Recapping 'The Paradise': Series 2, Episode 1

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Denise - and the rest of the gang - are back for Season 2. (Photo: Courtesy of (C) Laurie Sparham/BBC 2013 for MASTERPIECE)
Last season, on The Paradise: Country girl Denise arrives in an unnamed, purportedly cosmopolitan town that somehow only seems to have one street where stores are located. She starts working in a posh department store called The Paradise and falls in love with its charismatic, exceptionally close-talking owner John Moray, who is of course, involved with the posh and snotty Katherine, for reasons that are never made clear except that she has a lot of money and keeps harassing him about getting married.

There a several other colorful secondary characters, including Moray’s enthusiastic BFF Dudley, Miss Audrey who runs ladies’ wear, and Denise’s roommates: ditzy Pauline and jealous Clara. Anyway, Denise proves herself an exceptional and creative businesswoman, Moray is into that, they fall in love. Unfortunately, Moray is engaged to Katherine by the time he realizes his feelings, which leads to him leaving his betrothed at the altar, even though her father has bought out all the leases to the town’s one street of shops, including The Paradise, and can now take the store away from him. Dun dun dun…

What will happen in Season 2? Time to find out. 

Oh, Look, a Time Jump. After the dramatic events of last season’s finale, where Moray dumped Katherine on their wedding day and Katherine threatened Denise with the fact that her father now pretty much owns the One Street Where The Stores Are, you’d think that seeing the immediate fallout from that event would be one fun thing we could look forward to in Season 2. You’d be wrong. Of course the show employs everyone’s favorite lazy dramatic device – the time jump – to fast forward us through the actual interesting bits surrounding last season’s ender. So if you wanted to see how Katherine reacted to her groom never showing up at their wedding, or what Moray did when Lord Glendening exercised his right as owner of all the street’s leases to take over the The Paradise or whether Denise thought that Moray’s decision to literally abandon someone at the altar to kiss her in the street was tacky, well that’s just too bad. Because, that’s not happening.

We open instead with Denise reading a letter. It is one year later, and a lot of things are different now. Her note is clearly from Moray, which we can tell because the scene of her reading it features shots of her in a bucolic sun-dappled field where animals are probably frolicking, because love. Anyway, we learn that Moray is now in Paris for some reason that would have be more clear if the transition from the end of last season to now were better explained, where he’s busy missing Denise and thinking about kissing her something like 90% of the day. The rest of the time he appears to be hanging out in very Parisian-looking, poorly-lit sorts of cafes, doing “business”, which is about as nebulous a concept as you’d expect, given that Moray owned, like, one store to start with and didn’t have a lot of money. But he’s buying fashions or fabric or something with money he doesn’t have for a store he doesn’t own so whatever. Also, why did he have to flee to Paris in the first place anyway? It’s not like the Glendenings bought all of England and/or he was a wanted criminal? Ugh I don’t even know.

And We’re Back at The Paradise: New Faces Everywhere! Anyway, for some reason Denise is still working at The Paradise, which is a bit odd for several reasons – not the least of which being we’re meant to believe that Katherine and her father had the power to apparently exile Moray from the country, but not to fire a shopgirl from the store they own? (Also why is The Paradise even still open, I would have instantly believed the Glendenings selling it or renting the space out to someone else or burning the building to the ground.

There have also been several new additions to the staff at The Paradise including the rather easy-on-the-eyes Nathaniel, a mooney-eyed new shopirl named Susie who is obviously into him, because of course she is, and a random sassy new housekeeper/cook named Myrtle. Miss Audrey and Clara ask Denise about Moray, and he she says he misses the The Paradise and all of them. Clara still seems sad and sappy over Moray which makes zero sense because he treated her like dirt and wasn’t really that into her at all, but let’s just go with it.

In effort to bolster their flagging sales, Dudley has ordered several hundred fancy capes, that are just like the one worn by Princess Alexandra, and plans to have a big event around them to drum up business and keep Lord G from going ahead with his plans to sell the store. Which is, of course, why there’s a suspicious accident in the storeroom that night, precisely above where the capes are being stored and they’re all ruined and everyone is depressed. Clara and Sam are suspicious that someone broke into the store and broke the pipes on purpose, but no one seems to have any idea who might have done such a thing.

