One of the major criticisms of Mr Selfridge has been the performance of Jeremy Piven in the lead role as most find him overly-theatrical and a little much. Those people then will probably enjoy tonight’s episode in which Harry spends most of the episode unconscious after the car accident he had last week. While Piven spends most of the time in bed either asleep or making unrecognisable sounds it is up to some of the supporting cast to take the reins namely Tom Goodman-Hill as chief-of-staff Mr Grove and Ron Cook as money man Mr Crabb.
The episode initially starts with Crabb in charge of the store by announcing that while Selfridge is still alive following the crash there has sadly been a death namely that of Mr Grove’s poorly wife. The death of Mrs Grove sparks mixed feelings in his mistress Miss Mardle who now feels that their relationship can be given more time since he is no longer a married man. Though Grove really shouldn’t be at work he feels he should return to take the helm of the store and to make an import decision about what to do regarding the suffragettes who are planning to march down Oxford Street. As those who’ve been paying attention will remember Lady Mae made a deal with Harry to let the suffragettes have their lunches at Selfridges’ restaurant once a week however Grove negates this deal sparking anger from the ladies who plot their revenge. While seemingly agreeing with Mr Grove it appears as if Miss Mardle doesn’t support her partner’s feelings about these women while Head of Fashion Miss Ravillous also seems to secretly support the cause. It is Mr Crabb who realises that Mr Grove is still not in his right mind so devices a plan to stop the suffragettes from destroying the store as he feels it’s what the chief would do. He arranges for Miss Mardle to take Mr Grove away which allows the rest of the staff to work throughout the night in order to carry out Crabb’s plan.
Interestingly the theme of gender politics plays throughout the episode not only through the story of the suffragette movement but also at the Selfridge home where the question arises about who will be Harry’s successor if he does pass away. This issue is first bought up when Harry’s erstwhile business partner Mr Musker pays Rose a visit to find out who he’ll be working with if Harry is no longer capable of carrying out his duties. Rose informs Musker that Harry believes commerce is a man’s world so has organised it for his son Gordon to be his successor with Rose and Lois acting as his trustees until he comes of age. Gordon overhears this plan and for runs to the store where he is apprehended by several staff members until Leclair realises who he is. The revelation that Gordon will inherit the store doesn’t sit well with Harry’s daughters especially Violette, who Rose earlier described as a modern woman, who resents the fact that Gordon will get the store just because he’s a boy. Indeed Violette is so taken with the suffragettes that she eventually joins the march seemingly without her mother noticing that she’s left.
Elsewhere we also saw some of the romantic subplots continue namely the affair between Lady Mae and Victor which, as we saw tonight in a rather steamy scene, is fully underway. It appears as if Victor believes that through fulfilling Mae’s sexual desires he will get the funding he needs to open his own restaurant however it is blatantly obvious that she is just using him for her own personal pleasures. After essentially ditching him last week Agnes now wants to be friends with Victor, who is now spending all of his time in Lady Mae’s bed, however it appears as if she may have a new admirer in the form of Leclair. The past couple of episodes have seen Agnes and Leclair getting closer, and I was wrong last week about his gift of the scarf getting her into trouble, with this week’s instalment seeing them bond when they return Gordon home after his visit to the store. As Agnes questions Leclair over his romantic life he admits that he is now in love with an innocent but I feel she is a little bit too naive to realise he is falling for her. Agnes also finally realises that Kitty’s snide comments towards her come from the fact that she feels that she should’ve got the job of senior assistant over Agnes. To try and make amends Agnes offers Kitty the opportunity to act as the chief assistant for a short period while she is busy with fashion and I feel this will eventually lead to Agnes leaving the accessories counter to be Leclair’s permanent assistant. Finally this week we learnt that Ellen survived her suicide attempt and Frank, keen for her not to go to the papers about her affair with Harry, suggests that she attempts to be a serious actress rather than just a showgirl however I’m not sure how far her limited abilities will take her.
I have to say that I rather enjoyed this episode of Mr Selfridge thanks to the fact that Piven’s absence gave other cast members the chance to shine and they did indeed make the most of this opportunity. Personally I thought Ron Cook was rather good as Mr Crabb, who usually just has a couple of lines where he complains about Harry’s over-spending, as he attempted to take charge in order to save the store. Once again Amanda Abbington was great as Miss Mardle here having to portray her conflicted feelings over the death of Mr Grove’s wife and what this may mean for their relationship. I also thought that the script was spot on this week as Andrew Davies linked Harry’s accident and the suffragette movement with the beliefs that commerce is a man’s world and women can’t deal with the rough world of politics. The theme of the rise of the modern woman can be seen throughout Mr Selfridge through some of its characters namely Lady Mae who manipulates all the male characters and through a working class girl like Agnes who is constantly attempting to better herself.
Overall this was another enjoyable slice of Sunday night drama made better by the absence of Harry who it appears will return to his theatrical best next week. It’s a shame as this was one of the better episodes of the series, namely because Piven wasn’t around, but as we saw by the end Harry was back in his favourite position that being on his back surrounded by a large group of woman shouting out his name.
What did you think to this week’s episode of Mr Selfridge? Did you think Jeremy Piven’s absence made a difference to the quality of this instalment? Leave Your Comments Below.