Mr Selfridge: Taking Flight

selfridge3Previously on Mr Selfridge: Harry Selfridge moved to London, overcame some money troubles, and opened his eponymous store.

Everybody’s getting their day started. Harry’s getting his beard trimmed, Grove is closing the bedroom door on his invalid wife, and Victor’s tipping a hat to some pretty ladies on his way to work.

Harry finishes his trim and leaves his office, heading to the elevator and collecting Crabb and Grove on the way. They head down to the ground floor, and Catty Bitch 1 (Kitty, I think) alerts the staff that Harry’s on his way. The elevator doors open and Harry and crew step out, Harry all big smile, of course. He bids everyone good morning and then declares that something’s missing: customers! Grove reminds him the store’s only been open five minutes but Harry thinks they should be battering the doors down first thing. He orders up some early bird sales, though Crabb gets a bit nervous, because they need to make more money, not charge less. Harry thinks sales will beget sales.

Agnes flags down Grove and asks if she can speak to him on a private matter. Trying not to completely shit himself, he tells her she can come up at 11.

Harry’s still working the floor, saying hi to everyone. Crabb tries to get his attention, because he wants to go over the books with him, but Harry says they’ll do it later—his people need to see him! Look, I know he was a showman and not great with money, but I find it hard to believe someone who’d been successful in business as long as Harry has at this point would be so dismissive of his CFO, or whatever Crabb’s title is. He’d want to see the books, for sure. Crabb tells  Harry they’re not breaking even, and then Henri comes and tells Harry they have another problem.

That problem is Ellen, who’s not pleased with the photos that have been taken of her for the store. Henri insists the pictures are first rate, but Harry sides with Ellen, who pouts and pleads and gets all new pictures and a date for lunch. Henri grabs one of the photos and ruthlessly rips it in half, mostly because he can’t rip Ellen’s head off, like he wants to.

Grove ushers Agnes into his office and gestures her to a seat. She hesitantly tells him she has a brother who needs a job—nothing skilled, mind, but, you know, something. Grove, clearly expecting a shake-down, asks what she’ll do if he has nothing for George. Agnes, being a bit simple, doesn’t understand what he’s getting at, so Grove obliquely brings up the fact that she saw him cozying up to Mardle and asks if he can count on her discretion. Agnes reassures him that he can, clearly shocked he would think she might blab, so Grove loosens up a bit and tells her he can find George a job as a porter. She thanks him profusely and goes to shake his hand, but he glares her down and tells her to get back to work and keep her mouth shut. Also: no more favours for relatives.

Agnes heads back downstairs, smiling happily, which a passing Victor notices. He asks what’s up and she tells him about George’s new job. He asks how she persuaded him to do that—did she give him a kiss? Because Victor would have asked for one. ‘Good thing you’re not him, then,’ says Agnes, with both a faint hint of spirit and an attitude that a sister would have towards a pesky male.

Rose comes down the stairs of the Selfridge manse, wearing a really bad hat, ready to go out. Unfortunately, Lady Mae’s chosen this moment to call, and Rose has no choice but to entertain her for a bit. She does have the sense to have the butler tell Harry’s mother to join them. Safety in numbers.

At the Palm Court, Victor’s boss comes strolling over for a quick word that basically boils down to: you got this job because you’re pretty, and the ladies will like that. Be prepared to charm them, if you know what I mean. Despite the fact that he’s an experienced waiter and this is all passed off as a very common arrangement, it appears to be news to Victor that being good looking is part of his job. Is everyone on this show kind of dumb?

Mae’s been settled into a sofa in the sitting room. She says she just stopped by to see how they were all adjusting to the big move and to Harry being so busy all the time. It takes her about three seconds to start getting under Rose’s skin by bringing up Ellen and hinting around that she and Harry are probably more than just artist and muse at this point. She kind of suggests Rose keep a closer eye on him, but to be honest, her disinterested tone makes it hard to tell if she’s genuinely trying to help Rose out, or if she’s just bored and stirring shit up. Could be either. Or even both. Rose mentions she’s going to the National Gallery and Mae tells her that nobody goes there on public days, because there’s all sorts of riff raff. Rose cares not. She and Mae head out, and when Mae offers her a lift in her car, Rose says she was planning on trying the Underground. Mae looks at her like Rose proposed walking there naked.

