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Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell recap: The Education of a Magician

Strange offers help to soldiers in Portugal.

Posted on

BBC America

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

type:
TV Show
Current Status:
In Season
seasons:
1
performer:
Bertie Carvel, Eddie Marsan
director:
Toby Haynes
author:
Susanna Clarke
broadcaster:
BBC America
publisher:
Bloomsbury
genre:
Fantasy, History

Poor Lady Pole. Will she ever find peace? Episode 3 opens on yet another midnight misery for Sir Pole’s reanimated bride. At least she has the company of Arabella, who is now apparently a regular visitor. The oily Mr. Drawlight—“that odious, odious little man” who always seems to be everywhere he’s not wanted—catches Bella leaving the Pole home and sidles up for gossip: “You know,” he trills (does he ever not rrrroll his r’s?) “some people think that her resurrection has made her proud and unwilling to mix with ordinary mortals, but I think the truth is quite different. I think it has bred in her a taste for morbid experiences.” If only it were a taste she could spit out. Bella gives him nothing, but he isn’t put off: “It’ll be found out in the end. I always find it out.” Meanwhile, Mr. Norrell is intercepting letters meant for Jonathan Strange, for purposes we don’t exactly know yet—and just to make sure that every woman who darkens the doors of the Pole house is completely miserable, Thistle Down pops by to ask Arabella if she’s heard from her man, who as we know is off in Portugal, freelance magicking for the cause: “How is your husband? Is he still wherever he is? He is sure to be bored at home, Madam, as soon as he has tasted war.” Never not stirring the pot, this one.

In fact, Strange is not having an easy time in Lisbon; he can’t find Lord Wellington anywhere.  “Lord Wellington does not stay in one place, sir,” he is informed. “Lord Wellington goes wherever he is needed. And Lord Wellington is needed everywhere” (to wrap beef filets in delicious pastry?). When Strange finally does find him, it does not go well. The Lord is busy and his men are hungry and he wants to know if Strange can conjure more artillery and more soldiers. He could make it rain, he says. Not the answer the Lord was looking for: “You and this other gentleman have been a great nuisance to the army, sir. These visions you’ve shown the ministers have convinced them they know how matters stand in Portugal. They do not! Only I know what needs to be done in Portugal, sir, because only I am acquainted with all the circumstances.” How about a plague of locusts, then? Strange offers. “You’d do just as good to drop roast chickens on them,” he replies. Thank you, and goodnight.

Lady Pole, having realized that she’s basically trapped in a hell she can’t describe to anyone without speaking words that make no sense, has started embroidering her stories instead: Stephen the butler wearing his crown, Thistle Down (she calls him “The King of Lost Hope”) looking poofy and nefarious. She needs Arabella to tell her husband what she’s made, she insists; he’s the only one who can help her. Arabella goes to Sir Pole to plead for relief for Lady Pole, but he is dismissive; he thinks it’s just madness, not the mess caused by bringing a completely dead girl back to life so you can have her dowry. 

Someone should really be looking out for Arabella; Thistle Down is officially obsessed with her now, and he has a plan: “We can carry her to Lost Hope,” he tells Stephen excitedly, “where she will be loved and admired as no man has loved or admired her before.” He tends to love women right into the asylum, so that’s not promising.

In Portugal, Strange offers his magician skills to a group of soldiers around a campfire, but they don’t need spells, they need a man who can read their letters from home, so he does. He’s actually starting to make friends! Even his Lordship might be softening, if he can really help to make the road they need. In a quick flash of pebbles and dirt, he gets it done, and just like that, he’s their new favorite Merlin. (But don’t call him that, please; Merlin, if he ever existed, was a low-class vagabond.)

Norrell’s right-hand man Childermass wants to know why he’s being instructed to intercept all the letters between Jonathan Strange and Arabella; there’s nothing scandalous in them, so what is it for? Norrell admits that he’s worried about the conversations between Lady Pole and Arabella, and he has Childermass break into the Pole home to find what he must have known was there: the Tapestry from Hell that Lady Pole has been furiously embroidering.

NEXT: Lady Pole is not happy