We’ve finally arrived at the final episode of “Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell,” and it seems too soon. I’m not sure that fans of the show were ready to say goodbye to this world and all of the wonderful characters.
Last week, Jonathan captured the madness of a crazy cat lady, and had an unfortunate confrontation with The Gentleman. Vinculus, who is the book of The Raven King also had an unfortunate meeting with the evil fairy. He keeps his appointment with a tree, though I’m not sure Vinculus knew he’d be hanging from it.
Just in case you haven’t seen the epic finale, spoilers, after the jump.
The character of Henry Lascelles turned out to be interesting. At the beginning of the series, he seemed to befriend Norrell out of self-amusement. After helping Norrell write his book, Henry realizes that his friendship with Norrell has benefited him greatly, and he will stop at nothing to keep that friendship secured. He started out dull, became obnoxious, then transformed into being downright malevolent.
When Drawlight refuses to give Lascelles the finger of Lady Poole, Lascelles does not think twice about mercilessly shooting Drawlight dead.
I found this death the saddest of the story. Drawlight reminded me of a socially awkward kid who just wanted to make friends; just wanted to have someone pay attention to him. Sure he was irritating, but he didn’t deserve to be murdered alone in the woods by someone he thought was his friend. I think I would have liked if Drawlight had survived, and was last seen sitting in a Paris café, scanning fellow patrons, searching for a new friend.
Lascelles returns to Norrell, and warns him that Jonathan Strange is coming. Childermass can see right through Henry, or at least his cards can. Childermass takes the finger, receives a face slash from Lascelles, and rides off to reunite Lady Poole with her missing digit.
Mr. Norrell, in the Library, with a Candlestick
I have an affinity for labyrinths, so I loved Mr. Norrell’s library labyrinth in the book, and looked forward to seeing it come to life on screen. I understand television time constraints, but I wish we could have spent just a bit more time exploring the magical library protection, though it wasn’t the best protection, as Mr. Norrell is terrified to find Jonathan Strange, in the library.
Strange and Norrell have a confrontation, and much like Harry Potter with expelliarmus, Mr. Norrell uses his go to spell, rain.
Cue the feels. The last group of scenes between Strange and Norrell are actor Eddie Marsan’s best. Norrell’s acceptance of his actions, his regret, the weakness and vulnerability written all over his face when he asks Jonathan to stop laughing at his rain, made me willing to forgive Mr. Norrell of all of his follies.
The dying Jonathan isn’t there to kill Norrell. Strange wants only one thing, Mr. Norrell’s help. The magical objective? Kill the fairy.
Speaking of Eyebrows, he makes quite an awkward ménage a trois reference in this episode. I’m sure the trapped ladies are thankful that he forgot the steps to that particular dance.
The Gentleman gets especially miffed when Mr. Segundus is able to attach Lady Poole’s finger, causing her to disappear mid-twirl.
Lady Poole is finally freed from Lost-Hope.
I applaud writer Peter Harness and director Toby Haynes for being able to inject humorous moments into what is essentially a dark, melancholy episode.
Finally able to tell the fairy how she really feels, Lady Poole calls The Gentleman a bore, with tasteless clothes, and thistle-down hair. It reminded me of Miss Piggy’s toast in Muppet Christmas Carol where she calls Scrooge badly-dressed. Maybe it’s difficult to think of a really good zinger when you’ve just been freed from an enchantment, or maybe it was the most insulting thing Emma could think of whilst remaining a lady.
His evilness isn’t angry as much as he is exasperated by the humans. He employs some poetic creativity. Segundus gets speak no evil, Honeyfoot gets hear no evil, and Sir Walter, see no evil. I felt bad for Segundus’ sealed mouth, and Honeyfoot’s flying ears, but as long as it wasn’t permanent, I thought it didn’t hurt Sir Walter to be taken down a peg or two.
Just when it seems that everyone is about to be obliterated by The Gentleman, the fairy’s beloved Stephen disappears.
So much happens in this episode, quickly. The scenes jump around quite a bit, so we have to back up for a moment.