Nonetheless, Rose gets her way, buying her ticket and packing into the lift with the hoi polloi. She casts a fearful glance back at the other occupants, like she’s afraid one of them will stab her in the back. Sweetie, it’s not them you have to worry about turning on you. She navigates the underground passageways and makes it to the museum in one piece.

Harry meets Ellen at the Palm Court for lunch, where she wastes no time thanking him for having her back that morning. It’s just that she thinks the Spirit of Selfridge’s should have a certain aura about her. Harry agrees completely—she should be all about modernity and progress. They just need to find some new ways of saying that. She asks if he’s pleased with her, bats her eyes, and says she’s a little intimidated by him, what with his bravery and devil-may-care attitude. He’s just like that chap who’s flying the Channel. That lights a bulb over Harry’s head and he quickly excuses himself.

He gathers Grove, Henri, and Mardle and starts shooting off instructions—they’ll need some policemen standing guard to make people curious, and he needs Crabb to call the insurance company and have them increase the liability by 10,000. Isn’t this the same insurance company you just had to battle with over the water damage? And now you think they’re going to add £10K to your liability just like that? Poor Crabb. Henri asks him what he wants to do with the windows and Harry tells him to think birds before he bursts through the front doors and finds Edwards waiting for him. Edwards says this aviator is working with the Daily Mail, but fortunately, Edwards and the DM editor go way back. Of course they do. They pack into Edwards’s car and take off, Harry declaring that, if this works out, everyone will come out a winner, including the DM editor.

Up in the restaurant, Victor goes to check on a customer—a lady by herself, of course, who’s practically panting at the sight of him. Jesus, lady, he’s not that good looking. Cute and all, but don’t go burning your knickers here. She hands him a tip, asks him his name, and asks him if he ever does waitering on the side. She’s having a party the next night and would like to have someone to look after her guests. He tells her he happens to be free the following evening, so she hands him her card. His boss takes all this in from a distance.

Rose is admiring the painting of Samson and Delilah by Rubens when she’s approached by a guy carrying a sketchbook and dressed in a manner that always means ‘soulful artist’. You know what I mean—slightly scruffy, soft shirt, partly unbuttoned, velvet jacket, unslicked hair. Kind of early hipster. He says the painting’s wonderful and she looks uncomfortable but comments that it’s unusual in a work of art to see a man laid low by a woman. Really? All those paintings of John the Baptist’s head and Judith and Holofernes and goddesses of yore? She needs to take a closer look at the art. Artist notes her accent and asks if she’s in London on holiday. She lies that she is and further lies that her name’s Rosalie Buckingham. His name’s Temple. She starts to walk off, so of course he dashes after her and tells her he was sketching her, because she has a ‘wonderful quality of stillness about her’. Instead of laughing in his face at that terrible line or putting as much distance between him and her as possible, because frankly that’s a bit creepy, she keeps the conversation going, asking if he’s a realist painter. Let’s hope not, because otherwise he could probably imagine you a better hat. No, he’s a romantic. Oh, of course. He starts talking about how he paints inner beauty, and God bless her, she finally starts laughing at him. Even he realises how stupid that sounds, so maybe there’s hope for him yet. He invites her to visit his studio and check out his work. Or, maybe, his ‘work’.

A man who, let’s just say, does not look like Selfridge’s target clientele comes wandering into the store and over to the accessories department. Kitty goes over to him, puts on the sex eyes, thrusts out the girls, and purrs: ‘can I help you, sir?’ He’s smarmy as all hell and tells her he’s looking for a gift for his girlfriend. Nothing too expensive, but something nice. She blushes and flutters for some reason I can’t even begin to fathom, because it’s not like this guy’s either that good looking or that charming and he just told you he’s there to buy something for his girlfriend. The acting choices on this show baffle me sometimes.

