Recapping ‘Mr. Selfridge’: Series 2, Episode 2

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The "Mr. Selfridge" crew gets their national pride on. (Photo: ITV for MASTERPIECE)

Previously, on Mr. Selfridge: Time has passed, and Selfridges is celebrating its 5th anniversary. Harry’s had great personal success with the store but his personal life’s a mess. Rose has (thankfully) found a backbone and made a new best friend in Delphine, who owns a scandalous nightclub. Lady Mae’s husband arrives in town, and he’s walking cliché of snotty attitude and spousal abuse.  And staff changes abound at the store: Agnes has returned from school in Paris, Victor manages the Palm Court, there’s a bitchy new Head of Fashion, and Dreamy Henri’s back in London, sporting a very Derelicte new fashion sense.

Lots to digest in this week’s episode –for both good (Henri!) and ill (any scene involving Mae’s husband). Also it appears I must apologize for spending the entirety of last week spelling the Loxleys’ name wrong. Apparently my teenage obsession with Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves has determined that I must always spell it Locksley, at least until someone points out my error.  But, enough of that: on with the show! 

The Store Gets Ready for the Big British Exhibition. Agnes is pulling another late night at the store, setting up sample displays for Selfridges big Empire Exhibition, which is mean to show everyone in London their exceptional national pride and up general public morale in the face of all the war rumors. She looks exhausted and overwhelmed already, and all she seems to have done so far is dress a couple mannequins in safari gear next to a fake tiger. Oh, dear. 

Victor harasses his cousin Franco about helping more with set up for the restaurant since he’s feeling overwhelmed too by all he has to do for this festival of British enthusiasm. Kitty overhears this and says that he’s not being patriotic, but comments that he’s Italian anyway, so why should he care. Oh, good, so we’re going to get all xenophobic up in this storyline too. That’ll be fun. Later, Agnes takes Selfridge on a tour around the store, to show off some of the display ideas. But, because new Head of Fashion Mr. Thackeray is the woooooorrrst, he’s removed her whole weird little safari display and replaced it with one of his own, which seems to involve weird samurai kimonos and giant umbrellas. He claims it was because he couldn’t let the customers see this drab little thing that had been set up in his department, but it’s obviously because he hates Agnes and is trying to sabotage her. Though at this point, I’m questioning all their design skills. 

The rest of Agnes’ store tour goes similarly poorly: Miss Mardle complains that accessories doesn’t have a display yet, Kitty wants the gaudiest one possible for cosmetics, and Grove’s concerned that there’s still so much to be done to get the store ready in limited time, due to their being a bank holiday the next week. Agnes starts looking like she’d like to off herself, but Selfridge cheerfully insists lots can be done in limited time. 

Meanwhile, Back at the Loxleys. We return to our favorite Law & Order SVU case waiting to happen, to find the Loxleys at breakfast. Mae’s Awesome Ladies Maid Whose Name I Really Must Find Out tries to get Lord Loxley to reassure her about whether or not war’s about to break out, and he’s typically rude to her in response because making people emotionally distraught for no reason is his idea of good fun. Mae wonders aloud why he has to be such a jerk all the time, which seems to be a pointless question when you’re married to someone who’s willing to hit you in the face.  Mae flees the room, claiming she’s willing to go anywhere to get away from him, then locks herself in the bedroom and has what appears to be a mini-panic attack. Can we just get to the inevitable part of this story where Loxley ends up dead and we’re all left to wonder who killed him? I can’t imagine that this story is going to end any differently (but, go ahead, surprise me, Show). This guy’s irredeemable, and disgusting and, what’s worse, he’s not even the interesting kind of evil.

Mr. Grove’s Poor Professional Performance is Discovered. Even though Mr. Crab does a Herculean job of trying to cover for him, Selfridge finds out that Grove’s been coming into work late all the time. He also discovers how messy and disorganized Grove’s office is, and how little he knows about the current staff in the store. Selfridge basically reads Grove the riot act for being a complete disaster of an employee of late, and says that if he doesn’t shape up he’s going to get fired. Grove looks shocked that Selfridge would ever consider firing him when he’s been there from the beginning, but Harry seems deadly serious.       

