Mr Selfridge: All the World’s a Stage

26361 Previously on Mr Selfridge: All the spurned people on the show got together to work on a play, which I’m sure won’t be disastrous at all. Rose got a creepy stalker in Roddy, who insists she’s in love with him, and she seems to agree with that, which is gross. Grove started getting a bit closer to Doris, while freezing out Mardle, and Agnes decided to end her nonsensical fling with Henri.

Harry sneaks out of someone’s bedroom in the very early hours of the morning and steals back to his own home, where he stupidly tries to sneak into bed with Rose, who’s wide awake. Unwilling to keep up the pretense, she gets up and stalks out.

A little later, Harry comes down to breakfast, where he finds only Rose at the table. He shows off some article in the paper about the store and she sniffs that he really seems to have it all now. So, still mad, then?

Harry arrives at the store, trying to put on a happy face, but exactly nobody is fooled. In his office, he finds Henri waiting, along with Blenkinsop, who tells him nervously that Mae’s waiting inside. Henri offers to wait, so Harry goes in and Mae wastes no time telling him that ‘someone special’ who is a dear friend of Mrs Keppel wants to visit the store privately, after hours. Because he’s being particularly dense today (let’s be charitable and say it’s due to lack of sleep), Harry can’t figure out who this person is, even though it was fairly well known that Alice Keppel was King Edward’s mistress. Harry insists that all his customers are free and equal and Mae’s, like, seriously, Harry, wake the hell up and do as I say.

Downstairs, Mardle’s attention is drawn by Kitty squealing and cackling like a crazy woman, and she goes to find out what’s going on. Kitty’s crowing over Doris’s brand spanking new engagement ring, that’s what’s going on. Woah. Because she has no idea what’s about to come, Mardle sweetly congratulates Doris and then asks who the lucky man is. Doris doesn’t want to say, because they were supposed to be keeping it a secret (rule number one, then, sweetie—don’t go wearing your engagement ring around the shop, then, and certainly don’t show it to someone like Kitty, for heaven’s sake), but Kitty apparently knows all and announces that Grove’s the lucky man. Man, what a dick. Mardle’s face freezes and it takes a little while for her to believe it. She blanches and hurries away, watched by Agnes, who, as we know, knows all about Mardle’s involvement with Grove.

The asshole himself is upstairs grinning over the newspaper article with Crabb when Mardle comes in and asks for a word. Once they’re alone, he has the gall to ask her what’s wrong and she tells him she’s just had the opportunity to admire Doris’s engagement ring. He says he made her promise not to say anything until he’d had a chance to speak to Mardle, but I say he probably should have spoken to Mardle before he proposed. She tearfully says she wishes he’d had the courage to see her first and he asks to speak with her a little later and explain himself. What’s to explain, really? You told Mardle you needed some space and then went out and grabbed a younger woman. Seems rather clear-cut to me.

Back in accessories, Doris is practically walking on air, telling Kitty that she’s always wanted to be someone’s wife, so this is really a dream come true. Kitty, naturally, acts like a bitch for a bit, but Doris will not be dragged down. Kitty admits that she’ll miss Doris, which seems to surprise Doris.

Victor, who seems to have very little actual work to do, ever, comes down to chat with Agnes and tell her that it’s his birthday. He suggests she come up to the palm court for a visit later and she sassily says she may just do that.

At the Selfridge manse, Violette’s reciting English monarchs, and her clueless grandmother asks why she’s not reciting American presidents. Apparently Lois has forgotten she lives in another country now, and the kids attend English schools. Gordon comes in, dressed for cricket, and collects his sister for some playtime. Once they’re gone, Rose comments that the kids are more English every day, and she’s been thinking of taking a trip to the States with them to remind them that they’re good ol’Yankees. Lois doesn’t think it’s a good idea, but it seems that Rose’s mind is made up. She’s homesick, and pissed off at her husband, so she wants some time and space. Lois tactfully says she knows things have been difficult in the Selfridge house lately, but Rose needs to know that, deep down, Harry would be lost without her.

