Previously on Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell: Jonathan realized he’s a naturally gifted magician, but since Norrell owns all the magical books in England, it seems, he went ahead and apprenticed with him. He did so well he got sent to Portugal to help with the war against Napoleon. Back in London, Lady Pole is swiftly cracking up thanks to sleep deprivation, and Stephen Black, the butler, isn’t far behind.
‘I am Strange.’
‘She doesn’t see…’
Lady P wakes, gets an idea, goes to her closet, grabs a dress, and starts ripping it apart.
Arabella writes Jonathan a letter, stops to sniff one of his jackets, and leaves the house. Childermass watches from across the street, and when the maid hands Arabella’s letter to a delivery boy, Childermass intercepts him and the letter is handed over.
Arabella, meanwhile, is waylaid in the park by Drawlight, who has clearly been waiting for her. He tries to get gossip about Lady P but Arabella’s playing things close to the vest. Also, she hates Drawlight, so there’s no way she’s telling him anything. She arrives at the Poles’ and rings the bell.
Inside, Lady P is hard at work on an embroidery and tells Arabella to rip up some more dresses she has piled nearby.
Arabella: Even your wedding dress? Let’s think this through.
Lady P: You think I care about a wedding dress now? Tear the damn thing up!
Arabella asks what she’s embroidering. ‘Lost Hope, for you,’ Lady P replies. What a…lovely gift?
Drawlight tells Norrell that he can’t get any information out of Arabella, as Childermass comes in and hands him all of Arabella’s mail. Norrell finds the letter to Jonathan and opens it to read it. Wow, that’s really shitty, Norrell. Childermass asks to see it as well but Norrell doesn’t hand it over. Childermass goes to scold Honeyfoot and Segundus for planning to start a school.
On her way out of the Poles’, Arabella runs into the Gentleman, who asks after her husband. She’s clearly uncomfortable and tries to escape quickly. He tells her that she’s sure to be bored at home as soon as he’s tasted war. Thanks for that, jerk.
Jonathan has landed in Lisbon, along with his chest of books at his manservant. He finds a soldier and proudly introduces himself as ‘the magician’ and asks where Wellington is. The man pompously informs him that Wellington is not in Lisbon but is out with his troops.
The two men finally make it out to the lines, which look to be in a fairly inhospitable bit of Portugal. Nobody there seems interested in helping Jonathan. He finally finds an officer and asks when Wellington will be back. The man dismissively says he has no idea. Jonathan pouts that the position of magician is by no means respected, just as Norrell said.
He sits down and waits for several hours, reading the book Arabella gave him. Finally, that night, Wellington returns. Wellington’s played by Ronan Vibert, the ultimate British ‘hey, it’s that guy!’ actor. Most recently, he played Lucrezia’s horrible first husband on The Borgias and the lord being manipulated by Kali on Penny Dreadful. He starts briskly firing off orders and finally notices Norrell.
Wellington: Oh, you’re the magician I totally didn’t ask for. Norris?
Jonathan: No, I’m the other one. I’m Strange.
Wellington: You said it, not me. You’re useless to me, unless you can make more men or more cannon appear. Since you can’t, you’re basically just a pain in my ass right now.
Poor Jonathan offers to make it rain or bring a plague of frogs on the French, which would basically just be a gourmet meal for them, so no dice, Jon.
Segundus is actually trying to set up that school, but Childermass rides up to warn him to give up this endeavor, before Norrell finds out. Wait, isn’t this place up in York? He rode all the way from London to York just for this? I know he couldn’t exactly phone them to yell, but that is a very long journey over terrible roads. Seems like a lot of effort for something that could have gone into a letter.
Segundus and Honeyfoot are not pleased by this and yell damnations after Childermass and to Norrell.
