Mr Selfridge: The House that Harry Built

Harry bids the store farewell in this recap of the final episode of Mr SelfridgePreviously on Mr Selfridge: Harry found out about Jimmy killing Victor and cut him off, but not before Jimmy sort of screwed him over by trying to appropriate goods from Selfridge’s to stock the fast-emptying shelves at Whiteley’s. In despair, Jimmy jumped off a bridge.

The papers are full of stories about Jimmy, his death, his financial problems, and his relationship with Mae. Grace reads a story out loud to Gordon while he gets ready to leave for work in the morning. In the course of their conversation, we learn that Harry’s been avoiding the store since Jimmy’s death, which seems rather unlike him.

Rosalie approaches her father at the Selfridge Manse and gently asks if he’ll be going to the store. He will not. Fraser brings in the papers, which does not make Rosalie happy. She tries to convince her dad that Jimmy’s death was not his fault, then tells him that Mae keeps calling to talk, but Harry’s not answering.

Mae is dealing with gawking and gossiping customers at the store while she just tries to go about her business. Mardle notices what’s going on and tells her things on the floor are under control, so Mae thanks her and heads down to the sewing room.

Not that things will be much better there, because the sewing girls are giggling over some of the articles. Matilda snatches the newspaper away and tells them to get back to work.

George is being a really sweet husband, making his wife some tea and snuggling the baby. He tells Connie about all the stories about Harry being in financial trouble. He sighs that he can’t believe Jimmy killed Victor. They coo over the baby for a little while, then decide to call the tyke Victor. Aww.

Keen calls Crabb to the carpet and scolds him for being involved in this stock movement and asks what the hell is up with Harry. Crabb toes the company line and just says that Gordon is handling everything. Keen demands to see Harry’s personal accounts, to see if everything is in order. Crabb can’t quite hide his horror.

Lyons is working on some new display that requires a lot of wires and giant plugs and looks like a trip hazard. He takes Meryl outside to see it. It’s a light-up countdown to the 20th anniversary in just three days. Meryl declares him clever, kisses him, and goes back inside.

Keen goes to see Gordon, who tries to distract him with publicity for the anniversary. Keen is not happy to hear that Harry is once again absent. Before they can discuss the matter further, Hardcastle, the supplier they were trying to sweet talk last week, bursts in and starts getting really upset about this slight of hand that they (well, Jimmy, but he thinks everyone’s culpable) were trying to pull with the Selfridge’s stock. He goes nuclear and puts both Whiteleys AND Selfridge’s under embargo. Ohh, bummer.

[cryout-pullquote align=”right” textalign=”left” width=”33%”]Hardcastle goes nuclear and puts both Whiteleys AND Selfridge’s under embargo.[/cryout-pullquote]

Mae goes home at the end of the day, looking exhausted. She rings the Selfridge Manse and gets Rosalie on the phone. Rosalie apologises for her father’s standoffishness but then gets distracted by Gordon’s arrival. Gordon breezes past her to go talk to their father. Rosalie returns to Mae and says she’s told her dad Mae wants to talk to her. Mae just says to tell him she’s there if he wants to talk. Who’s there for you, Mae? I feel like you’ve suffered the greatest loss here, of not one, but two former lovers, and one death was at the hands of the other and over you, which is all super traumatic. How are you remaining on an even keel, and why are you babying Harry?

Gordon busts up his dad’s pity party and tells him they have a serious problem and he needs to get his ass back to the office. Harry pouts that he put too much trust in Jimmy and dragged Gordon into this mess. Gordon briskly shoves that aside and tells his dad he needs to pull himself together and come back to work. Harry mumbles that he doesn’t trust himself. Gordon tells him he can either come back, or officially hand things over to Gordon, but he needs to decide quickly.

Harry gets it together and comes bustling into the office the following morning, telling Gordon that, with the anniversary the following week (uh, then why do Lyons’s windows say it’s only two days away?), they need to break this embargo quickly. Gordon welcomes him back, seeming pleased to see his dad back in action.

Crabb joins Gordon and Harry in Harry’s office and explains that, since Jimmy didn’t leave a will (he didn’t? Even though he had his mother to consider? That’s stupid.), his shares in Whiteleys will go to Harry and Gordon, but the whole process will take a while. Until that’s done, they can’t sell Whiteleys, which is becoming quite the white elephant, if you will. Harry knows they can’t pay all these suppliers, so they’ll have to do something else.

Later, Crabb tells Gordon about Keen’s request to see Harry’s personal accounts, which worries Crabb because Harry owes a lot of money to the chairman’s account. Gordon sees the amount and blanches. Crabb continues that the Civic probably won’t like this. Gordon says that, if they manage to pull off breaking this embargo, the Civic probably won’t care. Here’s hoping.

Mae goes to Harry’s office and rightly gives him a bit of attitude over his recent behaviour. He apologises and promises to make it up to her. That’s not really what she wants to hear. She snaps that he can’t shut her out and then just pick back up again when he feels like it. She bursts out of his office, ignoring his pleas for her to return.

