First, a bit of housekeeping. One: there’s a Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell podcast! It’s called the Lost-Hope and each episode is two hours of fun. Go check it out for interesting takes on the episode. They even have an interview with screenwriter, Peter Harness, who brilliantly adapted it for the screen. (Your Moment of Who listeners may recall me having some issues with his Doctor Who episode “Kill the Moon.” My apologies for my harshness, Mr. Harness. While I’m still not a fan for my reasons, I love you for the hard work you put into Jonathan Strange.)
And two: next week is the last recap! Yes, the series is coming to an end, and no, there won’t be a season two. A second book would need to be written by Susanna Clarke and published for that to happen. And Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell was published in 2005. (Maybe a Ladies of Grace Adieu anthology series, though? Maybe?)
Okay, onto the recap!
Jonathan Strange may be a fugitive of the law, but he’s also a published author!
One of the readers is Norrell himself. He reads Jonathan’s book and you can see a tear rolling down his cheek. He appears to be moved by the work.
Theeeeeen he casts a spell to make all copies of the book disappear. Because England! The publishers aren’t exactly happy since this is technically theft. (Can we talk about how beautiful the binding is on Strange’s History of English Magic? Can I get a binding like if I buy another copy of Jonathan Strange?)
In Venice, Jonathan is a little busy trying to make himself mad. His hair is a mess, his clothes dark, he looks like he hasn’t shaved in days, and I surprisingly attracted to this. Oh, your hair’s coming out, oh dear
I’m still attracted.
In the next scene, we are introduced to Dr. Greysteel and his daughter Flora while visiting a crazy cat lady. And I mean legit crazy… like she eats a bird, feathers and all. And there are cats everywhere. It seems like even they’re like, “Dude, lady… you cray-cray.”
Dr. Greysteel and Flora then encounter Jonathan as he is having an argument with an Italian apothecary. Flora attempts to play mediary as she can speak the language, but the apothecary says what Strange is asking for “brings death and madness.” To which Strange replies, “Yes, that’s what I want!” Then I believe that the Italian the apothecary is speaking roughly translates to, “Not today, Satan. Not today.”
Italian Guy’s Spirit Animal, Bianca del Rio:
The Greysteels have tea with Strange, where he tells them that his wife has died and he has come to Italy because it was a place she had wanted to visit when she was alive. And and he’s experimenting with how secure a fairy servant. Dr. Greysteel clearly thinks Strange is crazy. Flora may be developing a tiny crush. She tells Strange they’re in Venice to visit a relative of one of Dr. Greysteel’s colleagues, and that she’s mad. Jonathan’s frazzled head immediately perks up.
At Starecross, Stephen is freaked out by Vinculus. Vinculus suggests that Stephen free him because 1) he has an appointment with a tree (sure) and 2) he says he can help Stephen find freedom “from the fairy.” Segundus has to tell Lady Pole that Jonathan Strange has left England and no one knows where he is. Lady Pole tells the men to leave… she’s going to go to sleep.
Her estranged husband isn’t doing very well, either. Sir Walter is being flambeed by Parliament because of the Johannite riots, Strange’s fugitive status, and now Norrell’s thievery of Strange’s book. Norrell needs to know where Strange is. Childermass suggests finding Christopher Drawlight.
How’s Drawlight doing? Not great, Bob!
(The prodigal gif has returned!)
However, Norrell wants him to find Strange. Enough for him to threaten Drawlight! Woah, dude, aren’t you supposed to be “fearfulness?”
Late at night in Venice, the Greysteels are leaving the crazy lady’s residence as Strange sneaks into it. Strange finds the old woman, Ms. Delgado, and proposes a trade. In return for a vessel for her madness, he will give her whatever her heart desires. He performs a spell on a mouse, which she then eats. And then she turns into a cat!
And now all of her madness is in the uneaten mouse. Which Jonathan decides to put into his mouth and crazy **** starts happening. And what does he say when he finally spits it out and returns to normalish? “Well, that worked.” If the proof is between him and the Tenth Doctor, boys are not to be trusted to do anything lest they figure, “Oh, I can put this in my face-hole, no problem!”
Quick note: Cut back to England, Childermass tells Norrell that the Raven King’s mark is on his cards. Particularly the Black Tower. (Foreshadowing, whaaaaat?)
Anyway, back to our Strange lad. Jonathan has put the madness mouse in a vial of alcohol. Using just a little droplet to make a nice little mixed drink (‘I call this drink the “Strange Elixir”… where are you going?’). After a minor freak out, he uses the spell to call forth a fairy, and once again, there’s the Gentleman. Jonathan asks him for some snuff… Gentleman’s like, “WHAT?” In his head… not out loud… that’ would be out of character. However, Jonathan has just realized what has happened and he is pretty damn excited.
He suggests that they form an alliance. The Gentleman is playing the flatterer. Jonathan knows that he’s not willing to answer the question, and so he sends him away to think about it. Jonathan takes a minute to be very, very excited.
