I’m sure I’m not the only one whose Sunday nights felt a little empty after the last series of Downton Abbey concluded over Christmas. Fear not fellow period drama lovers for ITV’s Mr Selfridge returns to plug that Downton sized hole.
Series two begins with the fifth anniversary of Harry Gordon Selfridge’s famous London department store. The shop floor is a hive of activity as the staff hurry to prepare for the opening. Harry himself is surrounded by eager journalists that touch a nerve when enquiring about his family. His wife Rose’s decision at the end of the first series to take the children and leave for Chicago after she learns of his affair with music hall actress Ellen Love still troubles him. He spends the rest of the episode desperately trying to convince Rose to come back to him and bring the children home. She refuses after running into his latest mistress on a visit to the store and I don’t think anyone could blame her.
A lot has happened in the time we’ve been away. Many characters are getting on in the world with promotions left, right and centre. The show’s star, shop girl Agnes Towler, returns from a stint in Paris to be appointed head of display while one of her love interests from last series, Victor Colliano, has risen to manage the store’s Palm Court restaurant. It seems that her departure left Victor feeling hurt and unwanted; there’s sure to be an emotional confrontation in a later episode. Miss Mardle continues to work on the shop floor still miserable at Mr Grove’s callous rejection in favour of the younger, prettier Doris. Meanwhile he seems to be regretting his choice of bride with three demanding children at home and another on the way.
The addition of several new characters brings a different flavour to the show. Lady Mae Loxley’s obnoxious husband turns up out of the blue intent on putting an end to his wife’s extravagant life of leisure. Definitely one to watch out for, he seems certain to be the villain of this series as he sets about securing a position in parliament via blackmail. Little Gordon Selfridge returns from boarding school all grown up and demands to start work at the store which he does though, disappointingly for him, in the loading bay. Sadly, the wonderfully feisty Miss Ravillious has been replaced by the snobbish Mr Thackeray as head of fashion; though this may prove to be interesting with a definite rivalry brewing between him and Agnes. Perhaps the most influential new face is that of Rose’s new friend; nightclub owner Delphine Day. Her scandalous autobiography, The Summerhouse, which she launches at Selfridges, is full to bursting with racy stories of past lovers and sets the scene for the many examples of the growing independence of Edwardian women throughout the episode. The most obvious being Rose’s decision to invest some of her own money in Delphine’s club, saying she doesn’t need Harry’s approval, whilst out on her own sipping cocktails and dancing the night away.
The return of Henri LeClaire, who appears looking dishevelled and down on his luck, promises more heartache for Agnes who was involved romantically with him but was left behind two years ago when he set out for New York. The episode ends with the onset of war as Archduke Franz Ferdinand is assassinated which will no doubt complicate things for everyone; making it all the more interesting for us of course!
The set design and attention to detail throughout is truly magnificent with the sumptuous costumes and Lady Loxley’s ever more extravagant hats lovely to behold. Mr Selfridge is a real treat on a Sunday night with gorgeous visuals, great period detail and lashings of juicy drama; definitely one to watch.
Mr Selfridge is on ITV, Sunday nights at 9pm.