Guess Who’s Back, Back Again. Well, it’s Katherine. Get excited. But first, Dudley and Moray both receive telegrams, telling them that Moray’s somehow been summoned back to England by Lord Glendening’s personal assistant or whatever, and we’re all yet again wondering how and/or why anyone is managing to keep Moray out of the country to begin with. It’s not like he’s a criminal who will be thrown in jail if he sets foot in the store. Ugh, whatever, show. So everyone’s excited about this and Dudley rushes to tell Denise the good news.

Anyway, Katherine is indeed back, from…wherever she has been. It turns out that her father has died (RIP, Lord G.) and she’s married some random, vaguely smarmy slightly older guy we’ve never met before named Tom Weston. She dumps all this news on Dudley and The Paradise crew, and introduces them to Flora, her new step-daughter. Weston, whose smarminess increases every second he’s on screen gets Clara to show him around The Paradise, while Katherine pawns Flora off on Denise so she can chat with Dudley.

Katherine waxes nostalgic about how much she loves The Paradise and how being in it helps assuage her grief. We also learn that she’s the one responsible for recalling Moray from his totally not required and completely unenforceable exile because I guess she’s just over the whole left at the altar thing now. She says that with her father’s death she’s taken on the responsibility for his estate and she says she’s willing to be open minded about the prospect of selling the store. She thanks Dudley profusely for helping her through her difficult times after the wedding that wasn’t, and she sort of implies that she was the one to cancel proceedings, which I guess is something Dudely has decided to just let her get away with.

Get Excited World: Moray’s Back! We cut to Arthur rushing to wake Denise up in the middle of the night, which we can tell is because Moray has arrived because of the way the music swells dramatically. And, even though it’s the dead of night and no one is around anywhere, Denise rushes into the street to run to Moray and they hug and kiss and kiss and are just generally overjoyed. They go on ridiculously for a bit about how great it is to look at each other and feel each other’s eyes on them and it’s all a bit vomitous really but I guess if you’re into this couple, it’s awesome. Anyway, Moray decides now is a great time to ask Denise to marry him, though why in the world he had to wait a year and go through his random fake exile to do this is anyone’s guess. Denise tells him Katherine is the one who’s responsible for his return but Moray doesn’t care and says he’s prayed for the chance to be with her and blah blah blah love.

He says if Katherine wants him to work in her store he will smile and do it but every day he’ll be plotting to take back all that was stolen from him. (Which, this is all sort of really hysterical to me because Katherine didn’t do anything to him that wasn’t above board. Her dad held the leases, she owns the store basically, and Moray said he was okay with his choice, didn’t he?) Anyway, he still wants to know her answer to the marriage question. They kiss some more.

Meet the Westons. Meanwhile, back at the Glendening estate Katherine and her new husband are sitting by the fire and she’s busy thanking him for coming back to live in her father’s house with her, it means a lot to her and she just knows that Flora will love it too. Weston, however, wants to know why Katherine waited until the day of her wedding to call off her marriage to Moray. So yeah, that’s the story we’re going with apparently.

Katherine says that the whole situation was just so cruel, but she doesn’t regret coming to her senses. She explains that her father kept warning her that she was being foolish, but she kept denying it. She claims that when it came down to facing a life with a man she couldn’t love she just couldn’t go through with it. Katherine moves to go to bed, but Weston asks her why she didn’t tell him that she’d recalled Moray to the store. She hems and haws, blaming grief and tiredness and it’s kind of hilarious. Weston says that he thinks it doesn’t make sense to have Moray back if she’s planning to dispose of the store.

