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Recap / His Dark Materials S 2 E 1 The City Of Magpies

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Lyra and Will independently explore a new world, and end up meeting in the mysteriously "deserted" city of Cittàgazze. The Magisterium take action on past events. Mrs. Coulter interrogates a captured witch. Lee Scoresby embarks on a mission to locate Stanislaus Gruman. Serafina calls a meeting of witches, and is met by witch Queen Ruta Skadi.

Tropes in this episode include:

  • Adaptational Nice Guy: Will is a good deal more friendly to Lyra initially than he is in the books. It helps that his Violence Is the Only Option attitude has been toned down considerably. Combined with...
  • Adaptational Wimp: Will may have fight training that he lacked in the books, but it's counterbalanced by lack of real-world brawling experience. Lyra is therefore able to overwhelm him easily upon their first meeting, despite him being about 6 inches taller and considerably stronger. She definitely could not have done this is the books.
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  • Blatant Lies: Mrs. Coulter claims to Sturrock, MacPhail, and Pavel that she never made it to the mountaintop before Asriel blasted open the doorway. MacPhail is the most dubious, as she abandoned him unconscious in Asriel's laboratory.
  • Body Horror: Those tree-like tattoos on witches' backs? They're not tattoos. They are branches of Cloud Pine that grow under their skin. They may or may not be related to their ability to fly. Mrs. Coulter tortures Katja by removing them with tweezers.
  • Call-Back: As Katja is brutally tortured by Mrs. Coulter, she calls out to "Yambe-Akka" that she is ready. Fader Coram explained to Lyra in Season 1 that Yambe-Akka is the witch goddess of death, meaning Katja is literally begging for death and a release from the pain.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: Mrs. Coulter interrogates the captured witch Katja by first threatening to, and then slowly removing, the springs of cloud pine that grow under her skin. What makes it worse is Mrs. Coulter's insinuation that the sprigs are connected to Katja's magical abilities, including flight, making it more akin to dismembering her. It's apparently even more painful than it looks.
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  • Empty Shell: Lyra and Will discover an adult man trying to use a well, but he is virtually catatonic. They attribute this to him being attacked by the Spectres, and having some part of himself devoured by them.
  • Friend to All Living Things: Will instantly comes to the rescue of the cat.
  • Gender Flip: Angelica's sister Paula. He's Paulo in the books.
  • Ghost City: Cittàgazze appears this way to both Lyra and Will. They later come upon other a few children who are squatting there, who reveal the adults fled from the Spectres, monsters who apparently eat souls and are invisible to and uninterested in children. The city actually has many of them, Lyra and Will just can't see them.
  • Honour Before Reason: Will insists on paying for the food he and Lyra take. While they are alone in a deserted city with no one to pay. Lyra is incredulous at this, but Will insists on it because he doesn't want them to be thieves.
  • Ignorant of Their Own Ignorance: It takes seeing Will shocked at a "talking animal" for Lyra to realize she's in a world where daemons don't exist.
  • Internal Reveal: A few:
    • As Will has never heard of daemons before, Lyra has to explain the concept to him. She has trouble putting it into words however, as they are such a fundamental part of her world that she has never had to talk about it.
    • The ending shows Lyra asking the alethiometer about Will, and it reveals him to be a murderer, from his killing of Thomas in the previous episode.
  • Interclass Friendship: Lyra and Will. Lyra may be technically a higher status than him, but he is much better equipped to handle himself in Cittàgazze. She initially thinks he must be a "Kitchen Boy" because he knows how to cook. Ironically, he probably is more educated than her, having stayed in school and also become an athlete.
  • Kids Are Cruel: Near the end, Lyra and Will discover a gang of children in Cittàgazze attacking the cat who led Will through the doorway. They end up rescuing it.
  • Lethal Chef: Lyra and Pan try making an omelette for Will. They have absolutely no idea how to do so, having never cooked for themselves before, and end up cooking the eggs with the broken shells.
  • Literal Metaphor: Will has a literal save the cat near the end, and this endears him enough to Lyra for her to use the alethiometer to confirm he is trustworthy.
  • Mercy Kill: Ruta Skadi puts a knife in Katja's heart after she begs for death and a release of pain from Mrs. Coulter.
  • Murder by Inaction: Mrs. Coulter convinces Father MacPhail to let the cardinal die of his injuries after he is stabbed during Ruta Skadi's escape. She reasons that his leadership is so incompetent that they would be doing the church a favour. After throwing in a dose of We Can Rule Together, MacPhail reluctantly agrees.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: According to Angelica and Paula, the city of Cittàgazze is not actually deserted, but filled instead with invisible monsters they call Spectres. They are only invisible to children however, and warn Will that he will soon be able to see them, as he is nearing adolescence. The ending shows one of them stalking Will, much to his obliviousness.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome:
    • Lee repaired his crashed balloon between the last episode and here. However, some of his navigation tools are still broken.
    • The Magisterium captured Katja offscreen, i.e. a witch who can fly and has Super Speed.
  • Only Sane Man: Father MacPhail seems to think he has become this in the Magisterium. While Mrs. Coulter plays her power moves, and Cardinal Sturrock blusters about how Asriel's doorway is heresy, MacPhail tries to actually get a handle on the situation and help the Magisterium adapt.
  • Percussive Maintenance: Will has to bang on the shower cistern to get it running.
  • Riches to Rags: A variation. Lyra walking through the doorway completely cut her off from all of the resources and comforts that she was used to. While she is very resourceful, she's not used to caring for herself, and gets perplexed by the idea of cooking.
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