Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell

TV review by
Emily Ashby, Common Sense Media
Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell TV Poster Image
Brooding, book-inspired drama is a captivating watch.

Parents say

age 17+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

age 15+
Based on 2 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

Norrell struggles with the line between right and wrong as it applies to his use of magic and the manipulation of natural forces. Greed and power are strong forces that influence behavior, and even well-intentioned actions often have negative consequences. The series seems to ask whether having the power to alter natural forces entitles one to do so, even when others are affected in a negative way.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Norrell and Jonathan approach their practical magic in different ways and with different motivations. Many impulses drive their behavior, from an infatuation with the novelty of magic to a desire to do good. Even in the latter case, though, they are led to questionable decisions along the way, which sometimes gives them pause. 


The show sets a dark mood that makes small surprises even more jarring. Inanimate objects come to life, a corpse is reanimated; other instances of magic. Dead bodies shown. Some blood.


A nude woman is shown giving birth on a slave ship during a flashback; her breasts are visible.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Drinking is prominent at social gatherings, and Jonathan's propensity to drink alcohol is mentioned in passing.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell is a fantasy drama miniseries based on Susanna Clarke's novel of the same name. There are many forces at play: power, greed, and manipulation, but also love and the desire to be accepted within an established society. As such it's not a relaxing watch, but attentive viewers are rewarded with riveting plot twists and complex characters who always deliver intriguing performances. Because the story is so involved and the mood so foreboding, the show is best for teens and adults who can make some sense of the weighty morality issues the characters face, as well as implications of dark magic and its consequences.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bywindbullet7 August 12, 2015

Great but has some nudity

If we are talking about families with kids, this show is great until episode 3.
A good way into the episode, almost at the end, there is a scene where a slave w... Continue reading
Adult Written byJ12345 June 18, 2015

Common Sense Media is lacking

After finding the review on common sense, I decided to give this show a shot. The show is listed as having no sexual content or nudity, great! 3rd episode in th... Continue reading
Teen, 17 years old Written byTheodora13 August 20, 2017

Just a correction to the Common Sense review...

The Common Sense review states that this show is set in Victorian times... This is absolutely wrong, obviously, as it is set during the Napoleonic Wars in the e... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byMPeixes October 21, 2015

Brooding, Dark, and Mesmerizing

I was introduced to this television show through an article written by Neil Gaiman. I began in with low expectations- many novels are given short shrift in film... Continue reading

What's the story?

Set in England at the turn of the 19th century, JONATHAN STRANGE & MR. NORRELL is the story of the the world's first two magicians in more than 300 years: the dour, reclusive Mr. Norrell (Eddie Marsan) and the fresh-faced, eager apprentice Jonathan Strange (Bertie Carval). An ancient prophecy foretold this mismatched pairing as heralding the long-awaited reemergence of magic in the world, but it's no easy road for either one. As Strange learns the craft under Norrell's tutelage, the two personalities clash, and in a hasty attempt to have his talents acknowledged, Norrell strikes a deal with a cunning spirit who unleashes widespread mayhem. 

Is it any good?

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell is a dark and gloomy -- but ultimately riveting -- fantasy drama that takes place in a reimagining of the Napoleonic wars era. Despite their drastic differences of personality, both leading men are compelling -- Jonathan for his recklessness and charisma, Norrell for his manic quest for acceptance by way of ultimate power. The resulting struggle has dire repercussions for both men and consequences as far-reaching as the wars that are raging.

But magic is only half the story. Much attention also is given to the concept of politics in this Victorian period drama, mostly as it's interpreted by the London outsider Norrell's attempts to gain acceptance for himself and his craft among the stringent ruling parties. The length to which he goes to prove himself and his intentions, and the fallout as Jonathan hones his skills with careless abandon, set the stage for a fascinating fantasy that fans of this genre will love. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the time and place in which this series is set. Which world events were shaping people's lives? Given your knowledge of the time, how well does this show set the stage for the characters' experiences? 

  • Why is the concept of magic such a popular one in books and films and on TV shows? Is it presented as a positive force in this case? If such a skill existed, could anyone be trusted with any one person or group? 

  • Do you enjoy period dramas like this one? Do they inspire you to learn more about the time and place in which they're set? If you've read the book on which this film is based, did you like this interpretation of it? 

TV details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love fantasy

Themes & Topics

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