Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell: The Black Tower

Programme Name: Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell - TX: n/a - Episode: Ep6 (No. 6) - Picture Shows: (L-R) Vinculus (PAUL KAYE), The Gentleman (MARC WARREN) - (C) JSMN Ltd - Photographer: Matt Squire

Previously on Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell: The Gentleman took a fancy to Belle and tricked Jonathan into thinking she was dead so the Gentleman could keep her in Lost Hope as a dance partner for all eternity. Jonathan, naturally, didn’t take his beloved wife’s death well and set out to resurrect her, even at the cost of his own sanity. He also wrote a book, which Norrell was not at all ok with.

‘There are some that say the Raven King is not a man but an idea, and not one magician but several.’

‘I want you to bring my wife back from the dead. Please.’

 Jonathan is now a wanted man. There’s a reward and everything. Also, his book has been published, which surprises me because I thought the government was quashing that. I guess that’s the sort of thing that’s really hard to justify.

Norrell receives his copy of the book, which is a handsome tome indeed, with a small picture of a raven on the front. It’s dedicated to Belle. Norrell starts to read, and as he pages through the leaves, a single tear trickles down his cheek. He then puts the book on a table and starts saying a spell over it.

The publisher, Murray, arrives at his office and is pleased to hear the book’s selling well. His assistant tells him that they’ve had some customers return unhappy. Before he can elaborate, two men (I believe the same men who were swindled by Drawlight and argued with Jonathan over the billiards table a couple of episodes back) come in and announce that they’ve been tricked: they bought a copy of the book each, only to have it vanish on them. Copies of the book then start disappearing from the room. Murray realizes that Norrell must be behind this. So, essentially, the only magic Norrell ever does is completely self-serving. Other than those sea beacons that never got finished and probably never worked, what’s he done for anyone else? Murray is not pleased.

Jonathan’s fled to Venice, because that’s where every English person of means with some embarrassing scandal back home ended up at this time. He’s trying to make himself crazy, and from the look of him, he’s doing a fairly good job. But not good enough, because while he can apparently summon the Gentleman, he still can’t see him. He slumps in a chair, dejected. He’s also losing his hair, but he doesn’t seem too concerned about that. Speaking of hair, it might just be my imagination (and a two-week break from last seeing this show) but the Gentleman’s hair and eyebrows seem to be achieving greater dimensions this episode, which is really saying something. That hair is adding a good four to six inches of height to him now.

Meanwhile, a middle-aged man and his pretty young daughter, Dr Greysteel and Flora, arrive at the flat of the original crazy cat lady. CCL is a relative of a colleague of Greysteel’s, and he’s been sent to pass along salutations to her, but she clearly takes absolutely nothing in because she’s too busy believing she’s actually a cat. Flora and her father are clearly horrified, but Flora tries to brightly compliment the flat. And then the woman eats a dead bird from the floor, so they decide to leave.

On their way to wherever they’re staying, they run across Jonathan, who’s begging an apothecary to supply him with more of one of his ingredients. The apothecary refuses, not wanting to be responsible for driving a man insane. Flora offers to act as translator, but even her Italian can’t help in this situation. Flora introduces herself and her father, who’s got a look on his face that seems to say, ‘what the hell is it about this place that makes English people crazy?’ Jonathan remembers his manners long enough to introduce himself and then joins them for breakfast at a café.

Over the boiled eggs, Jonathan blithely explains that his wife died and now he plans to secure himself a fairy servant. ‘We should be going,’ Greysteel immediately says, hilariously, before waving for the cheque. Flora, though, seems intrigued and wonders if it might not be a bad idea to throw his lot in with such unpredictable creatures. Jonathan agrees and says he has to be really careful, but this is the only path open to him. Greysteel mentions the woman they visited and Flora tells Jonathan that she’s insane. Jonathan is interested to hear that.[cryout-pullquote align=”right” textalign=”left” width=”33%”]Jonathan blithely explains that his wife died and now he plans to secure himself a fairy servant. ‘We should be going,’ Greysteel immediately says, hilariously.[/cryout-pullquote]

On his way to deliver Lady P’s morning tea, Stephen (is he living at Segundus’s now? Who’s running Sir Walter’s house?) is called over to Vinculus’s cell. Vinculus asks Stephen to free him, as he has an important assignation with a tree and is to meet someone there. He promises to give Stephen his freedom from the Gentleman if Stephen helps him. Stephen is startled that Vinculus knows about that and backs away.

Lady P, meanwhile, is asking about Jonathan and learns that he’s left England and hasn’t been heard from. Segundus gently suggests she ask Norrell where Jonathan is and of course she refuses and angrily sends all the men away. She strokes her stub of a finger and weeps.