Thankfully, Agnes intervenes and tells Kitty she’ll take it from here, grabbing the guy’s arm and dragging him away. Turns out, this is her dad, and either he’s the most well-preserved person on the planet or he fathered his kids when he was, like, twelve. Dropping the smarmy act, he tells Agnes, seemingly sincerely, that he’s there to see her, not to cause trouble. Agnes hisses that he causes trouble wherever he goes and begs him not to ruin her job for her. He says he knows he’s screwed up in the past, but he’s changed now. He wants to make amends—he’s stopped drinking and everything! Agnes unbends slightly and tells him they can meet up for her break in half an hour.

George is reporting for duty and is handed over to the head porter, a beefy guy named Alf. Smiling congenially, Alf takes George to see what he’s made of.

Agnes is meeting with her dad at a tea stand across the street, and he’s wasted no time hitting her up for money. Clearly some people never change. She reminds him of why she and George moved out and he says he remembers, but he’s sober now, and has been for two months, so it’s all good, right? She hesitantly asks him what this job is he says he has and he tells her he’s working at a hotel, and he’s got good prospects there. Suspicious, she asks why he can’t live in at work and he clearly pulls ‘probation period’ out of the air. He jokingly goes to beg on his knees and she tells him he can stay with them until the end of the month, but if he raises a hand to either her or George he’s gone. He thanks her and goes to kiss her, but she shrinks away and goes back to work, looking stressed.

Alf loads George up with a heavy sack, showing him how to handle it. George manages to stagger a few steps before dropping the sack. Alf helps him up, smiling, and hugs him, telling him he’s one of them now. I thought this was going to be an abuse-George-hazing type of scene, so it’s nice to see that everyone genuinely seems like good people. Alf checks an order and notes it’s for 4000 silk scarves.

Those scarves—all red, white, and blue make their way to accessories, where Mardle’s arranging them to look like the tricoleur. The girls all ask what’s up but Mardle’s lips are sealed. Except when Grove’s around, I guess. Yeah, I went there.

Harry and Edwards finally reach their destination in time to watch a plane fly overhead. Harry grins and tells Edwards to follow that plane.

Rose and Temple arrive at his rather messy studio. Rose checks out some of the paintings and declares them excellent. Meh, I find them pretty derivative of the Dutch school—very Vermeer knockoff. He thanks her, and then lays a kiss on her. She pulls away and tells him she didn’t come here for that, and she’s a married woman. He apologises and asks her to forget that just happened, but Rose hastens out of there. Good girl.

A present for Victor is delivered to the Palm Court. The boss waves him over and hands it to him. It’s a box of nice chocolates. Victor reads the note and hands it to the boss, wondering why the woman he’s supposed to be freelancing for is sending him chocolates. The boss basically tells him not to be a moron—this is just going to be a party of two. Victor asks if he should go and the boss tells him to enjoy himself, because you’re only young once. Victor thanks him and packs up the chocolates.

Harry and Edwards finally reach the plane, which has landed, and Harry launches himself out of it and rushes to greet the pilot, Louis Blériot. Edwards introduces Harry and tells Louis he’s going to give him and his plane pride of place in his store. Blériot eyes them both and tells Harry to get lost so people can take pictures of him, not Harry. Harry says he’s not trying to ride the man’s coattails and asks for five minutes. He gets three.

Harry sells him hard, buttering him up and asking him what it felt like to be up in the clouds all alone. Louis says that a squall blew up and he flew blind and thought he was going to die. Harry thinks that sounds awesome and asks Louis to go on. Louis does, and for some bizarre reason, this makes him agree to do whatever Harry wants. Many pictures are taken of both Louis and Harry.

Someone gets on the phone to Henri, who’s just having a bad day, and Henri blows up, saying he won’t work like this. He slams the phone down, bursts into Grove’s office, and tenders his resignation. Grove follows him out, pleading with him to stay and asking what happened. Henri tells him about being embarrassed in front of Ellen, and now Harry’s having this big exhibition and Henri’s just done. Grove agrees that Harry’s kind of a shit but he adores Henri and says so all the time, just not to Henri. He asks Henri just to sleep on it before he goes through with this, because Grove would hate to lose a great colleague and friend. They’re friends? Might have been nice to see that develop a bit. Or at all. Have they ever even spoken on this show? Henri calms down and agrees to wait until the following morning to kick Harry in the teeth.

