Sunday, June 21, 2015

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell - Episode 6 Review - The Black Tower

My review of last week's episode: Arabella

"Jonathan Strange, you drive me crazy"
~Jonathan Strange

Episode six opens with both Norrell and Strange mourning losses. Norrell's regret is rather less flamboyant. Though his refusal to help Strange save Arabella created yet another bone of contention between them (a collection which amounted to two or three whole skeletons already), he honestly does miss his erstwhile pupil. He sits quietly in his dark green rooms and sadly contemplates Jonathan Strange's new book.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell - Episode 5 Review - Arabella

My review of last week's episode: All the Mirrors of the World

This episode started off with a bang as Jonathan Strange returns to the battlefield, finally breaking his own rule about killing by magic - and thereby losing a piece of his soul (merely a metaphor, Harry Potter fans). But while the Napoleonic wars are over, another battle is brewing on the home front. In the North a Raven King-supporting brand of Luddites (Johannites, they call themselves) are raising Cain, which gives credence to Mr. Norrell's request to censor Strange's upcoming Magic in 5 Easy Steps for People Of Whom Norrell Disapproves.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Matthew Perryman Jones - Land of the Living Review

[The reason I'm reviewing this is because Matthew Perryman Jones is giving away, not only this CD, but every song he's ever recorded, even the live ones. For FREE. You really must get them. They are mahvelous.]

I was first introduced to Matthew Perryman Jones's music in the summer of 2012, when he gave away his CD Land of the Living on Noisetrade. I wasn't overwhelmed - it was a slow-burn kind of album, and snuck up on me all through the long drowsy summer months. It took about two years for me to understand it was the best album I'd ever heard.

I'm glad I stuck with it, because while Land of the Living doesn't easily surrender its secrets - it does have them, and they are worth pursuing. The album is book-ended by songs which allude to the crossing of the Jordan and fall of the walls of Jericho. Stones From the Riverbed is vaguely a story of baptism, one must relinquish sin and darkness and "Fall into that mystery / or it will pull you under / It's okay to say goodbye."

Monday, June 8, 2015

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell - Episode 4 Review - All the Mirrors of the World

My review of last week's episode: The Education of a Magician

What do you do if you accidentally magic away the king of England? Happily for Jonathan Strange, the answer is not to panic. The first item on his agenda after returning from fortune and glory in France is to visit mad George III. He is accompanied by a reluctant Mr. Norrell, who, after last week's violent finale, is more concerned than ever to preserve magic's reputation as "respectable."

Monday, June 1, 2015

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell - Episode 3 Review - The Education of a Magician

 My review of last week's episode: How Is Lady Pole?

This show remains ridiculously entertaining. It's the most beautiful fantasy world I've seen in ages, bar Miyazaki. The effects are staggering, and the story intelligently told. True: this episode shows a few more missteps than the previous two, but the final scene still leaves me hungry for more.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell - Episode 2 Review - How Is Lady Pole?

My review of last week's episode: The Friends of English Magic 

One of the best things about magic in the world of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell is that it doesn't fix things as if...well, as if by magic. It is a tool like any other, and usually less helpful than most. The mechanics are kept vague for most of the story (as I recall from the book: when there are any specifics, they're wrapped in a semi-scholarly debate about something which sounds a little like HTML code.) Magic doesn't exist in a vacuum. It neither creates nor destroys matter, but merely rearranges it, in the process staying true to Newton's third law: creating an equal and opposite reaction.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Inspector George Gently - Series 7 - Son of a Gun

My review of last week's episode: Gently Among Friends

Perhaps the greatest irony of Inspector George Gently is that its tragedy always stems from its basic conservatism. A thing cannot be tragic unless it is considered an anomaly. To quote C.S. Lewis: "A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line." This show has always remembered what a straight line looked like. Gently Upside Down, an episode back in series 4, ends with a young woman, Hazel, berating a failed authority figure: she makes it clear that he was meant "to take care of us, not use us." That should be the natural state of the world.

This series has spanned the whole decade of the 1960s, and Hazel was hardly the only iconoclast. But these children railing against their fathers are never righteous heroes. They're always broken, and even if they wish to transcend "the system," they still display a tangible hunger for the world before it was fallen. They hate their fathers, but want to impress them. They are not men but stunted children desiring attention.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell - Episode 1 Review - The Friends of English Magic

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
It's 1806, and magic has been dead in England for hundreds of years. So say the estimable Learned Society of York Magicians, but this declaration is turned on its head by the arrival of a powerful, fearsome practical magician, Mr. Norrell (Eddie Marsan). He offers them a deal: if he can make good on his claims to do real magic, then they must relinquish any right to study magic themselves. The ultimatum is a massive piece of foreshadowing. Norrell's success does not allow for sharing. He's not interested in democracy (of course not, he isn't one of those blasted French Republicans, is he?)