Recapping ‘The Paradise’: Series 2, Episode 2

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Moray and his annoying French lady friend Clemence. (Photo: Courtesy of (C) Laurie Sparham/BBC 2013 for MASTERPIECE)
Previously, on The Paradise: The show jumps forward a year from the Season 1 finale to find Moray exiled for some unknown reason in France and Denise still employed at The Paradise, along with new people you don’t care about. Moray is summoned home by Katherine, who now has a new husband Tom Weston with some form of PTSD and a ten-year stepdaughter named Flora. New guy Nathaniel is being bribed to sabotage the store’s success with the inadvertent help of his idiot girlfriend, a new shopgirl named Susie. Katherine makes several friendly overtures toward Denise and Moray, but they’re determined to do whatever they have to do to reclaim The Paradise from the woman whose family bought it entirely legally. Or they will be once they can manage to stop kissing. Oh, and Audrey’s asked Denise’s Uncle Edmund to marry her.

What’s in store for us this week? It seems unsafe to even hazard a guess. 

Another New Annoying Character Was Exactly What We All Wanted, Right? Our episode opens with Moray greeting a new lady who’s visiting the store. Her name is Clemence and she’s French and loud and vaguely scandalous and also did we mention she’s French? If you missed the part about her being a walking stereotype, the show is helpfully playing La Marseillaise loudly in the background multiple times just so you can be sure to notice.

Anyway, Clemence chats animatedly with Moray in French, all the shopgirls chatter about how she’s hanging on him, and Denise appears to be getting increasingly jealous, despite the fact that she’s only just turned down his marriage proposal like, five minutes ago. Clemence makes fireworks – for a living, somehow – and says that her goal in life is to make beautiful things that are affordable to everyone. She also wants to sell them in The Paradise, and plans to give the One Street Where Stores are a great demonstration of her creations. I’m unclear whether anyone who regularly shops at The Paradise is the sort of non-wealthy person she aspires to sell to, but let’s just go with it. The point is, we’ve seen about four minutes of Clemence and I’m ready for her to go back to France.

Miss Audrey’s Big News Means Big Changes. Breakfast is happening for The Paradise staff, which appears to be taking place only because the audience must be forced to suffer through Myrtle’s presence in every episode. She loudly speculates about who’ll be taking Miss Audrey’s job now that she’s getting married and being forced to retire from life generally. Audrey drily points out that she’s not quite gone just yet, but Myrtle says that everyone’s already thinking about it. Miss Audrey clearly hates Myrtle with every fiber of her being, and it’s actually enough to make me more kindly toward Miss Audrey.

Sam pipes up that they’re all happy for her, and since it’s not like she can plan a wedding overnight, they won’t have to get along without her just yet. Susie, who for some reason is still employed by this store despite the dire idiocy of her imaginary scorpion sighting last week, says that someone will have to take over ladies’ wear though, as though we all don’t already know that of course it will be Denise if and when it comes to that. The camera pans to Clara looking thoughtful. Oh, girl. As if.

Clemence Meets Ladies’ Wear. Moray drops his French BFF off to investigate the ladies’ wear department, where she finds the girls still discussing Miss Audrey’s upcoming wedding. They want to know the date, but Miss Audrey again laments the conundrum she’s faced all her life – if she marries she loses the job she loves, but if she keeps her position she misses out on the joys of marriage. She says she’s frozen with indecision about it, so the only solution is just to leap.

Clemence chooses exactly this time to say hello to everyone and immediately starts trying on dresses, while Denise glares at her jealously from a corner. Seriously, are we really going to waste time on Denise getting jealous over a random Frenchwoman when we had to spend half of last week’s episode hearing about the puppies and rainbows of her great love story with Moray? Get it together, girl. Denise’s look of consternation grows increasingly severe as Clemence starts waxing rhapsodic about how every decision everyone makes is driven by sexual passion, and that’s why everyone loves clothes and buttons and ribbons and things that draw the eye. Um, okay. Those darn French people, I guess? 