And Now There’s A Spy. Denise leaves Moray to stay with her uncle Edmund, and as she leaves to go back to The Paradise we notice a clandestine conversation taking place in a nearby carriage. New Paradise employee Nathaniel is having a secret meeting with someone and informing them of Moray’s imminent return. He says that no one knew it was coming, that the telegram had come out of nowhere. Mysterious guy – Mr. Fenton – says that he’s not going to be outmaneuvered by those that want to keep him from buying the store and he will need Nathaniel to act on his behalf again (gosh I wonder who ruined those capes?). Nathaniel tries to object, but he’s shot down. Fenton intones ominously that he will let Moray devise his own extravagant downfall mwhahahaha. Nathaniel apparently feels so tortured about his betrayal that he has to go tell Susie the new shopgirl that he’s really into her, which absolutely none of us care about because we don’t know these people.

Moray Returns to The Paradise. In a slightly hilarious scene where the music swells and Moray’s expression gets almost comically bright, the man himself returns to his beloved department store. Dun dun dunnnn. To the surprise of no one, Dudley is over the moon to have his BFF back, and the two hug happily. Moray says that this is their chance, what they’ve worked for, because…reasons, I guess. He says that Katherine may own The Paradise but she doesn’t own him, and they’ll get their store back eventually no matter how long it takes them.

Moray decides to shut down The Paradise for a couple of days, to build up excitement and interest and gossip that Moray’s back and that it’s a big deal. He plans to keep himself out of sight and let curiousity build so that people turn up to gawk at him once the doors open again and they’ll be ready to sell to all of them. Sell what, you may ask? Well the new and exciting things he’s brought back with him from Paris of course.

Denise and Katherine Have a Chat. Katherine and her husband arrive at The Paradise while it’s close for Moray’s grand excitement-building experiment. Weston corrals Moray in his office to chastise him over his dramatic store-closing idea and inspect the books, while Katherine takes Flora up to ladies’ wear. Flora’s decided that she wants them to have matching dresses so they’re going to get measured for them. Katherine asks specifically for Denise to help her and everyone in ladies’ wear gets real awkward real quick.

Katherine tells her that Flora’s quite fond of her, and muses for a bit on the twists of fate. She says she never would have predicted that she’d end up here a year ago, with a ten year old child in her care. Katherine then apologies to Denise for her treatment of her the last time that they spoke, and says that it was only after she realized she didn’t love Moray that she knew she meant Denise no harm. She explains that it was ridiculous of her to ever believe that she could marry a storekeeper or needed to be at war with a shop girl. This is quite a subtle and interesting performance by Elaine Cassidy – and you sort of don’t know what to believe here, either. Is this Katherine’s new reality or does she still hate Denise and Moray? She says that she’s so happy that Denise is still here with them at the store. Denise looks somewhat taken aback by this, and a bit unsure about how to handle a Katherine who seems nice and friendly. It’s likely that viewers, at this point, are too.

Next Up on the Katherine Glendening Apology Tour. Moray comes by Katherine’s house to have a chat and a catch up. They sit out in her yard and Moray offers his condolences about Lord G’s passing. Katherine is remarkably calm, explaining that Moray has been brought back solely to restore the value of an asset her family now owns. Moray awkwardly tries to acknowledge what happened between them the last year, but Katherine brushes his words aside, saying that apologies are not needed when she wouldn’t wish things other than as they are. Interestingly, she seems remarkably focused on the store, and Moray’s decision to close it to ramp up interest. He explains that he’s got remarkable and exotic goods to sell once they open back up, and that will help right things. Katherine explains that his sudden shut it all down decision has made her husband doubt Moray’s abilities, so he’d better make sure the sale proves that the store can be a success or Weston will doubtless be inclined to just sell the whole thing and be done with it.

The Paradise Kitchen Staff, Edmund and Audrey and Other Things We Don’t Care About. There’s a pointless scene down in The Paradise workers’ cafeteria-style area, which apparently got an upgrade during the offseason, as now they appear to have multiple staff members who are there to serve the Paradise staffers, and it’s all very Downton Abbey style Mrs. Patmore antics as Myrtle sasses everyone and some other unmentioned employee is just there. Myrtle is sort of loud and crass for no reason, and it’s kind of awkward to watch, as she talks about the pleasures of food and men, gossips about Katherine’s marriage and fantasizes about the day she’ll work up on the shop floor proper. Um, as if, lady. As if. Can someone please explain to me why on earth anyone who writes this show thought we needed this character? Yikes.

