Denise gets ready for the day and briefly fantasizes about Moray kissing her neck. Denise! Stay strong!
Moray’s getting dressed too, and fantasizing about kissing Denise. Hey, man, you abuse it, you lose it.
We cut to a woman dressed in scarlet silk strolling through the store. It’s Clémence, who declares that the new it colours are red and black (hence, her outfit). Sam joyfully greets her and she immediately starts talking up Hazard, the dice game taking Paris by storm. A customer asks Clémence where she can get herself some dice, as Moray appears and calls Clémence to join him. She hands him the dice she has on her, which he shrugs off.
In his office, Clémence tells him she had to leave Paris, because it was becoming ‘uncomfortable.’ She brought lots of dice with her, and Moray agrees to take them all. She asks after Denise and he says she’s well and head of ladieswear. Clémence immediately guesses that something’s up with him and Denise, but he asks if they can just not talk about it.
Denise gets the news that Clémence is back, and she’s happy to hear it. She sweeps off and, for some bizarre reason, Sam starts talking about her romantic woes with some random male customer, who then starts to faint. Sam helps him to a chair, and the guy gasps that the place really is paradise. Ooookaaaay.
Denise runs into Clémence and they cheek kiss. Clémence immediately asks her what’s up with her and Moray and Denise says they don’t want the same things, and she’s not excited about the idea of being seen as someone’s possession. Clémence asks what’ll happen if it’s not possible for him to love Denise as a human being. Hopefully he’ll get kicked to the curb, as he deserves! Denise just says she’d have to learn to live with a broken heart.
Clémence accompanies Denise up to ladieswear and Suzie immediately proposes a trip to the Three Crowns that night. Clémence opens up the box she’s been carrying to show them the other latest thing she brought from Paris: rouge, which was a seriously risqué thing for a lady to wear at the time. Until fairly well into the 20thcentury, it was mostly associated with prostitutes. Suzie says as much, and Clémence tells them that wearing rouge and walking around with your head held high is a sign of girl power, or something along those lines. Denise gently tells her this is not Paris, but Clémence presents this as a challenge for her.
Downstairs, Sam approaches the fainting man, only to find he’s gone and expired, right there on the shop floor. Sam desperately hisses to Arthur to fetch Moray.
Mount Glendenning. Over breakfast, Tom cheerfully tells Catherine that Clémence is back on an impromptu visit and he’ll be sure to give her Catherine’s best.
The dead man’s somehow been moved to Moray’s office, where he’s laid out on a table with Moray, Arthur, and Sam gathered around him. They notice the man has French sailors’ tattoos across his chest, a nice suit on, and a wad of cash in his pocket. Nope, nothing odd here! Tom pokes his head in, having been told of the situation by Dudley. He says the man swung by Mount Glendenning that morning, having been misdirected there. How can you misdirect someone to a giant estate out in the countryside? It’s not like you can take a wrong turning and suddenly end up there. He, too, has no idea who the man is.
In ladieswear, Denise pitches an idea to dress a corner of the department as a lady’s boudoir, done up so it looks like the lady herself has just stepped out for a moment. In the middle of it is a lovely pot of rouge. She paints a pretty sexy picture, and Suzie rushes out to get a glass of cold water.
The dead man is going to get a pauper’s burial, which none of the guys are comfortable with. Sam suggests they ask Clémence, as she might have just happened to run into this guy during her recent travels. She’s shown the body, which is still in Moray’s office, and tells the men she’s never seen him before. Dudley suggests they use the money the found in the man’s pocket to buy a burial plot, and then replace the missing cash if relatives are ever found. Tom tells them to move the body along, because Moray can’t be expected to share his office with a corpse.