Fireworks at The Paradise. That night fireworks get set off in the street outside The Paradise, big pinwheels and light towers and everything. The assembled crowd oohs and ahhs, but Susie’s busy telling Denise how awesome Clemence is and how she’d like to be a woman like that, especially to be so French where you could touch and kiss and flirt with everybody and it’s just socially acceptable. Denise looks annoyed still, which has kind of become entertaining at this point because it’s so ridiculous.

Anyway, Tom Weston shows up out of nowhere and Moray introduces him to Clemence. He stares at her in that creepy way he has of sizing up any woman within five feet of him, and says that she should definitely have dinner with him while she’s visiting. Meanwhile, Moray finally sidles over to stand with Denise, who still looks annoyed and makes several pointed comments about how much time he and Clemence must have spent together in France, until Moray laughs, and tells Denise that Clemence is just really not his type, and he’s certainly not hers. If you get his drift.

A Surprise Delivery Arrives. In the midst of the fireworks display, a cart pulls up with an unconscious body in the back of it. Surprise – it’s Jonas! He looks nearly dead, but Moray orders him to be carried into The Paradise at once. For some utterly incomprehensible reason, Myrtle takes charge immediately diagnosing Jonas with a fever and ushering everyone but Denise out of the room while they sponge his forehead. Oh, okay, I’m sure Myrtle has tons of medical knowledge. Hate.

Sometime later, Dudley is busily quizzing a suddenly much less dead-looking Jonas about why he came back. Jonas insists it wasn’t under his own power but that he was brought here. Dudley says he’s not welcome here and wants to know why he didn’t get arrested for murdering their neighbor last season. Jonas, who at the very least is refreshingly frank, admits it’s because he bought the constable off. Dudley starts to gather a head of steam about how Jonas is a murderer and that’s unacceptable, when Myrtle bustles back in with porridge for her patient and a lot of obnoxious yet completely boring chatter. She wants to know how Jonas ended up in a wagon, but he doesn’t remember. And no one will tell you the answer to that for the rest of this ep, fair warning.

Clemence Gives Miss Audrey Advice. Clemence returns to ladies’ wear to chat with Miss Audrey. She tells her she couldn’t help but overhear her conversation earlier about having to leave her job, and Team Ladies’ Wear explains that when a woman marries she has to give up her position. Clemence points out that there are plenty of men who work at The Paradise who have spouses at home (including Dudley apparently when did that happen?). She says she could maybe understand it if the woman was intending to have children, but as clearly that’s not the case with Miss Audrey (snort!), then she doesn’t get what the big deal is. Miss Audrey says it’s just the way things are, and Clemence laughs that it’s the way the men have decided upon. (Is it just me or does this subplot feel terribly unnecessary? Is there anyone that doesn’t think Moray would let Miss Audrey stay on at The Paradise if she asked him to? That’s clearly what’s going to happen at some point IMO, so the repeated angst about it isn’t terribly compelling.)

Clemence asks Denise for her opinion on Miss Audrey’s predicament. She looks conflicted and says she’s pleased that Miss Audrey wants to be with the man she loves. Clemence wants to know whether she thinks it’s fair that a woman with Audrey’s experience and skills has to give up everything because they live in a man’s world, and Denise has to admit that it’s wrong. Miss Audrey is busy trying not to look like she’s eavesdropping. Clemence decrees that all the Paradise girls are going to go have a night out together at the dingy little pub across the street that Clara always goes to (I guess this is not only the Only Street with Stores, it’s the Only Street with Bars?) and no one wants to offend their French guest by saying no, right?

The Clemence Fangirl Club Convenes. So, all The Paradise girls head over to the Only Bar in Town with Clemence and they all get a big table to talk about girl power. Clemence is explaining her history and how she realized she’d never get anywhere working for a man and always knew she could not only do anything a man could do, she could do it better. Clara and Denise are both basically hanging on her every word, but Miss Audrey says that in England they prefer to cling to their civilization. 