In the loading dock, Alf tells George about special deliveries, which go in the blue vans, instead of the usual green. Fascinating. The muckety mucks sending the special deliveries want them kept on the down low, so George has to be trusted with the secrets. Like a puppy, he yips that he can totally be trusted—of course he can! Alf congratulates him on a first day well done and tells him he’ll see him the next day.

Victor floats down to accessories, sneaks up on Agnes, and asks how his ‘best girl’ is. She giggles that she’s no such thing, and Victor, even if she was, she wouldn’t be admitting it in front of the Catty Bitches because it would cost her her job. Way to show your love by putting her at risk, there. He asks her to grab a cup of tea with him but she says she has to go home right away. He suggests some other time and she gives him a maybe. Maybe gets her the chocolates the cougar sent him and Agnes is touched. Before he leaves, he tells her he won’t take no for an answer next time. He shimmies off and the less Catty Bitch (Doris) tells Agnes it seems he’s sweet on her. You think? Kitty weighs in that she wouldn’t let him go, and then both of the girls start picking his body apart—lovely eyes, long legs, strong arms. They help themselves to some of Agnes’s chocolates and all giggle together. Guess they’re besties now, for some reason.

‘Calais, Dover, Selfridges!’ is the headline Harry’s come up with for his latest publicity stunt. Not only is that a terrible headline, it’s also so shamelessly advertorial I doubt any self-respecting paper would print it (and yes, back then the Daily Mail was a self-respecting paper), but ok, whatever. He’s going to have Blériot and his plane put on display on the store’s ground floor, free for all to admire.

That evening, we find Mardle and Grove cuddling together in the bath, so obviously they’re long past just the handholding stage. Grove says he was worried they’d miss their usual Tuesday night rendezvous with Harry working them so late. Mardle’s worried about Agnes, but Grove says he’s pretty sure Agnes will keep quiet, for the sake of her own and her brother’s jobs, at least. Mardle’s still stressed, worried that Agnes will follow him home and blab to his wife, but Grove points out she’d have nothing to gain by that. Honestly, folks, I don’t think Agnes gives a shit about you or your affair. She’s got her own life to live.

The plane’s being reconstructed on the shop floor, with Henri keeping an eye on the works and warning the workmen to be careful, because the thing’s worth a fortune. Harry wanders over just in time to hear Henri mutter that the plane’s a piece of junk and Harry tells him this is a work of genius—French genius, no less! And it’ll be displayed by their own French genius. Henri notes that Harry’s being unusually effusive and guesses he had a word with Grove. He did, and he’s sorry for treating Henri so crappily. Henri’s smart enough to know that Harry probably isn’t going to change overnight. Sure, he’s sorry now, but he’ll go back to treating Henri like shit soon enough. Henri warns Harry that, one day, Harry will push him too far.

Agnes and George return home, Agnes trying to justify letting their dad stay with them, which George is not happy about. They enter their terrible little apartment and find dad there, congenial and happy to see them. George is clearly a bit terrified of him, but Agnes is just wary. I’m guessing she’s the elder child. Dad crows about how great it is that they’re a family and all together again. George doesn’t look too sure.

Harry arrives at the theatre and surprises Ellen in her dressing room. He excitedly tells her he’s got her crazy Frenchman’s plane at the store and asks if she fancies playing the aviatrix the following day. She gives him sex eyes and tells him she’d do anything for him. She oozes over to him and asks if this means he’ll take her flying. He (correctly) interprets ‘take her flying’ to mean ‘jump her bones’ and he gets ready to oblige. Before things can really advance, one of the other chorus girls comes in, and then beats a hasty retreat. Nearly being caught throws some cold water on Harry, who gets up and puts his coat back on. Ellen jokingly suggests they go to his place and he gives her a, ‘girl, not funny,’ look before bidding her goodnight and leaving.

