Out of all the shows I’m currently watching / have watched recently, my favorite has been Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell.
It’s based on the novel by Susana Clarke, and even though I haven’t read the book yet, the show was so good it really reminded me of why I love English literature, and that can be summarized in two words: Ideological Consistency. Or in other words, world-building.
The story has a backbone so solid in its internal system of cohesive realities, truths, and facts that it really could be an alternate universe we are looking into. Any other fantasy stories remind you of this? Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter come to mind. And they’re both English.
The series tells the story of Mr. Norrell, England’s first magician after 300 years of a dry spell (pun intended) on magic. Mr. Norrell has acquired all his knowledge and skill through the study of thousands of books on magic, while the rest of aspiring magicians are left with nothing.
Then there is also Jonathan Strange, an alcoholic and idle man, who possesses a remarkable gift and talent for magic, much more intuitive, and maybe even powerful, than Mr. Norrell’s. There is also a prophecy relating the return of the Raven King, England’s most famous King who was kidnapped before he was christened as a boy and taken into fairyland, where he learned the customs of faerie court as a nameless slave, and acquired immense magical powers.
And this prophecy, as it happens, includes both Mr. Norrell and Jonathan Strange. They will set off the events that mark the return of the Raven King and of magic into all of England, and in doing so, they will also irrevocably and utterly change their lives, and their loved ones, forever.
The ending of the series is heartbreaking, in a way, but also… open ended. And this gives me hope for a second season. I understand Susana Clarke hasn’t written a second book, but maybe she could collaborate as an executive producer and writer for the second season of the TV show. This story can be continued: At the end, Jonathan Strange was forced into some cosmic void as a result of the Fairy’s curse, and Mr. Norrell chooses to sacrifice his life and join him, unwilling to abandon his friend.
But the Raven King came back, and changed the prophecy. Perhaps somehow, someway… Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, the two men who brought magic back into England, and especially Jonathan Strange, who became the most accomplished England scholar and magician of the age.
Or perhaps the story is over.
It was such a magical, enjoyable ride while it lasted. So much so, that I’m planning on reading the book, just so that I can once again plunge into that universe.