Clemence decides that they all need to do a group toast to girl power, intoning that woman should follow her passion to determine her own lives. All the girls throw their shots back – and apparently several more afterward, since they are all a bit drunk when they leave. On the walk back across the street to the store, Clemence is quizzing Denise on what she wants from her life – she says deserves more than being a shopgirl or someone’s wife. Denise says what she really wants is to be Moray – she wants to run The Paradise, not for the glamour of it, but for the work. She says she lives for the moments when she has an idea or when someone gives her the opportunity to take the lead she feels wonderful, and there are so many things she’d do if she could. Clemence says that admitting our passions is the first step toward freedom. She says that she’s glad Denise sees things the same way she does, and then kisses her, because that’s exactly the most cliché way this storyline could have gone, sigh. Denise immediately flees.

Tom Weston is a Creeper. Weston is back at The Paradise arguing fireworks pricing with Moray and Dudley. He’s angry that Clemence stood him up to go drink with the ladies the night previous and says he’s not making any sort of deals with her until she has dinner with him. Moray says that women like Clemence are flighty, and she could change her mind and return to France on a whim. Weston snorts and says he knows women like Clemence and what they really want is to be mastered. So, that’s lovely. I don’t know if the show means to telegraph so directly that Weston will definitely be attempting to rape someone this season, but there you have it.

Dudley argues that they should just treat her like any other vendor and be done with it. But Weston, who is rapidly transforming into some sort of Voltron-esque figure of smarmy nastiness, says that since they’re all gentlemen together, he can just admit that Clemence is irresistible to him, so why should he bother resisting. Everyone looks grossed out because this is, in fact, an appalling comment. Moray tries to explain that Clemence doesn’t really respond to gentlemen suitors period but Weston just laughs and says he doubts she’s some chaste French maid. Weston swears he can overcome her objections and I’m about to fast forward this episode UGH. So, other television shows out there, if you’ve introduced an annoying, over the top new character and you’re not sure how to get your viewers to sympathize with her, have your male leads talk about her like this, because I’m suddenly 100% on her side. This is just horrifying.

Moray says he’d just prefer if Weston left it alone, but Weston decides that means that Moray tried to get with her while he was in Paris and got shot down. He laughs and strides off, while Moray stares after him and Dudley is so grossed out by the entire sequence that it makes me love him for it.

Denise Confides in Clara. Denise decides to tell Clara that Clemence kissed her, which is hilarious in a sad way since the two of them have never been friends and seeing them share confidences in no way rings true. (I mean, honestly, would Denise be dumb enough to tell Clara anything she could ever use against her?) But since they replaced Pauline with the utterly idiotic Susie, Denise has no other friends or potential allies to turn to, so this is what we’re left with.

Anyway, Clara is shocked and wants to know if she’s told Moray. Denise says no, and Clara rightly points out that if Clemence had been a man she’d have gone straight to him. Denise explains that she’s torn, because she wants Clemence to get this stupid contract (seriously is the miniscule number of people who are likely to buy fireworks – what are they going to do with them after all – worth all this drama?). She also says that she feels very confused because she really agrees with all of the speechifying from the other night about women and the wrongs they all live with as a sisterhood and following your dreams blah blah. Miss Audrey interrupts them before Clara can respond, which is unfortunate, because I’d have loved to hear what she said.

Moray Warns Clemence About Her Dinner Date. Moray tries to warn Clemence that toying with Weston is dangerous, but she brushes his concerns off and says she knoews how to handle men like him. She decides to write to Weston and back out of their dinner date for a second time, which infuriates him. The weird bit is that the music during these scenes is sort of very upbeat – loud and brash and rather like those “wacky hijinks” scenes you see in movies, so I’m not quite sure if we’re meant to think this is fun or…? So strange. Clemence then openly and brazenly flirts with Dudley whilst Weston is watching, which leads to the latter calling the former to his office like he’s a truant in school. Weston does this whole long speech about how lucky Dudley is to have risen so high in the world at The Paradise and tells him that if he wants to keep his job then he’ll cease talking to Clemence basically five minutes ago. He actually threatens to fire someone for talking to a girl he thinks is hot. I’m not even making this up. Does this ring incredibly untrue and crazy to anyone else? I mean yeah, Weston seemed to have something of a wandering eye in the season’s first episode but certainly nothing to this degree. It seems deeply unstable – not to mention way, way over the top. 

