It has been a busy couple of weeks for me, which included an unexpected trip out of town to surprise my father for his 80th birthday, so I needed to catch up with the final two episodes.
The book by Susanna Clarke is a long book with a lot going on. All seven episodes were action packed and full of drama.
Episode 6 – The Black Tower
The episode begins showing a flyer on a wall saying that there is a “Reward for Jonathan Strange Fugitive”. Someone comes along and pastes a different one up over that one saying “Mr Strange’s Remarkable Book of Magic now on sale”. Next we see Mr Norrell opening up his copy of the book, noting the dedication to Arabella and then coming to tears as he looks through the book. Later he tells Jonathan Strange that it is the most beautiful book of magic he had ever read. Then he works some magic on the book and soon all of Mr Strange’s books around England begin to disappear. Mr Norrell really cannot stand for anyone to know about magic other than himself, he is very threatened by Jonathan Strange’s talent.
The main characters all have a lot going on.
Jonathan Strange is in Venice mixing up potions and using spells trying to make himself mad so that he can summon The Gentleman. He says he wants madness to cure himself of a faerie servant. He meets Flora Greysteel and her father Dr Greysteel in Venice. Flora becomes attached to Strange and wants to help him. I like when she says “Who’s to say madness is a curse, for some it’s a gift”. Bertie Carvel’s depiction of Strange’s madness was palpable. The contrast between his unkempt filth and The Gentleman’s perfection added to the feeling of madness.
Vinculus is locked up in the house that Segundus and Honeyfoot are using. Stephen Black is there during one of his many visits to Lady Pole. They speak and Black eventually takes Vinculus out of there. As they speak we learn that Vinculus doesn’t have the Book of the Raven King, he IS the book. It is printed all over his body. I pictured something similar to the Illustrated Man and it worked.
Strange eventually concocts a potion that along with a spell helps him summon The Gentleman and he is able to speak with him. He knows that if one makes a request of a faerie it cannot be denied and will result in a binding agreement. Strange asks for Arabella back from the dead. The Gentleman tells him that is not something he can do. Because Strange is so clever he asks for the the token taken from his deal with Mr Norrell. He asks the finger to take him to Lost Hope where he sees Arabella who does not recognize him.
When The Gentleman realizes that Strange is there, he becomes enraged and yells that he will claim what’s his now that Strange got what he asked for. Jonathan Strange finds himself imprisoned in a tower of eternal night which will follow him wherever he goes. It looks like a black tornado coming down from the sky onto Strange’s house. Some very intense imagery.
Episode 7 – The Finale
Mirrors are breaking all over England and magic is flooding in.
Jonathan Strange finds Drawlight (what a despicable character) who has been in Venice spying on Strange for Mr Norrell, and gives him Lady Pole’s finger, instructions for how to re-attach it and a message for Norrell warning him that he will return to England. Sneaky self serving Lascelles finds Drawlight and steals everything from him and shoots him. When Childermass discovers that Lascelles has stolen the finger he warns Mr Norrell who continues to be weak and unable to think for himself so instead he listens to Lascelles. Childermass escapes the house just before the Black Tower descends down over Norrell’s house bringing Strange to Norrell.
Norrell expects the worst of his pupil who he is afraid of and doesn’t understand. I have had a hard time finding sympathy for Norrell, his character is so weak and unlikable to me, all that has happened are direct consequences of his actions by dealing with The Gentleman, then keeping it all a secret. But Strange surprises him and tells him that all he wants from him is his help to get Arabella out of Lost Hope. Strange wants to summon the Raven King, but Norrell tells him it is impossible as they don’t know his name. Strange realizes that Norrell’s house is built upon the Raven King’s land so they ask the stones, river and pear tree to call the Raven King, this works because the stones, river, and pear tree know no other king. He appears, He looks like Snape from the Harry Potter movies, but much darker and broodier. I was not sold by this look, his Snape-like look was distracting.
Meanwhile Black and Vinculus have gone to a magical tree to do something about deciphering the book on his body. The Gentleman shows up and makes Black hang Vinculus. He is not afraid and tells them that he is very hard to kill. The Raven King immediately vanishes from Norrell’s house and appears near Vinculus who has been cut down from the tree by Childermass. The Raven King changes the words on Vinculus’s body and brings him back to life. We don’t know how he changed the words, but I think he translated the book.
Lady Pole wants to sacrifice herself so that Arabella can make it back. Unfortunately, when Segundus gets the finger, he uses a spell he had to re-attach it. Lady Pole then wakes up and is back to normal.
This has set another group of events into motion. Strange realizes that Lady Pole has returned and he knows that he may not get Arabella back. He decides to channel all the magic into the nameless slave who is prophesied to become the Raven King. When Strange is done, Stephen Black appears before them. Soon The Gentleman appears and whisks him off to Lost Hope. Strange collapses, it seems he does not have enough strength to do anything more, so Mr Norrell is forced to think outside his limited box and makes it rain, they are able to use the rain to go through to Lost Hope.
Strange finds Arabella and pushes her out of Lost Hope through a mirror, she lands in Venice (no mirrors in England) in front of Flora Greysteel who takes her under her wing.
Black is full of magic and realizes he is now the Raven King and destroys The Gentleman.
Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell disappear into the Black Tower, “they are the spell the King has spun”.
Finally we see Childermass speaking with the York Society of Magicians telling them that magic has changed in England and they are now all magicians.
Are you confused? I read the book, years ago and I don’t remember the details, but I wonder if it would have been less confusing if they made it with a few more episodes. I think I’ll reread the book and then re-watch the show to see if I understand a bit more. This is not to say I didn’t enjoy the show, I definitely did. The acting was very good, each actor seemed perfect for the role they took on. The costumes and sets were gorgeous and dramatic.
There is speculation that a second season is possible. If so, it will be different as there is only one book, but there are many characters to follow up with. I’d like to find out where Strange and Norrell are and if they get back, there is all that romantic tension to build upon with Arabella and Strange tragically separated. Do Segundus and Honeyfoot get their school of magic going? How does Stephen Black do as the new Raven King? What does Childermass do? There is more to follow and find out. We will have to keep our eyes open for news of a second season.
The blue ray and dvd are available on Amazon.
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