Now we direct our attention to Chapter Five: Arabella. To which I’ve also given it the subtitle of, “Nooooo, no god, no! Noooooo!”
Let me tell you why:
We open on the Battle of Waterloo. After beautiful special effects and camera footage that make the viewer feel like they’re flying over death and destruction that Englishman and Frenchmen are capable of, we see Jonathan is actually summoning the rain pummelling the armies. One of the army officers tells him to hold off on the rain. (Jonathan: “You can either have this rain or that FIRE!”)
After a bit of waterbending–(My husband has informed me that I should not, quote, “play this game with him” Man, calm down, King of the Avatar: The Last Airbender Police!)
Anyway, after conjuring up some water from the well to put out the fire for good…
And he also uses the branches to throw off soldiers climbing the wall… (*coughEARTHBENDINGcoughcough*!) Jonathan is then struck down as the French are able to break down the door. Jonathan watches in horror (and fuzzy shaky cam) as both armies fight each other to the death. This includes one monster of a French soldier who hacks into people with his axe. He’s about to slice into Jonathan when Jonathan flips the $%#* out and creates a giant hand out of the mud and crushes the man. (This is incredibly powerful since just two episodes ago, the poor man told the Duke of Wellington that he would never kill anybody.)
In the end, England is the victor. But as we look at the effects of war on Jonathan as well as the dead bodies strewn about the battlefield… that may be more of a gray area than one thinks.
Back in winter snows of Shropshire, Jonathan is working on his book and still dealing with a bit of a PTSD tremor in his hand. Arabella has been working on black and white engravings based on Jonathan’s description of the King’s Roads. (I didn’t mention this in the previous episode, but has anyone noticed that both Jonathan and Lady Pole have more silver in their hair. Maybe due to magic they are exposed to?)
Meanwhile, Norrell is not happy about the news of Strange’s book and confronts the publisher, Mr. Murray. Mr. Murray doesn’t give a shit, because he has a business to run. Norrell claims that he is not concerned for himself about the book, but rather for the whole of England. Sure, you are buddy. Whatever makes you think you’re the good guy.
Moss Oak!Arabella is seen out in the snow by a Mr. Hyde. He goes to tell Jonathan Strange, who assures him that Arabella hasn’t left the house for the last few days. Mr. Hyde asks if maybe it had anything to do with his magic. Jonathan says he’s abandoned practical magic and only writes his book now. What I found interesting were two lines: 1) When Jonathan says, “Besides, Arabella never wears black, I hate to see her in black.” This isn’t necessarily a sexist thing, but rather because it is a color of mourning. More on that later. And 2) Mr. Hyde says, “It won’t be the first time a woman in black was found wandering the hills.” While it is not revealed in the episode, readers of the book know that Jonathan’s mother was prone to walk alone and ended up catching a chill and dying. So, that was a little treat for me, at least.
Before Arabella and Jonathan retire to bed–what a progressive Regency era couple, not sleeping in separate rooms that often!–they discuss the future. Arabella asks if there will be another war, and what the end will look like between Jonathan and Mr. Norrell will look like. Jonathan personally believes that people will choose sides, but all in all, they will be forgotten. Instead, he wants to focus on his own quiet future, which includes tearing down the copper beeches that his father planted. Arabella asks how he would feel about having a child, and he’s all for that. Then Arabella teases, “Then we should see what we can do about it.” (More alone time for the married pretty couple! Also, Jonathan’s reaction to Arabella’s tease had me on the floor laughing.)
At Starecross, Lady Pole knows something is amiss and tries to warn Honeyfoot and Segundus. She insists that they have to go to Jonathan Strange’s house. However, she immediately transitions into her nonsense speak and the only other thing she can say is, “Moss oak! Moss oak!”
The above scene happens simultaneously as Arabella is awakened by a knock at the door. It’s Stephen Black, there to tell her that “her friend needs her help.” And goddammit, she goes! (Quick side note: I know a lot of people have had issues with how Stephen was portrayed from book to series. Yes, there have been notable changes to make the abduction scene make sense to those who haven’t read the book. He is a fantastic character with good intentions, but not only is he under the influence of the Gentleman, even in the book he bore witness to events and let a lot of things happen. Let’s not make saints of human beings who make mistakes. I love Stephen because he the latter. End rant.)
The following morning, Jonathan discovers that Arabella is not in bed. In fact, she’s not in the house at all. Mr. Hyde is there again, claiming that he saw her walking in the snow among the hills. Jonathan uses his location spell to try to find her. No good. Jonathan and the men of Shropshire form a search party. No good. It isn’t until later that Jonathan recalls Arabella getting out of bed, thinking that he had dreamt it.
