Wednesday, 17 June 2015 - Reviewed by
Things continue to go from bad to worse for our Magicians in episode five of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, as the Gentleman’s scheming continues.
Opening with a bravura bit of direction by Toby Haynes, we’re plunged straight into the battle of Waterloo. Haynes’ camera swoops in from high above and dive-bombs right to the thick of the action, where Jonathan Strange is back on the front-line – doing spectacular things, surrounded by explosions, mud, and weather of his own making. Wow, frankly.
We see this in flashback, cutting back to Blighty, where Strange is recovering from his time at war, and winding down with Arabella. Finally it seems, they’re free to move on together, but their domestic idyll proves short-lived. Arabella is summoned from their bed at night, where she accompanies Stephen in a Faerie carriage, under the impression she is to visit a distressed Lady Pole.
Needless to say, it’s a trap, and part of the terrible bargain the Gentleman is trapping an unwitting Strange into, as she finds herself in the eerie ballroom from Lady Pole’s visions. Meanwhile, her facsimile, all bark and gleaming sap, is found in a state of confusion and delivered back to Strange – who accepts her as his wife, therefore sealing the real Arabella’s fate.
The poor replica doesn’t survive long, her unnatural life soon expires, leading to Jonathan’s failed attempts to revive her from the grave. The Gentleman and Stephen observe unseen, with the former trying to persuade his flunky to flick Strange’s head – like a mean kid pulling the wings off a fly. By the end of the episode, a grief-stricken Strange has ended up behind bars for attacking Norrell, and escaped through the Kings Roads to destinations unknown. Bertie Carvel’s performance in this episode is nothing short of brilliant, conveying variously fear, trauma, exhaustion, grief, and fury towards Norrell – who refuses to help him.
Speaking of Norrell, he’s having another fallow week, not much to report apart from his continued stick-up-posterior. Childermass has much more to do, brooding and trying to pick a side to choose – basically he’s prepared to nail his allegiance to whoever loses the passive-aggressive battle between Strange and Norrell. What a guy.
Meanwhile, Lascelles continues to be Norrell's vicious acolyte, whilst Drawlight is still, as we see, behind bars. Vinculus pops up again to sow intrigue, and Mr Honeyfoot - probably the slightest character so far, finds sense in the 'ramblings' of Lady Pole, and is decoding the meaning.
As the series begins to draw to a close, all these disparate threads are drawing together. However, this is Jonathan's episode, and rightly, his cliffhanger. We've seen what he is capable of in battle, what might such a magician do in anger?