Harry and Henri Get Their Bromance Back on Track. Henri – looking about 1000% less homeless this week – shows up at the Selfridge house. Ostensibly he’s there to apologize to Rose for treating her like dirt when she stopped by, but since she’s not there, he and Harry end up hashing out their apparent five years-plus friendship fight. Harry tells Henri how glad he is to see him, like he isn’t super rich and couldn’t have gone to New York to hold a boombox outside his new Don Draper-style job at any point in the past few years.  He pressures Henri to stay for dinner, to smoke the buckets of Cuban cigars he just got, anything. Harry then gets all touchy feely, saying that he shouldn’t have let Henri go in the first place, and even if he’d made up his mind to leave, he recognizes that he handled their parting badly. He takes all the blame for their falling out and laments that he not only lost the greatest creative director ever, he also lost his best friend, neither of which he’s been able to replace in all this time. Selfridge has the puppy dog eyes up to eleven here, and Henri can’t resist it, and they start joking about how Harry actually just apologized for something.  Selfridge implores his old friend to come back to the store, but Henri resists, claiming that he doesn’t need Harry’s charity. Selfridge says it isn’t charity, claiming that the store’s a mess thanks to bickering department heads, Grove’s super sucky performance lately, and Agnes struggling trying to learn the ropes of display. The mention of Agnes is clearly the phrase that pays in this instance and he lays it on kind of thick about all the pressure she’ s under because of this Empire Exhibition.  So, of course, Henri says yes, that he’ll come back just to help with this big deal exhibition that everyone’s obsessed with. 

Gordon’s Angsty Teen Years Are Upon Us. The next day, Selfridge fills in Rose and Gordon about Henri’s visit the night before. He then thanks Rose for finding Henri in the first place, since he never would have come to the house without her intervention. Rose is rather surprised at Harry’s change of tune, considering his anger about it last week, and snaps at his attempt to apologize for it. Gordon is clearly unhappy watching his parents snipe at each other and gets up suddenly, claiming he has to head to work. Rose follows him out and asks if he’s okay, and Gordon snottily says he hates that his parents are not getting along, particularly when Harry’s trying so hard with her. Unfortunately, Gordon’s position on the moral high ground is somewhat compromised when a packet of photos featuring ladies in various suggestive poses falls out onto the floor. Awkward. Rose wants to know where he got them, but in a display of dazzling maturity, Gordon just runs away. 

Later, when Gordon gets back from work, Rose tries to talk to him about what happened. She says that she’s not angry, but she just wants to her son to know that there is more to relations between men and women than what he saw on those cards. Way to be direct in your parenting, Rose. She argues that relationships should be about love, and not just physical intimacy. Gordon, who is apparently determined to shock his mother to death today, insists that relationships should be about both, because that’s the point of marriage. He says that since she’s stopped sharing a bed with his father, they’ve both been miserable. He says she’s making Harry miserable, to which Rose responds (quite rightly!) that Selfridge has done his fair share of making her miserable over the years. Gordon insists that Rose should either be in America or be in London and try to fix things with his father, because if she loves him, it shouldn’t be complicated at all. Rose somehow manages to not slap her son silly during this sequence, a feat for which I think she deserves some kind of medal. 

Welcome Back, Miss Mardle! After getting shuffled aside in the season premiere to deal with a dying brother offscreen, Miss Mardle is officially back at the store this week, though she’s certainly not given more to do. After her earlier complaints with Agnes about whether her department will be getting its own display for the Empire Exhibition, she ends up seeking out Mr. Grove for some personal advice because she “needs a man’s opnion.” Why in the world Miss Mardle would ever ask Grove his opinion about anything ever again is left to the viewers’ imaginations to sort out.  (Don’t try too hard; you’ll just get a headache.) 

Anyway, the two of them meet up on the way to work one morning, so Miss Mardle can show Grove a posh house.  He’s confused, but Miss Mardle explains that the place is hers now, having been left it by her brother, who died childless and alone. She goes on for a bit about the responsibility of taking care of it all, before admitting that her brother also left her a fairly sizeable income to go along with it, so she’s now a woman of independent means. Grove is basically standing there looking seventeen shades of envious, before he says – quite sincerely actually – that it couldn’t have happened to a better person. I’d like to believe that Miss Mardle is telling Grove all this just to rub his face in how poorly he treated her and what he could have had, now that he spends all his time worrying about money and never sleeping because he’s got like 4 children under the age of five, but she doesn’t seem to be that kind of person, so I doubt it. But it’s nice to dream. 

