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S01.E06: The Black Tower 2015.06.21

Strange is determined to learn the secrets of fairy magic so he can restore Arabella. Believing madness is the key to accessing the fairy world, he seeks a way to drive himself insane. However, the Gentleman does not take kindly to the intrusion into his realm, and unleashes a terrible curse to stop him. Norrell's determination to maintain control of all magic in England costs him dearly when the government turns against him, and Vinculus offers Stephen a means to escape from the Gentleman's clutches.

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Ugh, watching Jonathan drink that creepy dead mouse crazy drink grossed me out so much, but props to him for finding a way to make himself temporarily crazy so that he could finally see the Gentleman. Did Flora and her father never notice that the crazy aunt just disappeared?

 

I wouldn't have trusted Drawlight to act as a go between, but I guess Jonathan didn't have a lot of options at that point. I'm glad that Flora stayed a platonic friend. I kept thinking that she was going to fall in love with Jonathan. Hilarious that her big mistake was getting involved with Lord Byron.

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Someone posted Vinculus' prophesy somewhere. Can anyone remember where? I wanted to check what's come true to date. There was something about one of the magicians burying a loved one, I think.

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The prophecy text is in the discussion thread for Episode 2 if you want to read it in full.

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Oh, Jonathan. At least, he has finally figured out the truth about Norrell. Finally, Lady Pole and Arabella will be saved. I am glad he remained faithful to Arabella and that Flora was merely passing through.

 

Poor Steven, but I am sure that the mad man with the Raven King's book will rise again in some way. 

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The prophecy text is in the discussion thread for Episode 2 if you want to read it in full.

Thanks! I'll try there.

Jonathan went badass! Looks like he's building a magical army of his own. I wonder if Flora is going to be part of it. A female magician may be wishful thinking, though. Loved the gentleman's voice inflection when he asked who Vinculus was. There were lots of humorous moments in the episode, I think to lighten some of the tension and darkness. Drawlight gets out of jail and ends up in a black magic tornado-Karma. Poor Vinculus, a hard life. Hopefully we will see him again somehow.

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The acting in this is just top notch, I love watching all the actors work!

Wonder if this will be up for any if the awards shows ? Previously I was hoping Wolf Hall would win a lot of acting awards, but Bertie cavell, he's a force of nature!

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It seems fairly obvious how Steven is going to fulfill his prophecy, doesn't it? I can't believe he hasn't figured it out.

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Ah, Flora. Didn't anyone ever tell you Byron was "mad, bad, and dangerous to know?" There's even a t-shirt!

 

Jonathan going to Miss Havisham's crazier sister for advice on going insane is maybe my favorite thing that's happened so far.

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Wonder if this will be up for any if the awards shows ? 

A Hugo nomination is pretty likely.

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Miss Havisham's crazier sister

 

Aww, but she was such a cute kitty! You know, finally.

 

Points to Marc Warren for playing the Fairy's pique at being successfully summoned by Strange. The only thing lacking was him looking impatiently at his wristwatch. Which he doesn't have. Which makes sense.

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I wouldn't have trusted Drawlight to act as a go between, but I guess Jonathan didn't have a lot of options at that point.

I don't think he trusted Drawlight, not really. I think he trusted his own threats against Drawlight would be sufficient to keep Drawlight in line out of fear. Or at least, as you say, his best option given the circumstances and the threats probably sufficient.
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Didn't anyone ever tell you Byron was "mad, bad, and dangerous to know?" There's even a t-shirt!

 

 

Said, if I remember correctly by Lady Caroline Lamb...who was apparently projecting. If there was ever anyone "mad, bad and dangerous to know," it was her. 

 

My opinion of course. 

I think Strange basically killed the old woman. I know a lot of people have no use for old women, but still, kind of off putting for me. 

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I think Strange basically killed the old woman. I know a lot of people have no use for old women, but still, kind of off putting for me.

I don't think that's what happened. He promised to give her what her heart desired or something. I think he did an open-ended spell and when she turned into a cat, it's implied that happened because what she really wanted was to be a cat. (hence the living surrounded by cats and eating mice/rats). So when he told her he hoped she'd enjoy her new existence or whatever, he really meant it. I thought he had a kinda "hunh, so that's what she wanted, okedoke", mild suprise look on his face after she turned into the cat. The deal he struck with her was sort of the same deal with he was trying to strike with the Gentleman. He wasn't just stealing her madness and getting rid of her. She got what she wanted, I'm pretty sure. Edited by theatremouse.
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I agree that Jonathan did not kill the old woman. However, I am not convinced that giving an insane person their heart's desire is the way to go. Too bad he could not cure her madness.

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I thought it was kind of touching that she got what she actually wanted.  Who are we to decide her madness should be cured in a normal way?  Although I did wonder how all the cats had enough food.  I hope there were enough mice in that crazy place. 

 

And how did Flora and her father not wonder what happened to the old lady?

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The cat lives=the woman dies. The woman's gone. And I daresay no on could distinguish another tabby among all those cats. To me, she's dead.

