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S01.E01: Lyra's Jordan

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The series is set in an alternative world where all humans have animal companions called dæmons, which are the manifestation of the human soul. The series follows the life of young Lyra who is an orphan living with the tutors at Jordan College, Oxford. Lyra discovers a dangerous secret that involves Lord Asriel and Marisa Coulter. In her search for her missing friend, Lyra also uncovers a slew of kidnappings and its link to the mysterious substance called Dust.

Episode Synopsis:

Orphan Lyra Belacqua's world is turned upside-down by her long-absent uncle's return from the north, while the glamorous Mrs Coulter visits Jordan College with a proposition.

 

UK Airdate: 3rd Nov

US Airdate: 4th Nov

 

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Fascinating world building.  Never seen the LoTR or Harry Potter But the British seems to have a tradition of authors writing about alternate or other worlds.

Everyone seems to have these spirit animals or daemons, even the Gyptians, who seem to be some kind of underclass.

But not one or two bloodhounds to help in the search for the missing boy?

Every character seems to have his or her own agenda.  If this is a stratified society, it would make sense.  

Looking forward to the stunning visuals to come.

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1 minute ago, scrb said:

But not one or two bloodhounds to help in the search for the missing boy?

The daemons for the adults are set (the ceremony where Billy was taken showed the announcement of his brother’s daemon permanently becoming a hawk) while the kids can change. It didn’t look like any of the adults had hounds for their daemons and it would be a major risk to the remaining kids to put them in charge of the search. 

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The only thing I know about this story is that it’s The Anti Narnia.

That said, I have two questions: what do daemons eat? Do real non-daemon animals exist in this world?

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4 hours ago, Katsullivan said:

The only thing I know about this story is that it’s The Anti Narnia.

That said, I have two questions: what do daemons eat? Do real non-daemon animals exist in this world?

I read the books a long time ago, and while the daemons are an interesting concept, the details of how it would work in reality are not explained, and the details could drive you crazy.

I noticed the show simplifies the use of daemons, maybe for CGI cost reasons, since there are a number of crowd scenes in which there should be accompanying daemons for everyone and we only see them for the key characters. Like in the airship at the end.

I don’t remember daemons talking out loud in the book.

Edited by Rickster
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I haven't read the books so this is all new to me. I'm always a little wary that I won't be able to follow along but they did a good job of establishing this world and some of the characters without too much expositiony speeches.

At certain moments/angles, James McAvoy reminds me of Josh Charles.

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I really enjoyed this. I agree with the comments on the world building. It's gorgeously shot and the CGI for the animals is really good. They also did a good job casting it, especially the kids. Lyra and Billy really worked well together. And James McAvoy is great as the swaggering, heretical Asriel.

I read the books a long time ago. Since then, I've become a lot more aware of real life human trafficking so the Gobblers feel so much more sinister.

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4 hours ago, Rickster said:

I read the books a long time ago, and while the daemons are an interesting concept, the details of how it would work in reality are not explained, and the details could drive you crazy.

I noticed the show simplifies the use of daemons, maybe for CGI cost reasons, since there are a number of crowd scenes in which there should be accompanying daemons for everyone and we only see them for the key characters. Like in the airship at the end.

I don’t remember daemons talking out loud in the book.

I reread it earlier this year. They can talk but in the book it was very rare for a daemon to speak to a human other than their own (but they have to do more of that translating from book to a show).

There are non daemon animals. 

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Though I am very much on board, and accept this world as is, I do have a couple of question about daemons.

How does one distinguish a daemon from an animal when out hunting?  Can daemons only be harmed by other daemons?  Is there just no more hunting?

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It's been a while since I've read the books, so my memory is kinda foggy on the specifics. I think it was a good first episode, the casting is great ( and James McAvoy on my screen is always appreciated for shallow reasons), so I'll be definitely watching it.

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2 hours ago, revbfc said:

Though I am very much on board, and accept this world as is, I do have a couple of question about daemons.

How does one distinguish a daemon from an animal when out hunting?  Can daemons only be harmed by other daemons?  Is there just no more hunting?