Miss Audrey Has Some Second Thoughts. Miss Audrey tells Edmund that the store is about to start interviews to find her replacement. She then goes on a rant – clearly influenced by Clemence – that she’s not really not so very old and it’s not fair that she lives in a world governed by men’s rules and can’t keep her job when she’s good at it and has been just as dedicated and consistent in her post as any man. Edmund says that for all her complaints about living in a man’s world all of his decisions have been dictated by her – he’s going to move to her brother’s cottage, he put his store up for sale on her say so, he waited years to marry the woman he loved, he’s moving their wedding day forward – all because she decided that that was how things were going to be. Audrey says that those are all trifling things and she means things like her life’s true calling. Edmund points out that to him these aren’t trifles at all, they’re the blocks that make up his life, and she needs to speak up if she means to change her mind.

Moray Goes to See Katherine About The Problem of Her Husband. Moray heads to Katherine’s house to fill her in on her husband’s generally horrible nature and meddlesome behavior. He tells her that Weston threatened to fire Dudley and that he just can’t work in conditions like that. She asks why he would do that, and Moray says it’s because he seems to consider him some kind of rival. Katherine clues in suddenly that this whole mess is about Moray’s French lady friend – remember she’s seen all the letters going back and forth between the two of them at her house – and is angry that Moray has come to rub her nose in what Weston is up to. She says she does not need his pity, and that Weston is not really what he seems to be to other people. She says she will deal with the situation and Moray thanks her. Katherine then wants to know who will be getting promoted to Head of Ladies’ Wear. Moray hems and haws, but Katherine says very directly that it’s obvious Denise is the best candidate. She says it makes no sense to hold Denise back by not giving her the job  and wonders if Moray is waffling because he’s afraid people will think he’s showing favoritism by giving the job to his lover.

Miss Audrey Keeps Waffling. Miss Audrey tells Denise and Clara that she’s told Edmund she’s thinking about not leaving The Paradise and getting married after all. Denise is shocked, and Clara immediately blames Clemence for showing up and getting everyone wound up about her whole girl power schtick when she’ll be leaving soon and not have to deal with any of the consequences. Miss Audrey wants to know why a woman should be punished for marrying and says she’d expected the younger women to back her up on this, and see that Clemence is right and speaks for them all.

Denise looks at her sorrowfully, insisting that none of them think a woman should be pressed into leaving her job or anything like that, but to do something like this to her uncle when she’s already promised him is wrong. Miss Audrey says that it’s obvious that Denise and Clara’s responses are just because they’re both angling for her job, and flounces off.

Miss Audrey then goes to see Edmund at his shop, but he’s not there because he’s over at That One Bar getting drunk with Sam. She tells him that she wants to speak privately, but Edmund is drunk and not getting up. Audrey complains that Edmund’s taking her decision awfully personally, and is really not considering the larger implications of the fact that she’s taking a stand about the injustice of a married woman being forced to give up her job. Hashtag the struggle is real. Edmund says he’s giving up a lot too – he’s fought to keep his shop open through terrible times, but he willingly put it up for sale for her.. He goes back to drinking, and Audrey leaves.

Katherine Sets Up a System. Katherine decides to craft her own solution to the problem of Weston lusting after another woman – by inviting that woman to come and stay with them. The weird “wacky hijinks” music is back again as Clemence arrives at the Glendening home and the girls talk while Weston lurks in the shadows, staring at them. I’m unclear why we’re supposed to think this is fun? This episode is so weird.

