Confession time: This season is a struggle. Mostly because I can’t find a character to really latch on to/root for. I feel like it should be Denise, but why is she being such a dishrag when it comes to her boyfriend? Why has Katherine lost most of her fire and drive? Why is Clara a complete pod person now? What is even happening?
Edmund’s Still Part of This Show, Surprise. For some reason, Denise’s Uncle Edmund is still hanging around Lovett’s Drapery or whatever his store is called, moping about the state of life in general. Audrey is nowhere to be found – ostensibly because Sarah Lancashire had to go make another season of Last Tango in Halifax – but why didn’t they just write both these characters out. Sam and Denise are curious as to why Edmund hasn’t gone back to his new wife yet, but he says the reason he hasn’t been able to sell the shop is that it’s dirty and unkempt, not that no one wants to buy it. He insists he’ll go back to Audrey and their seaside cottage life as soon as he’s cleaned and fixed it up well enough to sell. Spoiler alert: Exactly zero people care, I’m sure, but this certainly seems like a honking great lie. Or at least a rather obvious stalling tactic.
Moray’s Still Moping. Moray’s wandering around with a particularly long face as he’s mourning the fact that it’s the fifth anniversary of the opening of The Paradise, which, if you didn’t know, used to be his store until it was cruelly stolen away from him by completely legal means.
Denise pops by his office to see him, but when she finds out Moray’s not there she takes a minute to sit in his desk care and obviously daydream about what it would be like if she were in charge of The Paradise and making all the decisions. Moray comes in while this is going on and seems disappointed in her, because that is his default expression these days. Denise apologizes for the grave offense of sitting at his desk, and says she just always wanted to know what it felt like, because he’s the King of England or something. Moray still looks mopey, like Denise just tried to steal his job. Shut Up, Moray.
Tom Weston is the Worst. Literally, the worst. Tom Weston, displaying the mature parenting style which would mean Flora will have to pay for a lot of psychiatric bills later in life if this show were set in the present day, decides that the best way to punish his wife for the Great Watch Debacle of Last Week is to deploy the Silent Treatment. I’m so serious, y’all. This is a real plot that is actually happening. Anyway, after Weston gets Flora to both hide from her stepmother and ignore her general existence – even when addressed directly – Katherine finally loses it, and starts shouting at them to talk to her, but Weston just hustles his daughter off to play in the maze again while twirling That Stupid Watch again. Later that night, he even stalks Katherine while she sleeps, coming into her bedroom to stare at her in a way that does not at all indicate he may be planning to murder her at a future date.
Of course, following all this, it’s the perfect time for Moray to randomly show up at Katherine’s house to have a gripe session about her husband. Or, rather, really to complain about her husband to Katherine while she stares off into space looking stricken and Moray ignores her obvious pain. He only starts paying attention when Katherine starts crying and begging for divine intervention to help her withstand the pain of her current personal trials. She goes on at some length about how cruel Tom can be to her, how she’s afraid of him, how it seems he wants to do nothing but punish her. It’s really quite sad – again, why did she marry this guy? A rich heiress surely could have done whatever she liked after her father died. Moray finally perks up a bit when it looks like Katherine’s about ready to toss herself in front of a dray, and hugs her, saying that she can’t possibly live like this. He tells her that she must promise to come to him if/when she needs something, although what Moray thinks he can do in this situation is anyone’s guess. They hug some more, just in time for Weston to walk by and see them, and I know I can’t wait to see how he’ll punish her for that. Ugh.
Ladies’ Wear Gets a New Customer. A new customer arrives in ladies’ wear named Lucille Ballentine, and she’s super excited about shopping. She’s also super nervous about what to buy, as it’s obvious that she’s just married into a pile of money after never having had any in her life before. She tries her best to befriend Susie and Clara and anxiously seeks reassurance that she’s buying the right sorts of outfits and accessories because she wants to make sure they all look right. Her interaction with them is about seven different kinds of awkward, as they help her purchase a bunch of stuff and she tries desperately to make them all be friends together. She says her husband will be by to settle her bill later and anxiously asks if its coarse to buy so much stuff in one go. Clara says not to worry, they’ll box her purchases all up for her.
The Ballentines return a bit later, and we learn that Lucille’s husband is a great deal older than she is, and absolutely besotted with her. Everyone – Susie especially – think they’re a bit scandalous together. It also turns out that he’s a rather successful businessman, and Denise is on it, talking up how awesome The Paradise is and suggesting he should be selling the ale his company makes in their new Food Hall. Meanwhile, Lucille’s busy trying to learn how to walk like a lady from Clara and Susie, and also inviting them out for a girls weekend or something. She says that all the well to-do society wives have been looking down on her because of where she comes from and she just wants them to come hang out with her and blah blah this is really kind of sad. Clara and Susie finally say yes to these repeated invitations and well this is going to be super awkward.
