Published on June 1st, 2015 | by Vyctoria Hart0
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell Episode Three – ‘ The Education of a Magician’
We begin episode three of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell with the destruction of an entire art department’s worth of frocks. Lady Pole, unable to speak of her nightly excursions to the land of Faerie is tearing apart her wardrobe into construct the tale in tapestry form. Whilst she is able to name each figure that she has sewn, she is unable to explain the context to Arabella who remains frustratingly dense on the subject. However Arabella does attempt to raise the issue of Lady Pole’s living conditions with Lord Pole, who insists that nothing can be done and allowing her any freedom has resulted in the woman harming herself. He forbids Arabella from contacting her own husband on the matter. Which seems wise as we soon discover that Mr Norrell has Childermass redirecting all the correspondence between the couple, his paranoia that Lady Pole will reveal his error increasing as the episode progresses.
Meanwhile Jonathan Strange has arrived in the Iberian Peninsula but has a hard time locating Lord Wellington, who is out at The Lines ‘where he is needed’. Once Strange has found out what The Lines are and actual gotten there, Wellington is impressed by his presence. Unless the magician can create more men or guns then he has no use for him. Jonathan foolishly offers to demoralise the French with a plague of frogs which Wellington points out would be as helpful as raining roast chickens on them. Ronan Vibert is brilliant as the demanding Duke, he seems to be channeling Alan Rickman at his most acerbic and deadpan. Dismissed by the commanding officers Strange spends the night amongst the camping infantry and discovers that what they want most is a means of travel that doesn’t cripple them. After a day or two of robbed, shot at and having the house he was sleeping set alight for warm, Strange summons a road from the hillsides, to Wellington’s partial approval (it could have been straighter). Much to his chagrin Wellington decides to gift Strange with a nickname, choosing ‘Merlin’, a name of which Mr Norrell most certainly would not approve.
Through Mrs Strange’s letters Mr Norrell has discovered the tapestry and arranges for Childermass to steal it. Devastated as this latest set back Lady Pole finally unravels and slits her wrists. The Gentleman with Thistledown Hair appears to Arabella, who is still oblivious to his magical nature and voyeuristic visits to her home, and tries to bargain with her for her friends sanity, though he admits that he doesn’t understand why she would care. Arabella rejects the offer and shortly after is barred from visiting Lady Pole again at Mr Norrell’s behest. The magician has managed a private visit with the sick woman, advising her that nothing can be gained from speaking out. He also makes the mistake of admitting how long her sentence might really be, another 75 years of madness in this world and dancing in the house of Lost-Hope.
Jonathan Strange has made himself useful to Lord Wellington, but when a delivery of new guns goes missing things may take a turn for the worse for the younger magician. Having successfully moved roads, bridges and rivers the high command now wish him to move a forest, dismissing his protests that interfering with living things is not modern magic. Strange suspects that the magic is beyond him. He is proven right when the trees loud protests draw the enemy’s canon fire, killing several of the men and landing a direct hit on the case containing Mr Norrell’s precious books. Even if you’ve read the original novel this is a real shouting at the television moment, followed by several heartbreaking scenes of Strange trying to piece together the charred remains. Matters are complicated further when the canons are stolen from the original thieves. Scrying proves to be useless given the terrain and no living prisoners know the whereabouts of the new thieves. However there are a number of dead prisoners leading Jonathan Strange to attempt another piece of decidedly unmodern magic- the resurrection of three maggot riddled corpses. Although the acts of magic in this episode aren’t as theatrical as the giant sand horses they’re much more visceral, clearly demonstrating the difference between Norrell’s modern magic and Strange’s increasingly old fashioned approach. The first problem with the spell is that the dead men no longer speak any human language but rather a dialect of hell. Wellington suggests that this should be no hindrance since they seem to have to have learned the language rather quickly, surely Merlin can do the same. Having dealt with the language barrier and location of the guns, Strange is presented with a new difficulty – he doesn’t know how to make them dead again. They won’t stop begging him to send them home to their families rather than to hell. Regardless Wellington declares the whole matter a success as it will allow the English forces to “get home to our wives and mistresses” and Strange finds himself saluted by the entire regiment for him actions. It seems unlike that Mr Norrell will be as pleased with his actions when he finds out about the book.
The final portion of the episode focuses on the predicament of Stephen Black (Ariyon Bakare), Lord Pole’s faithful servant. He was approached by The Gentleman around the time of Lady Pole’s resurrection, with the fairy claiming that the servant is of royal stock and could be a king. As such he has been called to dance at Lost-Hope every night with his mistress and taken on excursions to spy on Mrs Strange as the fairy has become increasingly obsessed with her. Now, The Gentleman want to move his plans for Stephen’s coronation forward. He points out that the Raven King was once a slave as well. When Stephen protests that no man on English soil is a slave, that he was educated and christened thanks to Lord Pole’s father, the fairy shows him a brutal vision of Stephen’s birth and his mother’s death onboard one of the Pole family’s slaving ships. In his distracted state Stephen has failed to properly secure Lady Pole’s room and across London Childermass senses her approaching magic aura too late. As she draws a gun on Mr Norrell, the surly assistant is able only to take the bullet for his employer. For the last two episodes Mr Norrell has endeavoured not to acknowledge the consequences of his actions, insisting to all who are privy to it that he is not at fault; nothing can be done and nothing can be gained in discussing the matter. Now the reality of the situation is literally laid bleeding at his feet. What will Norris do now? And what will happen to Childermass and Lady Pole? And will Jonathan Strange survive if he confesses about the books?