Mr Selfridge, Series 2, ITV | reviews, news & interviews
Mr Selfridge, Series 2, ITV
Mr Selfridge, Series 2, ITV
It's 1914, and war is coming both at home and abroad for the eponymous store owner
We return to the dramatised Selfridges five years after the opening of the store that changed the face of British shopping - and yet, despite proving those who doomed his enterprise to failure wrong, the smile on its eponymous owner’s face is as false as his moustache is magnificent. Although Harry Selfridge (Jeremy Piven) was able to turn on the charm for visiting journalists in tonight’s series opener, the absence of his wife and daughters - back home in the US where the girls, we are told, were finishing school - cast a shade over the celebrations.
Although Rose (Frances O’Connor) did eventually show up for the party, it was clear that all was not well in the Selfridges’ marriage. It all had a whiff of retail royalty as she told him that she was willing to “be Mrs Selfridge, and to perform all public duties”; but that was before she discovered that heir to the throne - to take the metaphor too far - Gordon (Greg Austin) was dropping out of school in order to get more practical experience of what would ultimately become his. “He’s 15!” his father thundered, “I was book-keeping when I was 15!” - but as if to remind us that mother knows best, on his first day he was quickly forced to ditch the pretty briefcase in favour of some overalls.
Polly Walker’s character is a riotous addition to the cast
It’s hard to watch these historical dramas without viewing them through a contemporary lens, but if the second series of Mr Selfridge is not intended as commentary on pre-war sexism, classism and ageism then writers Andrew Davies and Kate Brooke have done a fine job at pretending otherwise. As World War One looms, each of the show’s leading ladies has her own battle to fight. Lady Mae’s horrible husband, Lord Loxley, has returned to London, intent on treating his wife like a child and on wringing some pennies from the nascent war effort (his questionable tactics include threatening to out homosexuals in exchange for deals and government posts). Agnes Towler (Aisling Loftus) is back from a secondment in Paris to take a job as the store’s Head of Display, but snooty Mr Thackeray in the fashion department will have none of it - and, away from the shop, she is surprised and saddened to discover that her beloved Victor has moved on while she has been away. And Rose Selfridge, with the help of her new friend Delphine Day (Polly Walker, below right, with Piven), is ready to explore some new avenues of her own.
Walker’s character is a riotous addition to the cast; the owner of a notorious local night spot and the author of a scandalous autobiography that Rose asks Harry to let her launch in the shop. The first big challenge for Agnes is to dress the fashion department for the event, and while her indoor arboretum may look tame by the standards of today’s lavish window displays, not everybody was happy. The snippets we hear of Delphine’s husbands and lovers get the ladies at the front of the room all a-flutter - but it’s surely her final words that set the tone of what is to come: “I decided I would never tie myself to a man again,” she says, as she closes the chapter on her final marriage. “I would be a woman, true to myself”.
Just in case you missed the message that a time of great change was looming for Selfridges, the episode’s final shot - a boot crushing the front page of a newspaper, reporting the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand - brought the point somewhat hammily home. It bodes well for a series full of drama and of conflict, set to be played out both at home and abroad.
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