The Loxleys on a (Separate) Mission. Lady Mae goes on a visit to the bank, where it turns out that she’s stashing jewelry that she’s smuggled in from her house in a safe deposit box. She entrusts the bank teller with the key, stressing that he’s never to tell her husband anything about her secret stash under any circumstances. 

She also takes the opportunity to push the young bank attendant for information. Primarily, she wants to know if there are any rumors going around about her husband and his financial situation. She plays it off like she’s just a concerned wife wanting to make sure her spouse isn’t keeping things from her about their troubles. She lays it on pretty thick about how she’s his wife and needs to share his burdens in times like this, though why Teenage Bank Teller believes her when she’s just clearly set up a safe deposit box her husband’s not allowed to see, I don’t know.  But, nevertheless, he fills her in – it turns out that Loxley has been having some money troubles of late.  Lenders have been calling in his gambling debts due to the uncertain times (war!) and he hasn’t been able to pay them. In fact, Teenage Bank Teller says that his father called Loxley “all washed up”. This is shocking – not to mention horrible news for Mae, who basically lives to shop. 

Meanwhile, Lord Loxley grossly swaggers into Selfridges, looking like a human oil slick, and barges right in to Harry’s office, over the protests of his secretary.  Selfridge tells him that he’s very busy, but Loxley tells him that Winston Churchill wants to open his Empire Exhibition the next week. Harry looks intrigued, and Loxley also happens to mention that he’s on the Military Procurement Committee in the House of Lords. He says he needs a list of British leather manufactures, because the Army’s running low on leather boots. Selfridge admits he knows almost ever leather man in England, and Loxley’s pleased. He tells Selfridge to get him a list of names as soon as possible, and he’ll tell the Committee in Parliament that Harry’s done his bit. 

Henri Returns to Selfridges. Henri comes back to the store, ostensibly to help with the Empire Exhibition, but also because he clearly wants to see Agnes. He has a rather cute reunion with Miss Mardle, but then he and Agnes have an adorable sequence in which they both run around and keep just missing each other all over the store. They finally reunite near the cosmetics counter, and grin hugely and hug, and it’s all kinds of sweet, minus the bit where Victor’s glowering down at them from the landing above, because we’re still supposed to care about whether or not he’s jealous when he’s done nothing but be rude to Agnes all episode. Ugh, whatever. 

Henri and Agnes go for tea, and they talk about what he’s been doing. We learn that (shockingly enough) his relationship with that annoying French girl from last season didn’t work out, and that his advertising job was a letdown. Agnes complains about her struggles with the Empire Exhibition and Henri offers to help, which she enthusiastically accepts.               

He then takes a walk around the store with her and they discuss ideas for all the displays, while various staff members goggle at them in shock (Kitty) or jealousy (Victor) or general snottiness (Thackeray). Henri tells Agnes that she’s forgotten to include the heart of the Empire in her plan, and suggests that they basically smother the lobby in giant Union Jack flags while installing a giant statue of Britannia at the accessories counter. 

Lady Mae Takes Charge. After going to see Selfridge to get him to lend her the company locksmith, Mae reassures him that he can trust her sketchy husband about the whole military procurement committee situation. Why, I have no idea. Mae then goes home and has a new lock put on her bedroom door. When Loxley comes home and discovers this, he’s furious, but Mae’s weirdly triumphant about it. She says that she’s been vouching for her husband all around town, but declares that if he ever comes near her again she’s going to tell everyone in London that he’s a bankrupt and practically ruined.  Loxley stalks off in anger, Mae is clutching the key in victory behind her door, and there’s very much an air that this storyline is in no way finished, unfortunately. 