Gordon goes to Lyons and tells him he’s got to plan a Palm Court reception in a hurry. Lyons quietly asks if the anniversary’s going ahead, because there are rumours the store’s in trouble. Gordon smiles and reassures him it’s all business as usual.

Harry sends Mae some flowers, which she is not pleased to receive.

Meanwhile, Harry asks Mardle up to the executive floor and offers her Grove’s old job of Deputy Manager. She’s shocked but accepts, and once he leaves, she sits at the desk and smiles fondly.

Mae has sent the flowers back, so Harry goes to her in person to ask why she won’t accept his apology.  He asks her to dinner and she quietly tells him she’s selling her shares and going back to Paris. She knows she’ll never come ahead of the store with him and she really needs to look after herself right now. She tells him she needed him, when Jimmy died, and he wasn’t there. Harry desperately tells her that he loves her, and she pauses, but then says goodbye.

Mardle and Crabb walk through the store and she confesses she’s a little nervous. He tells her it doesn’t show and he really admires her, taking on the job under the circumstances. She briskly tells him about Mae leaving, which saddens him.

Rosalie sees her father off and suggests they have some family time, once things have settled down. She hopes to see more of Mae. He tells her about Mae leaving, an event that’s happening that very night.

Mardle summons Matilda and promotes her to head of the sewing room. Matilda’s relieved she’s not being fired but doubts the other girls would work for her. Mardle tells her they’ll have no choice, if they want to remain employed. She makes it clear Matilda will have her full backing. After the meeting, Mardle introduces her to Harry, who’s pleased to have her on board. Tilly thanks him for the opportunity.

Gordon reports to his dad that the reception they’re throwing for the vendors will be well attended. Even Hardcastle’s coming. That’s their solution? Throw a party? Yeah, we can’t pay your bills, but here, have a free glass of champagne! What a terrible idea.

Anyway, Harry tells Gordon he’s glad to have him at his side, despite all of Harry’s dickish behaviour in the past. Gordon tells him that the store means as much to him as it does to his dad.

They head down to the reception and start gladhanding and greeting people. Mardle and Crabb eye Hardcastle as Gordon tries to press some champagne on the man. Hardcastle won’t be bought with bubbly, saying he didn’t think there was much to celebrate. Gordon says there totally is: a long and fruitful relationship with all their suppliers, which they hope will continue.

Harry gets up to make a speech and announces that, as a gesture of good faith, they’ll be providing fixed three-year contracts, which no other store will do. Hardcastle, however, has clearly come to stir things up and starts saying pretty much what I did earlier: namely, that it’s kind of lame to try and dazzle the suppliers with a couple of free drinks and then tell them you can’t afford to pay your bills. Hardcastle insists the debts be paid and says there will be no deal, and no movement on the embargo. Gordon and Harry can’t quite believe that Harry has actually failed.

Rosalie goes to see Mae and tries to excuse her father’s behaviour, saying that things have been tough for him recently. Mae is very well aware of that, and she wanted to be there with him, but so much for that. Rosalie says that Mae’s part of their family and her father feels the same, he’s just afraid to let people see him vulnerable. She gets honest with Mae and tells her that Harry’s in real trouble and doesn’t want to be alone.

Harry and Gordon grab a drink and try to figure out what to do. Well, Gordon tries to figure out what to do. Harry seems a bit defeated. Gordon suggests going to the Civic for the funds, but Harry doesn’t want help from anyone else to save his store. Gordon begs his father to let someone help him, urging him to fight for this place. Harry doesn’t respond.

He finishes his drink, then goes to Mae’s apartment, only to find it empty. Well, what did you expect, Harry?

Gordon takes matters into his own hands and meets with Keen.

The next morning, Harry is summoned to a meeting with the Civic. He seems surprised and put out that the women at the front desk don’t immediately know who he is. He’s also surprised to meet up with Crabb there. Both men are shown into a meeting with the full board, including Keen. Gordon’s already there, seated at the far end of the table. Harry takes a seat at the foot of the table and eyes his son, who seems to be avoiding eye contact. Keen’s superior tells Harry that the Civic will be taking steps to protect its business interest in Selfridge’s. They’ll pay the suppliers to end the embargo, and in return will receive Whiteleys. Also, Harry will resign his shares in Selfridge’s to the Civic and resign as Director and Chairman of the store. Gordon will be taking his place. Harry is aghast and refuses to accept that, but Keen tells him that they’re tired of his notoriety and profligacy and he can’t be allowed to continue to tarnish the Selfridge name. Gordon sharply tells him to lay off and Crabb says that the store has always made a healthy profit with Harry at the helm. Keen brings up the Chairman’s account, which Crabb did not hand over to be examined, but which Gordon did. Ouch, Gordon. I wouldn’t expect an invitation to the family Thanksgiving this year. The account shows that Harry owes the store more than £100,000. Woah. Harry admits he can’t pay that right now, because he put everything in Whiteley’s. Harry is offered a pension of £6,000 a year, which was a decent wage in those days, but nowhere near enough to keep him in the manner to which he is accustomed. Harry angrily says that the store bears his name, and Gordon quietly reminds him that it’s his name too. There’s nothing more Harry can do. He’s fired. He gets up and slowly walks out, accompanied by Crabb, who seems similarly shocked.

