Those who have complained that this adaptation of Susanna Clarke’s book has been too slow-paced or that not enough has happened in each episode will have no cause for complaint about this finale, which is one of the best bits of TV I’ve seen this year. All the various different plotlines are drawn together as alliances are made and broken, and a finely constructed plan doesn’t take into account the vagaries of human greed and jealousy. The effects house are in overdrive for this episode and you’ll need to watch it at least twice to pick up everything that they provide.
As in the novel, this isn’t a question of sorting out a “happy ever after” – all of the characters are permanently affected by their experiences, with Strange and Norrell bound together for a long time to come, Stephen coming into his power in a way that the Gentleman really doesn’t expect (or want), Sir Walter and Lady Pole as apart at the end of the episode, albeit in a different way, as they were at the start, and Childermass visiting the Magicians in York for a very different purpose.
The acting is strong across the board: thereare some terrific performances from Samuel West and Alice Englert in their scenes, and it’s great to see Eddie Marsan and Bertie Carvel together – one of the drawbacks of the story is that the pair spend much of the time apart. I’ve commented on others’ acting in previous reviews, and everything said that applies to this finale: Charlotte Riley, Marc Warren, Enzo Cilenti and Ariyon Bakare ensure that the drama of the story comes to the fore while John Heffernan’s Lascelles has been a study in a character taking on increasing importance as a story unfolds and the actor stepping up accordingly.
Adapter and director Peter Harness and Toby Haynes have created a very credible alternate history, doing justice to Clarke’s novel while still streamlining it to fit the time available. It’s definitely been everything that I had been hoping for.
Verdict: A suitably epic and fitting finale. 10/10
Our interview with Marc Warren will be live tomorrow (Monday 29th)