Miss Audrey, whom it would appear hates Myrtle and agrees with me about her general unsuitability for virtually everything, snarks in and says there’s no wonder Myrtle is stuck below stairs when she’s so coarse and crass. Myrtle laughs and says Miss Audrey’s just a dry old hag, basically, which causes her to storm out. However, for some reason, what Myrtle says to her sticks with her, and later that night it’s obvious she’s still thinking about it while playing cards with Edmund. For some further inexplicable reason, her meditation on the topic motivates her to hug him and tell him that she’s not going to break if he so much as touches her. Edmund looks confused, as this is fairly insane behavior for Miss Audrey, and his expression only gets more confused when Audrey asks if he’ll marry her. Ummm… (Seriously though, this is the kind of random, comes out of nowhere plot point that makes me so frustrated with this show. Why is this necessary? Especially when we have seen so little of Audrey reconnecting with Edmund or reevaluating the (clearly important) career choices that have landed her where she is. 

The Secret Life of Married Couples. Probably the most interesting thing that’s come out of this episode is how simultaneously intriguing and weird the relationship between Katherine and her new husband actually is. Weston certainly seems to have a roving eye for the ladies, yet isn’t particularly warm toward the more amorous advances of his new wife. He’s a bit rude to almost everyone, but is clearly suffering some sort of Dark Secret – as evidenced by his night terrors, apparent intense yet mostly unidentified bodily pain and the scars that are all over his back. Since he mentions about eight times over the course of the episode that he’s a soldier, it seems highly like that he’s got some form of PTSD, and maybe some other .

So, when Weston suffers some form of “attack” – where he seems to be in great pain and not entirely sure of what’s going on – the fact that Katherine does seem to be able to comfort and soothe him (and that he obviously welcomes her doing so), whilst he cries all over her is especially interesting. Here’s hoping we get a look back at the past year in the lives of these characters – I’d love to know how they came together in the first place, and why they decided to get married. (Because let’s be real Katherine’s a rich heiress with no father in the way now she could literally have married anyone.)

Nathaniel is The Worst Spy Ever. The Paradise staff is busy stuffing the store with boxes full of new goods on the morning of the sale, as a crowd begins to grow outside. Why the team did not do this, oh, perhaps, at any other time than immediately before they’re supposed to open, is unclear, but here we are. Anyway. Denise suddenly hears screaming coming from somewhere – and judging by the fact that she’s the only person who actually runs to investigate may be the only person who isn’t hearing damaged – and rushes off to find Susie at a table with Dudley and Moray and Myrtle for some unknown reason, describing a great black creature with a crooked tail she saw climbing out of one of the boxes. Myrtle helpfully pipes up to explain that scorpions are deadly poisonous and it could be roaming any where in the store or their living quarters and it could kill a customer you know.

Weston is furious that there’s a rogue scorpion – seriously everyone on this show is an idiot – and says that they can’t possibly open the store if there’s a risk that customers might get stung or whatever. Moray is equally furious, claiming that this risk is how they’re going to get customers back in to save the store, and blah blah blah he’s a visionary businessman who knows more than Weston does. Weston doesn’t care and declares whether he knows about business or not he’s the owner of The Paradise so Moray is just going to have to sit down and shut up. Then, for some reason, he angrily decides to reveal his moustache-twirling style plot to sell The Paradise to the Fenton brothers (surprise I guess there are too of them skulking about) while it still has some value.

Luckily, this crisis is averted because Nathaniel is the worst saboteur in the history of time. Denise, who saw him filling Weston in on the ScorpionGate situation and also witnessed him  taking money from a strange man in the street the night before, confronts him about what she thinks he’s done, and  pressures him to come clean. Nathaniel displays his enviable sense of calm by immediately confessing to everyone, shaking Denise and angrily shouting that he had no choice and complaining that he thought he wouldn’t have to do that much spying and he was just trying to do whatever he could to keep the store from opening. Susie defends him saying that she saw the evil scorpion like creature herself she did really. Nathaniel looks sort of sadly at her and says that no, she didn’t actually, because he’s the one that put the idea in her mind, because apparently Susie is quite possibly the stupidest person alive, if all it takes for her to start raving about potentially poisonous beasts on the rampage is for her boyfriend to suggest that maybe she saw one. Yikes. 

