Mrs. Coulter (Ruth Wilson) on HBO's His Dark Materials.

His Dark Materials, “The Scholar”: Will Meeting Lyra’s Mother Has Me Anxious for His Own Parental Reunion 

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**Spoilers for HBO’s His Dark Materials season 2, episode 5, “The Scholar.”**

We need to check in on Will. So much has happened to him this season on His Dark Materials: He traveled to an alternate dimension, made enemies in that dimension, befriended a girl from yet another dimension, lost two fingers, and became the bearer of The Subtle Knife. Now, he’s embarking on a journey to find the father that abandoned him. Even if I hadn’t read the books, I would have a sense of dread about what’s going to happen to this li’l cinnamon roll next.

In “The Scholar,” Will and Lyra execute a heist to steal the alethiometer back from Lord Boreal, but unexpectedly run into Mrs. Coulter herself. He learned how to master cutting between worlds about as quickly as Lyra mastered reading the alethiometer in season 1, but like any good “chosen” hero, has doubts about whether or not he’s worthy of this quest. While Mrs. Coulter and Will did not have much time to talk, he saw the affect the woman has on his friend.

Lyra was almost possessed by her anger. He remarked to her later that he’d never seen her like that, but didn’t seem scared or put off. Will knows better than anyone that you don’t always know what someone is going through with their family. He had to keep his mother’s mental illness a secret for so long in order to survive. He may not relate to the way Lyra is scared of both of her parents, but now he knows a little more about her and how dangerous her life was before she met him.

But he hasn’t seen his father in a long time, and parents generally can’t be trusted in the world of His Dark Materials. What’s going to happen with Jopari—the shaman sometimes known as Stanislav Grumman and formerly known as John Parry—meets his son, Will? How will he react to the knowledge that his son is the knife-bearer he seeks? I hope he’s proud of how brave and kind Will is. He’d friggin’ better be. I really hope this glimpse he’s gotten into Lyra’s family life isn’t a way of preparing him for disappointment. We gushed over Jopari’s introduction and how he was immediately drawn to Lee Scoresby, because duh, but that doesn’t make him a good father.

At the end of the episode, Lyra tells Will that torturing her mother’s daemon using Pan (the way Mrs. Coulter once did to her) didn’t make her feel good, or vengeful, at all. She hopes she doesn’t grow up to be anything like her mother, and cites the more positive influences she has met on her journey like Ma Costa and Lee Scoresby as the type of adult she’d like to be.

“You don’t need to be like anyone else,” Will says. “They’d be lucky to be anything like you.” That’s very mature of Will. We’re pro nurture-over-nature here on His Dark Materials. I hope someone says the same to him one day.

(featured image: HBO)

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Leah Marilla Thomas
Leah Marilla Thomas (she/her) is a contributor at The Mary Sue. She has been working in digital entertainment journalism since 2013, covering primarily television as well as film and live theatre. She's been on the Marvel beat professionally since Daredevil was a Netflix series. (You might recognize her voice from the Newcomers: Marvel podcast). Outside of journalism, she is 50% Southerner, 50% New Englander, and 100% fangirl over everything from Lord of the Rings to stage lighting and comics about teenagers. She lives in New York City and can often be found in a park. She used to test toys for Hasbro. True story!