It was clear that there was no need to worry about people not wanting to watch a drama about a department store so soon after they’d finished their Christmas shopping as last week almost seven million of you tuned into watch ITV1’s Mr Selfridge. However critical and audience support was mixed as the production design was praised while Jeremy Piven was mildly panned for his overly theatrical performance as Selfridge. My personal issue was that there was so much of Selfridge in episode one that it was hard to get to know the other characters however in this second episode several new stories spring up to let other members of the ensemble cast shine.
Obviously as it’s his show, Selfridge is front and centre to an extent but this is week is worried that the initial buzz about his store has worn off and people are getting a little bored. After Harry is told French aviator Louis Bleriot is flying across the channel from Calais he decides to meet him on his arrival into England and encourage him to promote the store. As always with Harry this involves plenty of pomp and circumstance as he arranges to lower Bleriot’s aircraft into the store and also creates an elaborate routine for ‘The Spirit of Selfridges’ Ellen Love to perform. This instalment also sees the relationship between Ellen and Harry become more serious as they finally become intimate and he buys her a new house which I’m sure is a good exchange. Harry’s relationship with the increasingly demanding Ellen is impacting on other members of the store most notably Henri who is frustrated that Ellen doesn’t like any of the pictures he has taken of her.
Though Harry and other staff members are eventually able to win Henri around there is a greater threat as Lady Mae is also insinuating to Mrs Selfridge that something is going on between her husband and Ellen. However it seems that Rose might not be completely faithful herself after going to the National Gallery on her own, and travelling on the tube no less, where she catches the eye of a handsome young artist Roddy Temple. It is clear Rose is slightly taken with Roddy, as she uses her maiden name when introducing herself, however she warns him she is married when he attempts to make a move on her. It is evident that by the end of the episode not all is well with the Selfridge marriage and I would hazard to guess that both have cheated on each other by the time the series is through.
Elsewhere the story of Agnes Towler also expands allowing other secondary characters from last week to shine as well as introducing a new face who causes a stir. As we saw last week Agnes witnessed a brief moment in the lift between chief-of-staff Mr Grove and her immediate boss Miss Mardle and both know believe that she is on to them. Indeed Grove believes Agnes is blackmailing him after she enquires if there are any jobs for her brother George and after seemingly making her agree to keep her mouth shut he tells her that George can work as a porter. Indeed it seems as if George is hit with his colleagues though there is an insinuation that he’ll be caught up in something illegal after his superior informed him about lorries carrying ‘special deliveries’. However that might be the least of the Towler siblings’ worries as their father Reg is back on the scene and he weasels his way into their apartment claiming that he has changed his ways. But as we can see Reg, played by reliable rogue-for-hire Nick Moran, is an aggressive drunk who gets into a fight with his son almost as soon as he gets through the front door. To me it’s clear that Reg will somehow jeopardise Agnes’ career at Selfridges which will mean she’ll never get to fulfil her potential as a window dresser. In this episode we also learn that Grove and Mardle’s affair is even more illicit than first thought as he is married and if they are discovered, which they will most likely be, then both will get the sack. The final staff member to get some screentime this week was Agnes’ suitor and waiter at the store’s restaurant Victor who is getting plenty of attention from the older female customers. After his boss tells him to be nice to all the women who enter the restaurant he accepts the offer to wait at a party for one of the wealthier clients however he is shocked to learn that he is the only guess attending this party.
As I said last week Andrew Davies’ costume dramas are often packed with multiple storylines and characters which this second episode demonstrated by slightly taking the focus off Selfridge and instead following some of last week’s secondary characters. While I’m not sure if this was an improvement on last week’s episode then it certainly flowed better as it was about half an hour shorter and had a snappier pace to it. This may well have been because last week’s episode had to tell the story of the creation of Selfridges while this week there is more time for multiple storylines involving the other staff members. I also enjoyed that Aisling Loftus almost got as much screentime as Piven this week as Agnes really is the heart of the story as we saw her bond more with her fellow staff members but at the same time have to endure more family dramas.
In addition I think the inclusion of new stories involving Rose and to a lesser extent Victor allow the world of Mr Selfridge to expand and in the former’s story show that the wife isn’t as loyal to her husband as we may think. I still believe that Jeremy Piven plays it up a little to much as Selfridge and I really don’t buy the attraction between he and Ellen Love however this week there was a lot less of him which was only a good thing. As always everything looks stunning and I particularly enjoyed Selfridges becoming all French for the arrival of Bleriot while I think the score is also fitting as it illustrates the theatrical nature of the show. Overall a better paced episode than last week even if I’m still not convinced we need another drama about shopping
What did you think to this week’s instalment of Mr Selfridge? Did you enjoy it more than last week? Leave Your Comments Below.