Weston Continues to Pout and Plot. Weston, back at The Paradise after a day of torturing his family at home, complains to his new BFF Jonas that he has just got to be rid of that troublesome Moray because he can’t bear to watch him lord it about the store anymore. Why can’t he just fire him? Like any other employee? Sure Katherine would complain, but he’s already shown he doesn’t give a crap about her anyway, so why would he care? Ugh, this show works so hard to create drama in places where it makes NO SENSE to have any.
Anyway, Jonas counsels patience, which is a complete stalling tactic that any idiot could see through but Weston buys his explanation that firing Moray would somehow let him “win” and “come out on top”, all of which makes zero sense. Ugh, whatever, why do I even care. Jonas says he’s on it, and will be back with a plan shortly.
Moray Feels Guilty for Ruining His Ex’s Life. During another secret meeting with Fenton and Jonas, Moray complains that he feels bad about the fact that he’s basically made Katherine’s life suck by stoking her husband’s jealousy about their past relationship. Fenton’s psyched though and says this is evidence that their dumb plan is working. Moray, however, is finally inspired to do the right thing and says he can’t continue with this charade when it’s obvious that Tom is dangerous and volatile. Jonas pipes up that Moray has played his part successfully and Fenton says that it’s now the perfect time to approach Weston with their proposal. Moray, who is deeply stupid, is confused about the whole proposal business, but before explanations can be made Denise arrives and Jonas has to hustle Fenton out the back to keep her in the dark.
(Meanwhile, Katherine is busy barricading herself in her bedroom at night because she’s probably afraid her husband is going to kill her in her sleep, but okay.)
Is Anyone Even Rooting for This Relationship Anymore. After Moray lies to Denise about the presence of his Sekrit Business Partners, the two head out for a walk. She tries to sell him on the idea of Mr. Ballentine as a possible investor to help buy The Paradise, but Moray is dismissive, insisting that Ballentine is just an old man who’s busy having his head turned by a pretty young wife. Denise tries to argue that he knows a lot about business, but Moray just shuts her down. She asks whether he’s being so unreceptive to the idea because its hers, but somehow Moray manages to avoid answering this because the conversation switches to Katherine and how unhappy she is. Denise wants to know how her boyfriend is such an expert on his ex’s mental state and is shocked and hurt that Moray went to see Katherine without telling her, and looks petulant and sad. She says Katherine hasn’t forgotten what happened between all of them, and warns Moray not to trust her. Maybe she’ll feel bad when Katherine turns up murdered by her psycho husband I guess?
More Secret Meetings Occur. Jonas brings Fenton to see Tom Weston, in a meeting that it seems safe to assume Moray doesn’t know about. Fenton explains that he and his brother plan to create a national chain of emporiums by expanding their existing stores all over England, and they’re looking to put one in our nameless Northern town. After a lot of super boring shop talk that literally no one cares about, the deal is this: Fenton says that if Weston won’t sell him The Paradise, he’ll build a new store and put Moray in charge of it and give him loads of money to succeed. But if Weston does sell him The Paradise, he’ll cast Moray out and never give him a job again his life will be over blah blah. This is the dumbest storyline. It’s unclear how many sides Fenton is playing in this, as why wouldn’t he just fire everybody if he got control of the store, but, again, I’m too apathetic about this entire show right now to try and work it out.
The World’s Most Awkward Tea Party. Lucille has brought the whole Paradise ladies’ wear department to her house for a fancy picnic, along with Myrtle, just in case you were worried we’d make it through an entire episode without seeing her. The hostess gets pretty tipsy on champagne and starts having an emotional breakdown about her class status, lamenting that she doesn’t know how to dress or talk like a real lady. She also shares that she caught her rich husband because she was the one nursing him when he was ill. Weirdly, it’s Clara who saves the day, saying that no one there is going to judge her for catching a man who wants to make her happy.
Afterward, Denise goes for a stroll with Lucille’s husband, and they chat about their live views, particularly as regards business and careers and what not. He tells her that he’s heard Moray’s trying to raise funds to buy back The Paradise, and wants to know why he lost it in the first place. Denise explains that Moray gallantly gave up everything for love blah blah this is some seriously generous reading of history but whatever it’s called a choice for the love of everything. Ballentine likes this story, as he’s become something of a romantic in his old age now. Denise suggests that he meet with Moray and put his proposal to him himself. And then she goes on a long rant about how modern and awesome and glamorous the store is, which is in and of itself enough to convince Ballentine that he should invest. He tells her to put together a formal proposition for him.
