JONATHAN STRANGE AND MR NORRELL EPISODE 5 REVIEW
Let me check my notes. Nope, nothing, there’s nothing in here. There’s that dragon last Christmas, but that was just ok. So it’s official in my book, the opening sequence for Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell’s fifth episode is one of the most well executed spectacle done for TV/film in years. It’s not just the showing off, it has actual plot consequences. Jonathan Strange manipulating elements of nature to his bidding and the mud hand crushing the enemy is a testament to this show’s technical triumph but more than that, it was a big character moment. It was a scene that rewards those who stayed after four episodes. It’s what sets Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell apart from other shows on TV today.
While other shows give the audience no time to breathe, holding their attention hostage to blind violence and explosions, Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell is like the pulse of an easily excitable fellow, measured and sure, going up and down- amazes and underwhelms, it shocks and it slows down. We can only expect a major heart attack in the finale. It conjures galloping horses out of sands, but it will also linger on a snow covered graveyard where a leafless tree stretches its branch on a dark sky. There was the poignant scene in this episode where Strange wakes up to find that his wife just died in her sleep. But instead of a close up of him sobbing, the camera pans out as if giving a respectful distance to a moment of mourning. Brave directorial choices in an age when television behaves like the vulgar social climber Drawlight.
Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell is a study of contrast of course. Logic and intuition, the respectable and the vulgar, sanity and madness, modern and archaic magic- neither good nor bad. The magic in this show has never been delineated cleanly between right and wrong because it comes from nature, and nature by essence is neither good nor bad. It is only when Norrell declared morality over it did it change shape, and now we see Strange seeking the magic that Norrell shunned in the belief that truth is beyond good and evil, with tragic consequences. Arabella is now triumphantly spirited away to faery land. The Gentleman thinks he’s doing everyone a favour, because fairies in Susanna Clarke’s world are amoral.
Childermass seems to be the only person who sees the big picture. He knows that Norrell and Strange are two sides of the same coin and tries to appeal Strange’s cause. But Lascelles who found he has power over the most powerful magician in the land makes Norrell dependent on him. The Gentleman may have been mischievously evil at his worst, but Lascelles is just malicious and selfish.
Meanwhile in Starecross Hall, investigations are ongoing. I mentioned last week that Mr Segundus and Mr Honeyfoot are technically the only fellows doing all the legwork for English magic while our London magicians are squabbling over petty rivalry. They are now nearing the unravelling of the spell put upon Lady Pole and Stephen Black.
Lady Pole transformed from dead, to living dead, to suicidal maniac to a spirited young woman in the span of five episodes, and that’s character development! Unfortunately Stephen is more dead now than Lady Pole had ever been and I could only hope that he’ll have his day of liberation in the next two episodes.
Yes, unfotunately we only have two more episodes and as someone who have read the book, I congratulate Peter Harness for a well spread episode. Unlike some adaptation we’ve seen *ahem, The Hobbit, ahem*, I know the finale’s last hour will be well spent.
Next week, the penultimate episode of the best fantasy adaptation in years! Here’s the preview for nest week’s episode.
PS. So the BBC is asking viewers who’s #TeamNorrell or #TeamStrange. The correct answer of course is #TeamChildermass. That Yorkshire man who can out-lurk anyone and whose eye-roll is trademarked will give someone a right bashing somewhere in the next two episodes. I’m side-eyeing you Lascelles!
So which team are you supporting?