Mr. Selfridge, Season Three (2014)
Filming its fourth season now, this British drama came about as a way to compete with the delightful and popular ITV drama, Downton Abbey. (Or that’s what the articles say.) Having just wrapped its third season, I think I can say with relative coherency, this series has “grown up” a lot. It still doesn’t capture me in the same way as the Crawley family, but it has moments.
The Selfridge family is mourning. WWI may be over, but in the Selfridge household, it feels like they’ve just been touched by sorrow. Harry (Jeremy Piven) has had to say goodbye to his wife after a short illness and attempts to run his successful business without his wife at his side. Shortly thereafter, the family experiences a joyful day with the marriage of eldest daughter Rosalie (Kara Tointon) to Serge De Bolotoff (Leon Ockenden). Serge is a dreamer with aspirations to someday build his own plane… but despite a wealthy name to his credit, he and his mother (Zoë Wanamaker) are less than independently wealthy. Then there is middle daughter, Violette (Hannah Tointon), the daughter that seems most poised to give Harry trouble – particularly when she takes up with Victor (Trystan Gravelle), who is working towards his own nightclub.
Distracting him from his problems, Harry throws himself into a project to help returning soldiers migrate back into working life. He begins working with Nancy Webb (Kelly Adams), a woman who might not be all she seems. At the store, Agnes (Aisling Loftus) is reunited with Henri (Grégory Fitoussi) and yet all's not right in their world. Married life doesn’t seem to suit Henri whose memories of the war threaten to tear him and Agnes apart. Mr. Crabb (Ron Cook) is frustrated by his boss’ lack of interest in the store while young Gordon Selfridge (Greg Austin) continues to rise in rank at the store. Then there is Miss Mardle (Amanda Abbington). Suffering from her own loss, she finally returns to work and settles into a new position while employee Kitty Hawkins (Amy Beth Hayes) is caught in a battle with out-of-work soldiers. To make matters more complicated Lord Loxly (Aidan McArdle) returns to London with one thing on his mind: revenge.
There is nary a dull moment or lull to be found within this one season. Because of the volume of characters and story arcs for those characters, there are several plots going on in each episode, and they nearly all carry on throughout the entire season. There are rarely new stories cropping up once the first episode or two sets things into motion. One story is wrapped up by episode four, which is both nice and a little bit sad (especially given the character’s popularity). If you prefer more focused dramas, this one likely is best to skip for that reason alone. But if you don’t mind sometimes “messy” (a term used in the best sense of the word) period dramas, then let’s talk about Mr. Selfridge’s third season.
Part of the intrigue and individuality of this production is its basis in reality. Certainly the screenplay does take liberties or elaborate on the possibilities, however I love that someone chose to produce a drama about this family. What surprised me most about this season was its “lighter” themes. This was said to be a dark season and while there are definitely tragedies or issues that touch on sensitive topics, because Harry wasn’t such a miserable wreck, everything seemed “better.” Does that sound awful to base my opinion on that? Maybe, but seriously given how easily I can dislike Harry, seeing him shape up and actually be a responsible adult this season was a breath of fresh air. On that same tract, I have to say I’m disappointed in the ending and seeing where this will lead into season four. I can appreciate that the writers are attempting to construct a realistic portrait, but I do wish they wouldn’t strive too hard for that. Harry’s better as a responsible albeit still charismatic human being. His mistakes are now an obsolete, moot point.
With exception to that one nagging feeling, I love this series. The characters, the costumes, the setting (that store set is amazing), the interactions… everything about the quality of the production is charm personified. There is drama and laughter, familial fall out and unlikely friendships, revenge and romance, all delivered with the same aplomb we’re used to and now, expect from this show. The costumes speak for themselves (if you noticed the picture heaviness in this review, that’s why) and of course, there are the characters. I’ve come to love many, tolerate a few and admire Miss Mardle more than I anticipated. That woman has gone through a great sense of character depth and growth. She’s now the confident, strong woman I wanted to see back in season one and with exception to her one “weakness” that could be a part of her life in the ensuing season, she’s a brilliant character. The new characters add some pizazz. A fun fact about the ladies that play Rosalie and Violette, the actresses are sisters in real life. Their scenes are honestly too few together. When they are on-screen in the same shot, it’s a great sense of sisterly affection though not always a happy side of that complicated relationship. It’s been a great experience seeing the Selfridge kids grow up and become a more integral part of the series. If there was one thing I’d like to see more of in the next season, it’d be the youngest sister who only appears briefly in episode one before being returned to school.
If you are a period drama aficionado, then you must look into watching this. There are plenty of ups and downs, yes, but up until this point, it’s been all worth it. Star Amanda Abingdon has been quoted as saying season four will be the show’s last, which may be a good thing considering all that has happened and what acts as a presumed lead-in for that fourth season. Joy is found in unexpected places and despite the flamboyant lifestyles the script often introduces, sometimes it's in those quiet moments that the series really shines. If you are looking to be swept up in some great dramatic flair, make time for a trip to Selfridge’s, where you’re treated in style.
Have you seen season three of Mr. Selfridge? Do you want to watch this series? Let me know your thoughts in the comments down below!
(Content: One character is seen in bed with his lover, and later Harry and his girlfriend are shown in bed together once or twice in various state of undress. Violette and her lover are seen passionately kissing a time or two and later confirms she “gave herself” to him. There may be one or two other innuendoes.)