How is Lady Pole? Magic Unfolds in the Second Episode of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

Stephen Black making a dangerous friend

Stephen Black making a dangerous friend
Picture Shows: (L-R) Stephen Black (ARIYON BAKARE), The Gentleman (MARC WARREN) – (C) JSMN Ltd – Photographer: Matt Squire

Let me begin this review by assuring you that, yes, you will see a ball before “How is Lady Pole?” is finished. The downside of having read Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell was knowing that I should be seeing it and watching them hint. I kept worrying that BBC had decided not to show what is, after all, a fairly complex scene, and this distracted me from the many other excellent things the show provided.

And the second episode of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell has many excellent qualities. All of the characters introduced in the first episode take up their arcs, and their personalities become much clearer. Mr Norrell works magic in his quiet way; Jonathan Strange does so in his more flamboyant way. The two meet. Arabella and Lady Pole have their first meeting. Childermass is awesome, as he always is, and Stephen Black gets to start showing everyone how awesome he is.

Jonathan Strange reading at breakfast

Jonathan Strange Reading at breakfast. Who doesn’t?
Picture Shows: Jonathan Strange (BERTIE CARVEL) – (C) JSMN Ltd – Photographer: Matt Squire

There is some telescoping of events from book to movie, but it is done very well, pulling all the needed threads together without losing the feel of the book. The set designs continue to be meticulous. The Castle of Lost Hope and the Shadow House each have a different feel of desolation. The interior of the Strange’s house is decorated differently than that of the Poles’, and it is possible to spot knick-knacks and decorations in each house. All these matters continue to make the world feel real.

Two episodes in to Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, and I am a happy viewer. How about you, fellow show-watchers and/or lovers of the book? Is Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell living up to your expectations?

And here, courtesy of BBCOne, is a tidbit from “How is Lady Pole?” Mild spoilers below the trailer as this book-lover couldn’t resist a few comparisons.

Spoilers below!

One change that I liked was having the Gentleman sit at the auction and offer Arabella a handkerchief when she is crying. It says volumes about what he thinks of himself and how he sees her, with one small gesture.

Eddie Marsan also does a marvelous job with that initial book-lending scene, showing the reluctance of a bibliophile to loan books to anyone, and Mr Norrell’s reluctance in particular.

It is a pity that Lacelles and Drawlight are not getting called by name more often. If the television show sticks to the plot, it is going to matter that there are two of them, and right now they’re the fat guy in velvet and the tall one in blue. They have been named, but only just.

Oh, and isn’t that picnic scene in the Shadow House lovely?






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