Previously on Mr Selfridge: Harry Selfridge and his crazed smile moved to London so he could open his eponymous store. Almost immediately afterwards, his personal life started imploding, thanks to his affair with the unstable Ellen Love, which led to a humiliating play that sent his wife, Rose, into the arms of a stalker, and then rushing back overseas to America. Shopgirl Agnes Towler was apparently some sort of window dressing genius and became first the protégé, then the lover of Henri Leclair before he, too, took off for the new world. Mr Grove, the store manager, turned out to be a major douchebag and dumped his long-time lover, Miss Mardle, so he could marry former employee Doris and turn her into a baby machine.
Everyone at the store is in a tizzy, because they’re getting ready to celebrate the place’s fifth anniversary. Harry, meanwhile, has taken to wearing Harry Potter glasses and is giving a complete softball interview to a journalist in his home. He praises the store staff (as we see that Victor’s apparently now the manager of the Palm Court restaurant), and then the journo refers to the fact that Harry’s family is conspicuously absent. Harry excuses that by claiming that his daughters are finishing their education stateside and his wife and mother have chosen to stay with them. I find it really hard to believe that Lois would ever leave Harry’s side (and, in reality, this didn’t happen at all—the whole Selfridge family stayed in London, and Rose looked the other way on Harry’s affairs). Harry cuts the interview short and shows the man out.
A little later, he arrives at the store, where he’s greeted by cameras and shouting photographers. He breezes past them and inside, where he’s greeted by Grove, who tries to distracting him, aided by Kitty. They’re clearly trying to slow him down, but it’s to no avail. Mardle gets a telegram.
In the stairwell, Agnes’s brother, George, is trying to haul something heavy up the stairs, helped by Victor and one of the other men.
Harry’s in the lift, wondering why they’re heading to the Palm Court, while the store’s staff rushes about rather absurdly in the halls, like this is a Keystone Cops film or something. Harry gets off the lift and finds Crabb, who can’t think of a good lie to stop Harry from getting to wherever, so he fibs that some new guy, Mr Thackeray, wanted to speak with him. Thackeray’s only slightly better at this than everyone else and starts babbling about mannequins and how they need new ones. With Harry distracted just long enough, Crabb ushers him towards the restaurant.
Downstairs, Agnes breezes through the door, looking as wide eyed and vacant as ever. There isn’t a single staffer left manning the shop. Man, Harry would have flipped his shit in real life if the store had been completely unstaffed while it was open. What if actual customers had come in?
Harry waltzes into the restaurant, where the whole staff is gathered. They applaud; Crabb praises him and unveils a bronze bust of Harry himself that they’ve had made. I can’t help but wonder why they didn’t get this thing in place the night before, to save themselves all the hassle in the morning. Harry praises the staffers, as Agnes joins the crowd. He pauses briefly when he sees her, then goes on that these are uncertain times and they need to pull together.
After the presentation, Grove spots Agnes and welcomes her back. She’s been in Paris for two years. They have an incredibly stilted chat, which seems a bit odd, and Grove notices that Mardle’s missing. Kitty comes over and tells Agnes that she’s now head of cosmetics. We learn that Agnes is going to be head of displays across all departments. Kitty fakes looking pleased for her and Agnes excuses herself to go say hi to her brother, who hugs her tightly.
Lady Mae’s getting ready to go out (hey! I thought she wasn’t going to be back this season. What a nice surprise!) Her maid comes in and drops the unpleasant news that Mae’s husband, Loxley, has arrived, and he’s brought…luggage. Not good. Mae sails out into the hallway as he’s coming up the stairs. He tells her he’s in town because times are changing and new opportunities are opening up. Just in case you missed the memo that this is a brave new world now. He’s got a crap attitude and bitches at her for spending too much money. When he hears she’s heading to Selfridge’s, he informs her he’ll be going with her.
Back at the store, Harry admires the bust, and then Rose suddenly appears. He’s overjoyed to see her and tells his secretary to clear his schedule so they can have some time together.
Agnes opens the door to Henri’s former studio, which has clearly sat unused for some time. Has there been no head of display since he left? That seems unlikely in a store as obsessed with the displays as Selfridge’s was. She starts pulling the place together.