(I mean, did anyone hear the screaming she was doing earlier? All of that was for something she didn’t even see but that her boyfriend….told her about? This show you guys. This doesn’t even make sense. Like how can a person be this idiotic even if they do like a boy? I can’t even.)

Dudley and Moray are shocked that someone they took into The Paradise fold has betrayed them in this way, because half the time The Paradise is as much of a cult as it is a store. Why was Nathaniel spying and sabotaging for the Fentons in the first place? Who knows, because it’s never addressed. Money, I guess? I’m also really not sure why so much of this storyline needed to turn on Susie being literally too stupid to get dressed, but there we have it. Susie is, understandably, quite upset that Nathaniel has used her, and cries.

The Sale Saves the Day. The staff hurriedly opens the doors to the throngs of people waiting outside – I guess the prospect of gawking at a guy they’ve all seen a thousand times really is that enticing? Anyway, customers flood the shop and soon are stuffed into every department – Miss Audrey’s being forced to do fittings in ladies’ wear it’s so crowded, while Sam and Denise regale shoppers with tales of how exotic all their new merchandise is. The sale does so well that even Weston is impressed, and he even throws Mr. Fenton out of the store, once he finds out about the whole sabotage thing.

Weston also seems to have taken quite a fancy to Clara. He has another private, vaguely flirty chat with her, and quizzes her again about Moray and Katherine's relationship, which isn't creepy or weird at all. Clara, thankfully, backs up the story that Katherine must have dumped Moray on their wedding day, obviously, because she's rich and titled, and there's no way in the world that an ambitious man like Moray would ever choose to *not* marry her. (Do we actually know whether Clara knows the truth? It's possible that that is what she thinks actually happened.)

Denise Says She Can’t Marry Moray Right Now Because The Show Would End. Okay, not really, but that’s basically the behind the scenes gist of it. Denise and Moray snuggle in celebration on a sofa in The Paradise after their big sale day, and talk about how happy they are and how perfect their lives are now that they’re living out all their department store dreams. (Man, the dialogue in this episode is sort of epically terrible, just saying.) Moray says that obviously this is all meant to cosmically indicate that the two of them should get married right away, but Denise is hesitant, because she’s still not sure that Katherine isn’t out to destroy them. Moray disagrees, and says that Katherine seems happy enough in her own way at the moment and certainly adores her new stepdaughter.

Denise says that she wants to marry Moray more than anything, but can’t, because there are eight episodes in this season to get through, duh. Okay, what she really says is that she’s afraid that they’re marriage will basically wake the sleeping dragon of Katherine’s cruel jealousy and she’ll… I’m not sure exactly Denise is afraid Katherine’s going to do to them, I guess convince her husband to sell the store if she gets mad enough? Moray pouts that they shouldn’t have to deny themselves the thing they want most in the world because of Katherine (who, I again must stress, is not actually doing anything to them at the moment). Denise says that her love has returned to her and they’re together and that’s enough for right now. They must focus on how they can get The Paradise back from Katherine, and take care until they figure out how to make that happen.

Another conundrum, is not the only way to “reclaim” The Paradise from Katherine to… I don’t know, buy it? Isn’t their only solution “a big pile of money”? I’m so unclear on what the Wondertwins here think they’re going to manage to do to “win” it back, when even though it was sort of a jerk move of Lord G. to buy it in the first place it wasn’t illegal? They aren’t exactly on the quest for the grail here. Ugh, the internal logic of this show, guys, sometimes I just can’t.

Well, that’s it for the Season 2 opening episode! What did you all think? Stop by the comments and come chat – I’m especially interested in seeing how people are feeling about Katherine, mostly because she’s kind of my favorite right now.