Arabella’s back at Lady P’s, and her tapestry has come a long way. It’s also very well done. Lady P shows her Stephen Black, standing before a mirror, his reflection wearing a crown, and Lady P holding a rose in her mouth, which she says is the reason she can’t speak clearly of this matter. She asks Arabella to write to her husband about this and Arabella says that she writes to Jonathan about everything. She gently reminds Lady P that her husband loves her and Lady P harshly says that Pole’s love means nothing and has never done her any good. ‘Do you consider your husband’s love to have ever saved you from anything?’ she asks. Arabella laughs that she tends to save him, more often, usually from his fans. Lady P shows her the start of an embroidery of the king of Lost Hope, which Arabella declares very striking. Lady P starts to get frustrated, saying she’s not doing this because she likes Arabella, but because she thinks Arabella’s the only person who can really help her. Stephen tries to calm her, but Lady P just starts getting more agitated. ‘She doesn’t see,’ she whimpers.
Arabella goes to speak to Pole and suggests he get his wife out of the house more. He tells her he tries, but she doesn’t want to go out because everything distresses her, and she seems inclined to hurt herself. She asks what Norrell thinks and he replies that Norrell can’t help her. Arabella’s sure that Norrell’s spell is the cause of this but Pole says he spoke to Jonathan about it, and Jonathan wasn’t willing to ask Norrell. He asks Arabella to keep this matter a secret, even from Jonathan.
She goes home and sits in Jonathan’s study, wondering what to do. Stephen and the Gentleman watch her, without her realizing. Stephen asks if the Gentleman really needs to do this and the Gentleman says that nobody loves the people he takes, so it’s really best for them all to be at his house. He urges Stephen to listen closely to Arabella so they can find the correct moment to act, and carry her to Lost Hope, where she will be loved and admired as she ought to be.
Jonathan starts wandering around the camp, chatting with some of the men to find out what’s bothering them. One of them asks for help reading a letter. Turns out it’s a Dear John, and although Jonathan tries to pull a Letters Molloy and sugarcoat the message, the guy knows what it really says. The others all come forth with letters of their own, but over the course of their chat, Jonathan learns that what’s really bugging them is the horrible roads in the area. It takes a minute, but then Jonathan gets a ‘hmmm’ look on his face and starts making some notes.
The next day, he joins Wellington and the officers at breakfast. Wellington asks how he likes the war so far. Jonathan drily answers that he’s getting used to being shot at and robbed and having English soldiers set fire to the house he’s staying in (it was a cold night, apparently).
Wellington: I know, the British Army men are the best, right? So, how does magic work?
Strange: It’s complicated
Wellington: Could a magician kill a man with magic?
Strange: A magician might, but a gentleman never could.
He’s trying to make magic respectable, after all.
Jonathan heads out into the countryside to magically create a road, accompanied, as always, by Jeremy, his manservant. He consults a book, picks up a rock, concentrates on it for a bit…and nothing happens. He tries again. Nothing. Frustrated, he throws the rock down, and a second later the rocks on the hillside gather in another impressive bit of CGI and form a very credible road. Jonathan nods in satisfaction and claps Jeremy on the shoulder. Later, the army marches over the new road and Wellington’s like, ‘hey, not bad, this road, but couldn’t you make it a little straighter next time, Merlin?’ Jonathan asks that he not be called Merlin, since he wasn’t a very credible magician, and he and Norrell are looking to make magic respectable.
Wellington: Well, I have to call you something, right?
Jonathan: Uh, I have a name, you know
Wellington: Meh, can’t be bothered. Merlin you are.
Arabella’s most recent letter is carried to Norrell, who greedily reads it and tells Childermass that it’s just about love. Also, it appears he’s keeping all these letters. What. An. Asshole. Childermass confesses he’s not comfortable with that, but Norrell doesn’t care. He’s worried that Lady Pole may talk to Arabella and Arabella might report back to Jonathan. Childermass asks what Lady P could possibly tell Arabella that might harm Norrell and Norrell tells him everything.
Late at night, Childermass breaks into the Pole home and finds Arabella’s tapestry, now nearly finished. He looks closely at it, then tears it out of its frame.
An encampment of French soldiers on the other side of the forest has captured Wellington’s shiny new artillery, which does not please him at all. He calls on Jonathan to move the forest so his men can sneak up on the French. Jonathan protests that this is complicated, because the trees are living things and he’ll have to actually discuss this with them. But he’s not given any choice. Grant, one of the officers, is ordered to take Jonathan into the woods the next day. Jonathan tells Jeremy to pack up all his books.