Moray and Katherine Have a Weird Heart to Heart. Moray and Katherine take a long walk together through some bucolic setting. She says his presence is a comfort to her, but Moray insists that her husband is angry because his presence serves as a constant reminder to him of the relationship that the two of them once had. He says that if they continue to see one another, it’s just going to make things worse for her.
Katherine suddenly bursts into confession mode: She brought Moray back to The Paradise to punish him because it wasn’t enough to just ruin him, since that would never match the hurt she felt when he abandoned her. She says she restored him to The Paradise so she could watch him and Denise, and know that one day she would one day feel as Katherine herself had felt, and fear losing him. However, she says that now a few moments with Moray, knowing that he cares what happens to her, well, she doesn’t want to hurt anybody anymore. She says she only wants to know that sometimes they can be together like this and talk. Moray says that Tom will destroy her, but Katherine predicts that Denise will destroy him too. She says that her husband’s told her all about Denise’s ambition, and that he thinks eventually the girl will outrun Moray entirely.
Katherine asks if this is what he sees himself at the store, and Moray suddenly looks all weirdly emotional and like he’s about to cry. The two end up standing very close and holding hands and this is probably the exact moment that I officially give up on this show. Ugh. Shut up, everybody.
Denise Makes a Move. Denise tells Moray that Ballentine basically as good as said he’d invest with them. Moray complains that the Westons aren’t of a mind to sell at the moment (so, okay, someone actually has noticed that at some point!) and maneuverings like this will only antagonize them. He says they have to find investment from the best source at the most favorable time, which is a hilariously insane statement. Moray then goes on a long complaint about how he wishes things could be simple with Denise romantically, that she didn’t work at the store, that they’d just met in the street that things between them were more innocent and less complicated. Denise actually thinks this is romantic, because for all that Denise is smart about business she is really dumb about men.
To continue along with that theme, Denise goes to Dudley and says that they should go behind Moray’s back to secure investment to…buy something that at the moment is not for sale. Dudley’s not entirely into this plan as it involves acting without his BFFs consent or knowledge, but Denise says that working for the Westons is just crushing her honey, and they’ve got to do something. She says as long as it’s for his good (getting the money), he doesn’t necessarily need to know how they helped. Yup, this is really going to end well.
Dudley for some reason, decides to go alone with this obviously doomed to failure plan and coaches Denise about how to talk to a real businessman like Ballentine, because they’ve apparently decided to send her to negotiate on her own. Dudley says that this is because he’s a good person with numbers and figures and such but Denise will just light up the room with her…business sense or something because she’s such an entrepreneur. I don’t even know, and all I’m even thinking during these scenes is that Denise and Dudley would actually be cute together. Of course Denise impresses Ballentine during their chat, and he says he’ll let her know what he decides soon.
That Plot You Don’t Care About Continues. Clara takes Lucille Ballentine to That One Bar On This Street, where Mrs. B has another breakdown about how society at large sees her relationship with her husband and we continue not to care. She says she sees how people look at her when she’s with him and apparently that means she must actually be a golddigger, or something. She starts crying and says that everytime her husband is kind to her she just feels guiltier and she’s made a big mistake and should admit it. She says she’ll leave him, but Clara points out that that’d be kind of a cruel thing to do to someone that loves her.
Just in case you thought this bit of this storyline was going to be the low point of this episode, you’d be wrong. Later, Lucille comes to The Paradise in time to see Clara chatting with Ballentine. She immediately accuses her of spilling their conversation to her husband. Clara says that Ballentine was just inviting her and all the shopgirls to come to Lucille’s birthday party, because he thought it would make her happy. Lucille continues to freak out and insists that this kind of thing is exactly why she has to leave him because the nicer he is to her the more she dreads the day when he’ll realize that she’s a gold digger who tricked him into marriage because she kissed him while he was asleep and injured. Clara has to talk her down off the ledge, saying that all she has to do is love a man that loves her, and just accept her luck in that.
Moray Remains a Terrible Boyfriend. For some reason, Moray has decided to tell Dudley about the fact that he found Denise sitting in his desk chair in his office. Dudley rightly decides that Moray’s upset about this is crazy, and points out that not only has he found Arthur sitting in that chair before, he himself has done it. He says people are allowed to daydream. Moray still looks huffy, but admits that he may be jumping at shadows.
Dudley, who is apparently allotted his one episode to be awesome today, says that he knows exactly what’s going on, and it’s that Moray is too busy being involved in underhanded dealings with Jonas and Fenton to realize that Denise has brought them a perfect financier to save the store all on her own. Moray pouts, but admits that he’s not into that idea because Denise is the one that found Ballentine and he’s a complete child. (He may have only actually said the first part outloud.) Dudley continues to wield the Awesome Stick of Truthiness says that Denise did it for Moray because she loves him, and says that his friend has lost sight of what’s important.