Catherine stares rather intently at the sluggish river near her house while Flora talks about how much she loves it there. Catherine’s not listening to the kid and steps forward, as if in a trance, and then Jonas comes out of nowhere and grabs her, warning her to be careful, or she might slip. They go back to the house and she lies that she was just feeling a bit faint, but she appreciates him helping out. He explains that he often walks along the river. Lucky he was there that day. She admits that things are feeling a bit hopeless for her just now and he reminds her that she has Flora, but she says that Tom can and will take Flora away from her whenever he wants. Jonas sadly says he’s destroyed everything he hoped to protect and has become the harm he feared. He turns to leave and she says that he was her salvation that day. He says there’s hope for both of them, then. She tells him about Tom’s wounds and how he bears the pain alone, in secret, and she once thought she could help him. Now, thanks to Jonas, she thinks that such a thing might still be possible. Jonas leaves, and Flora comes in to show Catherine a daisy chain she made. Catherine sits down suddenly, saying she feels strange, and Flora, in her innocence, asks if it’s that ‘grown up sickness’ again, going on to say it’s been kind of a while since Catherine had that. Oh, I see what’s happening here.
Catherine heads upstairs, opens her diary, and presumably notes that she’s been missing some periods lately.
Over a meal at the store, Suzie tells Myrtle about the proposed girls’ night out, while Denise picks at a scone. Clara tells her she has to eat.
Dudley and Moray talk about what to do with the corpse, and Dudley suggests they put him in Lovett’s shop. Do they not have undertakers in this town? It’s clearly warm weather outside, so it seems like stashing this guy anywhere is a really poor idea. What’s wrong with these people?
Dudley asks Moray to ask Denise for permission to stash a dead body in her uncle’s shop.
Upstairs, Denise pitches the rouge to a customer, who says the effect is lovely, but her husband would never allow face paint. Denise starts playing with it a bit, and Moray comes in to ask his favour. After explaining the circumstances, she agrees and gets him the keys to the shop. Before he leaves, she says they should at least try to find a way to be normal with each other. He admits it’s hard to even be near her just now, but he’ll learn, in time.
Jonas returns to the store and apologises to Moray for being away for so long. Tom comes out and asks what the deal is with these dice, dismissing it as just a fad. Which it is, but at least they’re cashing in on it while they can, which is pretty much business 101, right? Moray cheerfully says that, if you want to know what’s going to be big in London tomorrow, check out the Paradise today. Tom sneers at him but Moray shrugs him off.
The girls come out and join Clémence for their night out, sending the boys on their way. Tom eyes the girls, and then approaches and asks Clémence for a word. He welcomes her back and informs her that an acquaintance of hers stopped by Mount Glendenning that morning. Seems our dead man was a debt collector, who sold the debts to Tom, who now suggests to Clémence they discuss her payments over dinner. He insists on having her join him immediately, so she regretfully tells the girls she can’t go out with them.
The next day, Myrtle’s in a foul mood for having been ditched, and Sam foolishly pokes the bear by laughing about all the girls getting stood up. Denise gently reminds them they have no idea what really happened but Myrtle’s on a tear and refuses to give Clémence an inch.
At Mount Glendenning, Catherine asks Tom what his plans are for the evening. Upon hearing he’s dining out, she says that’s too bad, because it’s been a while since they had dinner together. He recalls how, when they were first married, she would send the servants away and pour his wine for him. She was so tender, and he thought it was sweet, but then they came home and he watched as Moray turned her tenderness turned to anguish. He tells her not to bother trying to resurrect what she destroyed, because he’s found someone else to comfort him. Jesus, this man’s a bit of a nut, isn’t he? She and Moray barely did anything. There was that one kiss, but that came after she was pretty desperate for some kind of human tenderness. Otherwise, honestly, it was all fairly innocent. They just had some coffee together! And walked in the street and talked!
At the store, Clara and Denise wonder what to do with the rouge, which is so lovely and smells so nice, but simply won’t sell. Myrtle joins them and immediately figures out all the ingredients in the rouge, starting with roses. She starts chattering about how her mother used to have a great nose for these things, and used to make her own potions and creams. Denise suggests a little after hours chem lab time.
The body is finally being removed to Lovett’s shop, where it’ll lie until the burial the following day. Dudley then turns his attention to Moray’s love life and wishes he and Denise could patch things up, but Moray tells him everything will be fine, the two of them will find a way to work together.
The girls are mixing things up in the kitchen. Denise adds a tiny bit of the rouge to the cream and applies it to Myrtle’s cheek, just as Clémence comes in. Clémence apologises for the night before and tells them the following night is the last night of her freedom, and she wants them all to spend it with her. Denise asks what she’s talking about and Clémence admits that she had debts in France and now Tom holds them and has told her she can either become his mistress or be thrown in prison. She urges them not to feel sorry for her, but to join her for a drink that night. They readily agree.