Okay, the following is where I screamed “no” a lot. So I included video links that accurately depicted the emotions of each “no.” Here we go…
There is a banging at the door, and there we find Moss Oak!Arabella, drenched in snow and sweat and wearing a long black dress. Jonathan is trying to figure out what happened to her, but Moss Oak!Arabella keeps asking if she’s his wife and if he will renounce all other wives. Jonathan, thinking that this is his Arabella, tells that she’s the only one. (Me: Nooooooooo!)
In Lost Hope, Stephen and Arabella enter the great ballroom and the doors are locked behind them. The Gentleman appears and informs Arabella that her husband has traded her for “a piece of wood.” Lady Pole calls to Arabella, saying that she tried to warn her. Arabella tries to run to Lady Pole, demands that Stephen take them home, but it’s no use. The Gentleman memory wipes Arabella, and she becomes one of the soulless dancers of Lost Hope. (No! Nooooooo!)
As Lady Pole sleeps, Honeyfoot speaks to Segundus about Lady Pole’s nonsense speak. He says that they actually versions of folktales and fairy stories, with just a few differences. And apparently, what Lady Pole is saying may have a pattern.
Meanwhile, Moss Oak!Arabella has taken a turn for the worst, and Jonathan carries her to bed. Before she passes out, she tells Jonathan, “You are a poor husband.” Ouch, tree lady! Jonathan stays by her side throughout the night, but the following morning, Jonathan Strange wakes up to find his wife’s body lifeless.
Mr. Norrell confronts Sir Walter and another head of Parliament–I always forget his name, I’m so sorry! He is informed of the rioters in the North, called the Johannites, who have lost their jobs to the machine and claim themselves followers of the Raven King. This is all thanks to a ragged man going about telling them that he is coming back. (Could it be? Is my favorite crazy street magician making another appearance soon!) Mr. Norrell uses this information to say that Strange’s book would encourage the riots as everything he has said has been in support of the Raven King.
Returning the action to Shropshire, Arabella’s brother Henry, who was last seen in Friends of English Magic, arrives at Ashfair to see his sister’s body. He grieves, and Jonathan stands by… seeming a little too calm. When Henry asks if he can perform funeral ceremony, Jonathan tells Henry that there isn’t going to be a funeral. Because he’s bringing Arabella back to life. (I had a brief flashback to Clara’s reaction to Danny Pink’s death in Doctor Who during this scene. Also this doesn’t happen in the book, but it’s a nice addition and character exploration.)
(I’m not crying, you’re crying!)
Mr. Norrell comes home to tell Childermass everything he’s doing to prevent Strange’s book from being published. It’s Childermass who has to tell him to slow his roll as Mr. Strange probably isn’t going to be publishing his book any time soon as his wife just died. Dare I say some concern crosses Mr. Norrell’s face? It does! (Norrell: “Mr. Strange will feel that very badly.”)
Jonathan contemplates using the magic he used to bring the Neapolitans back to life, but he refrains. Instead he writes a letter to Mr. Norrell. The contents ask Norrell to share the magic he used to bring Lady Pole back to life, promising secrecy as well as renouncing all magic and the publication of his book. When Norrell receives the letter, he asks Childermass what he should do. Lascelles, who had just read the letter, tells him to do nothing as there are already rumors that Jonathan has killed his wife. Childermass explains that Norrell meant, “What he should do to help?” Lascelles asks, “Can we talk without the servants present?” Childermass gives him some Childer-sass.
However, Norrell sends Childermass out, and Lascelles pulls some manipulation to convince Norrell not to reply. (That’s some Disney villain stuff, right there. Like, Ursula is in her sea cave watching this thinking, “Who is this man, and how can I turn him into a half-octopus companion? Flotsam! Jetsam! I found your new daddy, poopsies!”)
Jonathan attempts everything he can to bring his wife back from the dead–he tries to call a fairy servant, but again the Gentleman will not allow himself to be seen (and he mocks at Jonathan because he’s an arse with silver hair who stole his wife). He tries to use the black magic he conjured to revive the Neapolitans. Nothing. He writes to Norrell again, but Norrell doesn’t reply. Finally, Henry convinces Jonathan that he has to accept that there’s nothing he can do to bring Arabella back and that he must let her go. The funeral comes, and unlike Jonathan’s father, everyone is there to pay their respects. And Jonathan is wearing black.
(Look, we all know the real Arabella is alive, but can you tell me you didn’t cry? I did. Like a 30-something watching a Pixar movie.)
