The disaster at Bolvangar has left Mrs. Coulter even more unhinged than normal. Looking over the smoking wreckage of the intercision device, she screams and then stalks through the facility to find Sister Clara sitting dazed and directionless in the snowy courtyard. Though she is the cause of it, Coulter seems almost disgusted by Clara’s simplemindedness, more evidence of her project’s grand failure. She asks Clara which way Lyra fled in her balloon, but only knowing Lyra as Lizzie, Clara has no idea. Mentioning absurdly that the burning wreckage of Bolvangar is “the best place you could possibly be,” Clara triggers Coulter’s simmering rage and Coulter starts choking her, almost squeezing the life out of her before she comes to her senses. Clara responds pathetically by saying, “I don’t know where to go. I don’t know where to go.”
Meanwhile, Lyra miraculously found a soft landing in the snow after falling out of Lee’s balloon during the cliff-ghast attack. Though realistically she should have suffered several broken bones, she’s mostly bruised and had the wind knocked out of her. A bear draws close and at first, she thinks it’s Iorek until she realizes she’s landed in the Svalbard and it’s one of King Iofur Raknison’s guards. She’s thrown in the dungeon of Iofur’s dank palace, where she still has the alethiometer and finds that Iorek is coming to rescue her. She isn’t alone in the dungeon and discovers Iofur has been keeping a Scholar named Jotham Santelia (Asheq Akhtar) there as well. Jotham, who is mentally fragile from his time in captivity, displeased Iofur by telling him he’d never be human, which is what Iofur wants most of all. The broken man admits that Asriel is at Svalbard but cheated his way to Iofur’s side and, unbeknownst to Mrs. Coulter, has continued his investigation into Dust with the king’s permission.
Jotham reveals that unless Lyra can magic Iofur a daemon, she will fail to please the bear king just as he himself has. Of course, this gives Lyra an idea. Telling Pan to stay hidden, she demands to see the king herself. Request granted, she kneels before Iofur and claims that Mrs. Coulter lied to him and granted Iorek a daemon before him. She claims to be Iorek’s daemon, but he doesn’t believe her, roaring at the mention of his enemy’s name. If she’s his daemon, how can she be so far from Iorek? The quick-thinking Lyra claims that she’s like a witch’s daemon and does not need to be near Iorek, but if he defeats Iorek in combat, she will become his. As proof of her powers, he demands that she tell him the first creature he killed. Lyra insists on privacy and after some initial resistance, Iofur accepts her request. As she confers with the alethiometer, she’s terrified that she’s betrayed Iorek, but it counsels her to trust him and tells her the answer to Iofur’s question. Once she tells Iofur it was her father he killed first, he seems satisfied and bellows, “Ready me for battle!”
By the time Iorek arrives, Lyra is on the edge of panic but the bear seems happy to fight Iofur again. Stripped of their armor, Iorek and Iofur face off in front of the other bears. Both take knocks but Iofur eventually gets the upper hand over Iorek. When Iofur realizes that Lyra isn’t a daemon at all, he goes to strike her, but Iorek is too quick. Lyra can’t even look as the final battle between the bears ends, but as the next scene reveals, Iorek has reclaimed his crown. Lofur is dead and now the bears are under his command. Impressed that Lyra managed to trick Iofur, he renames her Lyra Silvertongue.
Events also come to a head in Will’s world where Lord Boreal has grown tired of waiting for information on John Parry. He gets more aggressive with Elaine, forcing his way into the house and looking for John’s letters. Boreal claims John might know about the disappearance of some valuable objects and that there is a chance of finding John himself, that he might not be dead. Elaine doesn’t believe him and swears John is dead and she’s gotten no support from him but Boreal brings up the monthly bank deposits. He threatens to have Will taken away if she doesn’t cooperate. In a cruel turn, he flashes his snake daemon at her and then denies its presence, making Elaine feel mentally unbalanced even though she shouldn’t. Not getting anywhere with her, he later tells Thomas and the Pale-Faced Man that he wants the letters, no matter what. The time for patience is over.
Unnerved, Elaine visits Will at school though she knows he hates when she does. She tells Will that the man with the snake thinks his father is alive. Though she knows she sounds crazed, Will swears that he believes her. When they arrive home, they discover the house has been ransacked. Will takes his mother to his coach, who suggests they call the police. Knowing his mother will lose custody if they do, Will just asks his coach to look after her and heads back to the house on his own. He finds the letters undisturbed underneath her sewing machine and is still there when night comes and Boreal’s henchmen arrive. He takes Thomas by surprise, seemingly killing him as he falls backward over the railing. Will flees but when he arrives back at his coach’s house, he realizes that he can’t bring Elaine into this and runs away into the night with his father’s letters tucked into his backpack.
While Boreal has been freelancing in Will’s world, the hierarchy at Magisterium has heard about the events at Bolvangar and Svalbard and heads north to deal with Lord Asriel once and for all. Mrs. Coulter comes across Father MacPhail who orders her home after the failure of her project. Stunned to find out Iofur is dead, Coulter proves as wily as her daughter and draws seductively close to MacPhail. She convinces him that since she knows both Asriel and Dust, he’d be wise to take her with him. She promises that the Magisterium has her devotion and he warns her that Asriel needs to die in case she had other plans (she does).
Back in Svalbard, Iorek takes Lyra to meet Roger, who fell out of Lee’s balloon at the same time as Iorek and stayed out of the way on the bear’s orders. They don’t know where Lee is but the alethiometer tells Lyra he is ok. And he is, though he’s agitated that his balloon is wrecked in the short scene we get with him. Serafina finds him to return his gun and there is more talk about Lyra’s destiny and his role to play but the scene falls kind of flat. He still has a part to play as they all do and Lyra is depending on them for it.
Knowing that the Magisterium is on its way, Lyra believes her father needs the alethiometer. Since Asriel’s guards are now under Iorek’s command, both Roger and Iorek agree to accompany Lyra to find him and give him the device. They ride Iorek’s back across the frozen tundra to Asriel’s lab. Lorek drops them off and warns them to be safe. And he’s wise to because once Asriel sees Lyra, he’s alarmed, almost frantic at her presence, screaming that he did not send for her and that she has to leave. But once he sees Roger, he looks at the boy like he’s a plump Christmas goose and becomes almost unnervingly relieved. He welcomes Roger and orders warm baths and food for them both. Lyra doesn’t quite know what her father has planned but she realizes she might have just made a huge mistake.
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