The next day, Jonathan plunges through the woods, searching for the oldest tree so he can have a chat with it. He’s got Jeremy, hauling the giant case with all the books, Grant, and a detachment of soldiers with him. He stops at one tree and starts consulting a book while the soldiers take up positions. Jonathan puts his hand on the tree and it starts groaning and creaking. Grant warns him to keep it down, but it’s not as if he has volume control. Unfortunately, the noise has roused the French, who begin firing. Grant yells at him to move the forest, but Jonathan’s pretty freaked out. He starts frantically paging through books, just as the French get a cannon loaded up and fire it. Jeremy sees it coming, shoves Jonathan out of the way, and takes the hit himself. Dazed, Jonathan pulls himself to a seated position, looking around in horror as the soldiers are shot. He rushes to Jeremy, now laid out amidst the ruins of the books. Jeremy apologises for not protecting the books but Jonathan reassures him it’s fine. The only book that’s escaped annihilation is the Raven King book Arabella gave him. He holds it and calls up a thick mist.
Once the mist has cleared, the French are gone. Wellington’s pissed off about all this and tells Jonathan he’s tempted to put him on charge. ‘Well do it,’ Jonathan snaps. Wellington informs him that he regularly demands the impossible of his men, and Strange is no exception. Jonathan says he’s at the limit of his magical knowledge and Wellington snipes at him to find other magic. Grant tells Jonathan not to take it too hard, because the mist may have lost them the cannon but it saved all their lives. Well, some of them. He reassures him they’ll take care of Jeremy. Jonathan lays his coat over Jeremy’s face.
Lady Pole comes down to find her tapestry done. Lost hope indeed. This poor woman.
Arabella arrives for her visit and Stephen tells her it might be best if she not visit so often, because it might be dangerous for her. They go into the sitting room and find Lady P lying in the wreckage of her dresses, gashes in both her arms. Arabella and Stephen bandage her up and send for Pole.
Arabella sits with him until the doctor’s done tending to Arabella and calls Pole into Lady P’s room. Arabella begins dabbing at her eyes and the Gentleman appears beside her and asks why she’s so distressed. She explains that her friend’s in a bad way. He says Lady P has no horrors, just a rose at her mouth, and he could take it away, but he would need Arabella’s help. Arabella’s too awesome to fall for this man’s nonsense so easily and urges him to help Lady P if it’s in his power to do so, but warns him not to try to make a bargain of her friend. She gets to her feet and tells him they won’t meet again without her husband present. As she leaves, he helps himself to her discarded handkerchief.
The cannon have now been stolen by some Neopolitan soldiers the French had employed, and they now intend to sell them to the highest bidder. Now, they just have to find some Neopolitans to question over where the guns have been stashed. Unfortunately, the only Neopolitans they have are dead ones. Wellington calls on Strange, who’s trying to piece the books back together, to call up a vision of his guns, but Jonathan says visions are the wrong sort of magic for this. At Wellington’s insistence, he tries, but he can’t understand the language of the soldiers he finds. Grant does, but they’re not talking about anything important. Jonathan asks if they have any Neopolitan prisoners and hears they do not. Grant mentions the dead ones and Jonathan gets an ‘aha!’ face.
The bodies of some of the dead Neopolitans are recovered and brought to an old mill as Jonathan explains that he’s doing some very old magic, the magic of the Raven King, and he doesn’t want this mentioned in dispatches. Wellington promises. These corpses are not in great shape; they’ve clearly been dead a while. Nonetheless, Jonathan manages to reanimate them, using his own blood. The three corpses wake, and they’re really horrifying. They’re speaking some strange language—one of the dialects of hell, according to Jonathan. ‘They learnt it very quickly,’ Wellington calmly observes. Heh. ‘Can you speak this language?’ he asks Jonathan. Jonathan spits in each of their mouths and somehow that makes them start speaking human again. Grant is brought forth to speak to them, since he knows Italian, and asks where the cannon are. They tell him they’re stashed in the church of a small town nearby. The soldiers take off, leaving Jonathan with the walking dead.