Katherine corners her husband and lays down the law to him, insisting that he can only pursue Clemence in their home, that he has to stop throwing himself at her all over town, and that he must particularly avoid her at The Paradise. Weston tries to change the subject to why Katherine cares about that store so much, and she insists that she merely doesn’t want to do anything to give Moray the upper hand. She says that she wants him to feel safe there, and that Weston mustn’t do anything to crush him. Her husband says he never believed that she was the one who abandoned him at the altar, why would she want to destroy him if she’d been the one who’d done the leaving.

Katherine then explains that she brought Clemence to him because she’s learned she can’t stop Weston from doing as he likes, and that he can’t stop himself either. But, she promises to be there for him when the infatuation passes and he realizes how shameful his behavior has been – she’ll pick him up, comfort him and be a good wife to him again. She says that the price is that he can’t ask her about what happened between Moray anymore. What makes this scene extra creepy is the fact that the two of them are inches away from making out throughout this entire conversation, despite her acknowledgement of feelings for another man, his of desire for another woman, and a mutual agreement that he’s about to try and cheat on his wife. So, their relationship is really weird.

And Then Clemence Gets Dudley Drunk But Jonas Saves the Day. Apparently all of Clemence’s over the top flirting with Dudley wasn’t entirely just for show before, despite her speech to Denise about using him to get what she wants because women have to pursue their equality by any means necessary blah blah. She seems to be quite fascinated with Dudley in his own right - she arranges to have a drink with him and proceeds to get him roaring drunk as they discuss how Dudley has always been really bad about talking to women and subsequently married a quite woman because she made him feel confident. And, despite the fact that a not insignificant portion of this episode has been focused on the fact that Clemence is actually into women, she proceeds to start kissing Dudley’s hand and all manner of impropriety.

Surprise, however: Jonas steps in to save the day and stop Dudley from doing anything stupid, as well as keep the two of them from being discovered by Weston, who’s followed Clemence to her “rendezvous” site because he’s a crazy stalker. We suffer through a bit more of the weirdly ARENT THESE ROMANTIC HIJINKS ENTERTAINING music growing increasingly loud in the background, before Jonas drops the metaphorical hammer in an extremely polite fashion on Weston’s crush, introducing himself and pointing out that Clemence really prefers the company of ladies (unless they are Dudley, I guess?) He says Weston can ask Moray about it if he doesn’t believe him, and Weston looks shop.  

Time to Wrap This Up. Clemence ends up back at The Paradise, crying because Jonas creeped her out, and Dudley’s disappeared. Jonas apparently also told her some harsh truths about herself, which I sort of wish we could have heard, to be quite honest. Then for no reason at all Clemence decides to go off on some long and boring story about how she once loved an older woman who abandoned her for a good family man just like Dudley and she’d loved her so much and she didn’t understand it so she wanted to see what it was like with a proper man like that or something. I don’t care at all; I’m so tired of this character and this subplot is about fifteen miles past the point of ridiculous now.

In other news, Miss Audrey goes to see Edmund again, to ask him what kind of woman would torture such a kind soul as he is, and what kind of idiot would refuse an offer of marriage from a man she loves. Despite the fact that we never actually see Audrey digest or process or deal with any of her doubts from before, she’s suddenly decided that marriage is what she wants, so aren’t you glad we suffered through all her whining in this episode? Miss Audrey packs up her stuff and leaves The Paradise – and town, apparently – as they get into Edmund’s cart and ride off.

Weston tells Moray that he can just give Clemence her stupid fireworks contract so she can get out.

Oh, Moray and Dudley are so happy that Jonas stepped in to save the day for Dudley, that they offer him his old job at The Paradise back, because I guess that one time he stopped a guy from making a stupid drunk decision about a woman completely outweighs that other time he murdered a guy and then bribed a police officer to cover it up. Obviously.

Well, that episode was rather terrible. Do come tell me about your thoughts in the comments.