In Parliament, the opposition is shouting at Walter and the PM, Liverpool, about the Johannites, who have seized another mill. The opposition member accuses Walter of bringing back magic and planting these seeds of opposition in the common man. He says that one of the magicians has been implicated in the death of his wife and the other is a common thief. Way to make magic respectable there, Norrell.

Walter goes and yells at Norrell for stealing the books, which was just stupid and has made Norrell and Walter look bad. Norrell turns to Lascelles and asks where Strange is, but Lascelles doesn’t know.  He suggests Norrell find him by magic, but Jonathan doesn’t want to be found, and so magic won’t work here. They wonder if there’s any gossip on the streets and Childermass suggests they ask Drawlight.

They go see Drawlight in prison, and here’s where I start to get really confused, because how the hell would Drawlight learn where Jonathan is from inside a debtors’ prison? How would he have gossip that none of these other men is privy to? That really makes no sense at all. Nevertheless, he somehow miraculously knows that Jonathan’s run away to Italy and is trying to drive himself crazy with hallucinogens. They offer to pay Drawlight’s debts if he’ll go and track Jonathan down. How the hell would he do that? Since when was Drawlight some kind of private detective? I guess this character’s whatever we need him to be at whatever moment, because off he goes, though reluctantly, because he’s not all that keen on running afoul of a crazed magician.

Greysteel and Flora are still visiting that old lady, and Flora hopefully says she thinks their visits are helping. She also wants to stick around Venice a little longer, because she’s got a thing for Jon.

As they leave the old lady’s place, Jonathan slips in and politely introduces himself to her, offering to give her her heart’s desire, if she’ll only teach him how to be mad. She’s so intent on eating a mouse he’s dangling she’s not really all that focused on what he’s saying. He holds the mouse out of her reach and says he just needs something to act as a vessel of her madness. He says some spell over the mouse, then hands it to her. She eagerly eats it, and then transforms into a cat. Just what she wanted, apparently. Jonathan finds the mouse amongst her clothes and swallows it himself. He convulses on the floor, his face twisting, then spits the mouse back up.

Norrell is trying to magically find Jonathan, to no avail. Childermass joins him and brings up Vinculus, telling Norrell that ravens have started appearing on his cards again. Norrell doesn’t seem too chuffed to hear that.

Jonathan puts the mouse in a jar with some liquid, shakes it up, and then takes a small spoonful of the liquid. He twitches a bit, wanders around the room, then begins thrashing around. When it stops, he laughs and casts the summoning spell again. And this time, he’s able to see the Gentleman, to the Gentleman’s obvious surprise. At first, Jonathan mistakes him for a normal visitor, but then realizes whom he’s dealing with, compliments the Gentleman’s power and tells him he wants to bring that sort of power back to English magic, with the Gentleman’s help. Jonathan suggests he take a day or two to think about it, and then they can discuss terms. The Gentleman nods and Jonathan sends him away.

At Segundus’s, Vinculus is still cackling and calling out to Stephen, who’s also being plagued by the Gentleman, who’s raging that Jonathan should have the audacity to summon him and suggest an alliance. Stephen, unable to stand any of this, tells Segundus and Honeyfoot he has to return to London immediately.

He hits the road with Vinclulus hidden in the cart with him, and once they’re out of sight of the house he calls Vinculus out. Vinculus repeats the prophecy that the nameless slave shall wear a crown, and Stephen asks how he can know such things. ‘My book,’ Vinculus non-explains. He elaborates that he has the book of the Raven King, which tells Stephen’s destiny.

Jonathan finds the Greysteels in a square and asks to borrow Flora, because she’s just the right shape and size. He drags her off to help him pick out a dress while Greysteel sighs and goes to find an English newspaper. He’s a very tolerant dad, Dr G. Flora guesses from Jonathan’s mood that he’s succeeded and she happily tells him that he’s going to change England. She asks what he’ll do with this newfound power and he replies that he wants to teach all the women and men of England magic, and give the country back its heritage. She asks if he’ll put the Raven King back on his throne and Jonathan says that there are some people who think he’s actually several magicians, not just one. She suddenly demands he take her dancing.

Greysteel joins them and hands over the newspaper, which has a story about the disappearing books in it. He asks Jonathan what he’s a fugitive from and Jonathan says it’s just a misunderstanding. He grabs the dress he’s bought and hurries home, passing Drawlight without recognizing him. How did Drawlight track him down so quickly? Aren’t people actually trained in finding people unable to locate Jonathan?

Jonathan returns home, so excited about this dress, which is clearly a gift for Belle, when she returns to him. He takes some more of his mad-juice, then summons the Gentleman. The Gentleman immediately agrees to the alliance and offers to give Jonathan anything he desires. Of course, Jonathan immediately asks for his wife back, but the Gentleman tells him that’s impossible, because she’s been dead too long and her corpse is in England. Apparently Jonathan’s blocked out the horror that was those resurrected Italian soldiers. An increasingly desperate Jonathan says he’s sacrificed a lot to get this far.

