So warning up front folks, I have marked this one as a SPOILER warning, whereas I normally just vaguely skirt around the story of each episode, this week I am going to have to discuss specific things that happened in order to actually review it. As the title says, this week I will be discussing changes made from the books for this adaptation and how some are good and some are not.
Let’s get into Episode 5 of His Dark Materials titled ‘The Lost Boy’ shall we?
The Lost Boy
Following on from last week, the Gyptians and Lyra are headed North to Bolvanger, the station where they believe the Gobblers are holding all the children. However, Lyra consults the Alethiometer and it tells her that she need to make a detour to a small fishing village to find a ghost. The Gyptians are not keen on the idea, but Lyra convinces them it’s important and off she pops with Iorek Byrnison who agrees to carry her there and back again.
Meanwhile on our Earth, Lord Boreal under the alias of Sir Charles Latrom continues to watch the Parry family and we are introduced to both Will Parry and his mother, who suffers from paranoia and delusions.
Was it any good?
Ok, this is where we need to get into SPOILER territory and I apologize for that, for anyone who likes to read this in the US before watching the episode on HBO, this time, I’d suggest you wait till after you have seen ‘The Lost Boy’.
I’ll start by saying that overall I enjoyed this episode, it had some great moments between Iorek, Lee and Lyra, amongst a very powerful moment between Farder Coram and Serafina Pekkala (brilliant by the way). However, there are two major changes made from the books which happen in this episode and whilst all adaptations must make changes, I think one of them here was the right call and the other just wasn’t.
Will Parry finally makes his debut in His Dark Materials, where in the books he is never mentioned directly until the beginning of the second book. Now, for me, this is a great change for this show, and it’s something I suspected we were building towards from the first few episodes of Season 1. The reason I really like this change from the books is because the beginning of the second book (The Subtle Knife) spends a lot of time with just Will and his Mother and what is going on with them, in fact, I did wonder what the hell was going on the first time I read that book as Lyra is nowhere to be seen. All they are doing here is giving us enough backstory for Will that they won’t have to spend an entire episode quickly running through his situation when they eventually get to this point. In my opinion, this is a smart change when adapting a novel to a visual format as too much exposition always grates.
However, the second change they made from the books here, well, I think the writer Jack Thorne really made an error when deciding how to tell the story of “The Lost Boy.” In the books, the character Lyra finds in the village is Tony Makaros, not Billy Costa. However, it is not the change to Billy which is the problem here, it’s the way the show is dealing with Daemons that’s the problem.
In the books when Lyra finds Tony, it is horrific to learn that he has no Daemon, Lyra herself has to force enough courage to be kind to Tony as his ailment is so horrific to someone of her world. All Tony can ask is “Where’s Ratter?” the part of his soul which has been cut away and lost to him. He even holds onto and cradles a dead fish, a replacement for the Daemon he misses, and this dead fish is important. The fish represents the loss Tony experiences and that his mind is only able to focus on trying replace the part of himself which has been cruelly removed from him.
In the show, there is no dead Fish and Billy simply looks like he is dying of the cold in an empty village. The empty village is another issue here, in the books, the villagers are afraid of Tony and happy that Lyra and Iorek are going to take them away, so they don’t have to think about him any longer. In the show there us an emotional moment which is pretty heartbreaking where Ma Costa tells her son to go and find Ratter and sings him a song as he passes away. But they traded a more human emotion of a mother losing her son, for the loss the readers feel for Tony in the books, because of the horror they have performed on him. This is what sucks the reader into how important these Daemons are and plays a vital role in building the tension in the next section of the story at Bolvangar. Now I do not want to discuss what happens in next week’s episode, but you will understand what I mean I am sure after you have watched Episode 6 next Monday or Sunday, depending on your territory.
For me the writer here didn’t feel confident enough that the loss of a Daemon would be horrific enough for the audience, and so they cultivated this grieving mother scene instead. In the books, Lyra is so upset when she finds that the Gyptians have thrown Tony’s dead fish for the dogs, instead of keeping it with him in his death, that she admonishes them all severely. We didn’t even get a “Where’s Ratter” from Billy, which I think again was a misstep. The only reason I can think they did this, was because they never believed the audience would feel emotional enough at the loss of a Daemon, but surely that’s then the job you as a writer have in previous episodes to make sure the audience understand this relationship properly?
My worry, is that the choice here will make the events going forward less dramatic and tension-filled for the audience as a result, but I guess we shall see.
The cast is great here, as usual, I especially love Iorek and Lee more with each episode. I think we have to discuss the new cast members who appeared this week though, specifically Will Parry, his Mum, and the Witch Serafina Pekkala. Pekkala only has a small scene, but what a powerful scene with Farder Coram, and I liked what I saw from Ruta Gedmintas. In fact, she looks very much like Eva Green who played the role briefly in the movie version The Golden Compass. I can’t wait to see more of her as her character becomes a bigger part of the story.
As for the Parry’s, so far we haven’t seen a great deal of Amir Wilson Will Parry, but his role is going to get bigger and bigger as the show goes on, and in the end, he will be the co-lead of the show along with Dafne Keen’s Lyra. Will is my favorite character from the books, and so far so good is about all I can say for Amir Wilson. As said Will is only briefly featured here and I do think they nailed the relationship between Will and his mother Elaine, here played by the versatile Nina Sosanya, who did an excellent job of portraying a woman with serious mental health issues. You really felt like it was Will taking care of his mother and being discreet to stop her from being taken away from him or he from her.
I won’t do a criticisms section this week, since I already covered that in the section above.
“The Lost Boy” was good, almost a perfect episodes and sure to grab an A+, however, I feel like the changes made from the books didn’t always work this time and the Billy Costa scene, emotional as it was, is still missing that connection between Daemons that we need the audience to feel strongly about.
The decision to begin Will’s story early is beginning to pay off in the way I hoped, however the emotional punch of Billy’s death and the severing of his Daemon just didn’t match the horror the reader felt when getting to this passage of the books. However, that doesn’t mean it was a bad episode at all and for non-book readers, you may well not have any of these issues coming into it fresh. I just hope it doesn’t make the events of next week’s episode less tense as a result.
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