Harry and Rose have tea in the restaurant and he’s trying really hard to convince her to stay in England, but they keep getting interrupted by well wishers. Also, Rose has shut down completely and reminds him that she’s happy to play the part of the doting wife when she has to, but otherwise, they have an arrangement. The final well wisher turns out to be a woman named Delphine, whom Rose met and befriended on the boat over. Delphine’s played by Polly Walker, which gets a rather excited squeal from me. Love her. And I’ve missed her since Rome ended. Rose introduces her to Harry, who notes that she runs a rather scandalous club. Rose tells him that Delphine’s just written a book and suggests they do a launch at the store. Harry agrees readily, because right now he’ll do anything Rose wants. He then asks what the book’s about and learns it’s an autobiography, called The Summerhouse. Delphine suggests he write an autobiography of his own, then steals Rose away so they can shop. As they move into the fashion department, Delphine comments that she wishes she could be as lucky as Rose and have a man like Harry in her pocket. Rose laughs that Harry’s hardly in her pocket, as they overhear an overbearing blonde make some demands on the staff and it quickly becomes clear that she’s Harry’s piece on the side. Seeming bemused (well, they are practically separated after all), Rose remarks that nothing changes.
Mae and Loxley arrive at the store and Loxley wastes no time being a dick, dismissing a face cream Mae ordered and refusing to let her buy a new Lucile purse. Harry comes down and affectionately greets Mae. He graciously greets Loxley too, but just in case we didn’t get it that this guy’s a complete asshole, Loxley refuses to shake Harry’s hand, looks him up and down as if he were a bug, and loudly announces that he’s closing Mae’s account at the store and refusing to pay off the balance. I’m pretty sure that’s illegal, Loxley, you can be brought to court for that, which I doubt is the kind of nasty publicity you want. Loxley then orders Mae to come with him, calling her rather like a dog, and Harry finally snaps, telling the man that no gentleman treats a lady like that in his store. Before things can get too heated, Mae steps in and gets her husband out of there. In the car outside, he accuses her of being Harry’s lover and warns her not to push him. You know, I’m not finding this character credible at all. From what we’ve learned previously, Loxley’s a man who was willing to marry a former chorus girl, spends most of his time in the country, and doesn’t seem to care that his wife conducts regular affairs while living in London. This guy’s completely snobbish and stuck up, obnoxious, and possessive. It just doesn’t jibe.
Harry makes his way to Agnes’s studio and exposits that he’s been using outside display artists since Henri left. Well, that explains that. He declares that she looks very Parisian and tells her her portfolio’s looking great. She thanks him for everything he’s done, for her and her brother. To the show’s credit, the vibe Harry’s giving off here is very paternal, which seems right for this relationship, and I really hope they don’t screw it up. Agnes tells him there’s a lot of talk of war in Paris, and she just wanted to be home. He gets her started on her first job: getting the fashion department ready for Delphine’s book launch. They make their way to fashion so she can meet the new buyer: Thackeray, who immediately asks what art school Agnes trained at. She says she apprenticed at the store, which clearly doesn’t pass muster with him. He’s also not pleased to hear the launch is going to be in his department. Once Harry leaves, he snits about how this never would have happened at Harrod’s and refuses to lift a finger to help her. That seems really stupid considering this is an order that’s come from the boss himself.
Agnes leaves and goes into the restaurant to see Victor. One of the other waiters says he’s busy overseeing lunch, and then introduces himself as Victor’s cousin, Franco. He invites Agnes to a birthday party for ‘Uncle Joe’ that night and she agrees to think about it.
Downstairs, the next person through the door is Edwards. Kitty swans right over and gets flirty fast. He responds in kind and then goes up to see Harry.
Mardle arrives at Grove’s office and asks for a moment. The man seems pretty frazzled and his office is completely disorganized. She informs him she’ll need some time off because her brother’s dying—that’s what her telegram was about. He tells her how sorry he is and says it’s not a problem for her to take the time off. She thanks him and leaves. Also, he drops the titbit that he and Doris now have three children under the age of five, so I guess he got exactly what he wanted out of that relationship. Also, I’m not sure that’s entirely possible, unless there was a multiple birth in there, because hasn’t it really only been a couple of years or so since the last series ended?
Harry’s secretary tells him there’s another reporter to see him: Edwards, who has apparently been steering clear of his old friend since that awful play. He took off for America and wrote a novel, which flopped, so now he’s back on the beat. Edwards is apologetic, Harry forgiving, so there’s hope for burying the hatchet here. Harry can spare him five minutes.
At the end of the day, Agnes leaves the store and meets George, who asks if she’s going to the party. Agnes isn’t sure, but George pushes, telling her Victor would love to see her, so she agrees.