Sam and Moray go and sit with the body for a bit, fortified by some of Lovett’s brandy. Dudley joins them, so Sam finds another glass
In ladieswear, Clémence is being quite blasé about her fairly bleak future. It’s all very c’est la vie of her. What she really wants to talk about is what they were brewing up in the kitchen the night before. Clara presents some smoothing cream tinted with rouge. Clémence declares it genius, and then randomly tells Denise she really should try and make it work with Moray, because Clémence needs to believe in true love nowadays.
The body’s finally being carted off while Moray, Dudley, and Sam watch. Moray still thinks this is all very sad, but Sam says the guy seemed to die pretty happy. Moray wonders what it would take to be so fulfilled and what happens to a man who loses what makes life worth living. He sighs that he’s lost the store and Denise and he’s suffering. Dudley tells Moray he needs to start fighting and stop acting so defeated all the time. He reminds Moray that he has everything he started with, which is, basically, nothing. Moray glances behind him at Lovett’s shop, then back up at the Paradise.
The girls finish their drinking evening and head out of the pub, watched by Jonas.
At Mount Glendenning, another girls’ night is in progress. Flora sweetly suggests that her father probably stayed away because they’re having fish, which he doesn’t care for, and Catherine equally sweetly says someone should have told him there’s syllabub for dessert, and who doesn’t love that?
The girls help a very drunk Clémence up the stairs at The Paradise and into one of the bedrooms. Just before she passes out, Clémence says she was supposed to meet Tom and give him her answer. Denise declares that they can’t let this happen and grabs a shawl, but Clara tells her that, while Tom’s not going out this in the right way, she thinks he’s mostly doing it because he’s painfully lonely. Oh, cry me a river. The man’s lonely because he keeps alienating people. It’s not like his wife’s not making an effort! Clara warns Denise to be careful, because there’s something broken about the man.
Denise heads downstairs and runs into Jonas, who asks how Clémence is. Denise spills all the details of her debts and he immediately offers to go visit Tom with her. She tells him that’s not a good idea, because while she can plead and bat her eyes as a girl, it might seem threatening if Jonas were there, because he’s a man and all. Jonas instead provides her with some ammo: information about Tom’s time in service. He thinks he got his wounds while running away and being attacked by his own side. Well, that’s a hell of a leap. He backs this up with the irrefutable evidence that he knows men and knows that Tom Weston is a man in torment over a cowardly past. Right. He urges Denise to use this knowledge against Tom, if she needs to.
Denise meets Tom in a very atmospherically foggy park where he was supposed to meet Clémence. Not that Clémence got a chance to tell Denise where she was meeting Tom, so this really makes no sense at all. Denise tells Tom she’s Clémence’s messenger and that Clémence accepts his proposal. She begs him to reconsider this, because it’s horrible and he’ll never find any comfort in it. Tom starts to feel his old pains and gasps that he has old wounds. ‘From India?’ says Denise. His face hardens and he asks her what she knows about India. She tells him he can’t make himself feel better by punishing someone else, but she’s only gone and pissed him off. He orders her to tell Clémence that he’s coming for her. Denise runs off and is replaced by Jonas. Jonas advises him to go home to his family, and nobody will ever know what happened here. Tom guesses that Jonas told Denise about India and asks how long it took Jonas to piece Tom’s past together. Jonas coolly says he serves The Paradise. Tom insists that he is The Paradise. ‘No sir, you are not,’ Jonas informs him. Tom knocks him to the ground and stomps off.
The girls manage to rouse Clémence, give her some money and urge her to get on a ship to America. Denise tells Clémence about her meeting with Tom and how she just ended up making things worse. Moray comes in and asks what’s going on.
Catherine bursts into Flora’s room in the middle of the night, because the child’s crying, scared that her father is going to send Catherine away. Catherine kisses her and promises that they all belong to each other now and they will remain together. She gets Flora out of bed and puts a cloak on her, telling her that, when they’re together, Flora makes Catherine feel brave and invincible.
