Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell: Season 1, Episode 7: Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell

Sir Walter enters parliament which is in complete uproar – he reports magical chaos across the country. All the mirrors of England are broken – the doors to the other realms are open and magic is flooding in; it’s all Jonathan’s doing and they think he is mad. They think he is coming to England and intends harm. Sir Walter regrets ever bringing magic back, it is disreputable and Jonathan has brought not treason, but revolution. And Mr. Norrell has left for Yorkshire. Sir Walter resigns in disgrace

Jonathan and his magical prison disappear from Venice. Prompting Flora to unveil the mirror he gave her – an unbroken mirror.

Drawlight returns to England to report to Lascelles to pass on the messages Jonathan told him to. Lascelles intercepts the messages, declaring it to be superstitious nonsense and destroying them. How he can call them superstition after what he’s seen is bizarre. When Drawlight tries to deliver them anyway, Lascelles kills him refusing to allow anything damage Norrell’s career.

He meets Norrell and vastly edits the message – instead claiming Jonathan is coming to England to fight Norrell for vengeance’s sake. Lascelles is sure this would be a great idea with Norrell finally putting Jonathan down but Norrell is quite horrified by the concept. And Childermas wants to speak to Drawlight and Lascelles scrabbles for excuses why that cannot be. They run to his library with Lacelles still all gung ho for a lethal duel.

Childermass also looks at his tarot and learns that Lascelles stole the message and token (Lady Pole’s fingers) intended for him – and Lascelles attacks him with a knife while Childermass picks his pockey and tells Norrell the truth his cards have said. Childermass intends to take the finger to Lady Pole with Norrell’s permission. Norrell refuses and Childermass leaves anyway, saying “you have made the wrong decision, as usual”. Lascelles continues to insult Childermass and he gets a stern warning back –he’s in the north, the land of the Raven King – the buildings are made by him, he is in their minds and hearts and speech and is coming back.

Norrell is quite worried buy all this. Lascelles storms after him and gets lost on Norrell’s library labyrinth. Just as the building is consumed by the black whirlwind, leaving Norrell to scream helplessly for Childermass in the dark. Norrell runs back to his library – where Jonathan has arrived (cutting through all of Norrell’s wards and labyrinth).  He looks rather horrifying in his alien magic and being consumed by the fairy curse. Norrell rants at him for his disreputable magic causing all this. Jonathan responds by thoroughly terrifying Norrell with his impressive disreputable magic. Norrell tries to respond with his own power… it is kind of pathetic. Jonathan laughs at him and Norrell chides him for being cruel. Jonathan apologises.

I quite love how polite they can be even when at odds. Trying to kill him fine, but laughing? C’mon man that’s not on.

Jonathan doesn’t seek vengeance, he simply doesn’t have the time especially as he’s dying and his wife is imprisoned. He needs Norrell’s help. Norrell takes his hand.

They discuss how to break the contract that binds Arabella and Jonathan knows a way – kill the fae, something that hasn’t been done since the Raven King. Jonathan also makes it clear he’s aware that Norrell is the one who unleashed The Gentleman – after trying to lie he admits it and points out this is why he tried to stop Jonathan going for old magic; yeah Jonathan’s not impressed, of Norrell had told the truth his warnings may have mattered.

He needs someone who is a true expert who knows how to kill a fairy (Norrell assumes it is him before Jonathan nicely punctures his little bubble) no he wants to call John Wilksglass, the Raven King, hand over the reigns and have him kill The Gentleman. Except the first stumbling block is that that may not even be his name. Jonathan is more experimental and imaginative however and together they brainstorm an excellent solution. The summoning spell they use comes from Jonathon’s book – yes Norrell kept a copy despite destroying the rest because “it’s the most beautiful book of magic I ever read.”

Awwwwww…. As they cast the spell Norrell also promises to spend the rest of his life trying to free Arabella if Jonathan should die before it’s complete.

In Segundus and Honeycut’s asylum, Lady Pole will not wake up. And Sir Walter asks Stephen (seeing the over world through every reflection) to prepare the carriage so he can visit her and find she has taken to her bed. Segundus also passes on his theory that Lady Pole is enchanted not mad – and passes on the letter Jonathan wrote for her

In the mirror ball Lady Pole talks to Arabella to try and get her to remember who she was and be ready to act and intercepts The Gentleman when he tries to dance with Arabella again.

Childermass storms to the asylum to find Sir Walter. He confirms the truth and Sir Walter confronts Stephen with a long outraged rant until Stephen demands the chance to speak – and of course the spell takes over him forcing him to speak nonsense. They drag him off and lock him, weeping, in a cell.

They look at breaking the spell on Lady Pole – though it may reverse the resurrection. While they brainstorm spells to break it, Sir Walter reveals that Jonathan doesn’t actually want the spell broken – but to wait. He tries to ask Stephen who tells him of Vinculus. Stephen also warns of the Gentleman’s wrath – but not in time to stop Segundus restoring her finger and freeing Lady Pole. Lady Pole tells them the same when she wakes – she needed to show Arabella the path out.

Childermass goes looking for Vinculus’s body and The Gentleman comes for Stephen. He breaks open the cell door and plans to kill everyone – people freed from his enchantments never survive.

Jonathan and Norrell cast the spell and a storm of ravens appear, resolving into one man: the evan King. Who instantly vanishes as soon as he arrives – to join Childermass where he has cut down Vinculus’s corpse. He easily frees Childerass as he examines the book on Vinculus’s skin and puts something in his mouth. When he unfreezes everyone, Vinculus returns to life. And the prophecy on his skin has changed. Previously it said the wizards failed.
I think the Raven King just made it abundantly clear how much more powerful he is.