Stephen is having a nice awkward lunch with Segundus and Honeyfoot with the Gentleman comes in and has an angry rant about Jonathan actually being able to see and hear him this time. Honeyfoot and Gundy are enjoying their food while Stephen has to listen to the Gentleman planning to kill Strange. Stephen immediately stands up and says something to the effect of, “I HAVE TO GO!”
And that’s why he secretly helps Vinculus escape with him. Because he’s desperate. Vinculus tells him his fortune–that “the nameless slave will become the king of a strange land”–and that he really needs to get to that tree.
Jonathan runs out to find Flora Greysteel and asks for her help. For… dress shopping. Flora and Jonathan strike up a conversation, Jonathan revealing that he has succeeded at calling forth a fairy servant. Flora asks if he would teach her magic, and Jonathan says he wants magic in the hands of every woman and poor man and he would be in “quite the mood to do it.” Flora definitely has a crush, and as soon as Jonathan realizes this, he pulls away a bit. (Btw, this is from the book as well as briefly mentioned in the episode, but Flora had a bit of a fling with Lord Byron. The scandal!) Dr. Greysteel stops him and hands him a newspaper that reveals Strange to be a fugitive. But Jonathan is kind of focused on the other thing mentioned in the paper: “He has destroyed my book.” So he pays for the dress and runs back to his residence. And of course, Drawlight is watching them. Of course he is!
Turns out, the dress is for Arabella. The man hasn’t given up on bringing his wife back, and it fills my little soul with sadness and joy. He even brought flowers! I’m not even a flowers person, and I think that’s adorable! He has a bit of madness juice, uses the summoning spell, and there’s the Gentleman saying that he’s been thinking about Strange’s proposal. The Gentleman says that to prove his interest, he’s willing to give Strange anything he desires. Anything? Cool, well that anything is “bring my wife back from the dead, please.” The Gentleman then says, “Mmmmm… no, I don’t think so.” (Dude, even the Genie in Aladdin was like, “Hey, you can wish for anything except these three things.” You can’t just say, “I can give you anything,” and then say “nope” when something doesn’t suit you. For another thing, you sneaky bastard! You can’t bring Arabella back from the dead because she isn’t dead and everything with you hinges on lying and word choice!)
All Jonathan wants is his wife back, but the Gentleman starts offering other things. When Jonathan mentions that there was a woman in England named Lady Pole, the Gentleman interrupts and says, “Lady Pole was a different matter entirely!” Okay, Jonathan doesn’t know exactly went down with Lady Pole, so how does this guy know?
Jonathan suddenly doesn’t like this fairy. He asks the Gentleman, “Who was the last English magician you dealt with?” The Gentleman refuses to answer, but Jonathan knows without the fairy saying a word. It was Norrell. Using their “binding agreement,” he demands that the Gentleman bring him the token Norrell gave in order to secure Lady Pole’s life. He blows out the candle, sending the Gentleman away, and proceeds to have a minor freakout.
Then on the floor he finds a small box, which you may or may not remember from episode two. The one belonging to the Gentleman with a finger in it? (Ah, yes, welcome to dramatic irony land, where you know what’s coming but Jonathan doesn’t.) Once he finds that, Jonathan drinks all the madness juice and tells the finger to show him where it came from. It’s a good thing the finger is sentient, because he walks through the mirror and finds himself in Lost Hope.
He finds the castle and enters the ballroom, and he’s in awe of his surroundings. Then Stephen finds him. Stephen immediately asks, “What are you doing here? Don’t you know he hates you?” Jonathan just regards that incident with a “huh, weird,” look. And then he runs into Lady Pole, who says, “You’ve come to save us!” Us? Jonathan looks behind her and sees that the one of the dancing figures is Arabella! (Book fact: Lady Pole is actually much more anti-Jonathan Strange in the book. In fact, she’s kind of anti-magician after what happens to her. While this isn’t a horrible character trait, she also tells book Arabella that there’s no hope and her husband’s not there to rescue her. Oof… I love the book like nobody’s business, but I prefer the more positive take on friendship between women in this adaptation.)
Jonathan is shocked, thrilled, and all the emotions wrapped into one upon seeing Arabella again. He goes to her, and due to the enchantment the Gentleman placed on her, she doesn’t recognize her own husband. But Jonathan seems to just be pleased to know that his wife is alive. You know who’s not happy about Strange having that knowledge? The Gentleman. He magically sends his dancing toys away, including Arabella and Lady Pole. Strange is pissed off and he wants his wife back. However, because the Gentleman is a sneaky bastard, he says that he’s already given Strange the token he asked for, and now he’s going to take what is his. Which involves a very creepy CGI effect with dead leaves forming a tornado around Jonathan and he disappears. The Gentleman is exhausted but happy, but Stephen is terrified.
