Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell Episode 7

This splendid series comes to an end in just as accomplished a fashion with a mixture of big effects and small moments. Compared to some earlier episodes the pace is close to frantic at times yet it provides a superb climax to the various plot strands. Boiled down to Strange trying to rescue his wife from Lost Hope before the curse kills him and requiring Norrell’s help to summon the Raven King it sounds simple enough. It’s a measure of the quality of the adaptation that, by all accounts, allot was cut from the original novel material yet we can still enjoy the complexities of the story. Happily this episode ties up almost all the loose ends, resolves several character’s storylines and also delivers a robust and at times surprisingly emotional finale.

A second watch would certainly allow further enjoyment of the two main characters. Drawn together, split apart and finally reunited the story of Strange and Norrell is traditional enough and both Bertie Carvel and Eddie Marsan have drawn so much from the richly painted people they are playing. Norrell’s fear of things getting out of control, his desire to protect English magic as he sees fit has been a constant theme and yet in this episode he allows himself to delve into Strange’s far wilder magic. When he arrives at Norrell’s library we – and Norrell himself- are expecting a duel but Strange needs his former teacher’s help. There are probably more scenes between the two than in any precious episode and it is a pleasure to watch two such brilliant actors at work. They both sell their character so convincingly and it is easy to imagine how things could have been different had anyone else been cast. Some of the exchanges between them are surprisingly touching showing the real respect that flows between them and when Norrell produces a copy of Strange’s book describing it as the most beautiful book of magic he’s ever seen it is quite moving. Eddie Marsan is tremendous in this episode, with subtle tics and tones that tell so much. His joy at seeing the faerie world was infectious and his ultimate loyalty to Strange a lovely surprise.  Bertie Carvel also pitches just right; Strange’s madness tempered by love for his wife and realization that time is running out.
The other characters meet their fates in various ways; Drawlight’s descent from society darling to ragged fugitive running for his life has been a joy to follow and his demise is a shock. The driven Lascelles, who knows no magic at all and has been a dubious influence on Norrell, will win less sympathy for his fate but the character’s role in the narrative has been more significant than we imagined. As for Childermass and Black, their storylines have been filled with unanswered questions sparking viewer theories aplenty, all of which is answered this week in a very well composed manner. Marc Warren has clearly enjoyed his preening villainous Gentleman as much as we have watching and it is satisfying that though he is dispatched Strange and Norrell’s victory is anything but total.
So our two heroes- for this is how they end- pay a price for overcoming the events they face even if Arabella is released for a poignant farewell. And the series ends where it began in that dimly lit Yorkshire room only this time the suggestion is that the magicians within will be more active in future.
The series has been a pleasure to watch from start to finish with just the right balance of visual pizazz and serious overtones, a terrific cast with often inspired direction and cinematography plus some startling effects. What more could you want? It’s a shame people didn’t stick with it but maybe it’ll be one of those shows whose reputation grows over time. In a television landscape dominated by similar types of drama it is rare to find something as bold and original as this.

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