Meanwhile Back at the Westons. Katherine, who is illustrating again that the fabulousness of her clothes is apparently inversely proportional to how good her storyline is by wearing a stunning purple dress, is started by the sound of a gunshot outside. She rushes out to discover the rather disturbing news that her rather mentally unstable life partner has gotten a bunch of rifles from somewhere and is practicing with them. Weston apologies – sort of – saying that he didn’t come to her room in the middle of the night to hurt her, just to stalk…er, look at her. He then tells her about the offer her got to sell the store. Katherine starts to protest, but Weston says that as her husband what he decides will be what prevails. He says that what he really wanted to tell her is that he doesn’t want to lose her, and hopes they can stop punishing each other and make a life together. He even pulls out Flora for some extra guilt on the issue. Katherine doesn’t say anything, just hugs her step-daughter.
Katherine then sends Moray a letter asking him to come and see her, it’s pretty urgent actually, blah blah. Moray immediately rushes to a carriage, only to run straight into Denise on the way out. Instead of telling her he’s going to go see his ex though, he lies and says he’s going to see Mr. Ballentine because he’s realized Denise is right about him and scheduled a meeting. Denise is super happy, and Moray realizes that maybe he sort of overcommitted to this lie.
Denise Faces Multiple Crises. Moray’s lack of skill as a liar becomes apparent when Ballentine himself actually shows up in ladies’ wear, where Denise is shocked to see him, and even more surprised to learn that Moray has not contacted him at all. Womp wommmp. Ballentine tells Denise that he wants to invest, and that he’s very tempted by the store, but he wonders whether he might not just buy it outright and install a different manager in it. Denise manages to convince Ballentine to at least meet with Moray and hear him talk about the store and his vision and passion for it before he decides. She’s super relieved.
Denise’s relief doesn’t last long, as her Uncle Edmund collapses and looks like he has a heart attack outside his shop. He’s spent the entire episode cleaning his store and moping about the prospect of selling it and having his life taken away from him yawwwn, but it’s been too boring to mention until right now. Denise stays by Edmunds side and luckily Lucille Ballentine the former nurse is there to help save the day. She says that Edmund will recover but will need a lifetime of rest after this probably. Denise is still upset, even more so when Dudley arrives and she’s forced to ask where Moray is. Dudley doesn’t say anything, and Denise, not being quite as idiotic as she has otherwise been in this episode, realizes that this means her betrothed has gone off to meet with his ex again.
Predictable Storyline is Predictable. Moray arrives at his apparently pre-designated secret meeting spot, which appears to maybe be the Westons’ driveway. Katherine looks relieved to see him, but jumps right into her prepared speech. She explains that she’s a mother now, and has the responsibility of Flora to think of, and can’t bear the thought that her actions end up making her afraid. Katherine says she must forbid herself from seeing Moray alone, that this must be the last time. Moray makes a move to leave, but Katherine won’t let him just yet. She says that when she’s alone her thoughts are all reasonable, but when she’s with him her logic just goes out the window.
Moray tries to explain that his concern for her has all been genuine and they end up sharing the world’s most awkward kiss. Seriously, Moray’s expression as he pulls away from Katherine is hilarious, but it’s also sort of insulting because this was, ostensibly, the point of his whole “flirt with her” plan after all, wasn’t it? He pulls away from her entirely, Katherine looks crushed and the dramatic violin music ramps up. Moray says that he loves Denise and has always been true to her. Katherine almost passes out, and then pointedly refuses Moray’s help to right herself, before she rushes back into the house. Literally no one is surprised by this storyline, I expect, and it just feels tired and re-tready in many ways. Yes, Katherine had genuine feelings for Moray. No, Moray didn’t return them. Yes, Moray sort of led a woman on romantically for his own benefit. We’ve seen this before, guys. It was called Season 1.
The only awesome part of this is when Moray arrives back on The Main Street and comes to see Denise at Edmund’s shop. He tries to apologize for not being there with Denise when all this went down with her uncle, but she just tearfully accuses him of being with Katherine instead. He admits that yes he was with Katherine, but he hasn’t actually betrayed Denise or anything. (I guess that big lie he told on the way out was cool?) Denise asks him to leave her in peace with her uncle and starts crying. Moray wanders off to look sad. I wish I cared about any of this.
Another week, another episode that’s mostly a mess. Y’all realize that Clara was the best character in this episode, right? Think about that for a minute. Clara.
Do you have thoughts to share? Snarky comments? Commiseration that I’m still watching this? Two episodes to go. Whew.