03/06/2015

Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell Episode 3



The Education of a Magician
There’s a satisfying divide in this third episode between Strange’s travails on the continent and Norrell’s brooding in his grey home.  Despatched to help Wellington win the war, Strange’s gauche introduction to the frontline sets a lighter tone which Bertie Carvel plays well. Yet the imperious general is initially uninterested in his service until Strange creates a road for the troops to progress along, after over hearing complaints about the terrain. Suddenly Wellington (a clipped Ronan Vibert) is convinced and demands increasingly ambitious feats from the magician such as moving a forest. This goes badly wrong and a number of men are killed including Strange’s assistant. Perhaps more worryingly for Jonathan all of the precious magic books he borrowed from Norrell are shredded. 
"Er, wrong series, fellow. You want The Walking Dead. What's that? " "Grrghhh"

Despite this a lighter tone prevails even when Strange is ordered to re-animate the corpses of three French soldiers in an attempt to discover the enemy plans. While these are portrayed as traditional zombies they are less threatening and more talkative than you’d expect. When several days have passed and Strange still can’t think of a way to return them to their dead state! The mounting of the battle front scenes is impressive for television and director Toby Haynes takes us into the mood of the soldiers too in a sequence where Strange befriends a couple of them. The shoot out in the forest is especially good at portraying the random chaos of a skirmish.
This is all balanced by the more sombre events back home as Mrs. Strange’s visits to the haunted Lady Pole take a distinctly odd turn. It seems the latter is trying to communicate with her via a tapestry depicting the night time horrors she is experiencing. It is here that the narrative seems unclear as to Norrell’s intent. He worries that Strange’s wife will tell her husband too much and has Childermass intercept her mail and, later, destroy the tapestry. Is he feeling guilty over his bargain or knows how Strange would react? There haven’t really been enough scenes between the two magicians to ascertain how they really think of each other.
Alice Englert delivers another impressive performance as Lady Pole becomes increasingly desperate though I am starting to find Marc Warren a tad too mannered rather than scary which surely he should be. The scenes where he is trying to entice Mrs. Strange into his influence are well arranged, the camera gliding around to see him suddenly there but I wonder if an older actor might have given more emphasis to the creepiness of the character. Then again there is a similarity with the way Norrell dominates Strange; in one scene the latter is enjoying a meal with his wife when Norrell arrives and Strange immediately leaves the table to see him.
The climax creates symmetry to events as it appears Norrell too has lost his right hand man as well. Does this mean that the two will become more reliant on each other? The story so far has a pleasing canter and unpredictability peppered with though never over powered by magic.

No comments:

Post a comment