Back at the store, Mae has finally gotten through to Harry who the mystery guest is going to be, and he’s gone all dreamy. Furthermore, his majesty has invited them all to the opening of Tony’s new play. Mae suggests Harry bring Rose along. I find it a bit difficult to believe that the king would be attending the play of some former kept boy turned hack playwright. Harry’s not sure Rose will come, but Mae says that such an offer can’t really be refused, and furthermore, it’d do Harry some good to be seen with his wife a bit more. Harry sees her off and tells Blenkinsop to summon Crabb and Grove so he can make arrangements for the royal visit.

Harry’s completely forgotten Henri, who’s not happy to be put off again.

George makes a delivery to the restaurant, where Victor greets him and pumps him for info on Agnes and whether she’s been mentioning Victor at all. George says no, and then asks Victor for dating advice, because as we recall, George is after Kitty. Victor suggests he take her some flowers and invite her out for a date.

Belowstairs, Agnes and Irene finish dressing a mannequin. Henri shows up and asks Irene if he can borrow Agnes. Of course. How did this man ever get his job done before he found her? Irene tells him she’s not a lending library, and he’s borrowing Agnes so much it’s starting to feel like Aggie works for him, not the fashion department. Nonetheless, she gives him leave to take her away.

Henri draws Agnes aside and tells her he’s moving to New York to take up a position with J Walter Thompson. He’s going to be the new art director. Agnes sincerely wishes him the best of luck. She seems a bit sad, but I’m sure she’ll get over it.

George has taken Victor’s advice and approaches Kitty on the shop floor. He hands over a posy of violets, tells her he’s sweet on her, and invites her to the pictures on Saturday. Showing just where her heart lies, she immediately asks who’s paying, and then tells him they’ll be sitting in the decent (more expensive) seats, not down in front. George agrees.

Harry arrives home and joyfully announces the king’s impending visit to Rose. Her response is a decidedly subdued ‘Oh? How nice for you.’ He earnestly says he really, really wants her there, and she darkly says she supposes it’s her duty to be there. Well, not with that attitude, Rose. Harry says he hopes she’d want to be there, and she snaps that that’s a bit too much to ask. Is it really, Rose? Aren’t you just the teensiest bit excited to see the king? That was a big deal back then. Still is now, for many people. Realising he’s not going to get the reaction he wants, so he may as well just go full steam ahead, Harry adds on the invitation to the play. Rose is aghast at the idea of going to see a play his mistress is in, but Harry says this would mean a lot to them and their family, and they don’t really have much of a choice. She agrees to go.

Mardle leaves the store after closing time and heads home.

Inside, Grove tracks down Doris and gently reminds her they were going to keep the engagement secret. She says Kitty let it slip (well, technically you let it slip first, to Kitty, Doris), and it doesn’t matter anyway, because soon enough she’ll be giving in her notice. Question: how is Grove going to avoid getting fired over this? Isn’t there an actual rule in place that forbids employees from dating? It’s going to come out sooner rather than later that these two are married (actually, it already has), so how’s he going to get around the fact that he clearly flouted one of Harry’s explicitly stated rules? And if the biography that this show is based on is anything to go by, Grove would have definitely been fired—Harry was not a forgiving man. One strike, and you were out.

Grove bids Doris goodnight and says he’ll see her the next day.

26362He goes right to Mardle’s, where they sit down in the sitting room and he admits he doesn’t know how to explain his actions. He says his wife’s death affected him more than he ever thought it would, and he was struck with a certain dread of dying and leaving nothing behind. Wow. Not that I don’t understand the sentiment on some level, but he just admitted he’s marrying Doris for her womb, which is pretty horrible. Grove goes on to say that explicitly, just in case anyone missed it, and Mardle gets up, moves about as far away from him as she can get in that little room, and tells him she hopes he’s a good husband to Doris. He says Doris will never know that he loved someone else, telling Mardle that she’s the love of his life. She rather heartbreakingly thanks him for saying that, and then he goes right over the douchebag cliff by offering to continue their affair. He’ll just tell Doris he’s spending one night a week at his club—she’ll never know! Jesus. First he’s marrying this sweet girl for the unspeakably selfish reason of merely popping a kid out of her that will act as an extension of himself, but then he’s going to just leave her with said child while he goes and fools around with the woman he led on and then completely crushed. It was one thing when he was carrying on because his wife was incapable of being an active participant in the marriage—that sort of thing, whether or not you agree with it—is at least somewhat understandable. But betraying a kindhearted, loving woman like Doris is disgusting. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a character go from fairly likeable to absolutely despicable so quickly before. And if I may say so, this seems pretty out of character for him. Throughout the show, he’s been depicted as a pretty decent person—look at how he tried to help out Bunting however he could. So this just doesn’t jive with what we’ve seen previously at all.