Moray’s aghast at what’s been going on and tells Clémence that she’s not Tom’s possession. To his credit, he actually does seem to realize how hypocritical that just was. Tom comes striding in, and Denise covers for Clara by telling him she was trying to stop them. Moray sends Clara away. Tom tells Moray he should have reined Denise in while he had the chance. Moray says Denise isn’t his to do anything to, just as Clémence doesn’t belong to Tom. Tom begs to differ but Moray says he’ll get the money to pay off her debts in 24 hours. They’re not for sale. So, Moray holds up some dice and offers to play Tom for them. Tom asks what he has to offer and Moray says that, if he wins, Tom relinquishes Clémence’s debts. If Tom wins, Moray leaves the country forever. Tom likes those odds.
Tom rolls the dice and gets an eight. Ooooh. Moray picks them up, lets the tension build a little while, and rolls an 11. Niiiice. Clémence gets her debts back. Moray tells Tom that his actions that day were those of a true coward. He goes to leave, but Tom offers one more round, but this time they’ll play for the store, department by department. If Moray fails to throw a higher number than Tom at any point, he’ll have to leave the country. This seems like a pretty crap bet for Moray, to be honest. He’s pretty much guaranteed to throw a lower number at some point before they’re done. Denise sensibly urges him not to do this, because it’s insane, but Moray says that he has nothing more to lose. He gets ready to play and Denise leaves, unable to watch this.
Moray’s first throw is a five.
Denise goes outside just as Catherine and Flora show up. Denise swiftly fills them in.
Tom rolls a three but tells Moray his luck can’t last. Clémence urges them to end this insanity. The ladies burst in but Tom ignores them and yells at Moray to throw. Moray refuses to do so in front of the child, so Catherine sends Flora off with Denise. Clémence and Moray follow them out, leaving the Westons alone together.
Catherine tells her husband that, while she once dreamed of Moray, she no longer does, and she’s entirely free of him. She reminds Tom that there was something kind between them once and they can find it again. He coldly tells her that dream is dead, so Catherine, determined, says they have to find a new dream, for Flora’s and for their baby’s sake. Ahh, yes, the old ‘fix an incredibly troubled relationship with a baby’ gambit. Works every time, right? Well, in TV land it does. He finally turns to look at her and she tells him they can be happy together, and she can comfort him, if he’ll just let them try.
They join Denise and Flora on the shop floor, and Tom kisses the girl’s head and takes his two girls home. Moray comes out of the shadows and Denise goes to him, saying she thought she might lose him. He tells her that she’s his equal, and more, and he understands this. And if she’s really going to blossom, she needs to have her own version of The Paradise. He knows she’ll never really be content with him unless she’s built something up by herself. She’s unhappy at the thought of having to leave him but he says he loves her too much to force her to stay. He leaves her and she looks around the place, conflicted.
Outside the store, Moray sees Jonas returning. Jonas asks if it’s over, and Moray tells him it is.
The next day, Denise starts clearing up the boudoir and checks out the face cream she made. Inspiration suddenly strikes and she starts writing a hasty note, which she dispatches with Arthur.
Moray stands in his office, staring out the window as Arthur rushes off.
Arthur returns with a reply. Denise reads it, smiles, and tells Clara to take charge while she runs downstairs and into Moray’s office, which is empty. She searches for him, giving us a nice series of tracking shots through just about every area of the store we’ve ever seen. She finally finds him standing outside and joins him, telling him she plans to turn her uncle’s shop into a beauty shop. Mr Ballentine has kindly offered to be her backer in the venture, which will keep her close but allow her to finally build up her own place. She promises to come and ask Moray to marry her once she’s made her fortune, and he promises to say yes, as they embrace.
Wow. You guys, this wasn’t good. There were moments of good, but they were really few and far between. Now, don’t get me wrong: I’m not being critical because I expect this to be some amazing, groundbreaking delve into the souls of some late Victorians. I’m definitely not. I understand that this is some fun, fairly fluffy drama that’s here to ease us into our week with some lovely costumes (and I will give props for that–the costumes this season rocked; Catherine’s especially were an IMMENSE improvement.) but even by those standards, this was weak sauce. I agree with one of my commentors below that this would have been far better had it picked up in the immediate aftermath of the wedding that wasn’t, so we could witness the fallout and how everyone actually dealt with it. Instead, we skipped ahead a whole year and everyone seemed to be just hunky dory. Moray was chilling in Parisian cafes, Denise was just doing her thing, the store was inexplicably doing poorly (but miraculously started doing well once Moray showed back up, even though everyone kept commenting on the fact that he was really off his game most of the time), and Catherine had gone and acquired a family. And then it all just sort of rolled along, with only Tom acting like a wierdo because…well, just because, I guess. Douchiness comes naturally to him?