 

If the woman's dementia included straightforwardly suicidal thoughts and the woman had simply died, would people still say Strange just gave her her heart's desire? I knew a person once who repeatedly denied suicidal thoughts, yet had four (yes four) single vehicle accidents, a misfire in the house with a rifle and a random impulse to wade across the river. There is a serious moral case to be made for not giving mentally disturbed people what they want.

Edited by sjohnson.
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Said, if I remember correctly by Lady Caroline Lamb...who was apparently projecting. If there was ever anyone "mad, bad and dangerous to know," it was her. 

 

I think they were pretty well matched on the emotionally unstable, selfish jerk front. Either way, Flora seems pretty awesome and definitely too good for Byron.

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The cat lives=the woman dies. The woman's gone. And I daresay no on could distinguish another tabby among all those cats. To me, she's dead.

 

If the woman's dementia included straightforwardly suicidal thoughts and the woman had simply died, would people still say Strange just gave her her heart's desire? I knew a person once who repeatedly denied suicidal thoughts, yet had four (yes four) single vehicle accidents, a misfire in the house with a rifle and a random impulse to wade across the river. There is a serious moral case to be made for not giving mentally disturbed people what they want.

It's been years since I read the book, but I doubt anybody really cared about the old woman.  Had she married some down-at-the-heels Venetian nobleman, to the dismay of her respectable English family?  Finally, an abandoned widow in the moldering palace in Venice, a friend of her family took a few moments to look in on her.  Were her relatives notified so they could rescue her & take her into their care?  Or was she to continue slowly dying, in a stench of cat piss? 

 

She was better off as a cat.  I don't think the experiences of your acquaintance really compare. 

Edited by not Bridget.
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There is a serious moral case to be made for not giving mentally disturbed people what they want.

 

Depends, imo, utterly on context. Would we consign a person to a lifetime of agony because we think dying is somehow worse? Euthanasia is seen the province of only the physically terminally ill, mostly. Isn't mental illness's cruelty sometimes as debilitating? But I don't want to go so far afield; this show is a fantasy, not a treatise. I'm happy to let a fictional character get to be a cat.

 

In fact, a reason this show is such an unexpected delight for me is its complete originality. Its use of tropes is handled with a light and humorous touch. It's certainly a plotline I've not seen anywhere else, ever. A unique universe within historical events and personages -- no small feat. 

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I liked how Vinculus (the human book) said how meaning was written on his skin like it is with Stephen and Stephen goes on to describe how the color of his skin defines his role in English society. The transition from magical prophecy and fate to actual racial prejudice was well done.

 

Bertie Carvel sells Strange's desperation and grief really well. Someone give him an award! When Strange found out that the Fairy can't (or won't) bring Arabella back, his plea to see her again was oh so sad. I really felt for him. I was so glad he found his way to Lost Hope and discovered the truth so quickly. Toward the end, Strange-- in his shadowy black tower, with his disheveled hair, and his flock of ravens-- seems like a strong candidate for Raven King.

 

Actually I'm a bit jealous of the batty cat lady. Sometimes I wish I can be a cat and I'm perfectly sane. More specifically, if I could choose between being a lonely, aging, ailing woman trapped in a decaying apartment or being an active, fuzzy cat that can run around Venice chasing rats and pigeons, I'd choose cat. I mean, I'd have whiskers! and a tail! And now I have to go hug a certain striped kitty staring at me...

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It's been years since I read the book, but I doubt anybody really cared about the old woman.  Had she married some down-at-the-heels Venetian nobleman, to the dismay of her respectable English family?  Finally, an abandoned widow in the moldering palace in Venice, a friend of her family took a few moments to look in on her.  Were her relatives notified so they could rescue her & take her into their care?  Or was she to continue slowly dying, in a stench of cat piss? 

 

She was better off as a cat.  I don't think the experiences of your acquaintance really compare.

I don't want to break any rules here - is all book discussion forbidden here? I'll post a response in the book thread, but yes basically you're right.

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In most cases, anything about the books should be spoiler tagged (some shows like Game of Thrones and Outlander have stricter policies).

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.....Bertie Carvel sells Strange's desperation and grief really well. Someone give him an award! When Strange found out that the Fairy can't (or won't) bring Arabella back, his plea to see her again was oh so sad. I really felt for him. I was so glad he found his way to Lost Hope and discovered the truth so quickly. Toward the end, Strange-- in his shadowy black tower, with his disheveled hair, and his flock of ravens-- seems like a strong candidate for Raven King.

 

Actually I'm a bit jealous of the batty cat lady. Sometimes I wish I can be a cat and I'm perfectly sane. More specifically, if I could choose between being a lonely, aging, ailing woman trapped in a decaying apartment or being an active, fuzzy cat that can run around Venice chasing rats and pigeons, I'd choose cat. I mean, I'd have whiskers! and a tail! And now I have to go hug a certain striped kitty staring at me...

 

Concerning the Fairy's failure/refusal to return Arabella: I think that Strange was asking the wrong question.  He requested his wife be brought back from the dead--but she wasn't dead.  Of course, it seemed pretty obvious that she had died; Fake Arabella acted delirious & then she croaked.  (Those Fake People probably have limited lifespans, anyway; if she'd lived, Strange's investigation into her weird condition might have revealed the truth.)  From other tales about dealing with the Good Folk, one learns to be very specific.  When you've been granted a wish, you need to select your words with care or unforeseen results will occur. But clues led Jonathan to the truth...