Gonna answer in the book questions thread.

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I enjoyed the first episode 👍🏼 I’ve read the original trilogy a few times, and just finished the second book in the Book of Dust trilogy (The Secret Commonwealth). 

I thought the Magisterium headquarters was suitably menacing.

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I read the books when I was a kid, so I dont remember every detail about the plot and the world in general, I do have the basics down, and this seems like a really strong start to this adaptation. The sets and CGI look great, and they are adding in a lot of interesting world building that should only get better as we go on, and I am a big sucker for world building! What a great cast, and James McEvoy just gets better and more hotter every time I see him. 

The one thing that did bug me was that so many background characters didnt seem to have daemons, at least visibly, and while I can guess thats done to save money on GCI, it takes me out of the show a bit. In the books, daemons are an essential part of a human, basically their internal self made manifest, and people and their daemons are always together or at least very close. *I added spoilers just in case* Seeing so many people without them just seemed weird.

Spoiler

Seeing a person with no daemon was a huge deal and considered extremely upsetting and wrong to anyone who saw them.

Edited by tennisgurl
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While I wasn't surprised that Mrs. Coulter had the largest presence (aside from Lyra, of course), I was REALLY surprised that Ma Costa left so much more of an impression of me than a lot of the men, including Farder Coram and John Faa.  The last shot of her sitting atop the boat as they were leaving the Fens was striking.

Ruth Wilson was a terrific choice to be Mrs. Coulter.

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On 11/6/2019 at 12:02 AM, tennisgurl said:

The one thing that did bug me was that so many background characters didnt seem to have daemons, at least visibly, and while I can guess thats done to save money on GCI, it takes me out of the show a bit.

I think it makes sense from a visual standpoint. If everybody had their daemon portrayed scenes would get really busy.

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I finally watched this and am all in. I never read the source material though. I have questions but will check to see if there is a thread for those of us new to the material to ask questions.

And McAvoy never looked hotter.

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I read the books but it was many years ago.  I am quite fond of the movie, although I understand why it was a flop.  There're just too many groups and story arcs in the book to condense it to 2 hours and have it make any sense.  But the casting (Nicole Kidman, Daniel Craig, Sam Elliot, etc.) was top-notch and the special effects won an Oscar. 

That being said, I was underwhelmed by the first episode, but there is  - understandably - a lot of stage setting going on.  I find Lyra very annoying, and it will take some time for me to get on her side.  I realize she's not meant to be a sweet girl. 

An ongoing criticism is that apparently here is yet another director who is entranced with natural light and therefore the whole film is too damn dark.  

Edited by Quilt Fairy
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I agree there aren’t enough random daemons in the scenes with random people. There should be more extra birds, dogs, cats, etc, there with the extra people. I suppose with the children we can always assume their daemon is in a small form in their pocket, and that could also be the case for some of the adults, but it can’t be the case for all of them. 

Other than that, very well done so far. Minor plot changes I’m noticing from the book so far all seem to be well in the spirit of the book. I think it’s actually better so far with the few changes they’ve made than if they’d done a strict scene for scene adaptation. 

It did bug me that Lyra didn’t even have a small bag or backpack with her when she was leaving on the airship, though. 

Edited by LeGrandElephant
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This was not a bad start. I've reread the books a couple times and it's one of my favourite series. The pilot was really exposition heavy for audiences to get into the world. While Pan has a few lines, he is pivotal like Lyra and he hasn't had as much lines yet. Maybe it's too expensive but daemons interacting with their humans is a good way of getting exposition.

10 hours ago, Quilt Fairy said:

I read the books but it was many years ago.  I am quite fond of the movie, although I understand why it was a flop.  There're just too many groups and story arcs in the book to condense it to 2 hours and have it make any sense.  But the casting (Nicole Kidman, Daniel Craig, Sam Elliot, etc.) was top-notch and the special effects won an Oscar. 

That being said, I was underwhelmed by the first episode, but there is  - understandably - a lot of stage setting going on.  I find Lyra very annoying, and it will take some time for me to get on her side.  I realize she's not meant to be a sweet girl. 