Thankfully, Mardle is horrified by that and tells him it’s completely wrong and she’d never do that to Doris. She then asks him to leave. Thank you, Mardle. You’ve just risen considerably in my estimation. Once he’s gone, she breaks down into sobs, possibly because she just realized she’s wasted years with a monster.

The next day, the red carpet is literally being rolled out and all the shopgirls are practicing their curtseys for Crabb. Upstairs, Henri finally gets a few minutes alone with Harry and tells him he’s leaving. Harry can’t believe it and accuses him of having really lousy timing. He also offers to double Henri’s salary, but this isn’t about the money. ‘You do this to me now?’ Harry cries, because this is all about him now. Henri rightly tells him that he can actually spread his wings in New York. He offers to stay until his replacement arrives, but Harry petulantly tells him to finish his last window and get out. Henri manages not to roll his eyes as he (probably thankfully) gets out of there.

He’s done a window in honour of the royal visit, and it looks like absolute shit, so I’m taking that as a final F-you to Harry. There’s a giant crown made of flowers or something that looks lopsided and cartoonish. Not up to your usual standard, Henri.

As the Selfridge kids watch from the upper floor, Harry escorts his majesty around the shop floor, accompanied by Rose, Mae, and the department heads. Edward asks him if he had trouble acclimating to London, and Harry says he had trouble winning around the press, but the public loved him. Edward turns to Rose, who’s back to wearing terrible hats, and asks if she’s settling in well. She lies that she is. Edward asks Harry where he might buy a little gift for someone special, and Harry blusters that they wouldn’t dream of charging him. Edward gleefully announces that he’s brought money and he wants to shop, because he’s never done something so novel in his life. He reaches Doris’s counter and asks for her suggestions, but she’s tongue-tied, so Mardle steps up and shows him a brooch shaped like a dog. He loves the idea. Shopping commences and Edward’s so delighted that he invites Harry down to Sandringham sometime.

While the royal party is off in some other area of the store, Victor approaches Agnes and repeats his invitation to the palm court for a spot of birthday cake. She agrees and presents herself later that evening, even thoughtfully bringing a little present. He’s got a table set up for one, and they reminisce about the first night he asked her up there and gave her a sherry. He pours her another one and sits with her. He cheerfully observes that he still doesn’t have his restaurant, but he doesn’t care, because there are more important things in life. Yes, like not signing your balls over to Mae. He recalls having asked Agnes to dance, and she remembers being too shy to accept, but now things have changed, so she dares him to ask again. He does, and she accepts, so they start waltzing around the restaurant.

It’s time for this awful play that everyone’s making a big deal about. Rose shows up at the theatre and looks like she’s going to be a bit sick when she sees the poster with Ellen on it. Harry, being a complete moron, is backstage to wish Ellen luck. In her dressing room, he finds Tony and Edwards, both of whom give him a rather cool reception. Edwards mentions that he’s been helping Tony with the play and Harry suggests they grab a drink later and have the much delayed conversation about a job for Edwards. Edwards turns him down flat and tells Harry to remember that you reap what you sow. I don’t know what Harry’s on to make him so completely stupid, but that doesn’t set off a single warning bell, from what I can see, even though you’d think that just spotting this particular trio together would be reason enough to be wary of this show. Edwards and Tony depart and Harry sincerely wishes Ellen good luck, adding that he hopes there aren’t any hard feelings between them. She says there aren’t, not on her side, and then adds that he’s not going to like this play. He laughs that he certainly will, because she’s in it. My god, what the hell happened to him? She tells him to just keep in mind that it’s only a play. I think we all know what’s coming.

Harry makes his way to the box where he’s sitting with Rose, Mae, Rosalie and Lois. Rosalie, proving that brains don’t run in this family at all, asks what satirical means. It means you left school too early, my dear. Edward reaches his box and there’s a very long, drawn-out fanfare played by a lone trumpeter while everyone stands. Edward nods briefly at Harry and Mae reassures him the whole audience will have caught that.