 

(And, yes. The abandoned, pathetic old lady was better off as a cat.) 

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Concerning the Fairy's failure/refusal to return Arabella: I think that Strange was asking the wrong question.  He requested his wife be brought back from the dead--but she wasn't dead.

And he asked for his wife, not Arabella specifically - and of course he'd been tricked into forsaking the real Arabella and declaring the fake one to be his only true wife. So by the fairy's twisted logic he wasn't even lying.

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He asked that his wife be brought back from the dead, which the faerie said could not be done... because she wasn't dead.

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I was really surprised that Vinculus died.  I did not think the Gent could kill him.  And poor Stephen.  All the lost dreams.

 

I really love this series, it is way too short.  I want more. Could they go back and add some new stuff and continue this?  When I watch this I find I have to pay very close attention to it and I find myself rewinding a lot as well.  It is so interesting and detailed.

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Poor Strange. His heartbreak at accepting the "truth" was, well, heartbreaking. I'm not sure if the Raven King will be good or bad, but either way I want him to show up NOW and dole out some punishment to The Gentleman and Norrell, because they've both hurt Strange so badly.

 

Not nearly enough Childermass, but he still managed to get more done than Norrell, per usual. If Strange is right and England is full of magicians, then there's our spinoff (with female magicians included this time!) and I want Childermass in the lead.

 

I'm not sure what to think of our human book. Part of me still expects him to be resurrected, because the magic that tattooed his skin is part of him; however, maybe he's no longer needed now that the prophecy is unfolding, so his protection has expired?

 

Speaking of The Gentleman, I don't care for him or Drawlight, but they had two of the best lines solely because of the actors' delivery:

Drawlight: "Oh, good."

Gentleman: "Who is that?"

 

This show is just. so. delightful. And it keeps getting better. I'm so, so glad that I've managed to not read the book yet; it's difficult for me to keep my impatience in check, but it has been totally worth it for the suspense of being unspoiled each week. Not sure how they're going to cram everything into one more episode, but next week is the wrap-up, correct? This is a miniseries and not an ongoing show?

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I so hope BBC makes some sort of deal with the author for more seasons. This storyline could go on for years! I want more!

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From Wikipedia, so take it for what it's worth:

In 2004, Clarke announced that she was working on a book that begins a few years after Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell ends. It is intended to centre on characters such as Childermass and Vinculus who, as Clarke says, are "a bit lower down the social scale"

 

As it took Clarke 10 years to write Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, she may be closing in on finishing this.  One can hope!

Edited by cardigirl.
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I liked how Vinculus (the human book) said how meaning was written on his skin like it is with Stephen and Stephen goes on to describe how the color of his skin defines his role in English society. The transition from magical prophecy and fate to actual racial prejudice was well done.

 

Bertie Carvel sells Strange's desperation and grief really well. Someone give him an award! When Strange found out that the Fairy can't (or won't) bring Arabella back, his plea to see her again was oh so sad. I really felt for him. I was so glad he found his way to Lost Hope and discovered the truth so quickly. Toward the end, Strange-- in his shadowy black tower, with his disheveled hair, and his flock of ravens-- seems like a strong candidate for Raven King.

 

Actually I'm a bit jealous of the batty cat lady. Sometimes I wish I can be a cat and I'm perfectly sane. More specifically, if I could choose between being a lonely, aging, ailing woman trapped in a decaying apartment or being an active, fuzzy cat that can run around Venice chasing rats and pigeons, I'd choose cat. I mean, I'd have whiskers! and a tail! And now I have to go hug a certain striped kitty staring at me...

 

Most definitely! What's more she's clearly popular with those cats. One of them got on her lap. she'd have friends! Society!

 

This episode  was GREAT!

You rock Jonathan. Go to war!

his tears and despair were so affecting.

 

I loathe the gentleman.

 

I read the book but apparently have forgotten almost all of it.

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I've finished the series (never read the book) but wanted to chime in here that I'm glad that I've watched this series:  excellent work! 

 

And, count me in as a personal fan of Childermass.  He may not be "high society" but the man gets things done, which is a big plus!  Even Drawlight's return to the story by being sprung from debtors' prison was welcome.  But, I'm saddened at how he exited the story.  Even a weasely courtier deserves some dignity.

 

But, as for the spinoff talk, Ms. Clarke seems to be savoring the moments to write but I'm not rushing her.  If she dawdles and misses her window of opportunity, it is all on her.  I'll be patient.

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This was a really good episode.  I didn't really care for Johnathan at first, and I've been slowly changing my opinion, and at this episode find myself completely invested in his story.

The exchanges between Johnathan and the Gentleman were short but were my favorites.  Glancing over the past forums entries I see opinion on the Gentleman is split, but this falls in line with the duplicity of magical beings in the more gothic tradition.  His menace, disdain, and disbelief play perfectly to me. 

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