A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
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.
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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?
Themes & Topics
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