Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell: Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell   Books Included 
June 28, 2015 1:26 PM - Season 1, Episode 7 - Subscribe

With England in chaos as magic returns, Strange comes back home to claim Mr Norrell and rescue Arabella. But can his plan possibly work? Or will the dark prophecy of the Raven King finally be fulfilled?
posted by infinitewindow (17 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
We have channeled all of English magic into a butler.... and he shot him!
posted by absalom at 5:53 PM on June 28, 2015 [7 favorites]

What a long Strange (and Norrell) trip it's been. I still think the book is better, but the series justified itself as a more than capable TV adaptation, 'elisions and omissions' notwithstanding. Pity we couldn't have seen some better closure for Stephen - I'm just assuming he took over Lost-Hope as the new King and they didn't have time to show us. I kind of missed Lascelles' comeuppance from the book too. Overall, some great performances, especially from the two principals.

One feels, however, that it would be rather nice to see perhaps the Ladies of Grace Adieu stories, and some of the tales from the novel's extensive footnotes, worked into some kind of televisual adaptation. Such a spectacle, I feel, might well constitute a delightful representation of Modern English Magic for the purposes of a contemporary entertainment and the edification of the general populace.

One can only hope. In the meantime, "there is nothing wrong with good English rain".
posted by El Brendano at 7:35 PM on June 28, 2015 [2 favorites]

This episode was a bit... um, too Doctor Who for me. And I'm a Doctor Who fan.

Still fun though. Could have done with more showing what English magic coming back actually means.
posted by BungaDunga at 7:40 PM on June 28, 2015

I am super bummed that the Castle of the Plucked Eye and Heart subplot was completely cut out. Other than that... a very nice end to a very nice adaptation.
posted by infinitewindow at 11:18 PM on June 28, 2015

I think the flaw for me turned out to be Stephen. In the book, I remember slowly discovering that he and Arabella were the characters I cared most about, not the titular magicians. Stephen was supposed to be - to have a charisma or presence that the fairy saw but the others didn't until too late, to be as much John Uskglass' heir as could be, in dignity and beauty. But the actor just seemed subdued and simply pleasant. He should've been secretly magnificent, not pleasant.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 6:27 AM on June 29, 2015 [2 favorites]

I enjoyed this episode most, mainly because it made me laugh so much. (I think it also helps that I don't remember the book at all, so whatever crazy things the show used didn't have any place of comparison in my head.)

The Gentleman was still not doing it for me (though the one time he came anywhere near to actual menace was during that dance of three partners conversation), but otherwise I was along for the ride.
posted by minsies at 12:27 PM on June 29, 2015 [2 favorites]

I finally got ok with the Gentleman this episode but I agree, they didn't do Stephen justice. I like how deliberate he was in becoming king, but I wish we had seen more that the trees and stones had given him magic accidentally.

I am unimpressed with the True Love's Kiss thing. I also was surprised at how angry they made the reunion between Strange & Norrell. (Not upset, just surprised.)

I wish the Raven King's scene with Childermass had been longer and maybe that he reminded me less of Keyser Soze. I did like Lady Pole and Arabella.

Overall it was a good adaptation -- neither too faithful nor not faithful enough.
posted by jeather at 6:09 PM on June 29, 2015

And I started another book reread.
posted by jeather at 6:12 PM on June 29, 2015 [2 favorites]

Overall, I really enjoyed this series (and lurking the discussions here). I felt like it suffered a bit from the same affliction as the later Harry Potter films: with so many key scenes to fit in, it occasionally got a bit less like storytelling and a bit more like a montage. And my (possibly incorrect) interpretation of the Gentleman was that he should be utterly self-involved, insecure and spiteful, rather than the consistent undercurrents of grimdark malevolence that the show seemed to be shooting for. It was the war between his obsession with humans and his belief that humans don't (or shouldn't) matter to him that made him interesting and scary.

For those wanting to try another medium, I recently finished the unabridged audio book and can recommend it. It's 32.5 hours long and, with the exception of an outraaageous French accent fairly early on, is a very good reading.

Given the length of the audiobook -- which, granted, spends a lot of time on descriptions and footnotes -- it's actually pretty impressive that they managed to cover so much of the story, fairly well, into 7 TV episodes. Of the three the actual book is still my favourite, but that probably says more about my biases than anything else.
posted by metaBugs at 6:10 AM on July 1, 2015 [3 favorites]

The BBC America broadcast run finished last night. I wish that the Raven King had been more imposing - there was that passage in the book where all the library windows were filled with the image of a raven's eye, and Strange says to Norrell about it afterward "I said I wanted John Uskglass to look at me and I think, for a moment he did. Or at least one of his lieutenants did. And in that moment you and I were smaller than a raven's eye and presumably as insignificant." I think that in the book the footnotes weave Uskglass' presence into the story in a way that the show couldn't quite match. And I feel like the curse on Strange & Norrell seemed more hopeless than in the book; by having Jonathan & Arabella's post-enchantment scene take place via reflections only rather than him being able to bring himself briefly to Venice black tower in tow, it made it more tragic than the bittersweet parting in the book.

