“Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell” Things Speed up for Chapter 7

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“Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell” cranked up the drama for this seventh, and last, chapter. Some of it worked very well, some of it was quite disappointing.

Stephen’s choices were all taken away again. I know this is an adaptation, but the character, any character, should really be permitted some autonomy, and every last shred was removed in the final spell the magician’s cast. The series also left it to too late to show that, however strange and possessive, the Gentleman’s affection for Stephen was real. Up until this point, he’s been straight creepy, which has worked for the adaptation. It’s a shame that they waited until now, at the last chapter, to show that he is not heartless—for one thing, it would have made much better sense of Stephen’s earlier ambivalence.

I the Dark Tower was altered to make it the deadly tower; it is shown as actively harming the magician in it, which not only differs from the book but brings up problems with the finale. What are we supposed to think is happening?

On the plus side, the meeting between Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell was very well handled. The discussions and quarrelling between the two have formed the backbone of the show, and Bertie Carvel and Eddie Marsan played the reunion perfectly, with both men showing that, at the end of the day, they are both magicians first and foremost, and they are friends. Norrell finally showed the side that drew him to magic (of all things!) in the first place. The way “The rain shall make a door for me” ended up working was spot on, and Norrell gets to be a teacher again.

Also, where Stephen gets his choices taken away, Lady Pole is given hers back, and she takes the chance with both hands. She also remains loyal to her friend, giving the female friendship some weight.

Childermass and Lascelles both got endings suitable to the characters. The book’s ending for Lascelles was closer to poetic justice, but this worked, too.

Everything happened very quickly in this last chapter, with the level of urgency cranked to high; it represents a change of tone to the series as a whole. In the end, however, whatever its missteps at the end, the miniseries still bears watching and rewatching.

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