January 24, 2022

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Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell “The Black Tower”

Episode Six.

The title of this episode comes from Childermas’ hand-produced tarot cards.  He keeps finding ravens on them.  He never added ravens.

Ravens are kinda important in this setting.  Raven-King and all that stuff.

Mr. Norrell takes moment in this episode to remind us he isn’t the villain.  He gets a copy of Strange’s book, a history of English magic dedicated to Arabella, the first in three volumes, and the book makes Norrell shed some tears.  He’s not a heartless man.  Then he makes all the other copies in the country cease to exist.  At the end of the episode, he pretty much admits to summoning the Gentleman with the Thistle-Down Hair that is causing all the problems for everybody, even a few problems nobody knows about yet. His reasoning for trying to limit Jonathan Strange’s book seems to be in order to prevent people from making the same mistakes he did.

But aside from sending a disgraced former associate to spy on Jonathan, mostly due to Norrell being deathly afraid of Mr. Strange, he doesn’t seem to do much this episode.

Where is Strange?  He’s in Venice.  He’s trying to summon a fairy.  He knows fairies are very powerful.  The problem is, he can’t see a fairy.  I mean that rather literally.  The Gentleman will show up, but Strange can’t see him standing right in front of him.  Then Strange realizes crazy people like George III can see fairies.  He needs to go a little insane.

Step one:  try some potions until he goes just nuts enough to see a fairy.  That doesn’t work.

Step two:  find a local crazy person and trade.  Fortunately, he meets an English doctor, Dr. Greysteel.  Greysteel and his daughter Flora are in Venice where they, among other things, see to an old lady with a ton of cats who seemed she’d rather be a cat.  Strange can oblige her and get a little madness for himself.  And then he can see the Gentleman, a fact that seems to surprise both parties.  So, Jonathan proposes a partnership, not knowing this fellow took his wife, and off the Gentleman goes.

Does the Gentleman take well to this?  No.  He’s mad.  He’s got a plan.  He tells poor Stephen as much:  magicians always ask for food (if they are poor) or power (if they are rich), so he’ll find a way to give Strange exactly what the magician wants in a way that will kill him.

Stephen, meanwhile, escorts the mad homeless magician Vinculus to an old tree for a meeting.  Vinculus has a copy of the Raven King’s book.  He was born with it etched upon his skin.  He’s told both Norrell and Strange their fortunes, and he knows more for himself, Stephen, and the Gentleman.  The Gentleman will hang the poor beggar from a tree for that.  Vinculus looks dead, but he did say he was hard to kill.

As for Strange’s bargain, he asks the Gentleman for the one thing the Gentleman wasn’t expecting:  he wants his wife back from the dead.  See, the fairy is rather literal in Strange’s requests.  He can’t bring Arabella back from the dead because she, well, isn’t dead.  But Strange doesn’t know that, and the Gentleman doesn’t tell him that.  The Gentleman makes some excuses, during which Strange figures out that this is the same fairy Norrell summoned to bring Lady Pole back to life.  So, Strange asks for whatever the fairy took from Lady Pole.  The Gentleman doesn’t want to give that up, but he doesn’t really have a choice.  He disappears, and Jonathan is left with a woman’s pinky finger in a box.  That he uses to go to Lost Hope and sees the eternal dance party.  Stephen and Lady Pole both recognize him.  Stephen warns Strange away because the Gentleman wants him dead or worse.  Lady Pole asks for help.  Arabella?  She’s enchanted.  She doesn’t recognize her husband.  And then the Gentleman shows up.

What does the Gentleman with the Thistle-Down Hair do?  Well, he banishes Strange from Lost Hope, but uses up most of his strength to do it.  Jonathan’s not dead.  But he’s been cursed to live in darkness.  A tower of it will surround him wherever he goes.

And though Strange is a little…unhinged at the moment, he has a plan.  He’s going to summon the Raven King for help.  He gives Norrell’s agents three messages.  The box with the finger is for Childermas.  Strange says Childermas will know what to do.  There’s a letter for Lady Pole.  And there’s a message for Norrell.

“I am coming back.”

And in Norrell’s London home, as he hastily is packing his books to get the hell out of Dodge, a flock of ravens crack through a mirror from the other side and flood the library.

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