Gentleman: Yeah, that kinda sucks. How about I give you Paulina Borghese instead?

Jonathan heartbreakingly tells the Gentleman that he’s starting to forget little things, like the smell of her and certain details, and he’s consoled himself with the notion that he’d see her again. He mentions Lady P and the Gentleman snaps that she was another matter entirely. From that, Jon extrapolates that the Gentleman also worked with Norrell, and that starts to turn his despair right into rage. He demands the token the Gentleman received from that deal, and the Gentleman has no choice but to hand it over, since he did promise to give Jonathan anything he asked for. Jonathan sends him away, then goes on a rampage through his rooms. The box with Lady P’s finger in it appears and Jonathan takes a HUGE swig of the crazy juice, then grabs the box, telling it to show him where it came from. He’s directed to a mirror and steps through it…

…and steps out in Lost Hope. He makes his way to the castle, where the dancers are swirling. Stephen is there and desperately asks Jonathan what he’s doing there, because the Gentleman hates him and will not take kindly to this intrusion. Jonathan runs into Lady P, who eagerly asks if he’s come to help them. She gestures to Belle, who’s mindlessly dancing with someone. Jonathan hurries over to her and grabs her, but she doesn’t know him and just asks if he wants a dance. The Gentleman appears and angrily sends everyone away. Only he, Jonathan, and Stephen remain. Jonathan demands his wife back but the Gentleman says he’s already given Jonathan what he asked for, and how he’ll claim what is his. He brings down a fierce swirl of leaves that engulfs Jonathan until he vanishes. I know it’s useless to argue with professional tricksters, but really the whole deal should be null, since it actually was in the Gentleman’s power to give Jonathan what he originally asked for; he just refused to give it.

The Gentleman gasps and collapses into Stephen’s arms, admitting that this has taken all his strength, but he’s dealt Jonathan such a blow.

Stephen wakes by the side of some pond where Vinculus is drinking from a water jug. Vinculus guesses Stephen has been to other lands and Stephen admits he’s lost and asks Vinculus what he should do. Vinculus suggests he just accept his destiny. Stephen reminds Vinculus he promised to help free him if Stephen got him out of Segundus’s, but Vinculus has done nothing for him. He demands to see the Raven King’s book.

[cryout-pullquote align=”left” textalign=”left” width=”33%”]Vinculus explains that many years ago his father was entrusted with the book of the Raven King, which he was to deliver to the last man in England who could read the Raven King’s letters. But then the bastard ate the book on a dare. What a dick.[/cryout-pullquote]Vinculus explains, as he starts removing clothing, that many years ago his father was entrusted with the book of the Raven King, which he was to deliver to the last man in England who could read the Raven King’s letters. But then the bastard ate the book on a dare. What a dick. Four years later, Vinculus was born with the words of the book written all over his body. He whips off his shirt to show the words and pictures scrawled all over him. ‘I was born with this just as you were born with that,’ he tells Stephen, meaning Stephen’s dark skin. Stephen says that his skin means he’s despised, no matter what he does. Vinculus notes that his skin means the opposite, because his skin says that Stephen will be raised up on high, and that time has nearly come. He offers Stephen a hand and suggests they take a walk and find his tree.

Drawlight sends word back to England that Strange is in Venice, spending a lot of time with a family whose name Drawlight doesn’t seem certain of, though he does know the daughter was tangled up with Lord Byron for a bit. It’s weird that he’d be able to get that detail but not the family’s last name. Norrell starts using his metal bowl to try and track Jonathan but finds he’s too late. He backs away from the bowl and says he needs to go home, because he really needs to consult his books. Lascelles and Childermass look in and are horrified by what they see. ‘It’s all my doing,’ Norrell sighs. Finally he realizes it.

In Venice, Flora runs to the window and sees a massive, black tornado funnel has descended right over Jonathan’s place. She hurries in that direction, even as other people flee, and steps through the blackness and through Jonathan’s door. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that Flora’s not really all that bright. She’s certainly not big on self-preservation.

Jonathan’s room is dark, as if it’s late at night. Flora finds him slumped on a sofa and he tells her that his wife is not dead, just enchanted. He desperately tells her that the fairies steal those we love and trap them. He urges her to get out of there, because she’s in danger from the fairies, which can’t be controlled. He shoves her towards the door, telling her that he’s cursed, that the fairy has imprisoned him in a tower of dark and it’s drawing the life from him. She asks to help him and he says she may be able to, someday, but now she must leave. She tearfully notes that this is killing him. He again tells her to go, and her father comes in, pointing a pistol at Strange and telling him to stay back. He gets Flora out of there and they’re immediately grabbed by Drawlight, who asks for all the gossip. He gabbles on at Flora until her father puts the gun in his face and asks if he wants to be shot. Drawlight does not. ‘Then behave differently,’ Dr Greysteel tells him. Ha! I like this guy. He’s perhaps the best exasperated dad ever.

