Book adaptations are difficult. No one is ever happy. From The Odyssey to the Harry Potter series, there are always concerns and complaints about small details that may have been changed or omitted in their transition. Adapting His Dark Materials is no easy feat and while the episodes have been entertaining, there are moments when there are lulls in plot to make room for exposition and other necessary devices. This makes sense, the series is filled with endless lore, parallel worlds, and many rich characters. Directed by Euros Lyn and written by Jack Thorne, the sixth installment of His Dark Materials, titled ‘The Daemon-Cages’ progresses the story and takes it to the next level.
The season is about to come to a close and this is felt in ‘The Daemon-Cages.’ The action and suspense is amped up. Characters are more developed and there is a great chemistry among the actors. This episode takes place mainly inside Bolvanger where we see the conditions the kidnapped children are living in. The grey and green setting sets up a very sterile and creepy looking environment.
The sense of foreboding is developed further by the direction. Euros Lyn used some very interesting corridor shots that a set up a eeriness akin to a horror movie. Both the staff and the imprisoned children walk around with glazed over stares and blank expressions. There is one scene where a nurse from Bolvanger stands alone in a hallway with a strange smile on her face as she stares ahead at nothing. The danger is definitely increased in the episode, but so is the tone.
Dafne Keen puts on a great performance this week as Lyra’s talent for storytelling is put to the test. Ruth Wilson wins this episode with another scene stealing performance. Her ability to go from loving to murderous is wonderful. She is truly fun to watch in action as she battles with her feelings and ambitions in this episode.
‘The Daemon-Cages’ also features a very satisfying battle scene. We are able to witness Iorek in action in full armored glory as he demonstrates a take no prisoners approach to fighting. In addition to polar bear action, the Gyptians attack as they reach their destination. Ma Costa proves to be a formidable fighter as she steps away from her grief to extract vengeance.
Specials effects are particularly remarkable when Serafina Pekkala enters the fray. The use of effects contrasted against the snowy background could easily turn into a visibility problem where it is unclear to see any of the action. Thankfully, everything works well in this episode, giving viewers watching a visually impressive fight.
Overall, this was a very rewarding episode. Many things were set into motion and characters were elevated as they learned of more responsibilities. Given the pacing of this week’s episode, it will be interesting to see where this season will end.