Adapter Peter Harness has called this his favourite episode of the series, and you can see why: it has high drama and excitement, strong character work and plenty of moments that go to the heart of the story’s themes. From the muddy grim realities of war as seen in the Battle of Waterloo to the bleakness of a snowy funeral, there’s a darkness ever-present as Marc Warren’s Gentleman makes his move against Charlotte Riley’s Arabella, striking at the very centre of Jonathan Strange’s existence.
Bertie Carvel portrays Strange as a man being destroyed by forces without and within, desperate to do anything to save his wife, and eventually taking all his frustrations out on the man he sees as deliberately refusing to help. While Strange’s attacks on Norrell’s household are gripping to watch, it’s the scenes between him and Childermass that show the mettle of the man, and what drives him.
The parallels between Childermass and Stephen become even more marked in this episode, both serving masters to whom they are bound in ways which they cannot fully explain, while hating much of what those masters do and stand for. Enzo Cilenti and Ariyon Bakare both excel in the roles, sparking off Eddie Marsan and Marc Warren respectively. John Heffernan’s Lascelles, meanwhile, is rapidly becoming the most obnoxious character of them all!
Verdict: A wonderfully encompassing darkness spreads across the series. 9/10