Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell - S01 E02 - How Is Lady Pole?
How is Lady Pole?
Having been resurrected by Mr Norrell last week she's happy and light on her feet. Ready to dance in fact.
This remarkable accomplishment from Mr Norrell has given him the connections to turn his talents to thwarting the dastardly Napoleon. The magic starts to get BIG. We have thousands of conjured ships blockading French ports. The British Government is delighted. Talk turns to returning dead politicians and war heroes from the grave. Decomposition could be a factor so we don't get to see Zombie Nelson!
Elsewhere, Segundus and Honeyfoot encounter Strange and the stage is set for the magicians to get together. When Strange proves his sorcerous ability Norrell is delighted.
So a master and apprentice relationship is born, but it becomes apparent that there is a big difference in style. It's books and study versus natural talent and flair. This is nicely done . The two leads appear to be well chosen for their respective roles. Eddie Marsan is perfect as the fussy teacher, more concerned with respectability and status, but when he sees another magician practicing the art he positively beams with joy. Bertie Carvel is endearing as the bemused novice who doesn't really know what he's doing, and nicely flustered when presented with ten years worth of academia to get through.
So it's all going the right way for English magic. A hundred per cent increase in the number of practitioners, government patronage, respectability. All good. We can close up shop and "they all lived happily ever after"...
...if you think that, then you haven't been paying attention.
The odious hangers-on Drawlight and Lascells are dismayed that they are going to be sidelined and vow to split the magical pair up.
Lady Pole's dancing feet are a symptom of something much more sinister. Her new life turns sour very quickly. As suspected, the deal that gave her back her life has a teensy little catch.
The Gentleman (with the alarming hair!) is now free to roam at will. He explains the mistakes Norrell made with the magic and the deal. Rather than own up, Norrell tells Sir Walter that his wife is now mad and there's nothing he can do.
After imparting his good news, the Gentleman goes on to look for more victims. Next up, Stephen Black, the Pole's loyal butler. This entanglement is a cruel one, Stephen is ensnared through the ringing of a servant summoning bell from an unoccupied part of the house. Once he goes to answer the call his subservience to status takes over and he's in the trap.
Strange gets to show off how he does things, with some seriously dramatic spell-work. He wows the crowd and scares the living crap out of his newfound mentor.
By the end of the episode the sense of unease is palpable, and the workings of the various manipulators are causing misery and driving wedges between the main players.
I'm faced with a problem.
This started high on the quality scale and it's going up. Having watched this and the next weeks' episode together I'm going to run out of the ability to increase the marks to give very soon.
There's very little point in effusing over the look and feel of this. The BBC do historical brilliantly. What they've also become better at in recent years is special effects. The quality of the magic tricks is outstanding given that this is TV. The magic on the beach is spectacular, the blockade ships are supposed to look odd on purpose, which they do, but the reveal as to their nature is lovely too.
From an acting point of view, there are loads of good performances. Leaving aside the main leads, Stephen Black, Lady Pole, The Gentleman, Drawlight are all outstandingly played, only Lascelles is a little bit weak, but he's not really been given anything to do.
The story too has a great deal more to offer anyone who struggled with the book. It is vastly different in pace and is gathering momentum constantly.
I'm really enjoying this. For something a bit different then it is certainly worth sticking with.
The tone is definitely darkening.
Since I've seen the next episode already, here's a little clue as to what's coming up...