Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Review: Mr. Selfridge -- Series 2 (2014)

When I watched Mr. Selfridge a year ago, I was not all that fond of it. I said that I was going to watch the next series because Series 1 ended on a cliffhanger and I wanted to know what happened next, but I didn't have high hopes for it. It was a lackluster show in which I could relate to none of the characters and where nearly all the characters had loose morals. But when this year came and I didn't hear any word on the new series, I was wondering if it was still going? But then PBS announced it and after Downton Abbey ran its course (which I still watched even though I had already seen it), I watched Series 2 of Mr. Selfridge as it aired on PBS. Were my suspicions correct? Or was I pleasantly surprised? Well, read on and find out!

Note: This review will contain spoilers from Series 1. If you do not want to read about Series 1 spoilers, I suggest watching Series 1 before reading this review. Here is my review for Series 1 if you are interested.

DVD Box Art

After living in America for five years after leaving England, Rose Selfridge returns to London for the fifth anniversary of Selfridge's. While Harry tries to reconcile with his wife, Rose still resents his philandering and keeps her distance from him. Meanwhile, Rose has befriended Delphine Day, the owner of a night club with a scandalous past (of which she writes about publicly). Meanwhile, Agnes Towler returns to Selfridge's as head of departmental displays after training in Paris and develops a rivalry with Mr. Thackeray, the new head of fashion. Lady Mae Loxley's life is turned upside down with the arrival of her husband, Lord Loxley, who has taken a sudden interest in parliament. All of this is occurring with World War I in the near future, and Selfridge's sees the toll of the war on the store.

While some characters did not return from Series 1, Series 2 does see the entrance of more characters, some of which are better than those from Series 1 that left. And, of course, there are a couple of familiar period drama faces.

Actor/ActressCharacterAlso Seen In
Ron CookMr. CrabbLittle Dorrit (2008) as Mr. Chivery
Frances O'ConnorRose SelfridgeThe Importance of Being Earnest as Gwendolen Fairfax
Polly WalkerDelphine DayEmma (1996) as Jane Fairfax

Nearly every character in this series of Mr. Selfridge was greatly improved upon from the previous series. I have always said that the first series of a period drama series tended to be the best and any series after is almost never as good. Mr. Selfridge is definitely an exception. Each character became more three dimensional and easier to relate to. Hey, you may even like the characters now despite their faults. Even characters that you might have disliked in Series 1 you may come to like in Series 2.

The Selfridge Family
I grew to like Harry in this series a lot more than the last. While it is apparent that he was still philandering at the time of Rose's arrival, once she arrives, he tries to make it right between him and her. He puts an end to his philandering and tries to repair the damage he has done to their marriage. While Rose is very angry with him and doesn't trust him, they do work through their troubles and their marriage becomes strong again. Their marriage was an interesting dimension to the storyline and I grew to like both Harry and Rose even more for it. Spoiler I was worried about Rose, and with good reason. According to Wikipedia, the real Rose Selfridge died in 1918, which would mean that Rose would have to die fairly soon. Just as I thought, Rose was revealed to be dying of "lung congestion" (which I'm assuming is pneumonia since that was what the real Rose Selfridge died of). The scene in which she tells Harry is very heart wrenching; he wanted to get the best doctors to help her, but she knew that it wouldn't do any good. I'm very sorry to see Rose go because I did like the character, and I worry about what they are going to do with Harry's character in the next series because the really Mr. Selfridge's life spiraled out of control after Rose (and eventually his mother) died. I will say this: they dealt with Rose's eventual departure a lot better than Downton Abbey dealt with their character departures. End of Spoiler Harry also continues to work on Selfridge's even when World War I is in progress. Though a good part of the public is convinced that Harry will return to America, he is devoted to the war effort from London and even risks his own reputation to help the war effort.

