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His Dark Materials: Behind the scenes of epic face-off between Ruth Wilson and Dafne Keen in Alethiometer heist

His Dark Materials VFX supervisor Russell Dodgson takes behind the scenes of one of the most intense moments in season two ahead of the series finale.

In the fifth episode of His Dark Materials’ second season, Lyra Silvertongue (Dafne Keen) finds herself face to face with her mother Mrs Coulter (Ruth Wilson), while attempting to retrieve her precious Alethiometer, which was previously stolen from her.

In a moment that deviates from The Subtle Knife book, Mrs Coulter attempts to talk Lyra down while her friend Will Parry (Amir Wilson) is cornered by the menacing Lord Boreal (Ariyon Bakare), who is after the coveted Subtle Knife, which Will is now the bearer of.

Not fooled by her mother’s powers of persuasion, Lyra goes on the attack, her daemon Pantalaimon (the physical representation of her soul) taking the form of wolverine as it pounces on Mrs Coulter’s unsuspecting golden monkey daemon.

The moment draws parallels with a similar scene in season one when the tables were turned, with Mrs Coulter on the offensive as Lyra lay on the ground in agony.

VFX supervisor Russell discussed the significance of the sequence to, explaining that he and others on the show decided early on to ‘flip the script from season one as Lyra’s getting stronger and bolder’.

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Mrs Coulter initially tries to sweet-talk Lyra before her daughter goes on the attack (Picture: BBC)

Russell expressed his belief that there’s a ‘real level of catharsis’ by having Lyra attack her villainous mother, although this feeling is accompanied by an ‘unnerving’ sense that Lyra could be following in her footsteps.

‘I think there’s a real level of catharsis by having it happen, but you also get this kind of unnerving feeling slightly of the daughter becoming like the mother, which I think is really cool,’ he stated.

‘Lyra’s experienced all of these really, really harrowing things that have made her tougher, mostly because of her mother. Her mother’s almost made her partially the person that could be that strong, even if it’s through a really horrible way.’

One of the most important parts of the scene is the innate difference between the connections Lyra and Mrs Coulter have with their daemons… and therefore with their souls, Russell outlined.

‘I guess the big thing in that sequence, which was the hardest thing to get across, is the idea that the difference between Mrs Coulter and Lyra is that Lyra at her heart is still connected to herself,’ he said.

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Will pins Lord Boreal to the wall after becoming the bearer of the Subtle Knife (Picture: BBC)

In order to carry this idea across, while Mrs Coulter initially falls to the ground in pain when her daemon is being attacked, she is slowly able to rise and face Lyra, as her daughter looks at her with a mixture of astonishment and distress.

‘In season one when Pan is being affected, [Lyra] is affected,’ Russell said.

‘But Mrs Coulter, because she has this ability to separate herself psychologically from her feelings – which is how she is the way that she is – she manages to focus her brain in a way that actually whatever happens to her monkey or her soul it doesn’t affect her physically.

‘That turning of the tables where she stands up I think is really important.’

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Mrs Coulter’s ability to separate herself from her daemon is chilling (Picture: BBC/© Bad Wolf/HBO)

Russell, director Leanne Welham and director of photography Joel Devlin collaborated closely to figure out how the scene would unfold, spending a lot of time ‘walking the set’ and working with puppeteers to visualise how the daemon’s fight would look.

Despite the similarities with the daemon fight scene in season one, Russell admitted it ‘wasn’t totally intentional’ that the room had similar features, including a sofa in the middle of the set.

Another scene in season two that won high praise from viewers was the unexpected meeting between Mrs Coulter and aeronaut Lee Scoresby (Lin-Manuel Miranda), which doesn’t occur in the books.

Their encounter was described as ‘terrific’ by fans, with one person stating: ‘Lin-Manuel and Ruth Wilson as Lee and Mrs Coulter scene was insane. INSANE. The amount of talent!’

The season finale of His Dark Materials season two airs tonight at 7.10pm on BBC One.


Credit: Original article published here.

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