Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell: Episode Two - How is Lady Pole?Bookmark and Share

Tuesday, 26 May 2015 - Reviewed by Martin Ruddock
Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell (ep 2) (Credit: BBC)
Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell Episode Two
Written by Peter Harness
Directed by Toby Haynes
First transmitted 24th May 2015, BBC One
Following on from last week's impressive debut, the plot thickens in episode two of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, and the threads dangled in the first episode begin to entwine. This series continues to impress, with the strong leading performances of Bertie Carvel, Eddie Marsan, and Marc Warren right to the fore. Peter Harness's script and Toby Haynes' direction are both hugely compelling. This is a class act

Anyway, back to the story....

Set several months after Mr Norrell's arrival in London and the resurrection of Lady Pole by the Gentleman, Norrell - at first knocked back by the government, is enjoying himself in the corridors of power, and quite literally making waves against Napoleon's troops. The episode opens with the first of several jaw-wobbling set-pieces, as the spooked French row out towards an armada made entirely from rain - Norrell's handiwork. 

At the same time, Mr Segundus, having talent-spotted Norrell in episode one, is at it again - this time he accidentally finds Jonathan Strange, who has come on somewhat as a magician, but isn't really quite in control yet.

Strange and Norrell finally come face to face. Their dynamic is interesting. Norrell is clearly impressed with the younger, far more deferential Strange, but is also extremely worried about being outstripped by the competition. Strange is a raw talent, but capable of incredible things, like the horses that rise from the sand in a spectacular beach sequence. Norrell is keen to teach him, but is protective over his territory, and his precious library of books. When Strange is selected to go to war, Norrell's greatest discomfort is at Strange ransacking his library to take to the 'dirty' front line.

It seems that as soon as they meet, various outside forces are trying to pull them apart. Mr Drawlight is unimpressed by the newcomer, and sows seeds of dischord with his co-conspirator, Lascelles by suggesting that the magical library contents of the late Duke of Roxburgh could be bid for by Strange at auction. Meanwhile, Arabella Strange soon has reason to distrust Norrell after speaking with Lady Pole, whose disintegration is a large part of the episode. 

Plagued by strange nightmares and feelings of dread, the recently resurrected Lady Pole is the subject of the machinations of the Gentleman, who makes his presence further felt in this episode. He also begins to pull the strings of servant Stephen Black, who is shown a vision of the Gentleman's spooky ball and the plans he has for Lady Pole. He also has an eye for the ladies, setting his sights on Arabella.

These plot elements build up to the climactic auction, where Arabella bids against Norrell for the Duke's library, and the Gentleman is sat next to her, giving Norrell a knowing smile. A storm, in every sense, is coming.