I’m a costume drama junkie. There are no “ands,” “ifs” or “buts” about it. This means that even if I don’t take quickly to one of the masterpieces the folks across the pond put out, chances are, I’ll be back for any subsequent series. Such was the case with this mix of American and British characters.
It’s been five years since his family has lived with him and Mr. Selfridge (Jeremy Piven) is living a quiet life that is missing his wife, Rose (Frances O’Connor) and his children. To save face and put on a good front for her husband's fifth store anniversary, Rose returns to her husband’s arm and his still-thriving store for the celebration, only to realize that Harry wishes to make amends with his wife, something Rose is unwilling to contemplate. Instead she relies on her new friend, Dalphine Day (Polly Walker) whose adventures inspire Rose to be bold – contrary to what her aristocracy friend, Lady Mae (Katherine Kelly) advises. Then there is their son, Gordon Selfridge (Greg Austin) who is excited to be home from school and beginning to learn the store business, only what the teen doesn’t know is that his father has very different duties in mind for him.
Coinciding with the return of the Selfridge family is Agnes Towler (Aisling Loftus), the shop girl Harry sent to Paris to train in window dressing. She has returned home to England with maturity, a new promotion, and with more vision than ever, but is challenged by the new head of ladies wear, Mr. Thackeray (Cal Macaninch) and even, her former friends aren’t supportive – particularly Victor (Trystan Gravelle). Meanwhile Harry’s head of personal, Mr. Grove (Tom Goodman-Hill) is struggling to do his job and Miss Mardle (Amanda Abbington) has recently come into wealth, which changes her entire outlook on life. The joy of the staff at Selfridge’s is all about to be shattered with the threat of a war looms… and young men flock to enlist.
If anyone ever doubted this show could get any better, we were wrong. Golly, I loved what the writer’s and the entire production did in this second series. It seems safe to say that many of us had a so-so reaction to this following its first season. We didn’t respect many of its leading characters choices and struggled liking the characters as a result. Season two definitely improves on that, providing both examples of maturity in these personalities, which ups our respect and I have to say, whether some of them are cliché or not (because we’ve seen similar plots in Downton Abbey or Upstairs, Downstairs), I don’t think there was one storyline I didn’t like – everything from the mystery shrouding some of the issues brought about by the war as well as the fascinating character twists.
Between all the familiar faces (and for those of you who are wondering or get all swoon-y over Heri, never fear, he plays a prominent role) and slew of newbies, there is plenty of character drama. What I like about that is that it never overreaches nor does it feel misplaced – in other words, while there are a lot of “soap opera” like twists, nothing ever comes across as “too much.” The character writing was really magnificent this season. I grew to admire and like Kitty (Amy Beth Hayes) in these installments (she’s MUCH more than a dizzy, pretty face), was shocked my idea vs. the actual of an introduced character was nothing like that image (one whom we only knew off-screen the first season), became fond of Agnes' determination to persevere, and was impressed by the changes in Miss Mardle (geek alert! When I saw series one, I’d not seen the infamous season three of Sherlock, so imagine my thrill when I realized that Amanda played the lovely Mary Watson) and most of all, the shift in Harry’s personality was… wonderful. It was so nice to see him change (though some of you will perhaps still find fault with him because of the implications when Rose first returns, I overlooked it because of how he behaves once Rose returns) and become a better family man. His business sense is the same which makes him admirable – I’m not sure how he was so messed up at home and such a champion with his employees. It certainly helps offset his mistreatment of Rose. (Oh, yes, and there is a guest appearance by Anthony Howell, Foyle's War.)
Though it goes without saying, I’d be remiss if not mentioning the gorgeous costuming. The hats, the dresses, the impeccable suits, everything… sparkles, and of course, its cast wears their fashion with authority and sass. Not to downplay all of this charm, the ending is bittersweet. Keeping true to its source material (this is based off a true story), the writers have preemptively killed off a character (off-screen) making the visual ending of the series happy yet the mental full of sorrow. Any cursory reading reveals that this seemed to be the season of “happiness” as the rumors are floating around that season three is going to be darker because of its titular character’s reaction, and for me, that doesn’t bode well. All that was built up in this season – the redemption, the betterment of characters – will seem for nothing, unless this is a temporary failing and not something that will drag through a new set of ten installments. Either way, I’m thrilled with the second season of Mr. Selfridge. It rose to a new level of charming and for now, that’s enough.
How about you, readers.
Did you watch season two of this BBC series?
If so, what was your reaction…
(Content: There are implications a married man has a mistress, an unmarried couple are seen in bed together, and a man also tries to take advantage of a girl – she slaps him across the face for it. A woman propositions a married man and is turned down. There are some minor other innuendoes. Another character is being abused [he slaps her across the face and enjoys taunting her, as well as expecting his “husbandly rights”]. Aside from that, there are emotional fallouts and off-screen deaths related to the war. The series is rated TV12.)