Please welcome back author and guest reviewer Theresa Braun! Sounds like she has found another super addictive Netflix show for us to binge.
Netflix Presents: More Bingeworthy Programming!
I made a huge mistake when tuning in to BBC’s Jonathon Strange and Mr. Norell on Netflix. The tragedy is this: there are only seven episodes! After finishing season one, I clicked all over the site and looked on the internet to find out if there was another season. Nope. I just might have to watch it all over again from the beginning. Or, read the book, which is reportedly amazing.
The concept of the program is as follows. Episode one opens with a meeting of magicians in 19th century England. One of them dares to ask why they read and discuss the craft, but no one ever casts spells. One of the stuffy guys laughs at the mere idea of practical magic. It just isn’t done. Meanwhile, a wealthy man named Mr. Norell has an extensive library on the subject of sorcery. And, he is the only one who can manipulate reality with his supernatural skills, something he proves one dark night. A crazy vagrant tells another unsuspecting character named Jonathan Strange that he will one day be a magician who will rival Norell. The two magicians are supposedly destined to fail at their craft, which will bring an end to witchcraft in England. On a lark, Jonathan tries a spell, expecting to heed zero results. When he surprisingly succeeds, he begins his journey as a modern Merlin and as Norell’s competition.
Of course, things get more complicated as Norell seeks to become the only respected magician in the land. In order to do this, he summons a fairy from another realm. But this favor has ghastly consequences for several characters, and is a dark secret Norell seeks to bury. Two women become trapped in the world beyond the mirrors where they forget their pasts and waltz endlessly with a freakish cast of dancers. One of these women is Norell’s wife, who he risks everything to rescue. He descends into a sort of metaphorical hell, almost losing his soul in the process. I’m purposely glossing over the details and, of course, will not destroy the finale for you. The final plot twist is so mind-blowing that it will leave you stunned and wanting more.
The themes are wonderful. Can we change our fates? What is actually real? How would it feel to be stuck in a dream? These are only a few of the questions you might ask yourself while viewing the program. You can go even deeper in your analysis, especially when you ponder the dangers of power and how it corrupts and destroys. There will be a new fairy king, but who will it be and how will it come about? In fact, one of the most satisfying twists is what happens to the black butler in the last episodes. I love this message of how we can free ourselves through our choices. We have control over our destinies, if we take it.
So what else makes the show so outstanding? Every second on the screen had me lost in the fictional world where magic is possible. From a writer’s standpoint, the unfolding of the plot is superbly crafted. We fall in love with the complex characters. Also, not only is there painstaking care given to the sets, the period costumes, and special effects, but the acting is phenomenal. I had to wipe a tear during the finale.
If you like gothic literature or dark shows, you absolutely need to watch. Once you finish this gift from heaven, you will join me in pining for a new season.
One last note: WHEN (I’m being optimist here) there is new installment, I hope to see some of the women get their magical hands dirty. I’m a sucker for a little girl power, even if it isn’t true to the social expectations of the period.
Wow! This show sounds fabulous! Fingers crossed, season 2 is in the works soon!
Find the book by Susanna Clarke here!