I agree that the casting of the movie for the main characters really exceeds this production. I have always liked MacAvoy and he is doing well here, but he follows two Bond actors.  Timothy Dalton played Asriel on the stage adaptation years ago. I like Ruth Wilson and they really got her daemon correct. Nicole Kidman fit the role because Mrs Coulter is suppose to be extraordinarily good looking. Her entrance on the show was good but not as mesmerizing as in the movie. As for Lyra, I'm not won over by the child actress either. They made both Asriel more dickish and Lyra even more annoying than usual. I think the kid who plays Roger has it perfectly though. The Gyptians are casted well too.

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5 hours ago, Athena said:

I have always liked MacAvoy and he is doing well here, but he follows two Bond actors. 

So is this a petition that James McAvoy should be the next Bond? I can already see the "Bring Bond Back to Scotland" hashtags trending.

5 hours ago, Athena said:

I agree that the casting of the movie for the main characters really exceeds this production.

I watched it over the weekend and yes, it was really confusing but the aesthetics, including the people, was beautiful. And there were a great deal more background daemons than in the TV show where only the main characters/speaking roles seem to have any. 

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After a busy week finally got around to watching the first episode. Been eagerly anticipating this series since it was announced. I one of the minority that wanted the film series to continue, so this is my next best thing.

Having said that, this episode left me a little bit cold. I think because it covered the part of the movie that the movie had time to focus on. I admit I spent most of the last half of this episode wondering how slow the next 7 episodes are going to be if they've already covered the first 45 minutes of the 2 hour movie. I've read Northern Lights but apart from the removed ending from the movie I can't think of anything major the movie actually skipped over. Although I admit my memory of the book isn't that great.

I still think Nicole Kidman made a better Mrs Coulter at this stage. Everyone else is doing a good job. Although I confess I totally forgot that Roger was taken by the Gobblers. Was Billy in the movie?? I vaguely recall they may have merged Billy and Roger for the movie. I did like the new beginning which I assume was borrowed from the prequel book?

What this episode really highlighted, is that sometimes a great concept in a book will often be difficult to execute practically when adapted for the screen. It's easy to write everyone has a daemon in a book and the reader can imagine crowds of humans and animals. But putting that on screen, goodness how crowded would all the scenes look. If the concept of the daemon wasn't so critical to the plot, I would recommend ditching it for filming. But as it stands when you make a big deal of the daemon at the start it is a bit jarring to notice a lack of daemon in scenes featuring more than 2 people.

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I know nothing of the books or movie, so am coming to this series without any background.  I found it confusing and hard to follow.  I was also annoyed by Lyra, for some reason, maybe all the running, running, running all the time.  Is she going to be running all the time for the rest of the series? 

I am also confused why Lyra is going away with Mrs. Coulter.  And where they are going. 

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On 11/9/2019 at 2:30 AM, Bill1978 said:

But putting that on screen, goodness how crowded would all the scenes look.

It worked for the movie. 

If HBO didn't have the budget to do this properly, they shouldn't have bothered. 

Edited by Katsullivan · Reason: bothered, not bnothered. 😊
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There's a big difference between putting daemons in about six hours total worth of movies (had the sequels been made) and 24 hours of TV, though. I don't like that the crowd scenes are light on daemons, but I get it. The ones we do see look amazing.

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If they can’t put animals in crowd scenes then why are they doing this particular book? 

It really wouldn’t be that hard, especially in scenes with eg two servants walking across a room - they could have dogs with them. 

Are we supposed to assume most daemons are tiny animals, or hanging out off to the side together? Not very plausible. 

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I never read the books, but I saw the movie long ago, and my reaction to this first episode is the same as my reaction to the movie: it's weird. Just really weird. There's something about this whole daemon concept I find strangely off-putting, although I can't quite put my finger on why. I guess there's a quasi religious aspect to it I find vaguely creepy.

That said, so many people seem to be big fans of the stories, and I'm just interested enough to follow along, if only to find out what happens to Roger.

