Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell: How Is Lady Pole?   Books Included 
May 24, 2015 4:13 PM - Season 1, Episode 2 - Subscribe

Mr Norrell takes on Jonathan Strange as his apprentice. However, it soon becomes clear that the pupil outshines the master. And something is clearly very wrong with the new Lady Pole.
posted by infinitewindow (13 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I watched this while playing Minecraft, so I missed a lot of the detail. Overall, though, what was happening in the game was more interesting than what was happening in the show, except during Strange's sand horses scene, which was great.

Sorry, Lady Pole - I don't care about you.

Did anyone else watch this?
posted by minsies at 12:39 PM on May 25, 2015

I think they're trying to replicate the narrator's archness by doing broad comedy, which doesn't really work. And the Gentleman needs to be...eerier? This glam rock version is inspiring terror out of all proportion to his actual on-screen presence. (His obsession with Stephen Black isn't coming through particularly well, IMHO.) I do like Eddie Marsan's Mr. Norrell, and I agree that the CGI sand horses were outstanding.
posted by thomas j wise at 3:46 PM on May 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

I watched it, and liked it. Liked the ships and the horses, I'm coming to terms with the fact that the way things look in my head may differ from how things will look on the screen. Like the ball at Lost Hope was just completely underwhelming. It should be far more grand but sadder and sort of thinner, well, it's a personal thing, how your head puts a scene together, but mister, it wasn't that. Costuming was not helping there.

I don't know, this episode seemed to have a lot of exposition and world-building, which is fine, but a lot of it just sort of faded into the background for me. Strange and Norrell are working very well together as actors. I don't know what to think about the Gentleman, I've just sort of been ignoring him. Some of the characters are becoming very much Capital C Characters, which I think is where I'm getting the Gormenghast vibe from.
posted by the uncomplicated soups of my childhood at 5:56 PM on May 25, 2015

I agree; the ball seemed too sparse. But the sand horses moment was great!
posted by wintersweet at 8:11 PM on May 25, 2015

Sad that a character written as a person of color (the junior officer who recognizes something queer about the ships) was cast as a white guy.

Gentleman still doesn't do it for me. In the books he's dressed more-or-less as a contemporary Englishman, except with novel greens and patterns in the clothing. He's not menacing or otherwordly. Those terrible fake leaves! OMG. That outfit would have been perfect for a stage version of this, but I just don't think it works here.

But, man, did they do a good job casting all the other principals. Jonathan and Norrell particularly, but I also really like Arabella. Well cast in both ability and appearance.

That said, I'm still really enjoying it! As I figured, most of the parts I loved about the book are absent, but it's a fun story well told and acted so far.
posted by absalom at 10:00 AM on May 26, 2015 [2 favorites]

The appearance of the gentleman in the mirror at the dinner party was actually pretty spooky, though. His hair is still full on redick.
posted by absalom at 10:07 AM on May 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

I liked this episode a LOT LOT more than the first one (my wife has already said she won't be watching the rest, but I might attempt to get her to watch this one to see if she might change her mind). I was very much impressed by Alice Englert's portrayal of Lady Pole. And Eddie Marsan, for me, hit the core of Norrell's character in this episode with his need for admiration conflicting with his disregard for most of humanity.
posted by infinitewindow at 1:03 PM on May 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

I agree that there are problems with the gentleman with thistledown hair. Obviously the role he plays in the story is extremely foreboding, but they're making him too sinister. At some point in the books, there's probably footnote from some magical historian who speculates that where Men have Reason, Fairies have Magic - and that does a good job of explaining his sort of manic whimsical nature. The fact that there's a fundamental disconnect or inability to truly communicate between the humans/people(?) and the fairies is terrifying, because nobody really seems to know what they're getting into when they try it. That's what's so sinister - not leafy clothing and angry faces and way, way, way too much reverb on the audio.

Also I wish Alan Rickman were playing Childermass. Obviously.
posted by entropone at 7:32 AM on May 29, 2015 [3 favorites]

They're also doing a respectable job of adapting the story. I mean, shit, it's a very long book, and it does take a long time for the story to get going. It's watchable.
posted by entropone at 7:33 AM on May 29, 2015

Good points entropone.

I remember when reading the book initially being amused by the Gentleman. Wishing that Strange would get on with meeting him already so that we could have great adventures. In the show, I definitely just feel foreboding when he appears, but that might be because I already know the general shape of the plot.
posted by tofu_crouton at 9:25 AM on May 29, 2015

Loved the sand horses. Really love Strange - from Bertie Carvel's imdb filmography, I've seen him in a few shows, but this is the first role of his that has made an impression on me.

So far my only disappointment is the Gentleman with the Thistledown Hair. I agree, with everyone above that he's missing the manic/insane quality that made him so frightening in the book. Show Gentleman is so overtly menacing, which is creepy, but just not as scary.
posted by oh yeah! at 6:42 PM on June 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

I found the ball completely underwhelming, but I am very charmed by Bertie Carvel and Eddie Marsan.
posted by miss-lapin at 7:36 PM on July 1, 2015

I'm liking it so far, although it's been so long since I've read the book that I don't have a very direct comparison.

One thing I didn't realize when reading the book so many years ago is that it's a very similar story to Salieri and Mozart -- staid, formal master has his ability threatened by a preternaturally talented upstart.
posted by codacorolla at 8:04 AM on August 30, 2016

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