Saturday, 1 August 2015
Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell: All the Mirrors of the World
A guest post once again from MrVortexOfDoom, whose YouTube us most definitely worth a look for those of us who like to see excellent reconstructions of '60s Doctor Who. We will be splitting Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell between us. So, without further ado...
Jealousy Shines Through
Episode 4: All the Mirrors Of The World –
an alternative review by MrVortexOfDOOM.
“You must learn to live as I do - in the face of constant criticism, opposition and censure. That, sir, is the English way”
Storytelling 101 states that, in any adaptation, screenplay or script, your start should be strong and your ending should be sharp and clean, possibly one that not many people expect. But they never say much about the middles. They are the great unknown of fiction and storytelling. So, if, in my mind, you get all the threads to meet up with not much casualty of plot, you are doing pretty well.
Episode Four is the midpoint, the point where the show is treading water, ready for its explosive last episodes. Or that’s how it should be. However, by a very clever sleight of hand (worthy of Vinculus himself), the series merges three key elements (which normally could bog down the script) into a dynamic sequence propelling you into the second half. From Gatcombe and Tantony (the Nottinghamshire brewers) to the King's Roads and beyond to Drawlight's unveiling is a fantastic sequence which must have been a nightmare to edit being as it is a mix of little-glimpsed sequences, episode parts, asides and nuances.
Plus, the episode has to introduce the major theme of madness in magic by the back door while keeping all the existing strands alive. Strange's trip through the Kings Roads for the first time. Lady Pole being sent to Segundus & Honeyfoot's Starecross (which I believe is referred to as the madhouse/asylum/Bedlam for the first time). Drawlight and Lascelles as Norrell's Jekyll and Hyde continuing their campaign of spite and manipulation. Plus the massive revelations with George the Third, which, here, is edited down to the bare bones, but still manages to keep some of its menace.
In the promo pictures before the series aired, the bloody Childermass image at the location of the Hanged Man had a mirror instead of a face. And the country scene on the inside of the piano looked exactly like one of the bridges on the King's Roads between our land and the land of Faerie. It is true that you learn something every time you watch.
The series also continues to reward you with the entrancing mix of humour and practical drama. The practical natural aspects of the summoning spell. Colquhoun Grant being hilariously professional in the background while Jonathan and Arabella are having their domestic. The reference to the Cinques Dragownes (the magical court) which takes up a hefty chapter of the book.
And the acting gongs which this week go for me to Edward Hogg & Brian Pettifer as Segundus and Honeyfoot as Starecross gets its dynamite first client. Love John all serious, dressed up in his evil doctor's white coat.
The picture of John Uskglass in the King's palace manages to be spooky, prescient and yet a precise summary of the last three episodes all at once. You feel that only a superior natural magician of high standing and power could perform the miracles that we have so far seen. But with the frosting of the mirrors, the boundaries between the worlds are cracking – and nothing will be the same again.