Harry Sucks Up. Selfridge brings Rose breakfast in bed on the morning of the bank holiday, complete with a flowers that he undoubtedly sent Frasier the Awesome Butler, who I assume must still exist, out to get for him. Rose is surprised, and Harry says they need to talk. He explains that the news from Europe is getting worse, and that maybe Rose should go back to America where it’s safe. Rose insists that she’s not going to run away like a coward, and Selfridge forlornly admits that he’s just trying to what’s right for everybody. She softens a bit and says she knows she’s being difficult while he’s just trying to make things right between them. Harry says he doesn’t know another way to get her trust back but to keep on trying. He says he doesn’t know what’s going to happen if there’s a war, not when he has to think of the store and his staff and his family. Rose offers to help, and says she can’t leave while he needs her. Harry argues that he doesn’t want her staying out of duty, and Rose admits that at least it’s not just about that.  I guess that’s progress? Maybe? I don’t even know, this relationship has become such a mess. Anyway, Harry looks happy and tells her to stay and swears six ways to Sunday that he won’t let her down again. Rose for some reason looks like she might actually believe this, despite all evidence to the contrary and Harry says he’s looking forward to spending the day with her. It’s weird, this scene is actually really sweet, the problem is that this show has conditioned me to just wait for Harry to ruin her life again, so it’s hard to really root for them. I guess we’ll see. 

Edwards and Kitty Go On a Date: Does Anyone Care? For some reason, we’re apparently going to be subjected to this Edwards/Kitty thing a while longer, because I guess they can’t think of anything else to do with these actors. Edwards stops by the store to ask Kitty out again. She’s frost about it, until Edwards promises to work hard to make up for their terrible first date where he basically mistook her for a call girl. Romantic!

The two of them go have a picnic and drink champagne in the park, and swap stores of their particular hard luck childhoods. It turns out Edwards got his start sweeping the floors the postroom of the Irish Times and that Kitty used to work at her father’s store. Edwards says the two of them are actually very alike then, but Kitty sniffs that she’s the one of them that’s on her way up in the world while Edwards is just barely holding on.  Why on earth does anyone want to date Kitty?  Edwards admits that yes he does need a scoop these days, but Kitty says she’s not going to tip him off to anything happening at Selfridge’s. (Let’s just see how long that promise lasts, shall we?)

Grove Gets His Act Together. Thanks to some help from Mr. Crab – who has literally ordered the man some self-help and organizational manuals from America (yeah, America!) – Grove starts  picking up the pieces of his shattered professional life. There’s actually an entire montage dedicated to the exciting adventures of Grove cleaning up his pigsty of an office and organizing all his papers, so you can tell that this particular episode has been a slow one. Oh and there’s lots of him yawning and looking tired because I guess his life is hard or something.  It’s certainly making me want to take a nap. 

The Empire Exhibition Kicks Off. Selfridge arrives at the store to see the massive Britannia display and everything else, and he looks seriously impressed. He congratulates Agnes and Henri and just generally looks super pleased. He’s equally pleased when he finds out that Grove has decided not to be a deadbeat anymore, and is impressed by Grove’s implementation of Mr. Crabb’s American self-help guides. Grove then brings everyone down by pointing out that 80% of the Selfridges male staff are eligible to join the army, a fact which is dropped so heavily and obviously that clearly we’re coming back to that next week. 

Everyone’s down in the main lobby putting finishing touches on the displays and waiting for the arrival of Winston Churchill. People start to get anxious when it’s clear that Churchhill is very, very late, and everyone’s just got to just stand around all posed for the ceremony while nothing’s happening.  Suddenly Mr. Selfridge’s secretary arrives with bad news that Harry has to announce to the crowd. Churchill isn’t coming to the store at all, because Germany has declared war on France, and invaded Belgium. Everyone starts whispering among themselves immediately, looking worried. 

Harry and Henri decide to go have a drink at Delphine’s, because that’s what one does upon hearing the news that war’s on your doorstep. She’s happy to see them, and she and Harry strike an agreement to start their relationship over as friends, and let everything that’s happened between them thus far go. Selfridge then tries to convince Henri to come back to the store permanently, but he declines again. He says that he has other business to attend to in London and it wouldn’t be good for Harry or the store if he stayed. We don’t find out what this “other business” might be, because right at that moment, Delphine stops the band to announce that there’s news from the Palace that England is going to war.  Dun dun dunnnn….

Thoughts on this week’s episode? What do you think will happen to the store in an England at war? How many truly boring strorylines did we have to suffer through this week to get to the good stuff? Sheesh. That said, a lot of this episode definitetly felt like it was setting up future plotlines, so let's see where all that goes.