I did not intend to watch Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell.
But on a whim, I decided to give the show a shot after Orphan Black.
I had some concerns about the dark filmography in the opening minutes, but soon it became apparent that the true color in the show came from the dynamic characters.
I have the book on hold from the library though it is quite a long read.
I love a good television series based on a book series, as I have previously blogged about.
Here is my take on this fantastic mini-series:
Two Magicians: Toad and Otter
At the beginning of the series, Norrell is such a sour character ruled by fear and insecurity, trying to control magic (and perhaps life in general) through order and secrecy. He attempts to shield himself from life, preferring the company of his books.
He resembles a sour toad (perhaps due to his wig?), always frowning and saying “No, no, no!” to Strange, like a strict parent with a petulant child.
Strange could not be more the opposite. He is happy, childlike and full of wonder.
While Norrell is like a frowny toad splashing about in a puddle of mud, Strange is like an otter, playful and curious, frolicking in a flowing river. The Norrell-Strange dynamic is classic old school vs. new school.
Strange follows his intuition and trusts (perhaps too easily) while Norrell believes he has seen it all and knows it all.
Slowly but surely through the episodes, tension builds between the magicians. But by the finale, you can see what has always been there. They need each other.
It was spectacular. Norrell finally lets his hair down, or at least his wig becomes wildly out of sorts. He is completely transformed. In a way, he seems restored to a younger version of himself – more carefree and open to adventure.
Strange shows him the lighter side of life and Norrell shares his wisdom with Strange. It really is a bit of a bromance between them.
But more than that, Norrell is such a symbol for how many of us are living today.
We should be so lucky to encounter a character such as Strange to inspire us to live life to the fullest again.
The Triumph of “Minor” Characters (Transformations are not just for Magicians)
Watching the transformation of Drawlight and Lascelles was quite a delight. They seemed to be such minor characters at the onset of the series, but developed into pivotal characters by the final episode of the series. It was a wonder to watch.
There was not an abundance of female characters, but ones that were present were strong and determined. The word “stalwart” comes to mind. Lady Pole and Arabella are intelligent women who know what they want and will work as hard as needed to get it – no matter what life (and the magical world) throws at them.
I kept thinking Childermass was the Raven King, I guess because of his appearance. He is the ultimate dark horse in the show. He’s so opaque; you never know quite where his mind is at. Yet somehow you find yourself trusting him completely. You know he is on the side of right.
When you first meet Vinculus, you’re like – who is this crazy man? His story continues to become more and more unlikely as the season progresses… in the most mind-bending and exciting way. Just genius stuff.
Lastly to say goodbye to The Gentleman and witness the rise of Stephen was so rewarding! Marc Warren was so creepy as the Gentleman! I uttered a little scream every time he popped up unexpectedly on the screen. One of the most insidious, sinister characters on television I have seen lately.
With regard to the nameless slave, Stephen, from the first time he was summoned by the Gentleman, you could not help but feel his suffering. Every week you witnessed and experienced his grief and powerlessness vicariously. It was soul crushing. What a high to see him crush the Gentleman and see Stephen completely empowered! Long live the Nameless Slave!
The brief appearance of the Raven King was quite bewitching. His understated way of doing magic… he just gushed power and control, didn’t he? The way he just tweaked two or three little things and changed the whole course of history – impressive.
Keeping so many characters in play and interesting… well that’s just great television!
As a kid who grew up with Harry Potter, seeing magic in such a different light was truly a delight.
It is a series I will not soon forget.
We are all magicians!
We must use our powers to bewitch the BBC into renewing the spellbinding Strange and Norrell for another season of magic, friendship, love and adventure!
Let me know your thoughts about Strange & Norrell in the comments below!