At the Selfridge Manse, Rose happily greets her son, Gordon, who’s a proper English lad now, accent and all. He informs her he’s decided not to return to school, because he wants to work at the store. Rose insists he finish his education, which is sensible, because the boy’s only 15 after all, but Harry’s got the kid’s back and thinks it’s a good idea for him to start working at the store that’ll be his someday. Yes, Harry, working at the store is fine. That’s what half-term and summer holidays are for. Just because you left school young and built up a business empire doesn’t mean it’s necessarily a good route for your son to take. Rose is seriously pissed off to realize these two have already talked about and agreed to this and stomps off.
Agnes and George arrive at the party, where Agnes greets this ‘Uncle Joe’ with a hug and kisses on the cheeks, so apparently they know each other well, though it’s the first time we’re meeting or hearing about this guy. He ushers them into the party, where Victor’s dancing with some girl named Gabriella, who’s the daughter of Joe’s oldest friend and has come to live with Joe and Victor’s family, for some reason. Agnes takes in the sight of them together and quickly excuses herself. Before she can leave, Victor catches her and asks how Paris was, observing that she’s gotten what she always wanted, with the new job. She rather defensively tells him she couldn’t turn Paris down, and that it was a hard decision for her. He says he’s not criticizing her and they both agree that things have worked out for the best and they’re totally happy, though they’re both really unconvincing.
Gordon arrives for his first day at work and is surprised to be starting off in the loading dock. Harry hands him over to George and tells him he’s getting a chance to see all the departments. Gordon seems disappointed. Hey, kid, just because you’ve left school doesn’t mean your education’s over.
Mae finds her husband smoking in the drawing room and asks him how long he’s going to be around. He answers vaguely that it’ll be a while, then gets up to head to the House of Lords. She observes that he hasn’t been there for years. He says there’s trouble brewing, with all this talk of war, though actually, getting involved in World War I was quite a surprise to just about everyone in England right up to the day it actually happened. There wasn’t really much talk of war. In higher political circles there were some who were nervous about how well armed Germany was compared to other countries, but WWI wasn’t really that well anticipated. Most of the countries involved only got there because of old treaties that dragged them in. Anyway, Loxley declares his intention to do his bit.
Rose takes a trip to Delphine’s, which seems like the sort of den of bohemian decadence that Roddy Turner’s obnoxious group of friends would love. Rose admires the place and tells Delphine how wonderful it is. Delphine invites her to have a drink, despite the early hour, and they settle down in Delphine’s office. Rose asks how the place came to be and Delphine says that her third husband dropped dead and left her nothing but the lease on the property. Rose mentions that she used to run a business in Chicago, before she married. She built villas and sold them to artists. Delphine guesses she cut the prices, because she loves artists and all. No, actually, she didn’t. Rose was a shrewd businesswoman, not a philanthropic organization. Rose remembers how much fun it used to be and admits she doesn’t have so much fun now.
Thackeray arrives at the fashion department and finds a bunch of the loading dock guys putting up some large…thing right in the middle of it. When he realizes this is Agnes’s doing, he goes off to yell at her. She’s just happy that ‘it’ has arrived. Thackeray spots some drawings of a gazebo-type thing and his eyes bug out slightly.
Mae pays a visit to the Selfridges and is affectionately greeted by Rose. She asks after the girls and asks if Harry mentioned anything about the day before. Rose only knows that Loxley is back in town.
Agnes is up on a ladder, threading some flowers and leaves through the mesh at the top of the gazebo, promising everyone gathered nearby that it’ll look great when she’s done. Thackeray bitches at her for doing this without consulting him and she reminds him that he made it quite clear he didn’t want to get involved. Take that, Thackeray!
Harry’s joined the ladies and urges Mae to attend the reading. Mae declines, because she’s not interested in what Delphine has to say. Harry tells her that Delphine’s a friend of Rose’s and Mae warns her to be careful. Rose says she’s enjoying the woman’s company and quickly excuses herself. Mae thinks she’s put her foot in it, but Harry reassures her that Rose is mad at him, not Mae. Mae apologises for her husband’s behaviour. He doesn’t care about that, he’s concerned about Mae. She says she can handle herself, but he offers her his help, if she ever needs it.
Agnes is trying to raise a chandelier in the middle of the gazebo, but it’s too heavy and she drops it, shattering little glass bits all over and bringing Victor out of the restaurant. He offers to help but she snaps that she can do it herself. He leaves her to it.