They arrive back at the store just as Plunkett’s receiving the news. She takes her shocked boss’s hat and coat and watches as he goes into his office.

Crabb immediately tells Mardle what happened and she’s astonished, of course. She can’t imagine what Selfridge’s would be like without Harry. Crabb vents and angrily says that all these people care about is the bottom line and none of them will be able to do what Harry did.

Harry sadly goes through some photo albums and flashes back to the store’s opening and meeting Agnes and some of the stuff with Henri and Mae and Kitty and the end of the war. Strangely, Rose doesn’t figure much in any of these flashbacks, except basically as a background figure in a couple of them. That makes me sad, for some reason. Like Harry cares more about some of his employees than about her. He also seems to have forgotten all about Frank.

Gordon calls him back to reality and explains he had to save the store. He admits that things will be different going forward, but this is the way it had to be. Crabb comes in and tells them stock is now arriving, so the anniversary celebrations will go ahead. Harry asks Crabb what he plans to do now and Crabb says he thinks his time is over. Gordon goes to leave, but Harry calls him back to ask him to walk out with him when he leaves for the night, so everyone can see they’re united in this.

Wynnstay checks out a planned front-page story about Harry’s outster and jazzes up the headline a little bit.

Harry goes to the window of his office and looks out one last time. George is shown in and tells Harry how sorry he is and asks if there’s anything he can do to help. Harry says it’s been a pleasure working with him and asks after the baby. George says he’s the best thing that ever happened to him. Harry’s own son arrives. It’s time to go.

Harry steps out of his office and finds all the occupants of the executive floor lined up along the corridor to the lift, to see Harry off. Mardle thanks Harry for everything he’s done for her and his family. Plunkett falls into step behind Harry, carrying his hat and coat. Everyone wishes him luck as he leaves, trailed by Plunkett, Gordon, Mardle, and Crabb and George. They get into the lift and go downstairs, where the rest of the staff is waiting to see Harry off with a round of applause. Even Connie’s there, with the baby. Harry tells them the store looks wonderful and he’s enormously pleased they’re celebrating its 20th anniversary. He thanks everyone for their work and tells them how proud he is and how sorry he is not to be there to share this with them. He nearly breaks down, but holds it together as he walks out of his store, telling Gordon to look after the place as he takes one last look around.

Gordon returns to the office that was his father’s and is now his.

Harry looks up at the store’s edifice from the street. Just as it looks like he’s going to burst into tears, Mae materialises and tells him how sorry she is. He sighs that he’s lost everything. She tells him he hasn’t, that he’s still Harry Selfridge, and she loves him. She suggests he accompany her to Paris and Rome and wherever else they feel like going. He steps forward and kisses her and they walk off down Oxford Street together.

Well, that was a shiny, happy ending that totally didn’t happen in real life. In actuality, he was pretty much ruined by the Great Depression (and by his rampant gambling and addiction to showgirls) and had to move with Rosalie to a little flat in Putney. He was forced out of Selfridge’s in 1941 and when he died in 1947 he was virtually penniless.

But I guess such a downer ending wouldn’t have really fit the tenor of this show, which was basically just a soap opera, and not a particularly compelling one, either. I’m glad they managed to temper Piven’s manic performance in series one, but honestly that’s the only improvement they made to the show. I loved Mae and Mardle, but most of the other characters bored me, and some actually induced rage. Violette? Got, what a horrible person (and whatever happened to Harry’s youngest daughter? She just disappeared and was never mentioned again). Agnes? Not as good at her job as everyone kept saying. Grove? Well, ok, he won me over at the end there. The Dolly sisters? UGH!

So, we had characters that were difficult to care much about, and far too many stupid plotlines (remember Loxsley trying to get the board to oust Harry?) and even more dumb parties/promotions of the week that were praised far more than they should have been (wow! A summer promotion just ahead of summertime? Brilliant! Groundbreaking!) Odd things were changed from history, too, Rose’s death being the one that stands out immediately in my mind. Why give Rose cancer when she really died in the Influenza pandemic? What difference did that make? And why shoehorn the Jimmy Dillon character? Could we not accept that it was Harry and his demons that led to his downfall, not the bungling of some upstart with daddy issues who needed to prove himself?

I was excited for this show initially, but it let me down. The costumes were nice in the first series, but seriously fell off, especially at the end here (why did Mae only seem to have one dress that she wore every day? She’s a professional fashion designer! Of ready-to-wear clothes!), so I didn’t even have eye candy to look forward to. All we had was another Palm Court reception: empty razzle-dazzle that lasts as long in the memory as fizz lasts in a glass of abandoned champagne.



Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.