Hardship and Heartbreak in “Arabella” Episode 5 of “Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell”

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Despite his determination to stay at home with his wife, Jonathan Strange is called back to face Napoleon and ugly final fight at Waterloo. He is also dedicated to finishing his book, while Mr Norrell remains adamant that it not be published, making the quarrel between them all the harsher with Lacelles egging things on; he is even managing to open a rift between Norrell and Childermass. Lady Pole remains in the insane asylum, eager to communicate with her friend but still unable to do so.

How to talk about Arabella without spoilers? It is by far the most emotionally charged episode yet, with trouble on all fronts. The Gentleman is gaining more of what he wants, and he does not need to raise a finger to stir up the quarrel between magicians. “Arabella” shows just what a magician can do in war, if he needs to. This episode also makes clear what other episodes have only hinted at: Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell have scarcely touched the surface of what magic can do. While Mr Norrell’s sea beacons and Jonathan Strange’s horses were impressive, the opening of the kings roads plus some of what Strange accomplishes in this episode show just how terrifying magic can be. It is enough to raise the question: Is Norrell right? As unpleasant and selfish as he is being—he may have a point.

I have been complaining about Stephen Black’s lack of agency, but he is starting to come forward here, to venture opinions of his own, though he does make one rather strange choice here. All the same, ilooks like he’s going to have his proper place after all. He is one character I want to watch carefully when I re-watch these, to see what is being hinted at.

I have not mentioned Arabella much in these past reviews, but I do very much appreciate how she has been developed and given personality. Too, her friendship with Lady Pole remains constant and very well-portrayed.

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell keeps getting better as it moves on. This is one miniseries that is going to have a permanent place in my library, right alongside the book. There are more evident changes from the exact plot here, but they work very well and serve to help translate the text into a visual medium, making each stand well on its own.

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