Norrell and Jonathan try again, needing to offer the Raven King a gift – all of English magic. And a physical representation of that is Norrell’s books (which Norrell objects to of course)

The Gentleman confronts Lady Pole (Sir Walter tries to get her to stand behind him and she refuses) and she chews him out with most epic insults. Honeycut and Segundus tries to shoot him with their blunderbuss, it’s hilariously terrible. The Gentleman curses them quite imaginatively and tries to make Stephen kill them pointing out how they treated him as a servant even as he resists and points out that they’ve done no more than The Gentleman himself

Jonathan finishes his spell, consuming all of Norrell’s books and sending out a wave of ravens who fly out, grab Stephen – and bring him to the library. There is more than one person who can claim the title "nameless slave" - not just the Raven King. Then Lascelle’s shoots Stephen in the back. Then points a gun at Jonathan, what…?

The Gentleman appears rather confused and Lascelles tries to shoot him. Guns don’t really work on fairies and Lascelles shatters like china. Literally turning into pottery. The Gentleman is incensed by Stephen’s death, bringing him into his ballroom and leaving Norrell and Jonathan staggered. Norrell sums it up – they channelled all of English magic into a butler who then got shot.

The Gentleman plans to punish the whole world for this. Which is probably not good.

Jonathan despairs – but Norrell thinks there’s a chance if they reach Stephen before he dies. Jonathan can’t go via the kings roads any more, but Norrell knows other ways to travel, by rain. Ran has always been his thing and he takes them to faerie. Norrell is quite giddy about the new power and adds that the curse won’t work on them in faerie.

Stephen stands up, not dead, in the ballroom much to The Gentleman’s shock. Norrell shouts to him to use the power to attack The Gentleman. The Gentleman points his hand at Norrell, preparing to unleash his magic – and Stephen grabs his arm reminding him it is foretold that he would become king. Which means he needs to kill the King and take his place – which he sees is The Gentleman. While Jonathan finds Arabella and kisses her to restore her memories and sends her through the mirrors to Flora and her father.

Stephen gets really dramatic with his new power, defeating the Gentleman and sucking him into the tree in the cente of the court “I am the Nameless Slave and I answer to no master”. As Jonathan and Norrell flee through the rain, the fairy court of Lost Hope is destroyed.

Jonathan and Norrell are back in reality and, before Jonathan goes to Arabella he says “England is full of magic and it should be used” – he adds that Norrell is a great magician and his friend. Except they’re still trapped in the dark dairy curse.

Jonathan falls and starts dying while Norrell holds him in his last moments.

Childermass and Vinculus arrive to see the black vortex disappear consuming them both – and Vinculus says that they are the spell that the Raven King cast

Afterwards Lady Pole tells Sir Walter she’s going to help Arabella – she does not plan to return. “She will not go from one kind of helplessness to another.” In Venice Lady Poole and Arabella go to see where Jonathan used to live – and he talks to her through the reflection in the water. He doesn’t know where he is or if he is at all. She is sure he will return to her, one day but he asks her not to ait, to be happy - not a widow.

And in the society of English Magic, Childermass gatecrashes to void their agreement with Norrell – they can not be magicians again; but the only magic book left is the Raven Kin’s book – Vinculus. He wants their help to interpret the spells on his skin and see what prophecy written on them.

Well… that was a beautifully tragic ending. But a hugely dramatic one that was pretty damn awesome.

I loved this show – and I never expected to after the slowness of the first episode. But the conflict, the nuanced layers I’ve raved about every week, the wonderful complex, difficult, antagonistic but, ultimately, highly respectful and unique relationship between Norrell and Jonathan (and I love how it ended, it was beautiful to see) was incredible and I don’t think I’ve seen anything on television that can match it for scope and complexity and nuance. The whole debate about English magic and respectability and power and revolution and order and chaos and reputation – and so much more! I loved it, utterly, truly loved it. And I loved how that was carried through into their magical styles

I loved the acting – every last character on this show killed it. It was excellent and I was amazingly invested in just about every character and pulled in by all their conflicts. I also liked the beginnings of examining class divide and the, dare-I-say-it, the north/south divide (in a way that doesn’t present my native Yorkshire as eternally grim and depressing). And accents! My accents (sort of)! On learned people!

I loved the feel of the show – it was beautiful, a true pleasure to watch. The period setting was so atmospheric and well done, from parties to libraries and the supernatural elements were stunning; from the creepiness of The Gentleman to the awesomeness of Jonathan’s magic. It was epic. It was beautiful, it was a joy to watch.

I desperately want there to be a second season because this was so excellent.

Now let’s look at the marginalised characters. I do like how much of this ended, Arabella’s bitter sweet ending, Jonathan trusting Flora against her father’s wishes and Lady Pole outright telling Sir Walter off and insisting she lead her life of freedom her way. But it was all… just a little too late; Arabella and Lady Pole have spent entirely too much time as damsels and there’ve been no other female characters to actually carry to torch of active participation

Stephen is more complicated – I do like how we’ve repeatedly looked at his past and pierced through several of the idea that he is not a slave – and how little that means. We’ve looked at prejudice against him the consequences of that and even the control The Gentleman exerted on him was wonderfully challenged and ultimately overturned. It was understandable why he was tempted by promises of power – but at the same time he drove little of his own story, not even rebelling like Lady Pole and even his glorious, epic ending was not really due to his doing at all. Part of my desire for a second season is to see what happens with The Raven King.

Sadly, there were no LGBT characters.

This series was one of those excellent pleasant surprises – more more more, I say!