Agnes steps off the omnibus in front of the store the next morning and passes a newspaperman yelling about the aviation exhibition at the store. Soon enough, Selfridges is packed with people milling around, looking at the plane with Ellen perched on the top of it, less aviatrix and more wing ornament. Harry steps off the elevator with the wife and kids and tries not to be distracted by Ellen as he apologises to Rose for not being around much the last few days. He asks how her trip to the museum went and she says it was lovely. ‘I don’t think you would have liked it as much as I did,’ she says. Heh. Crabb comes over to, for once, tell Harry how great this is (though, even then, he sounds a bit beleaguered). Rose wanders about, looking weary. Harry jumps up on the plane and introduces Blériot, who starts talking about what a great honour it is to be there with Ellen as Lady Mae sidles up to Rose and comments that this is all quite divvy, isn’t it? And oh, look, doesn’t Ellen just look so lovely perched up on that plane? Harry certainly seems to think so, according to Mae. Still sounding tired, Rose says they all think so. Fortunately, Harry comes over and Rose perks up, but Mae practically pushes her aside so she can ask Harry if he goes boating, and if he knows that the gentleman rows and the lady steers. I’m…not really sure what she means by this. Clearly she means more than just, hey, let’s go boating sometime, because otherwise this seems really random, but what’s her meaning? Is she trying to tell him she’s in control here? To what end? I’m confused by this. Her boytoy comes over and asks her if he can have a suit and Rose tells Harry she wants to go home, because she’s worn out. He pleads with her to stay and she acquiesces.

That evening, Victor comes out of the store and approaches a nice car that has his cougar inside. He politely tells her he can’t come with her, because it’s against company policy. He apologises and bids her a good night.

Agnes and George return home to find their dad there, clearly many sheets to the wind. I think we all saw that coming. He immediately begins insulting their jobs, calling them wage slaves in Harry’s grand emporium. As opposed to being useless drains on their relatives, like you? Whatever. It’s a bit much to ask to expect a show like this to treat something like alcoholism with any nuance or complexity, because that would be challenging and would also acknowledge the fact that alcoholism is an extremely complex problem. Agnes desperately tries to keep the peace, saying that they do consider themselves quite lucky, because it’s the sort of place where they can get promoted. Dad thinks that’s a dig at his job and then starts laughing at George, calling him a joke. George gathers his courage and tells his dad he can’t talk to him like that anymore. Dad asks what he’s going to do about it and gets all menacing as he advances on his son and gets him in a headlock to give him a noogie. With another laugh, he returns to his spot on the bed and flops down, smiling cruelly at his children.

In a happier room in town, Ellen’s getting ready for her show when someone slides an envelope under the door. Out falls a key—the key to her new home in St. John’s Wood, which she happily declares ‘ever so posh.’ Why, yes, yes it is. Damn, that’s a hell of a bonus. She gloats to her friend that all she had to do was give a little hint and flutter her eyelashes, but her friend realises she’ll be expected to do a bit more than that. Oh, Harry, you’re a complete idiot. How, exactly, are you going to be able to keep a house secret from your finances guy or your wife?

He’s not thinking of that, of course. He comes out of the store, grinning and breathing in the sweet, sweet London air. Edwards is waiting for him and asks him how it feels to make history. Harry says it feels great, but then amends that to—well, it feels ok, but now it’s over and he feels a bit flat. He veers way out of cheery territory by asking Edwards if he ever feels like chucking it all and throwing himself in front of a train. Woah. Edwards, understandably, asks if Harry’s ok and Harry says it was just a passing thought. Ooookaaay. And on that note, this rather dull episode ends. Did this feel like a filler episode to anyone else? Not much happened, and while I expect filler episodes on long-running series, I think they’re unforgiveable in a miniseries. Something that’s only running for a few episodes should have tighter plotting and writing, if you ask me. Hopefully next week will make up for it.

One thought on “Mr Selfridge: Taking Flight

Leave a Reply

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