This is set in the Regency period, but in an alternate world where magic is real. Unfortunately there has not been a practical English magician in three hundred years. Nobody mentions the Scots, Welsh or Irish but it is that kind of story. Anyway, a group of academics in Yorkshire discover Mr Norrell (Eddie Marsan - Hancock ), a man who can actually perform magic.
Norrell is persuaded to visit London and offer his magical services in the war against Napoleon. Sir Walter Pole (Samuel West - Sword of Xanten ) turns down Norrell's offer. However, when Sir Walter's bride Lady Pole ( Alice Englert ) falls deathly ill only her only hope is Norrell's magic.
Elsewhere, Jonathan Strange lives the life of a country gentleman. In a subplot reminiscent of the work of Jane Austen, he spends his time courting his beloved Arabella ( Charlotte Riley ) with limited success.
An old tramp named Vinculus (Paul Kaye - Humans ) manipulates Norrell and Strange, the two men he prophesises will return English magic. The Gentleman (Marc Warren - Hogfather ) awaits to be summoned.
Mr Norrell (Eddie Marsan - Hancock ) helps the war effort, by using illusions to confuse the French defenders of a coastal fortress. However, his relationship with Sir Walter Pole (Samuel West - Sword of Xanten ) is endangered by the unusual antics of Lady Pole ( Alice Englert ).
The Yorkshire academics who discovered Norrell now discover Jonathan Strange. They persuade Strange to visits Norrell, to become the magician's apprentice. However, the two magicians are of a very different temperament. Norrell is bookish and wants to keep magic in a library, while Strange wants to use it as a tool on the battlefield. Ironically, Norrell is as book-bound as the yorkshire academics he mocked. Strange’s wife Arabella ( Charlotte Riley ) is suspicious of her husband's associate.
The Gentleman (Marc Warren - Hogfather ) can now come and go as he pleases. He takes advantage of the opportunity to ensnare Poole's servant, an Afro-Caribbean man named Stephen Black (Ariyon Bakare).
Jonathan Strange goes to Lisbon to help Wellington’s forces resist Napoleon in Portugal. His powers are relatively limited, not exactly Dungeons and Dragons Fireball-throwing spell-caster stuff, but he does put his magic to good use. He can make a road for the army to march on, or a mist to hide forces from enemy artillery. He can even raise the dead in order to get information from them. But his work is dependant on his books, so if his books are lost then so are his powers.
Back in London, Strange’s wife Arabella ( Charlotte Riley ) becomes companion to Lady Pole ( Alice Englert ), who has been acting strangely ever since Mr Norrell (Eddie Marsan - Hancock ) raised her from the dead. Norrell has written her off as mad, as has her husband (Simon West - Sword of Xanten ).
The Yorkshire academics attempt to set up a school for magicians. After all, now Norrell and Strange have brought back English Magic it makes sense that someone should train new magicians. However, Norrell will not tolerate competition.
Strange returns to London, and makes a couple of discoveries. Firstly, a con-man is posing as him and charging middle-class people for the promise of magical services. Secondly, there is another world - a magical faerie realm formerly ruled by the long-gone Raven King.
Lady Pole ( Alice Englert ) is sequestered. Stephen the servant (Ariyon Bakare) takes her to an asylum run by the Yorkshire academics. Yes, a lot of this episode takes place on location in the Yorkshire Moors, or the faerie-land equivalent.
Jonathan Strange helps Wellington win at Waterloo. This involves defeating a French axeman who is the equivalent of the Headless Horseman in Sleepy Hollow (without the mask). Previously, Strange told Wellington that a Magician might use magic to kill a man, but a Gentleman never would.
Back in England, the Fairy King (Marc Warren - Hogfather ) continues in his efforts to steal Strange's wife. He exchanges her for a simulacrum.
Soon Strange thinks his wife is dead, and he will do anything to revive her. However, Norrell is enraged at him over the book he plans to publish. The Fairy King refuses to answer his summons. Strange begins to spiral out of control.
The Gentleman (Marc Warren – Hogfather ) reveals his true nature, and his true intentions.