JUSTICE IN SEVEN EPISODES, JONATHAN STRANGE AND MR NORRELL EPISODE 7 REVIEW
I was ill for almost a week (and another week convalescing) and even now could barely collect my brain cells together. But if my words be lacking in power and majesty, I think the opposite could be said of the Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell’s final episode.
It’s close to a month since the finale on BBC One and I never thought I could wrap my head around the idea of Sundays sans my 19th Century magicians but here I am, here we are at the aftermath. So who was the better magician? How was Lady Pole and Mrs Strange? Who are the Friends of English Magic now? These are the wrong questions to ask of course because everything, everything that happened or ever happened (and will presumably happen according to Vinculus’ Book of Revelation) was nothing more than one man’s illusion, the ultimate spell by the ultimate English Magician himself- the Raven King.
I’m getting ahead of myself. The finale is after all the culmination of six weeks of consistently offering fantastic and edge of the seat television experience from writer Peter Harness and Co. And no matter what the ratings say, this is absolutely one of the best television series to have graced the television this year and the last episode just sealed that conviction.
The last episode left us with the impression that Strange is amassing all the magic he could to exact his revenge on Norrell. The term “all hell break loose” comes to mind and in a way its what happen only it wasn’t hell but faery land. Together with the curse put upon by the gentleman, the magnificent black tower followed Strange.
But there was another story happening of course. Sir Walter Pole, the man responsible for introducing magic to government service resigns and only then remembers he had to attend to his wife.
On the other camp, Norrell hastily returns to Hurtfew Abbey to seek refuge in his library (as you do) but it’s a testament to how out of touch he really was that he didn’t notice that the tension (carefully rising from past episodes) between opportunist Lascelles and his only support, Childermass is reaching its breaking point, and it finally did. While Norrell is busy fortifying his protective spell in the library, Lascelles is peeling Childermass’ face. I think compared to The Gentleman, everyone who watched it thought Lascelles is the real villain of this show!
Childermass proves to be more cunning and infinitely wiser than anyone in that room. And so off he goes to deliver Lady Pole’s finger. He knows the hashtags are absurd (I mean the #TeamNorrell and #TeamStrange) and if anyone wants to get things done, you have to be bipartisan. And Childermass is all about getting things done.
On another camp, The Gentleman has infiltrated #TeamSegundus&Honeyfoot camp and takes Stephen Black out for revenge. Well, if I have qualms about the whole series, it’s this part. The Gentleman handing out punishment to Sir Walter Pole because he was blind to Lady Pole’s suffering, I think that was out of character. First of all, in the point of view of The Gentleman, Lady Pole was having fun all these time and he couldn’t care less about Sir Walter Pole, he wouldn’t even recognize the man as someone with flaws as a husband, just someone who’s stupid and ugly. Anyway, it makes up for Mr Honeyfoot finally having use of that long shot, only he probably forgot it has walnuts for bullets.
Also, got me giggling all over when Lady Pole gave the best insult anyone could ever give to the Gentleman. A bore, who wears tasteless clothes and have your hair described as thistledown, I don’t think anyone could recover from that! Standing ovation for one tough lady. Too bad for Sir Walter Pole that he’d lose that brave woman.
Anyway, Strange reaches Hurtfew Abbey to find Norrell alone and shaking and afraid like a little boy. And if the meeting between master and pupil wasn’t sweet at first, well things soften a bit. Strange despite evidence of madness for revenge wasn’t really one who could harbor anger for long and Norrell is not totally unfeeling. If Norrell ever really looked up to anyone in his life, it wasn’t the magician-saints he had in his books, it was the audacious and charismatic Strange he met in his library in London.
With Strange laughing at his pathetic water spell, Norrell surprises us with another moment of honesty (he only does this with Strange).
“Don’t laugh at me, please. It is cruel to laugh…” Norrell pleaded at the laughing Strange.
It’s probably where all his insecurity lies. He feared being laughed at or was probably laughed at when he was young. This explains why he feared other magicians. And I think these subtle moments “unsupplied” by flashback is what makes this series good. It’s quite enough to suggest instead of spoon feeding everything to the viewer.
Strange redeems himself by admitting that despite Norrell being less flashy than he was, he has gifts unavailable to the messy and impulsive magician that he was. Well he never really said that, but you get these meaning by watching between the… err lines. Again, not spoon feeding everything to the viewer.
Well, I’m not going to bore you by summarizing what happened in the end. The fact that you are reading this, I assume you’ve seen it. The Raven King made a brief cameo by the way if you missed that. Ha! Probably busy growing that long flowing black hair in the last hundred years.
It was neither a happy ending nor a sad one. The ending in the book and the ending in the tv adaptation is almost the same apart from the tv series emphasizing that everything was all just a spell by the Raven King. Strange and Norrell, The Gentleman’s fate, Stephen Black in the throne (err wait, Lost Hope was destroyed, right?), the rise of the working class magician etc.
Are people in Susanna Clarke’s world really without freewill like that? I would have to find out when I revisit the book.
And my verdict? It was a triumph among book adaptations we have seen so far (both in the big screen and the small screen). It is not perfect (some deviations are now apparent after that last episode) but it makes up for all the right and bold choices made by the showrunners that goes against television formulas nowadays.
I know they’ve been congratulated enough by fans but let me hand out mine. Congratulations to Mr Peter Harness, Toby Haynes, Nick Hirschkorn, the cast and crew, the production and visual effects team!
Also, a very special thank you for bringing to life Childermass, he was my absolute favorite in the book and Enzo Cilenti delivered. Oh of course, Eddie Marsan as Norrell, genius!
It may not have found its viewers now, but it will eventually after the release of the DVD-Bluray. J I know I’m going to grab mine. And oh yeah, it’s available now on Amazon Instant Video and on Bluray with an August 11 release.
I just had to LOL at how small Mr Norrell’s name on the DVD-Bluray cover.
And so, my little project is over, what next? Continue my Discworld 40+1 book reviews? Or find another TV Adaptation of a favorite book? Hmm…has anyone seen BBC’s adaptation of the gothic, macabre fantasy – Gormenghast written by Mervyn Peak? Well…here’s the thing…