Norrell goes to see Lady P, who’s now strapped to a bed in a whitewashed room that’s depressing as hell. She screams that he’s murdered her and Norrell apologetically says he was tricked and he did what he did to further the cause of English magic and help end this war. Unfortunately, he can’t free her from this enchantment. He begs her not to try and communicate her predicament to anyone else, as this may cause her further harm.
Lady P: I’m strapped to a bed! How much more harm can I come to?
Before he goes, he tells her she has another 75 years of this. He’s a dick. Honestly, why did he feel the need to tell her that?
Outside her room, he tells Pole that nothing has changed with her and it doesn’t seem that the visits with Arabella are doing her any good. Pole nods sadly.
Grant arrives back at the mill and finds Jonathan still hanging around with the corpses, because Jonathan doesn’t know how to re-kill them. Grant tells him to just set them loose to wander in the bushes (!!!). They’re pleading with Jonathan not to send them back to hell, because they’d really rather be back with their families. I’ll bet,, but I doubt they’ll get a warm homecoming. Jonathan shows him that even shooting these creatures does nothing.
Wellington: How about you stop wasting ammo on people who are already dead? We have a bridge that needs moving. Chop chop! Grant, set this place alight, because these creatures are distracting my magician.
First sensible thing I’ve heard.
As Jonathan emerges from the mill and puts his coat back on, the soldiers camped outside start standing and removing their hats in respect. Reviving corpses is a very strange way to get people to like you in this version of the world.
Arabella goes to visit Lady P, but Stephen meets her at the door and tells her that no visitors are allowed. He clearly starts trying to tell her what’s going on, but as with Lady P, it’s gibberish. He apologises and slams the door.
Lady P’s been unstrapped from her bed, so she can watch through the window as Arabella walks away. Stephen comes in and Lady P says it’s best that Arabella not come. He slips back out of the room and goes to the Gentleman’s hideaway down the hall, which is now a portal to Lost Hope. Gentleman apologises for having neglected Stephen’s kingmaking, but he’s just been so distracted by Arabella’s rejection of him. Stephen tells him it’s really fine that he not be a king, since he’s been a sort of king in the kingdom that is the Pole home, and he’d really like to get back to that. Gentleman says it’s not an unusual thing for a slave to join his master’s side, but Stephen tells him there are no slaves in England. Pole’s dad was nice to Stephen and saw to it that he was educated and christened. Gentleman asks Stephen what name his mother gave him, but he has no idea. Gentleman shows him a vision of his own past: a woman giving birth on a slave ship. She dies quickly after the delivery, before she can name her son, and the baby is taken away by one of the sailors. Gentleman says the ship belonged to Pole’s family, and that Stephen was born a slave. His mother was taken from him, but Gentleman can make the slave a king.
Stephen bursts back out of the room, and finds Lady Pole missing from her own.
Arabella returns home to a wonderful surprise: Jonathan’s returned. She rushes into his arms and it’s really quite sweet. Even the maid gets all teary.
At breakfast, he can’t seem to stop staring at her. They have a cute moment, and then Norrell shows up to steal Jonathan away. Is nobody curious about the fact that apparently no letters went back and forth between them the whole time Jonathan was gone?
Childermass, going about his business, suddenly gets dizzy and shouts for someone to get him some water. Drawlight and Lascelles pass him by almost without a second look and Childermass gasps that someone’s doing magic there. He takes the glass of water and stares at it. It begins to glow.
Jonathan is just seeing Norrell out, and things seem quite chummy between them. Norrell invites him for breakfast the next day so he can tell him all about the magic he’s done and return his books. That’s gonna be awkward on both counts.
Childermass mutters that the person doing magic is in the square and he stumbles out of the house, still holding the glowing glass. As Norrell’s carriage passes, Childermass is briefly able to see through it and spots Lady Pole. He rushes towards her as she pulls a pistol on Norrell. Childermass gets between her and Norrell as she fires. The menservants on this show are seriously dedicated. He lies in a pool of blood on the ground as two footmen subdue her and Norrell looks like, ‘what have I done?’