I’m a costume drama junkie. There’s no “ands,” “ifs” or “buts” about it. This means even if I don’t take immediately to the masterpieces from across the pond, chances are, I’ll return. Such is 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 for her husband’s fifth store anniversary, Rose returns to her husband’s arm. But what she realizes is 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. All contrary to what her aristocratic friend, Lady Mae (Katherine Kelly) advises. Then there’s son, Gordon Selfridge (Greg Austin). Gordon is excited to be home from school and beginning to learn the store business; only he doesn’t realize what his father has in mind is different from his plans.
Coinciding with the return of the Selfridge family is Agnes Towler (Aisling Loftus), the shop girl Harry sent to Paris for training. She returns with maturity, a new promotion, and with more vision than ever, but new head of ladies wear, Mr. Thackeray (Cal Macaninch) challenges her. Even, her former friends aren’t supportive – particularly Victor (Trystan Gravelle). Meanwhile Harry’s head of personal, Mr. Grove (Tom Goodman-Hill) struggles to do his job and Miss Mardle (Amanda Abbington) has recently come into wealth, which changes everything. 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.
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If anyone ever doubts this show could get any better, we’re wrong. Golly, I love 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 struggle liking the characters as a result. Season two definitely improves on that, providing maturity in these personalities, which ups our respect. Also, I have to say, whether some of them are cliché or not (there’s similar plots in Downton Abbey or Upstairs, Downstairs), I don’t think there’s one storyline I don’t like; everything from the mystery shrouding some of the issues of war as well as the fascinating character twists.
Between all the familiar faces (and for those wondering, never fear, Heni plays a prominent role) and slew of newbies, there’s plenty of character drama. What I like about that is it never overreaches nor does it feel misplaced; in other words, while there’s a lot of “soap opera” like twists, nothing ever comes across as “too much.” The character writing is magnificent. I grow to admire and like Kitty (Amy Beth Hayes)(she’s more than a dizzy, pretty face); am shocked my idea vs. the actual of a new character is opposite (one whom we only know off-screen the first season); become fond of Agnes’ determination to persevere; and the changes in Miss Mardle impress (geek alert! She’s in the infamous season three of Sherlock, so imagine my thrill seeing her play the lovely Mary Watson); and most of all, the shift in Harry’s personality is wonderful.
It’s 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 overlook 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’s 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.)
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Though it goes without saying, I’d be remiss if not mentioning the gorgeous costuming. The hats, the dresses, the impeccable suits, everything… sparkles. Still, despite it charm, the ending is bittersweet. Keeping true to its source material (based off a true story), the writers preemptively kill off a character (off-screen) making the visual ending of the series happy yet the mental full of sorrow. This seems to be the season of “happiness” as the rumors are floating around that season three is going to be darker, and this doesn’t bode well. All that builds up 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 happy with the second season of Mr. Selfridge. It rose to a new level of charming and for now, that’s enough.
Content: There’s implications a married man has a mistress, an unmarried couple are in bed together, and a man also tries to take advantage of a girl – she slaps him across the face. A married man turns down a woman’s proposition. 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 TV12.