ANDREW GARVEY looks at the second episode of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell titled How is Lady Pole?
Lady Pole is unwell. Very unwell. Having been resurrected thanks to a magical pact between increasingly dour little magician Norrell and that David Bowie-looking fairy (Marc Warren stealing every one of his scenes with big eyebrows, a massive wall of hair and arch-menace) last week, poor Lady Pole is confused, tormented and rapidly descending into madness.
It’s taken a few months for her to get to that point and, in that time, Jonathan Strange, who comes across like a somewhat wild-eyed spiv at this point, has married his sweetheart Arabella and is now practicing his magic in the former home of Miss Absalom the Enchantress (whoever that is – it’s not explained). His soon-to-be mentor Norrell has been pressed into the service of his government, bamboozling the French with his magical manifestation of warships made of rain.
One of two major special effects set pieces this week, the epsiodes’s opening is a strong one. The rest of it is good too. But not without it’s problems.
There’s not as much humour as last week, although Norrell’s political paymasters demanding he turn the tide of war by resurrecting William Pitt and Admiral Nelson (he points out they might both be a little decayed) and his own Little Englander complaint that “it is so very dirty abroad” are great fun.
Sadly, the insufferable Mr Segundas and the buffoonish Mr Honeyfoot are back. True, they’re onscreen for about sixty seconds but that’s more than enough. And the next time I hear someone mention it’s been three hundred years since English magic disappeared, I’m going to start hitting innocent bystanders.
More importantly, the episode simply feels rushed. Strange goes from an amateur magician to a louche, over-confident display at his pivotal first meeting with Norrell, to his willing protege, then questioning his wisdom and becoming his arch-rival – all within about thirty minutes.
A few glimpses of the dark, off-kilter fairy world, and the reasons behind Lady Pole’s condition are creepily fascinating. The relationship between Strange and Norrell may be rushed but it’s compulsively entertaining and at first, Norrell even seems delighted by the whole thing. Although seeing a smile on his sad little face seems downright odd.
Norrell’s cheerleader-in-chief Christopher Drawlight is staggeringly good fun again. I’d love to have someone like him ‘huzzah-ing’ my every movement. I’d even pay for his powdered wigs.
So, what can we expect next week?
Increasingly confident but still dangerously ignorant of what th true cost of magic may be, Strange is off to the continent, helping the military and ingratiating himself with the government. Norrell, suddenly out of favour and thoroughly miserable will probably be doing a lot of moaning and our malevolent fairy (apparently he’s called ‘the Gentleman’ – I looked it up) has his beady little eyes on Arabella Strange.
It should be another fine way to spend an hour. See you next week.