Cut to Stephen waking up by a pond where Vinculus is chilling out and having a drink. Vinky tells him to relax and accept his destiny. Stephen, however, has had enough bull**** and is tired of people telling him to “accept his destiny.” He demands Vinculus show him the book he won’t shut up about. Vinculus starts taking of his jacket and waistcoat–woah, take me out to dinner first, Vinky!–while he relays the story of how his dad was supposed to deliver the book of the Raven King to someone, but then he got drunk and ate it on a bet. Four years later, Vinculus was born… and we see that his skin is covered in markings and symbols. He’s the book of the Raven King! This is one of my favorite scenes because Vinculus says, “I’m just like you, our destinies were written on our skin.” While Stephen thinks of how his race demeans him despite being educated and being human, Vinculus tells him that his own skin says the opposite–that Stephen will be raised on high and be made a king. I just really appreciate that.
Back in London, Lascelles announces that Drawlight has found Jonathan Strange in Venice. While Lascelles is reading a letter full of lies and gossip while striking upon the truth that he was trying to procure a fairy servant, Norrell uses the location spell to find Strange. In the water, he obviously finds something not good. He needs to go back to Hurtfew where all his books are. As Childermass and Lascelles view the image in the water, and Norrell has a look of guilt written on his face. “This is all my doing,” he says.
You see, a funnel of darkness is towering over Venice. As the entirety of Venice is freaking out and running away from the Black Tower, Flora Greysteel is the only one running toward it. She finds Jonathan and he tells her to leave because she’s in danger. The Gentleman has cursed him, trapping him in this tower of darkness that he can’t escape and is drawing the life out of him. More importantly, if the Gentleman finds her, he will try to steal her away too. Flora asks if there’s anything she can do to help. Jonathan says yes, but not now. He has some work to do and she needs to leave. And that’s when Daddy Greysteel comes in with a gun pointed at Strange and takes his daughter away. And then Drawlight runs toward the exiting Greysteels and asks ridiculous questions, and Daddy Greysteel is having none of it.
While Norrell and his servants are packing, Childermass hears a scratching noise on the other side of the mirrors.
Flora convinces her father to stay in Venice, and they have received something from Mr. Strange. And it is covered with a giant (and beautiful and I want one) blanket.
Stephen and Vinculus find the tree in the ravine. Remember Childermass’s hallucination from Episode Four? Yep! Cut to Vinculus is chilling out by the tree when the Gentleman comes to Stephen. He says that someone is trying to open the doors. Vinculus then looks straight at the Gentleman and says, “The magic of Englishmen, fairy.” The Gentleman doesn’t know who this guy is and now he is seeing him? Gentleman’s getting really tired of this. He decides that he’s going to kill Vinculus. “Try what you like, fairy,” says Vinculus. “You will find that I’m very hard to kill.”
Meanwhile, Jonathan Strange abducts scaredy-pants Drawlight, drawing him into the Black Tower. Jonathan does not help Drawlight’s fragile nature by jumping out of him and acting crazy. (Also, my poor crazy Jonathan is coughing a lot, nooooo.) Jonathan tells Drawlight that his purpose is going to assist him in his plan. Jonathan tells Drawlight to return to England and to deliver two messages when he does. He is to give the box with Lady Pole’s finger and a set of instructions to Childermass. And then he is to send a letter to Lady Pole. You see, Jonathan is planning to open up all the doors to let magic back into England for all the magicians. Drawlight’s a little confused because there’s supposed to be one magician in England… or two… he’s a little confused. But Jonathan makes an excellent point–everyone interested in magic but denied by Norrell is a magician. (I’m kind of reminded of Buffy’s speech from the Buffy the Vampire Slayer series finale, “Chosen.”)
Jonathan tells Drawlight if he delivers the three messages, he will leave him be. Drawlight is tearful and thankful. But then he realizes that he only has two messages. He asks Strange what the third message is and to whom he needs to give it. It’s for Norrell… he’s going to England.
My legitimate reaction:
The ravens within the Black Tower then break through the mirrors, using the King’s Roads to make way to England.
In the ravine, Stephen grieves his loss of hope. For the Gentleman has strung up Vinculus by the neck on one of the branches of the tree. The Gentleman tells him what the marks on Vinculus’s lifeless body say, but that it is no matter.
Eugh, that’s bit of a grotesque image to end on. But it’s not over ‘til next week! There’s still hope!… right?
And we’ll end with a bit of trivia: Paul Kaye, who plays Vinculus, played the part of Mr. Wormwood in the West End production of Tim Minchin and Dennis Kelly’s adaptation of Matilda. Which also starred Jonathan Strange himself, Bertie Carvel… as Miss Trunchbull. Yes, you read that correctly. Google it.
Discuss in the comments or on the Anomaly Facebook page! And remember, the final episode “Chapter Seven: Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell” airs this Saturday on BBC America. And I will post the recap to that on Monday.
… what am I going to do when this is done? Let the crisis commence!