An unkindness of ravens (yes, that’s actually what a group of ravens is called) crosses overhead and flies right into the funnel of darkness.

Back in London, Norrell’s packing up and thinking aloud that this might be for the best, because if Jonathan’s imprisoned, he can’t do magic, which will give Norrell time to figure out what to do about this fairy. Lascelles laughs at the very idea of fairies. Has he not been around for the past five episodes? How can he actually think this is all some kind of joke? Norrell basically says as much.

Childermass, passing by a packing crate, pauses, takes out a mirror, and holds it to his ear. He then goes to a larger mirror on the wall and listens to that one too. He goes into the study, hands Norrell the smaller mirror, and goes to another one on the wall. Lascelles whines about Childermass just appearing again, calling him a servant, and again I ask, has this man not been around for the past few episodes? Has he not yet learned Childermass’s importance here? He keeps going on and on about how above himself Childermass is, even as Childermass and Norrell both go to the mirror to listen, so SHUT UP, LASCELLES! The grownups are working! Whatever they can hear is in every mirror in the house, so Lascelles suggests they just smash them. Norrell screams for him not to do that, as a footman races in and announces Walter and Lord Liverpool, who ask if Norrell’s leaving without saying goodbye.

Back in Venice, Dr G is begging his daughter to leave Venice with him, but she’s not listening, because she’s received a letter and a mirror covered with a shawl from Jonathan.

Drawlight, trying to run from the city, is dragged into the darkness by Jonathan.

Vinculus and Stephen arrive at the tree and Vinculus says this is where they’ll meet their destinies. Stephen asks who they’re meeting and Vinculus says they’ll know soon enough.

Liverpool tells Norrell to go stop Jonathan before he goes and swallows up another popular tourist destination. Norrell basically accuses them of bringing this on themselves, reminding them that he warned them Jonathan needed to be tamed. Sigh. No, Norrell, Jonathan needed to be informed. This was your fault. They all hear a tapping from behind the mirrors and Norrell says this means wicked, mad magic and catastrophe. Liverpool promises not to ignore Norrell again, if he just stops Jonathan. Norrell’s not sure he can.

Drawlight comes to in the courtyard of Jonathan’s Venetian home. Ravens perched above caw menacingly. Drawlight finds Jonathan on the stairs, and after Jonathan scares the hell out of him, he demands to know why Drawlight’s spying on him. Drawlight tries to say that he’s always been Jonathan’s friend and he was forced to do this, because they’re afraid of Jonathan. Jonathan says they’re right to be afraid of him, because he’s crazy. He tells Drawlight that he’s brought him here to lend a hand.

The Gentleman appears to Stephen and tells him that all the floors are shaking and someone is opening the doors between the worlds. Vinculus carelessly tells him that the magic of Englishmen is coming back. ‘Who is this?’ the Gentleman asks in a perfect ‘WTF?’ tone. Vinculus says that he told Stephen he’d soon be free of the Gentleman and the Gentleman asks how he came across this knowledge. ‘My book,’ says Vinculus, showing his chest. ‘Englishmen and their books,’ the Gentleman sighs. Vinculus says this is the book of the Raven King. Gentleman asks Vinculus what his own fortune is and Vinculus says it’s better than the Gentleman’s.

Gentleman: Doubtful. Stephen, he’s a pain in my ass, and I’ve already got at least one of those sitting in a tornado of eternal nighttime in Venice. Let’s kill him!

Vinclulus: Good luck with that.

Jonathan tells Drawlight that Lady P is not insane, just enchanted. He needs Drawlight to run a couple of errands for him: deliver Lady P’s finger to Childermass and tell him everything about the enchantment and send a letter to Lady P. He tells Drawlight that he’s returning magic to England, using the birds as his messengers, because nearly anyone can be a magician, it turns out, they just need to recognize their own promise. Oh, and Drawlight has one more task: tell Norrell that Strange is coming. The birds whirl and start flying into the mirrors that are lying around all over the place.

In Norrell’s study, the mirror on the wall shatters, and a beak drives through it from the back side, opening up a hole until ravens can come pouring into the room.

And by that tree Stephen kneels down as Vinculus’s lifeless body dangles from the noose the Gentleman fashioned for him. Stephen murmurs that Vinculus said he would be free. The Gentleman pats him on the shoulder and reassures him he will be, and also the magicians will fail. It’s written all over Vinculus’s body. ‘Come Stephen, Let us return to the dance,’ the Gentleman says.

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