The Raven King
The reason Stephen Black disappears, is because Norrell and Strange succeed in summoning The Raven King using stones, a river, and pears. I’m curious what would have happened if pears weren’t in season when they needed to do this spell? Maybe the tree has pears year round since it’s grown with spit -out Raven King seeds. The two magicians are absolutely giddy over their accomplishment.
The Raven King, who looked like he took fashion tips from Ozzy Osburne, appears only for a moment, and then disappears.
Where did he go?
To meet up with Childermass who is at that moment cutting Vinculus down from his tree. The Raven King waves a hand over Vinculus’ printed skin, changing the words of his book.
The Raven King resurrects Vinculus, and then disappears… again.
When Childermass asks what the book says now, Vinculus delivers one of the best lines of the episode,
“I don’t know, books can’t read themselves.”
A despondent Strange and Norrell try another spell, one that unfortunately costs Norrell his beloved books.
While all of the epic drama goes down, Strange and Norrell are constantly exchanging some of the most touching, heartbreaking dialogue of the series.
The spell transfers the Raven King’s power into “the nameless slave,” Stephen Black. A flock of ravens disappear, and bring Sir Walter’s butler to Norrell’s library. Because nothing is easy, the pistol happy Lascelles shows up, and shoots Stephen.
A word to the wise, don’t shoot a fairy’s bestie.
This episode strays the most from the book, and in the case of Lascelles’ comeuppance, the show is far better. I will look at my cup differently the next time I have tea.
A grieving Gentleman takes Stephen back to Lost-Hope, and after conjuring up some see it’s-super-useful rain, Jonathan and Mr. Norrell join the Lost-Hope ball.
Can we take a moment to admire Mr. Norrell’s dedication to his wig? Through all of this stress and strenuous spell conjuring, the wig becomes increasingly disheveled, yet he does not let that wig leave his head.
Whilst wearing his wig, Mr. Norrell tries to remain incognito in Lost-Hope, attempting to mimic some ghostly guest dance moves. Mr. Norrell is not a dancer.
This was one of my favorite moments of the finale. He is trying so hard.
Jonathan finds Arabella. In order to break her enchantment they share a fairytale kiss, and everyone who didn’t read the book sighed happily, while the book readers sighed with despair.
Jonathan pushes Arabella through a mirror, and she finds herself in Flora’s Venice sitting room.
I must commend author Susanna Clarke for giving Stephen Black the honor of killing The Gentleman.
Empowered with all of English magic, Stephen commands nature, and uses a tree to put an end to the King of Lost-Hope.
I felt a twinge of grief for The Gentleman. Sure he was wicked, but it was Mr. Norrell’s fault for summoning him in the first place, otherwise he wouldn’t have gotten mixed up in all of this human nonsense.
An Unhappy Ending
My beautiful Lost-Hope is left to crumble as Jonathan and Norrell escape… back into the eternal darkness that is killing them… what?
Having read the book, I knew that Jonathan and Arabella do not live happily ever after. I knew that in fact Jonathan and Mr. Norrell return to the eternal darkness, and disappear because in the end they were The Raven King’s spell. People who did not read the book did not know this, and the Twitterverse was ablaze with angry comments over the unhappy ending.
Arabella gets one final touching moment with her husband’s reflection where he tells her not to remain a widow forever, and she vows to bring him back from wherever he is.
This made me long for a spinoff “Supernatural”/”Grimm” meets “Agent Carter” series where Arabella, Flora, and Emma solve supernatural mysteries all while trying to bring Strange and Norrell back from nothingness.
After years of scanning IMDb, and longing for a screen adaption to happen, I thought the mini-series was spectacular. Peter Harness was able to extract the best parts of a monstrously long book and weave them into a stunning visual narrative. The characters were layered and interesting, and were played by incredible actors, who were directed by the talented Toby Haynes. The visual effects were often dazzling, the costumes made me want to wear them, and the set designs, particularly Lost-Hope and Venice, made me want to jump through my television screen like Jonathan jumped through mirrors.
Dr. Seuss says, don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened, but I might need to cry just a little, because this brilliant mini-series has come to an end. It was however, a most magical adventure while it lasted.