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On 11/7/2019 at 8:22 PM, Quilt Fairy said:

here is yet another director who is entranced with natural light and therefore the whole film is too damn dark.  

Yup.  I'm binge-watching today and unfortunately my south-facing living room is VERY bright on clear winter days like today.  The sun is lower in the sky than in the summer and it shines directly in my windows.  Even with curtains drawn it's very bright in my apartment.  As such, this show is driving me nuts because there are so many scenes I can barely see (due to them being so dark.)  I shouldn't have to darken my apartment like a movie theater in order to enjoy a TV show.

That being said - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is also being broadcast today and I didn't even attempt to watch that because it's IMPOSSIBLE to watch during the day (so many super-dark night scenes!)  So I guess everything is relative.

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This trilogy is one of my favorite literary works in the entire world, so I judge it harshly, but I'm very happy so far. It's lovely, and very well-done.

McAvoy is a great Asriel, Dafne is a fierce Lyra, and while Ruth Wilson is a slinkier, more sinister Mrs. Coulter, she's absolutely fantastic. She has so much charisma and complexity. I also love the casting for the supporting characters, especially the Master, Roger, Lord Boreal, and Farder Coram, among many more. Oh, and Ma Costa! I just love everyone.

So far I'm very happy, and I loved seeing beautiful Oxford in Lyra's world, and the gorgeous images from Asriel's special "photograms." 

On 11/4/2019 at 11:04 PM, Katsullivan said:

The only thing I know about this story is that it’s The Anti Narnia.

That said, I have two questions: what do daemons eat? Do real non-daemon animals exist in this world?

Answering this in the book thread.

On 11/5/2019 at 3:23 AM, Rickster said:

I don’t remember daemons talking out loud in the book.

Daemons do talk out loud. They do so both in private and in front of others, but will rarely ask questions of their own of other people beyond "their people."

On 11/5/2019 at 8:43 AM, revbfc said:

Though I am very much on board, and accept this world as is, I do have a couple of question about daemons.

How does one distinguish a daemon from an animal when out hunting?  Can daemons only be harmed by other daemons?  Is there just no more hunting?

Answering in the book thread.

On 11/5/2019 at 9:02 PM, tennisgurl said:

The one thing that did bug me was that so many background characters didnt seem to have daemons, at least visibly, and while I can guess thats done to save money on GCI, it takes me out of the show a bit. In the books, daemons are an essential part of a human, basically their internal self made manifest, and people and their daemons are always together or at least very close. *I added spoilers just in case* Seeing so many people without them just seemed weird.

  Reveal spoiler

Seeing a person with no daemon was a huge deal and considered extremely upsetting and wrong to anyone who saw them.

This wasn't immersion-breaking for me. Many, many adults have small daemons as we saw even in this episode -- snakes, insects, lizards, etc. While it would look like a zoo if they all had big daemons, for me it's acceptable to know we can't see them all in every single scene.

On 11/8/2019 at 4:55 AM, Athena said:

I like Ruth Wilson and they really got her daemon correct. Nicole Kidman fit the role because Mrs Coulter is suppose to be extraordinarily good looking. Her entrance on the show was good but not as mesmerizing as in the movie. As for Lyra, I'm not won over by the child actress either. They made both Asriel more dickish and Lyra even more annoying than usual. I think the kid who plays Roger has it perfectly though. The Gyptians are casted well too.

I actually thought this made Asriel both more true to the books and yet also curiously more human and accessible. You could see that he is a brutal man yet he cares for Lyra even if he doesn't seem to want to, just from his carrying her up and putting her to bed. 

On 11/8/2019 at 10:49 AM, Katsullivan said:

I watched it over the weekend and yes, it was really confusing but the aesthetics, including the people, was beautiful. And there were a great deal more background daemons than in the TV show where only the main characters/speaking roles seem to have any. 

I love the movie and will always be gutted that right-wing religious freaks killed it (despite a healthy box office). But this is a different take, and it's lovely.

