In last week’s episode, Jonathan Strange discovers that he is a magician. Mr. Norrell, who is quite aware of his magical abilities, is filled with apprehension after he makes the choice to enlist the help of a wicked fairy to boost his own agenda. Lady Pole is brought back from the dead, but little does she know what a terrible misfortune being alive will be.
Invisible Beacons vs. Horse Sand
Mr. Norrell’s star is on the rise, especially after a successful attempt to distract French troops by conjuring a fleet of ships made of rain. Still Mr. Norrell is constantly on edge, fearing that the secret behind Lady Pole’s resurrection will be discovered.
Jonathan Strange has been doing his best to learn magic, but it’s difficult without the proper texts or teaching. After an encounter with Mr. Segundus and Mr. Honeyfoot, he is persuaded to meet with Gilbert Norrell in the attempt to become Mr. Norrell’s pupil.
The awkwardness in the room is palpable between the two magicians as they meet face to face for the first time; one an unwilling teacher, the other a reluctant student. Mr. Norrell however gives in when Jonathan Strange proves he is more than a theoretical magician.
After an ill at ease start, mostly over the inability to share his books, Mr. Norrell seems delighted to have someone who understands magic the same way that he does. He smiles… and even laughs. It’s exactly the type of delight felt when finding someone who shares your same fandom.
Jonathan views his lessons as slow and frustrating. He is most interested in the Raven King and fairies, a subject Mr. Norrell forbids.
When Mr. Norrell is asked to create military defenses, the military is left disappointed. Though useful, the sea beacons are invisible, and prove to be a very boring exhibition of magic.
When one of the British ships has an unfortunate encounter with one of the invisible beacons, Mr. Norrell cannot help, so Strange is called. The military is doubtful of Strange’s abilities, so he decides to depart from his conservative master’s wishes, Jonathan puts on a show.
The wild, manic look in Jonathan Strange’s eyes as he sets forth a band of horses made of sand to rescue the overturned ship could be a foreshadowing of things to come. The effects used are the best in the series so far. You feel for a moment that you are running among the sandy equestrian force. I wouldn’t be surprised this summer to see people snapping photos of their best imitation of Strange, “Stranging” at the beach.
The military is impressed with Strange, and he is asked to join the war effort, without Norrell. This plants the seeds of jealously into Mr. Norrell, and he is left even more disgruntled when he must send forty of his precious books to the war front with Jonathan Strange.
Not Well, Not Well at All
How is Lady Pole? Not well, not well at all. Sir Walter Pole’s bride has become nervous, distracted, and grumpy. She is prone to fits of rage, and rambles stories of nonsense whenever she attempts to explain her predicament. No one understands that each night she is stolen away and forced to dance for hours with an evil fairy.
Instead of doing what is right, when Mr. Norrell is called, he states that he believes Lady Pole has gone mad and that her illness has nothing to do with magic. He will do whatever it takes to keep his secret safe, even if it causes a young girl to suffer and wither away.
When Lady Pole meets Arabella Strange, she asks Arabella to warn Jonathan that Mr. Norrell is not who he seems. She states that she is lost, and that she wishes that she was dead.
Actress Alice Englert is brilliant as Lady Pole. Her eyes easily express that she is utterly lost and that her character is falling farther and farther down an inescapable rabbit hole. You feel her pain and long for someone to rescue her from her nightmare.
An Unfortunate Invitation
One evening Stephen Black answers a servant call bell. He finds himself in a room with a man who he assumes is a guest of Pole’s. The man requests that Stephen assist him with preparing for a ball.
The Gentleman is thrilled with Stephen’s work. If only poor Stephen knew that in this case competence has built a bridge to misery. The Gentleman invites Stephen to the ball. Stephen accepts not knowing that he has essentially signed away half of his life.
It was the scene that I was waiting for the most, the first glimpse of Lost-Hope.
As Stephen is led by The Gentleman through the forest there are glimpses of The Gentleman’s deviant behavior. Some impaled skeletons to the left, a wrecked ship to the right, Stephen tries to get out of whatever it is he has gotten himself into, but The Gentleman will not be persuaded. He is excited to have another new friend.
The ballroom is everything my imagination hoped it would be.
It is bizarre, eerie, and haunting. It’s delightfully nightmarish. Stephen can barely process what is going on as creepy party guest after creepy party guest whirl him around the dance floor. He catches glimpses of Lady Pole being whirled around the dance floor by The Gentleman. I look forward to visiting Lost-Hope more in future episodes.
It is established now that Stephen will be Sir Walter’s servant by day, and The Gentleman’s servant by night. The Gentleman brings Stephen into a room and shows Stephen that Jonathan Strange is attempting to summon a fairy. The fairy states that he will not allow himself to be summoned by Strange.
While in Strange’s home, The Gentleman takes a liking to Arabella. Given The Gentleman’s affinity for collecting new friends, this does not bode well for Arabella Strange.
The episode concludes with an auction battle between Arabella Strange and Mr. Norrell over a set of magical texts. Mr. Norrell shows no mercy, and aggressively out bids Arabella, showing that he is not a friend to Jonathan. The relationship between master and student is starting to unwind, and a competition over who is the most favored English magician may be unavoidable.