Jonathan Strange has come home from war in the Peninsula ready to settle down to peacefully studying magic with Mr Norrell, spending time with his wife, and enjoying the pleasures of quiet society. Unfortunately, society is not being terribly quiet: Lady Pole just tried to kill Childermass, someone claims to be receiving magic lessons from Strange, and Mr Norrell is singularly uninterested in exploring the magic of the Raven King. Strange, having done such magic during the war, is not interested in Norrell’s claims that it does not work.
“All the Mirrors in the World” is the best episode of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell yet. The characters are well-established now, and viewers are free to immerse themselves in the story, watching people who know one another act and interact. Kudos to Eddie Marsan. Mr Norrell has to be at his most and least sympathetic both in this episode, and Marsan carries it off with aplomb. The sheer selfishness of the man is on display, but so is his need for friendship and his ability to form one. The argument he and Strange have over the future of magic is truly heartbreaking.
In my last review, I expressed my concern of the portrayal of Stephen Black. Unfortunately, it looks like that is not going to improve: He has next to no agency in this episode. I realize that seven hours does not allow for everyone to have equal development, but the decision to have the Gentleman take control over Stephen’s body at one point undercuts his character and his arc rather than enhancing it. Stephen in the book is a powerful figure: A servant, and one trapped in the Gentelman’s plans, but also someone capable of thinking and acting for himself, someone with strong integrity.
Childermass, on the other hand, continues to be a powerful third figure in this narrative. He began as the knowledgeable spectator, rolling his eyes at Norrell’s peculiarities and pushing him to carry out his designs. Increasingly, however, he is starting to make decisions and actions on his own behalf. He, like Strange, is seeing more of the Raven King’s magic and his choices are becoming more important to magic’s future.
“All the Mirrors of the World” confirms Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell as a miniseries I will watch and re-watch, one of those rare and wonderful book adaptations that lives up to the wonder of the book and has its own strengths.
On a final note–I loved Childermass in the book. He remains one of my favorite characters ever. This, however, did not occur to me until Enzo started portraying him on screen and my Twitter account filled up with things like this:
— Sarah McIntyre (@jabberworks) June 28, 2015