Delphine arrives at the store the next day, just as Agnes is putting the finishing touches on the gazebo, which is all set up for the reading. Thackeray hands her the outfit he’s picked out for Delphine to wear and makes himself scarce. Downstairs, two new shopgirls gossip about Delphine, until Kitty interrupts and sends them back to their work. Delphine comes through the door and gives possibly the stupidest answer to the stupidest question ever asked by a journalist:
Journo: What do you hope to achieve with your new book?
Delphine: I want people to enjoy it.
You know, to set her apart from those authors who desperately want readers to hate what they’ve written.
Delphine wanders past the perfume counter and Kitty manages to sell her some. Girl’s got some decent sales skills, I’ll give her that. Delphine continues on her way.
Crabb and Harry worry about getting people through the doors for the reading, since they missed the papers’ late editions. But, of course, the reading’s packed. Harry compliments Agnes on the setup, while Thackeray, who’s totally within earshot, mind, whines that the whole thing is overdone and ‘the girl’ doesn’t know what she’s doing. Victor shortly tells him he doesn’t know what he’s talking about and goes to congratulate Agnes on a job well done. Harry invites Delphine to get started. Rose wishes her luck, and Delphine takes her place and begins reading. The audience is enthralled, but Crabb still wonders if they’re really enjoying it. Harry can’t tell. Is he losing his edge?
Downstairs, Edwards comes in and asks if the reading’s started. Kitty tells him it has, and they chat a bit about Delphine’s club. Kitty admits she’d love to go, so Edwards offers to take her.
George and Gordon secretly listen in to the scandalous reading.
Edwards joins Harry and Crabb and they listen for a little while as Delphine talks about how she decided never to tie herself to a man again and to instead be a woman true to herself. This, of course, touches a chord with Rose. Delphine finishes up to a round of applause.
Afterwards, she signs books while Rose thanks Harry for arranging this. He asks her out for a movie date, but Rose says she’s already promised to go to a party Delphine’s giving that night.
Loxley’s got some higher-up to visit and is demanding a role in military procurement, with the government. Mae starts listening in as the other guy informs Loxley that you can’t just show up and expect to be handed plum roles. So, Loxley blackmails him with proof of an affair with a younger man (homosexuality was illegal in Britain at the time). Just in case we didn’t get that Loxley is a Bad Guy. Ho hum. Higher up promises to see what he can do, but warns Loxley that this won’t solve his financial problems, because power has shifted to the captains of commerce, like Selfridge. Yes, show, WE GET IT. Brave new world.
At the end of the day, Harry collects Gordon and tells him they’re going out. Gordon asks if his mother’s coming and Harry admits she isn’t. Gordon says he misses her, and his sisters, and Harry tells the boy he’s going to do whatever he can to get their family back together.
Delphine’s. The party is underway, and Delphine’s rather girlishly excited that people like her book. Edwards dances with Kitty and they take a seat in a booth. He orders up some champagne for them both, stares down Kitty’s front while she rhapsodizes about perfumes, and then he basically flat-out propositions her. Kitty gets serious fast and guesses that he thinks he can take advantage of her, just because she’s a shopgirl. His response? ‘I thought you understood.’ Understood what, Frank? Sorry, but sex with most self-respecting women costs a bit more than a dance and a glass of champagne, mmmkay? Kitty calls him out that and he backpedals, apologizing. She gets up, thanks him for a lovely night, and gets the hell out of there. I have a lot more respect for her now.
In a cheerier corner, Rose offers to come in on the club as a partner. Delphine warns her that it’s a bit risky, and says that Harry wouldn’t approve. That doesn’t matter, because Rose has her own money to use, and she doesn’t need Harry’s approval. The girls clink glasses. Rose glances out over the room, spots a bearded, rather down-at-heel man in the corner, and seems to recognize him as Henri, but then figures that she must be wrong.
Harry and Gordon swing by the club, and Harry leaves the boy outside while he goes in and looks for Rose. He, too, runs into Henri, and gets a brief ‘hey, was that…?’ look on his face, then shakes it off and continues on inside. He sees Rose laughing it up with Delphine and retreats.
Outside, Henri lights a cigarette and takes off as Harry emerges. A newspaper seller begins yelling about Archduke Franz Ferdinand having been assassinated, as Harry collects his son and they head home, stepping on a newspaper with the exact headline we just heard the newspaper seller yelling. You know, just in case we totally missed it. Subtlety has never been this show’s strong suit.