The Friends of English Magic – Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell – Review

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Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell airs on Saturday’s at 10/9c on BBCAmerica.

After seeing the previews, I felt that this would be an entertaining miniseries that I would look forward to.  I was right. The first episode did not disappoint.  There are 7 parts/chapters in this miniseries.

This story is full of wonderful characters and personalities who will keep us entertained.

Bertie Carvel plays Jonathan Strange, a man who did not know he was a magician until a drunken street magician named Viniculus (Paul Kaye) appears from under a hedge to sell him two spells while telling him that his destiny is to be a magician.  He gets the spells from a strange book, he says he got the book from The Raven King and he must keep it safe. Jonathan Strange seems to be an impulsive man who enjoys a challenge and prefers to leave responsibility to others, and he agrees to buy the spells.  He takes the spells to the home of the woman he is courting.  She is Arabella (Charlotte Riley) a beautiful woman who speaks her mind and will not marry him until he has a profession.   She lives with her brother who is the rector at the Shropshire parish where they live.  While they talking, Strange decides to try one of the spells to prove to her that his profession is to be a magician, and to their astonishment, it works!!  It was fun to watch the interactions between these characters.

We also meet a group of self satisfied windbags who call themselves The Society of Magicians.  They talk about magic, they know no magic, they don’t even have any books about magic.  It is against the Society rules to actually perform any magic.  It’s hilariously ridiculous.  We also meet Mr Segundus (Edward Hogg) at this meeting, he wants to join the Society and learn why magic is no longer practiced in England.

Mr Norrell (Eddie Marsan) is first seen in his home where the walls are filled with books from floor to ceiling.  He has dedicated himself to collecting every single book about magic in the country and to becoming the first magician of practical magic in 300 years. He is a reclusive and lonely man.

His manservant is the mysterious Mr Childermass (Enzo Cilenti), he appears to have some influence over what Mr Norrell does and manipulates him into travelling to London to use his magic to help in the war against France.  They meet with Sir Walter Pole (Samuel West) to discuss Mr Norrell’s abilities and willingness to help with the war.

Jonathan Strange

Jonathan Strange

While in London he meets Viniculus who tells him the Raven King’s Prophecy.

The Raven King’s Prophecy
Two magicians shall appear in England
The first shall fear me; the second shall long to behold me;
The first shall be governed by thieves and murderers; the second shall conspire at his own destruction;
The first shall bury his heart in a dark wood beneath the snow, yet still feel its ache;
The second shall see his dearest possession in his enemy’s hand;
The first shall pass his life alone;he shall be his own gaoler;
The second shall tread lonely roads, the storm above his head, seeking a dark tower upon a hillside…

Sir Walter Pole’s fiancee has been sickly and dies.  Mr Norrell is expected to prove he can do magic and enters into a terrible agreement with a strange man and brings her back to life.  He is The Gentleman or The man with the Thistle Down Hair (Marc Warren).

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I’m looking forward to the rest of the miniseries to see how the story plays out.  It is fun to watch Marc Warren’s depiction of The Gentleman, he is such a fantastic figure and definitely a bit scary.  This doesn’t stop me from liking the character.  We are left knowing that something terrible will come from what Mr Norrell has done.

The next episode, “How is Lady Pole?” will air on BBCAmerica at 10/9c on Saturday June 20th.

 

 

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Alyson Bailey