been cut away from their daemons count upwards from one to ten. In unison.
  • Morally Ambiguous Doctorate: Dr. Rendal and Cooper are quite willing to basically lobotomize children. They are even pleased to report that five children have survived the procedure.
  • Nerves of Steel: Lyra, Roger, but especially Annie who lies to Mrs. Coulter's face, despite knowing this could easily lead to a Fate Worse than Death for her.
  • No OSHA Compliance:
    • Inverted with the fire drills, as Dr. Rendal tries to be compliant by having them frequently. This bites the staff in the ass when Lyra weaponizes it against them.
    • Played completely straight with the Separator. It looks like a fancy guillotine, but by leaving the doors open, and turning it on all the buttons, Lyra makes it violently implode.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: The opening. A girl named Bridget McGinn (who is nearly panicking) is taken away to a room by Sister Clara and Dr. Cooper. We only see the outside of the room as Sister Clara waits outside. She is disturbing unsmiles as something (intercision) happens to Bridget inside, which slides dramatically from pleased into horrified once she seems to process what's actually happening.
  • Off Screen Moment Of Awesome:
    • Dr. Cooper reveals in passing that Billy broke out of Bolvangar. He did this after undergoing intercision, made it past the well armed Tartars, and walked what must have been miles in the snow. When Lyra found him he was incapable of speech and dying. Turns out, he was quite the badass, even after being cut away from Ratter.
    • Lee and Serafina Pekkala imply through dialogue that they have had adventures together in the past.
  • Oddly Small Organization: Dr. Cooper is convinced she and Dr. Rendal are on the verge of world-changing discoveries, but they seem to be the only scientific staff at Bollvangar. The nuns seem to do everything else, but are not lab techs. This is actually a Pragmatic Adaptation from the books, where there were multiple scientists and clergy on staff. It simplifies the dynamic here.
  • Oh, Crap!: Quite a few:
    • Bridget when Dr. Cooper takes her away is close to a panic attack.
    • Lyra and Roger when they find the daemon cages. It gets even worse when they find their missing humans, who are all empty shells.
    • Dr. Cooper and Rendal when they realize Mrs. Coulter is coming. Lyra freaks out when she actually arrives.
    • Mrs. Coulter when she sees Lyra in the cage.
  • Parental Abandonment: Mrs. Coulter tries to apologize in her own way for giving Lyra up as a baby, citing that it would not have been good for either of them, and that her decision was not because she didn't care.
  • Rousseau Was Right: The fellow girls, with Annie leading them, to hide Lyra from Mrs. Coulter, despite the fact that they are clearly terrified of her. Each one of them has the chance to sell her out in the hopes that Mrs. Coulter will spare them, but none even seem to consider it.
  • Sadist: Mrs. Coulter is keen to see the new separator used in action.
  • Separated by the Wall: By a door actually. Lyra locks Mrs. Coulter in her suite by shutting the door and bashing the electronic lock with a fire extinguisher. They end up screaming with impotent rage through it at one another.
  • Sneak Attack: Having been blindsided by the Tartars, the Gyptians are forced to attack Bolvangar from the unexpected direction of the mountain pass. It slows them down considerably, but they are able to get the drop on Bolvangar's defences.
  • Swiss-Cheese Security: Played with regarding Bolvangar. On the one hand the Tartars are capable fighters, and the Gyptians have to attack in darkness and a blizzard to even have a chance of beating them. But the nuns cannot spot Lyra fomenting a rebellion right under their noses. Justified in that they have all undergone intercision, and thus have had their abilities dampened.
  • Touching Through Glass: Mrs. Coulter attempts this after she rescues Lyra from the intercision machine, but Lyra doesn't seem to reciprocate.
  • Traumatic Haircut: All the children who have undergone the procedure have been shaved bald.
  • Troll: Lyra asks Dr. Rendal if he is measuring Dust with his photographs, purely to see how he will react.
  • Verbal Backspace: Lyra has to backtrack when Dr. Rendal becomes too inquisitive, pretending to be innocently ignorant of what is going on.
  • We Need a Distraction: Twice:
    • Lyra starts a Snowball Fight during the roll call of the fire drill in order to have a moment to explore Bolvangar with Roger.
    • Later she pulls out the tin containing the Spy Fly, claiming it's the alethiometer.
  • Xanatos Speed Chess: Lyra starts spinning plans for a mass break out of Bolvangar as soon as she gets her bearings. Mrs. Coulter's appearance, and herself nearly being separated from Pan, initially throw her off but she adapts. She ends up having to implement the plan on the fly.
  • You Are Too Late: After winning the battle, the Gyptians face first hand the number of children they couldn't save, which turns the ending triumph into a Pyrrhic Victory.
  • You Called Me "X"; It Must Be Serious: Mrs. Coulter is deeply affected by Lyra calling her "Mother".
  • You Just Told Me: Subverted. Lyra acts as if this is how she knows that Mrs. Coulter is her mother, but really Ma Costa told her previously.