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Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell: All the Mirrors of the World, Episode 4 Review

This week’s episode reminded me why I am a Norrellite most days. Not that I don’t like Strange because what’s not to like? He’s young, handsome, reckless and adventurous. He got points for marrying a sensible woman too.

But to me, Norrell’s character was more human in his unpredictability. Just when you thought he would protest finding another practicing magician, he became an excited little child finding a new playmate. Or his continued fascination with Strange and inability to speak ill of him in the presence of other people despite their differences. It was also heartbreaking how much he begged Strange to stay, if not as a pupil then as an equal. He even offered full access to his library and we know what that means for Norrell. His library is his heart. But then aren’t we all like that, a little foolish? Determined to say one thing but doing something different when the moment comes? Even Norrell’s rude complaint to Childermass for being useless for four days after being shot was all because of his insecurity. This is not to justify the many questionable actions he’d done in the past (and continues to do in the next episodes) but this is one of the reasons why Susanna Clarke’s fantasy story about magicians from the 19th century England a joy to read and now, to watch. Eddie Marsan as Norrell and Bertie Carvel as Strange are well cast. We may not fully understand the magic they talk about, but you understand them and their positions.

Mr Norrell:

Mr Norrell: “Who are you going to talk to, as we are talking now? There is no one. We will be quite alone.”

Strange’s mounting frustration at Norrell’s censure of ‘old magic’ have resulted in him exploring the faerie roads aka The [Raven] King’s Road, a world behind every reflected surface. This was one of the most exciting episodes in the book and I’m happy to say that the glimpse we saw in this week’s episode was a beautiful rendition (if not the exact one I imagined). I’m particularly pleased at the mechanics of the magic as explained in detail in the book. Everything behind the mirror is reversed. Left becomes right, logic becomes insensible, what is right and what is wrong becomes confused, sanity to madness. This will also explain the way the Gentleman ‘reasons’. I just feel that perhaps this wasn’t translating properly on screen though. For example, the episode didn’t fully explain why faeries are fascinated by madness. Or for that matter how Strange worked it out.

Behind every mirror is not a parallel universe, but a reverse.

Behind every mirror is not a parallel universe, but a reverse.

Jonathan Strange in his excitement at his discovery failed to see the danger and more tragically, failed to listen to the valid protests of his wife and even Norrell. Let us not forget that this is Strange after the war. He may have become more determined than the last time when he was just a gentleman with newly acquired fortune.

The interesting confrontation he had between his wife and Norrell must assure the viewer that Strange is bound to learn a most painful lesson in the next episode as the Gentleman finally found a scheme to acquire his new fancy ball partner via gross and creepy moss-oak!

In this episode, we also saw Lascelles gaining more control over Norrell as Childermass becomes more consumed by mystery.

Let’s not forget Mr. Segundus and Mr Honeyfoot finally taking a stand. We could almost argue that they are really the ones working hard to make magic respectable.

More or less, we see the fourth episode to be where everyone took their position which would determine how they will react to the events that will take place on the last three episodes. Gasp!

Anyway, here’s the preview for the next episode: Arabella.

Strange has not been himself.

Well, what do you think?

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SFF Book Reviews

random thoughts about fantasy & science fiction books


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