Stephen visits Starecross to tell Lady Pole of Arabella Strange’s death. (Ha! Ha ha! Hahahahaha! Oh Stephen…) Honeyfoot and Gundy suggest inducing Lady Pole to speak in her nonsense speak, but Stephen tells them to do no such thing. If you recall the last episode, Gundy sees “a rose at both their mouths.” Therefore he is calling bull on Stephen and thinks they should go with their plan to figure out Lady Pole’s speech.
Jonathan returns to London and speaks with Sir Walter Pole, mainly to pass on an engraving made by Arabella to give to Lady Pole. They get onto the subject of magic and Jonathan’s book, and Sir Walter admits that he thinks Norrell may be right. (Sir Walter, you always think Norrell is right. That’s your flaw!) Jonathan says that Norrell has “poisoned” their minds, and asks Sir Walter why he doesn’t wonder why she went mad? (Oh, look at the doubt on Sir Walt’s face… I like it.)
Back to Starecross! Lady Pole is absolutely okay with trying out Gundy and Honeyfoot’s plan. Stephen tells her that this is not a good idea and that they should accept what has happened to them. Lady Pole tells him that “[the Gentleman] has poisoned [his] mind,” and they begin their experiment. They are able to identify the tale she is telling, and hypothesize that these tales are from the point of view of an unnamed fairy, referred to by humans as Col Tom Blue.
They are interrupted by a new arrival–Vinculus!
Back in London, Sir Walter is a stinking tattle-tale and tells Norrell and Lascelles about his visit with Strange, giving them Arabella’s engraving. (Oh my god, Sir Walter, you put your wife in a madhouse! You can’t even be trusted to give her a drawing!) Lascelles and Norrell plot. Childermass is sick of their games.
That evening, Jonathan is walking down the street, minding his own business, when he stops and says knowingly, “Childermass? Is that you?” Lo and behold, Childermass pops out of the shadows like freaking Batman. Jonathan’s not dumb, he knew he would be seeing him and invites him in, saying he has nothing to hide.
He also knows that Childermass is a magician in his own right, as much as Norrell wants to ignore that fact. They discuss the King’s Roads and Jonathan asks if he would leave Norrell and become his pupil. Childermass is flattered, but says that he and Norrell aren’t quite finished yet. However, he says that if Norrell wins, he’ll take up Strange cause. The opposite will be true if Strange wins. Jonathan respects that and shakes his hand.
Before he leaves, Childermass warns Strange that Norrell is going to stop the publication of his book by any means necessary. Considering that the book was completed as a tribute to his wife, Jonathan gets a little touchy. Like passing through a close-by mirror and taking the King’s Roads to Norrell’s house sort of touchy. You know, the sort of touchy that makes you want to attack Lascelles with a poker from the fireplace. (Although, I don’t need an emotional breakdown to give me an excuse to attack Lascelles with a fire iron…) He then sees Norrell at the top of the staircase and demands that he tell him what the magic was–the magic he used to bring Lady Pole back to life, the magic he refused to tell Strange to bring his wife back. He is apprehended, tossed out, and then arrested by nearby police. (My husband laughed out loud when Jonathan was tackled to the ground from out of nowhere… *sigh* I laughed too, I know, I’m a horrible person.)
Next we see Jonathan in a jail cell with a water leak, as is typical for someone who breaks and enters into someone else’s home by way of magic. His friend Grant comes to free him, but he also has to tell Strange that, if it manageable, law officials also seek to try him for the murder of his wife by witchcraft. (Nooooooo!) And so Jonathan becomes more inclined to summon a fairy servant to help him. Problem is that he can’t see or hear them, but there was one who can… someone at Windsor castle. So why could that man see him and Jonathan couldn’t? Jonathan puts the pieces together–the King was mad. That’s Jonathan’s new goal. (Jonathan, I love you, baby. But between your breakdown and the way you’re talking, it seems like you might be on your way.)
Grant tells him that becoming a “lunatic” will only help his enemies. While Grant calls for the guards to free “the Duke of Wellington’s man,” Jonathan uses the reflective surface of the puddle on the floor to disappear from his imprisonment. A witness to this magic act–Drawlight.
Thus endeth one of the saddest episodes so far. However, we’re not at the end yet. It could go either way. (Haha, I’ve read the book, I KNOW WHAT’S GOING TO HAPPEN! Oh… it’s going to be good/bad, and you are going to be sorry/grateful and regretful/happy.)
What do you think is going to happen, non-book readers? Or, if you have read the book before, how do you feel about the adaptation so far? Discuss in the comments or on the Anomaly Facebook page!
P.S. It felt really weird making jokes while recapping it because I legit cried on-again and off-again. So you know what we all need? A gif of Vinculus dancing toward the horizon.