The play begins, and the basic premise is this: Ellen’s some young ingénue and Tony’s the toyboy of Lady Lushington. I hesitate to call her a thinly veiled caricature of Mae, because that would suggest there was any veiling at all, which there isn’t, not even in the dialogue, which at one point is lifted directly from Mae herself. Nor is there any obscuration in the character of—I kid you not—Horace Spendrich, an American who oozes onstage waving his arms about, begging the audience to love him, and talking about how his dad never came home from the war, but he and his dear old ma got by, and look how rich he is now! Edwards smirks from the wings—clearly this was his addition, and that makes him an absolute shit. And this play’s so horrifically bad (not that you’d know that by how uproariously the audience is laughing), that I’m starting to understand why Edwards got fired from the newspaper.

Nobody in Harry’s box is laughing. Not even poor Rose escapes, as the actors allude to her being in love with an artist. Ouch. Finally, the shitty play ends, and everyone applauds except for Mae and the Selfridge party. Hey, Ellen and the asshole brigade, remember that you reap what you sow. Mae reminds Harry that this is just a silly play and they’ve probably both survived much worse. Rosalie hasn’t, though, and she’s not so dumb that she doesn’t know what she just saw. She gets up and rushes out. Before Rose can go after her, Mae promises to see that the play closes within the week.

They return home, where Rosalie demands to know why Rose didn’t tell her about her and Roddy, because she still would have been upset, but at least she would have understood. She runs off, and Rose decides to go up to bed. Harry urges her to stay with him for a bit, but she’s not in the mood. Up she goes, where she sits at her dressing table for a while (guess all that reflection imagery is finally paying off somewhat, both here and in the scene with Grove and Mardle, though it really only applies to a small segment of the cast, so it was actually a rather sloppily applied leitmotif). After some reflection (sorry), she goes downstairs and finds Harry smoking in the study. She sits down with him and he tries to say that they’ll get through this, because it’s just a silly play. She counters that it was the truth and she felt guilty and ashamed of herself. Harry earnestly says he’s lost without her and the kids and asks her where it stands between them. She admits she doesn’t know and he asks her point-blank if she’s leaving him. He’s not sure he can go in and face all the people at the store if he doesn’t know he can come home to her. She tearfully asks him why he needs other women and he says he doesn’t, he’s just a fool. She announces that she and the children are going back to Chicago, and then she gets up and leaves.

Harry arrives at the store, where a gaggle of reporters are waiting for a picture and a statement about the play. One asks if he’s going to sue for libel, because apparently he doesn’t know how libel lawsuits work. I guess he also doesn’t know what satire is and how easily something can hide under that label. Harry strides through the store, gets on the lift, and goes up to his office. On his way past Crabb’s office, Crabb calls out a greeting and reassures Harry that these things pass. Harry thanks him and goes on his way.

Back at the Selfridge manse, Lois sees of Rose and the kids. Rose shoots her an anguished look and a tearful smile, and off they go. Rosalie looks back through the back window of the car as they drive away.

At the store, Harry finds a note Henri left him, which is cutely addressed to the King of Oxford Street and says that Henri’s last window was for Harry. Oh, so, I was right, it was a sort of final F-you, then.

26363That night, Agnes looks at that awful, awful window for a bit before she’s joined by Victor and away they stroll, together.

Harry walks through his empty, closed store, looking around at all he’s built. His peace is interrupted by the arrival of George with a delivery. Harry tells George that he used to do George’s job, and George happily guesses that means he could be like Harry someday. Harry sadly tells him he doesn’t want to be like him, but George thinks that Harry has everything—wealth, position, and a lovely family. Harry smiles sadly and bids George a goodnight.

And that’s goodnight for this series, too. At least, for the first season of it, because of course it’s been picked up for a second series. Does anything not get picked up now? Because this didn’t warrant a second season. I don’t even feel like it warranted a first. It just wasn’t good. Most of the characters were uninteresting and their stories were dull as hell. I couldn’t possibly care less about Kitty, or Agnes, or Ellen, or Mardle and Grove. Victor was all right, but that’s because he was the only one with some spine. Mostly their stories were a distraction from what should have been the true focus of the series: Mr Selfridge. Remember, the guy it’s named after? And Harry Gordon Selfridge was actually a really interesting person and there’s a lot to be mined from his life, so veering off into all these side plots was unnecessary.

