Review: Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

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Review: Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

jonathan-strange-and-mr-norrellBy John Ruberry

It’s time to take a break from politics.

Many times while surf­ing on Net­flix I came across a rec­om­men­da­tion to watch the seven-​part 2015 BBC One minis­eries, Jonathan Strange & Mr Nor­rell, which is described as such: “In 1806 ambi­tious magi­cian Nor­rell leads a revival of prac­ti­cal magic in Eng­land and ignites a fierce rivalry with bold young con­jurer Strange.” If that sounds like a dopey show, well, that’s what I thought too. But I yielded to the lur­ing and tuned in. I’m grate­ful that I did.

Magic in the alter­na­tive uni­verse of Strange and Nor­rell is not smoke-​and-​mirrors and rab­bits being pulled from hats, it’s a neglected sci­en­tific dis­ci­pline that for unex­plained rea­sons was aban­doned in Eng­land in the early 16th cen­tury. But Gilbert Nor­rell (Eddie Marsan), a magi­cian from York, becomes a national sen­sa­tion when he brings to life the stat­ues of York Min­ster Cathe­dral and, in his only use of dark magic, brings back from death the future wife of a promi­nent mem­ber of par­lia­ment, Lady Pole (Alice Englert).

But just as in another alter­na­tive uni­verse where humans can sell their soul to the devil, the dark side, in this case a mys­te­ri­ous being known as the Gen­tle­man (Marc War­ren), sab­o­tages the trans­ac­tion and estab­lishes Norrell’s sec­ond rivalry.

Nor­rell offers his ser­vices to fight the French and their allies in the Napoleonic Wars, although only Jonathan Strange (Bertie Carvel) directly uti­lizes magic at the side of the Duke of Welling­ton (Ronan Vib­ert), who is ini­tially skep­ti­cal of him. Included in the broad his­tor­i­cal sweep of Strange and Nor­rell is the blind and mad King George III, and although not by name, the anti-​industrial Luddites.

The rest of the cast is won­der­ful, par­tic­u­larly Ariyon Bakare as a mys­te­ri­ous but­ler and Vin­cent Franklin as the duplic­i­tous pro­moter of Nor­rell and Strange. The spe­cial effects, with the excep­tion of the ravens in the last two install­ments, are first rate.

Jonathan Strange & Mr Nor­rell is a wel­come diver­sion from the usual, and it’s a par­tic­u­larly good series for binge-​watching.

Besides Net­flix, the mini-​series is avail­able on many on-​demand sys­tems and on DVD.

John Ruberry reg­u­larly blogs at Marathon Pun­dit.

jonathan-strange-and-mr-norrellBy John Ruberry

It’s time to take a break from politics.

Many times while surfing on Netflix I came across a recommendation to watch the seven-part 2015 BBC One miniseries, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, which is described as such: “In 1806 ambitious magician Norrell leads a revival of practical magic in England and ignites a fierce rivalry with bold young conjurer Strange.” If that sounds like a dopey show, well, that’s what I thought too. But I yielded to the luring and tuned in. I’m grateful that I did.

Magic in the alternative universe of Strange and Norrell is not smoke-and-mirrors and rabbits being pulled from hats, it’s a neglected scientific discipline that for unexplained reasons was abandoned in England in the early 16th century. But Gilbert Norrell (Eddie Marsan), a magician from York, becomes a national sensation when he brings to life the statues of  York Minster Cathedral and, in his only use of dark magic, brings back from death the future wife of a prominent member of parliament, Lady Pole (Alice Englert).

But just as in another alternative universe where humans can sell their soul to the devil, the dark side, in this case a mysterious being known as the Gentleman (Marc Warren), sabotages the transaction and establishes Norrell’s second rivalry.

Norrell offers his services to fight the French and their allies in the Napoleonic Wars, although only Jonathan Strange (Bertie Carvel) directly utilizes magic at the side of the Duke of Wellington (Ronan Vibert), who is initially skeptical of him. Included in the broad historical sweep of Strange and Norrell is the blind and mad King George III, and although not by name, the anti-industrial Luddites.

The rest of the cast is wonderful, particularly Ariyon Bakare as a mysterious butler and Vincent Franklin as the duplicitous promoter of Norrell and Strange. The special effects, with the exception of the ravens in the last two installments, are first rate.

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell is a welcome diversion from the usual, and it’s a particularly good series for binge-watching.

Besides Netflix, the mini-series is available on many on-demand systems and on DVD.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.