Now, as I said, there were some bright points. The relationship between Catherine and Flora was truly adorable, and it was nice to see Catherine actually mature a bit and think about somebody other than herself and Moray. Costumes and the store’s set design get an A+. And the creepiness between Tom and Catherine did, at times, give the story a slightly skin-crawling Wilkie Collins dimension that helped distract from the tooth-aching sweetness of some of the rest of the story. And God, it was glorious to see Denise finally put Moray in his place, and for Moray to actually come to fully realise what a jerk he’s been. Clara’s character arc was nice to see–bravo to the actress who plays her, because I really did believe that she grew as a person and didn’t just hit her head and wake up with a new personality. And Clemence was pretty great.
But there were a lot of problems. Story-wise–good heavens, do we really care that much any more if Denise and Moray get together? That on-again-off-again will-they-won’t-they drove me crazy. Admittedly, I’ve never been a huge fan of their relationship, but I really can’t even force myself to begin to care about them. Also, Denise’s unerring perfection is tiresome. Nobody is this good at their job. She never, ever puts a toe wrong, and every single idea she comes up with is genius. That’s absurd. What’s also absurd is that it seems nobody in this place can have great ideas besides herself and Moray. Seriously, what has Dudley contributed? Clara? Even Myrtle, the cook, mind, couldn’t come up with the idea of baking a frigging cake until Denise planted it in her head. Come on!
And about Myrtle: as an addition to the cast, she kind of sucked. But Suzie, the world’s most pointless idiot, sucked a lot worse. She was too stupid to be believed, that one. And I really didn’t see much purpose in adding them to the cast at all. And I have to admit I miss Audrey a bit, though I can also admit that her time on the show had pretty much run its course.
The whole plotline with Tom felt like it went nowhere to me. I kept waiting for some big, dark secret to be revealed, but instead that big, shameful secret was, well, something we already knew. He served in the army in India. And was wounded. It’s pure speculation on Jonas’s part that the wounds were inflicted by Tom’s own men, while Tom was fleeing the battlefield. I felt like there was no secret there, but everyone wanted there to be one. The writers just couldn’t drum up anything good enough, which is lazy. He could have committed some atrocities and enriched himself during the siege, but is haunted by what he’s done. Maybe there could have been some kind of screwed up backstory with his first wife. Maybe he’s a con man who deliberately set out to ensnare Catherine, a rich heiress. Maybe he’s operating under a completely false identity. See how easy that is? But no, he just…served in the army and was wounded. Like thousands of others. What’s the shame in that? And then Catherine breaks her big news, and the two of them and Flora just walk out of the store like nothing happened. Strange, very strange.
The show definitely dropped the ball on a few occasions, when it could have actually explored some complex issues. The damaged relationship between Flora and her father, for instance, was pretty much just dropped after one episode, merely because she was finally able to answer a single question of his. And the casting of a black actor as Christian, the photographer, could have opened the door to some interesting commentary on race relations at this time. Instead everyone just acted like it was no big deal that he was black, which isn’t quite true to the period. Not at all, actually. And fine, OK, the show doesn’t really want to go there and get too heavy, but then I wish it would settle on a tone and stick with it, because it feels like it swings really wildly between ridiculous slapstick, soppy melodrama, and genuinely disturbing creepiness.
And what ever happened to Fenton? Did I miss something, or did he just disappear entirely?
So, those are my thoughts on season 2. No word from the BBC yet on whether the show will return (though, if they keep this show and axe Ripper Street, I’m going to be really tempted to write some hate mail), but I’m sure we’ll hear soon. Until then, we’ll just have to get our costume kicks elsewhere. I’m sure we’ll have something to satisfy us soon–Death Comes to Pemberley kicks off on Boxing Day!