And they weren’t even all that credible. Agnes having a sexual fling with Henri? No. That really made no sense. No way would a woman in Agnes’s position at that time be stupid enough to just hop into bed with some guy without any expectation of marriage. This wasn’t the 60’s, that sort of thing was not common. And a woman trying to focus on having some sort of career would never be stupid enough to do something that could easily a) get her pregnant, essentially ruining her life, or b) completely destroy her reputation, which would have been important to her. In other absurd character news, Grove’s heel face turn at the end there felt strangely out of character and served no purpose other than suddenly making him some sort of villain, and I don’t see how that serves the story at all.

I will admit that Piven got less annoying and seemed slightly more restrained as the series went on, but somehow as that happened, Rose got duller. It’s not just me, is it? She got boring, and her tolerance of Temple put me over the edge, as I’ve made clear.

There were some bright spots. The production values were spot on, and the costumes were beautiful. Too bad they were let down by terrible scripts and lazy acting. Oh well, you win some, you lose some, right? I’m going to go back to reading the book this is based on and dreaming of what could have been.



6 thoughts on “Mr Selfridge: All the World’s a Stage

  1. so do you think the paradise was better or not? Personally I thought both dramas were ‘fluffy’ but for some strange reason I liked the paradise more. I don’t why but I guess its because mr selfridge never met the really high expectations I set for it. The paradise did have problems with its dialogue and script but I actually cared a lot about the characters and the finale ended on a lot of cliffhangers which makes me look forward to series 2. Hopefully they will put series 2 on a sunday night as a tuesday night was never a perfect timeslot.

    1. Katie, we agree 100%. The Paradise had issues, but after watching this, I felt a little more kindly towards it. At least I felt like I actually cared about some of those characters, and the sidestories, like Miss Audrey’s history with Denise’s uncle, fit in with the story, didn’t feel like distractions, and made the characters involved more complex and interesting. I didn’t feel that way about any of the subplots in Mr Selfridge. And I agree, the end of The Paradise was more tantalising than the end of Mr Selfridge. It’ll be interesting to see how the second series of both stack up.

  2. both dramas were not breathtaking by any mile but there is no reason why a ‘fluffy’ drama can’t be enjoyable and the paradise was and deserves praise for that. The reason why I am angry about Mr selfridge is because it had SO MUCH POTENTIAL. Having read the book I thought this was going to a RETAIL drama focused on commerce, shopping attitudes, customers, changing attitudes etc and we did get some but frankly not enough and the life of mr selfridge had so much rich material to adapt from- this could have been a stunning period drama. Instead it was reduced to a ‘celebrity of the week’ episodes and side stories about doris, kitty, agnes etc etc- IT WAS JUST BAD along with some atrocious acting.

    1. I totally agree–I’m no snob and have a particular fondness for my ‘fluffy’ dramas–sometimes we just don’t want to have to think too hard, and there’s nothing at all wrong with that. I’m reading the book this is based on now and finding it really fascinating. You’re right, there was a lot to be mined here, but it ended up being shallow and silly and didn’t even capture the essence of the man it was based on, which is just sad.

  3. how the second series of both stack up will be interesting but I think to gain an equal measure, the paradise should be moved to sunday nights where it clearly belongs. Mr selfridge had practically everything going for it- the perfect sunday night primetime slot in winter, tons of promotion, a 10 million budget, an in-direct lead in from call the midwife and excellent production values yet wasn’t really a hit show. The paradise was rushed onto screens in september on a tuesday night without any real promotion, a much smaller budget and not great production values but despite this did really well. Again, the drama was not breathtaking but I hope the bbc puts it on sunday nights with a good lead-in show where it will undoubtedly increase its ratings further.

  4. I think the problem this series had (just the one! Ha!) was that they were pitching for that second series from the start. If they’d followed the dramatic arc that the real life story offered – the rise and fall, the Dolly sisters, Rose dying, the gambling! – it could have been properly eventful and moving, but the writers held back those cards, in favour of a lot of generic forelock tugging and anachronistic soapy guff that they could extend over another series. Not even Katherine Kelly’s hats could make up for that.

    But your recaps were 150% more entertaining than the actual show.

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