But, overall, terrific adaptation, I wish there was more of it.
posted by oh yeah! at 10:33 AM on July 26, 2015

It's kind of surprising and disappointing if this thread to talk about the series finale was kind of over weeks before the show even aired in the US!

Oh yeah!, I read the book years ago but had forgotten much of it, while my girlfriend had recently listened to the audiobook. During the show she was constantly muttering about all the changes. But she was saying that in hindsight a lot of the changes made sense, to get the characters from A to B in the time allowed. She reminded me that the Strange and Arabella love story is much, much more muted in the book. In the show it became the thing that drove him, and in the end it was tragic that he was separated from her... while in the book it's more like Strange and Norrell are stuck in the tower but they're not in a huge hurry to get out! They're just kind of being bachelor magician pals in there, working on their escape among other things.

The show sharpened the conflicts and made the characters more relatable or at least more extreme... some of that was probably inevitable when they only had 7 episodes to work with. The Gentleman wasn't nearly as evil in the book, he was more of a whimsical force of nature, but making him a more deliberately sinister character gave the miniseries some focus. Making Strange obsessed with saving Arabella made him more sympathetic, while in the book he loves her but he seems more devoted to his own interests. In the book we got a lot more of Lacelles and Drawlight with their foppery and scheming and the gradual darkening of their relationship, but the show could only glance at that stuff.

Overall I thought it was a terrific miniseries but I did miss things in the book. I really wish we could've gotten a whole season of TV out of it. I don't know how effective it was as an adaptation, but as its own thing I thought it was quite good.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 2:42 AM on July 27, 2015

Finally got to see the ending, after watching the first six episodes in the UK. I thought the end of Stephen's plot arc was more explicit than reported, even if we don't see him becoming king--it's at least made clear in the dialogue what the upshot of killing the Gentleman will be. Arabella's and Jonathan's separation is definitely glummer here than in the novel, where neither of them thinks it's much of a tragedy. It's too bad we don't have Lascelles trapped as a fairy knight (until someone kills him), but as the script never played up that aspect of his character, the Gentleman's solution makes as much sense...

Using the tree in Lost-Hope to kill the Gentleman was, besides being a useful cost-saving device (I don't think the novel's version was in the budget...), a nice echo of the Gentleman using a tree to hang Vinculus.
posted by thomas j wise at 6:17 AM on July 27, 2015

Actually, now that I think about it, what's left ambiguous about Stephen's ending is not so much his future as king, but his potential magical abilities. The novel makes it explicit that Stephen's powers are only temporary: once the Gentleman is dead, the forces of earth realize that they've got the wrong "nameless slave" and recede. That's missing here.
posted by thomas j wise at 12:40 PM on July 28, 2015

I can't recall how Stephen kills the Gentleman in the book, and Wikipedia isn't really helping.

I'm assuming Stephen's powers were temporary in the TV version too. If I'm understanding it right he briefly had all the magic of England inside him, and if he kept it there wouldn't be any magic in England as long as he had it. I think.

Come to think of it, his situation as a non-magical king of Lost Hope seems rather tenuous. The fairies seem like a dangerous bunch, and what would stop one of them from killing Stephen to become king? Also, does being in fairyland make a human immortal? As Stephen ages, he'll only become less capable. I think we can assume things work out for him and the fairies are happy to have a ruler who's kinder than the Gentleman, but things sure COULD go bad.

The Wikipedia page reminded me that originally there was going to be a JS&MN movie, before it became a series. That seems like it would have been a mess. Even at 3 hours, it would have been rushed as hell.

The series got me curious what Clarke had been up to lately, and it seems like she hasn't published anything since a short story in 2007. She was once working on a sequel that would follow Childermass and Segundus, but I don't know if that's still happening.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 2:37 PM on July 28, 2015

I can't recall how Stephen kills the Gentleman in the book, and Wikipedia isn't really helping.

The prophecy says that the stones and the trees and the birds would listen to him, so he tells the stones to push him into a river, and the river holds him down, and then he tells more stones to fall on him until they build a hill and he dies, after which the trees and the river and the stones figure out he's the wrong nameless slave and pull away from him.

He takes his crown and his sceptre and his orb and walks into the woods, and into Lost-Hope, but it has been taken over by trees and he is the new king.

I don't know what she's done since; I wish there were a new book.
posted by jeather at 5:57 PM on July 28, 2015

Come to think of it, his situation as a non-magical king of Lost Hope seems rather tenuous.

According to one of the many footnotes, there's plenty of precedent--apparently, fairies are often bored by the whole administration thing, so they're fine with a human relieving them of all that crud.
posted by thomas j wise at 8:34 AM on July 29, 2015

It is my contention that Mr. Segundus learned how to cast the Restoration and Rectification spell the moment he refused to sign Mr. Norrell's contract.
posted by Brocktoon at 5:06 PM on October 14, 2019

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