On 11/9/2019 at 1:30 AM, Bill1978 said:

After a busy week finally got around to watching the first episode. Been eagerly anticipating this series since it was announced. I one of the minority that wanted the film series to continue, so this is my next best thing.

I still think Nicole Kidman made a better Mrs Coulter at this stage. Everyone else is doing a good job. Although I confess I totally forgot that Roger was taken by the Gobblers. Was Billy in the movie?? I vaguely recall they may have merged Billy and Roger for the movie. I did like the new beginning which I assume was borrowed from the prequel book?

I wanted the movies to continue too. I thought the one they made was stunning, and would have happily watched them all. Perfect casting.

As far as Mrs. Coulter, I LOVED Kidman's Coulter, although I think Ruth Wilson is more faithful to the book version in some ways.

The beginning is definitely an addition following THE BOOK OF DUST prequel trilogy, and I was thrilled that they included it.

On 11/9/2019 at 9:22 AM, izabella said:

I know nothing of the books or movie, so am coming to this series without any background.  I found it confusing and hard to follow.  I was also annoyed by Lyra, for some reason, maybe all the running, running, running all the time.  Is she going to be running all the time for the rest of the series? 

I am also confused why Lyra is going away with Mrs. Coulter.  And where they are going. 

It might merit a rewatch, if you can do it? All you need to know about Lyra is set up by the first episode here -- not so much that she runs and runs, but that she's constantly underfoot (and on the roofs), exploring, brave and inquisitive.

She goes away with Mrs. Coulter because she is an orphan being raised by the college. Mrs. Coulter (a visibly powerful person) offers to adopt Lyra and this episode shows there is little way for the Master of Jordan College to say no. So Lyra goes off with her.

On 11/9/2019 at 11:38 AM, Katsullivan said:

It worked for the movie. 

If HBO didn't have the budget to do this properly, they shouldn't have bothered. 

I love the movie, and love that you spotlighted it, but I also think you aren't being entirely fair. There's no sign the series "didn't have the budget" (although it is not really an HBO production, it's BBC -- HBO just distributes the finished show). I understand their being conservative with showing daemons in every single scene, so will reserve judgment till I've seen more episodes. For now, I can believe that it would be a mix of visible and less visible daemons (mice, insects, snakes, lizards, etc).

On 11/9/2019 at 4:20 PM, LeGrandElephant said:

If they can’t put animals in crowd scenes then why are they doing this particular book? 

It really wouldn’t be that hard, especially in scenes with eg two servants walking across a room - they could have dogs with them. 

Are we supposed to assume most daemons are tiny animals, or hanging out off to the side together? Not very plausible. 

See my notes above. I disagree. Many, many daemons are tiny animals or insects. It wasn't immersion-breaking for me at all. And even a dog or cat or other daemon might be sitting under a table or at the owner's feet, etc.

On 11/10/2019 at 10:29 AM, iMonrey said:

I never read the books, but I saw the movie long ago, and my reaction to this first episode is the same as my reaction to the movie: it's weird. Just really weird. There's something about this whole daemon concept I find strangely off-putting, although I can't quite put my finger on why. I guess there's a quasi religious aspect to it I find vaguely creepy.

That said, so many people seem to be big fans of the stories, and I'm just interested enough to follow along, if only to find out what happens to Roger.

I love Pullman's daemons, and how they are presented. It's such a gorgeous and creative externalization of the idea of the soul.

And yes, the quasi-religious (or, more accurately, "anti-religious") aspect is deliberate. It may be what draws you in, or turns you off. But Pullman wrote the books with a specific point of view in mind.

On 11/11/2019 at 2:45 PM, AnimeMania said:

Lyra's daemon seemed to charge form several times throughout episode one. Can some tell me the different shapes the daemon assumed during the episode.

The daemons of children can change shape until they reach puberty or coming of age, as we saw in the ceremony for the older Costa brother here, as they celebrated the "settling" of his daemon. I can't name all the forms Pan took here, but suffice it to say that a child's daemon can be any animal or insect or anything that reflects its mood, until it settles.

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