Shit Hits the Windmill in Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell Episode 3, A Review
I had a rough week, thus this late post! But the ladies and gentlemen (and faeries) of 19th century alternate history England are far more busier than me, what with the war, embroidery, spying, assassination attempts and magical seductions (seducing and abducting- I learned a new word this week too!). Even perennial bums, Drawlight and Lascelles seem busy too!
Well, here’s the rundown of this crazy episode which most savvy viewers call the moment when shit hits the fan or in this case, the windmill.
After setting up the relationships and the factions in the first two episodes and some ‘minor’ magical exhibitions from our respectable pair of gentlemen magicians things are gaining momentum (if it hadn’t already).
Mr Norrell, relenting to send his only colleague/friend/assistant/rival/student to the Peninsular War, Strange finds himself an inconvenient appendix in Wellington’s army. Neither rain (of frog), google satellite map, nor sand horses could make Strange useful. But Strange, a young man always seeking approval of father, tutor, and fiancée would do anything to charm the illustrious commander. Building roads overnight, moving churches and rivers, negotiating with trees and on a more desperate if occult means- resurrecting rotten corpses (mind you, not as glamorous as resurrecting society beauties). The scene in the windmill was one of the most eery performance of magic in this show thus far. Magic as Strange starts to learn, is not all spectacle. Compared to galloping sand horses in which Strange was more than happy to be remembered, meddling with magic done by the Raven King himself, does not make him proud.
Meanwhile, in London, Lady Pole (played pitch perfect by Alice Englert) is at her breaking point. Because who wouldn’t? One so young condemned for the rest of her long life to dance within the crazy faery halls where not one Christian could be found, except for Stephen, who in his spare time (or in the middle of work), have been fending off the Gentleman’s whimsies. In Clarke’s alternate reality, faeries are amoral, fickle and loony. Humans under the enchantment of faeries appear to be insane. Unfortunately for Lady Pole, totally sane and painfully young became a convenient bargain for someone else’s ambition.
In a desperate attempt to communicate her enchantment to the only convenient person around (Arabella Strange), she embarks on a project that we could only say stretched for months (a genius device to illustrate the passage of time between slow intrigues and deceptions in London and the fast horrors of war in the peninsula). Lady Pole’s embroidery is an inspired work by the way. More artist must spend their holidays in faerie.
Also in London, Norrell is worried that his secret will be found out. All his choices have been purely selfish until now and his penchant for control, whether of English Magic or Strange’s education is also reaching a breaking point. Strange beyond his reach, the Gentleman finally taking more purchase and liberties in this world, Norrell has a lot to be worried about that he has taken to spying (and stealing) love letters between Strange and Arabella! This isn’t the first time Norrell resorted to illegal means to get what he wants. But even his henchman, I mean, man of business, Childermass who knows the quirks of his master does not approve of terrorizing young society ladies and obstructing romance.
In the cliffhanger scene, we find Childermass frustrating Lady Pole’s attempt at assassinating Norrell by standing in between Norrell and bullets. Childermass is now in between existence.
But for all the frantic happening in this episode, there are a few things we found out. The Gentleman is out to get Mrs. Strange, Stephen is reminded of his past and advised of his royal future, Lady Pole isn’t going anywhere, Mr Segundus and Mr Honeyfoot is setting up a school of magic (it’s not certain if they will succeed in this business venture), Strange has crossed the line of respectable magic and Childermass can do magic!
Excited for the next episode or what? I’ve read the book but it’s just wonderful to see it conjured up effectively like a piece of music played wonderfully by a full orchestra. All the notes are in the right place with whimsy thrown in for improvisations!
PS. RIP to Jeremy, loyal servant and bearer of 40 books on rough terrain. And yeah, 40 books cannon-ized. Strange has a lot of explaining to do, but in fairness to him Norrell have been a total jerk and a secretive bastard he deserves punishment!
Here’s a preview for the fourth episode. Strange’s going mirror hopping!