Delphine (left in red and green) bringing actresses in to
Selfridges to buy things
Rose becomes fast friends with nightclub owner, Delphine Day. Delphine uses her scandalous past to promote her nightclub. From the beginning, I never liked Delphine. Aside from the fact that she flaunts her scandalous past (which really should be a red flag, especially with Harry), she was always WAY too eager to help Harry with the store. It was very apparent early on that she had designs on Harry (which caused some worry in me because Harry was so determined to make everything right with Rose, but at the same time, he is weak). Spoiler Luckily, Lady Mae warns Harry not to trust her, and when Delphine attempts to move in on Harry, he remains faithful to his wife. End of Spoiler In comparison to Ellen Love from last series, Delphine was a better character to replace Ellen Love with; not that I liked Ellen Love at all (which, I didn't), but Delphine was less annoying (not to mention the omission of musical numbers).

Lord Loxley and Lady Mae
Lady Mae becomes a much more sympathetic character in this series. Her husband, Lord Loxley, wasn't in the first series, so you had to wonder why Mae took up the life she did. But with the arrival of her husband, we learn how much of a jerk he is, and while I cannot condone her lifestyle, I can kind of see why she does what she does. It is revealed that she married Loxley for his money and power with the thought that she could manage him and have a place in society, but now she realizes what a mistake she made. Lord Loxley is violent towards her and it is revealed that the only reason he took an interest in parliament was to profit from the impending war. Lady Mae is forced to vouch for her husband to Harry (something she later regrets) in order to protect herself from him. Spoiler This damages her friendship with the Selfridges, but when Harry learns about why she vouched for Loxley, he agrees to help her. Although, when Loxley is arrested, Lady Mae appears as if she will return to her former lifestyle, but that's another series for another year! End of Spoiler

Henri and Agnes
Agnes's story continues and she becomes the head of departmental displays. She goes through the worry over her brother, George, going off to fight in the war, and the existing love triangle with Henri Leclair (Harry's friend) and Victor Colleano (head of the Palm Court restaurant in Selfridge's). I'll give you a non-spoiler spoiler (if that makes any sense), but the love triangle does get resolved by the end of the series (yay!). But even watching this series, I still don't like Victor all that much; I just can't trust him -- there's something slimy about him that I don't like (even ignoring his involvement in Lady Mae's life). I preferred Henri for Agnes, though he had his moments too Spoiler (and let's not forget his run-in with the law, though he was innocent) End of Spoiler, I still preferred him and Agnes together. I did like Agnes better in this series than the last (not that I didn't like Agnes in the last series, I was just disappointed with her towards the end of the first series).

The weakest story line, in my opinion, is the Miss Mardle/Mr. Grove/Florian (a Belgian Refugee that Miss Mardle takes in) storyline. (Just a warning, this next paragraph will have Spoilers, but I'll try to keep it to a minimum) If you recall from last series, Miss Mardle broke it off with Mr. Grove (who were in a Jane Eyre/Mr. Rochester-esque relationship that had been going on for years and years) after Mr. Grove announced that he was going to marry shop girl Doris so he could have a family (though he still wanted to continue seeing Miss Mardle). Confusing enough? Okay. So, five years later, Miss Mardle inherits a big house and a decent fortune from her brother and can afford to quit her job and never work again. Mr. Grove, of course, regrets not marrying Miss Mardle at this point (surprise, surprise) and is consumed with worry over his family and the pending war. Meanwhile, Miss Mardle decides to take Agnes in (who shouldn't be left alone while her brother is fighting in the war) and Florian (a Belgian refugee whose presence in the house could cause scandal). Mr. Grove is concerned that Florian will fall in love with Miss Mardle, to which Miss Mardle is all, "Don't be ridiculous!" But then (why is this even happening?) Florian tells her that he fell in love with her! And then there's the whole Miss Mardle fighting for feelings for the young man, but eventually admits her feelings to him. I mean, was I the only one saying, "She's too old for you!"? Wouldn't it be more realistic if Florian fell in love with Agnes? (I'm not saying that he couldn't fall in love with Miss Mardle, but rather it's less realistic). I'm certain that this storyline will be doomed in the upcoming series. It's just too weird (for me at least). She's like, what? 50? And he's like...maybe 20? Even with an older man and a younger woman, the age difference is too big.  I'm hoping this isn't going to be a big focus next series...

Still great! The store still plays a dominant role in the series, and while it still looks like the Selfridge's we were introduced to in Series 1, it still looks different enough to show that time has progressed. The displays are more prominent in the story line due to the rivalry between Agnes and Mr. Thackeray. The Selfridge house looks much the same as it always did, but still looks nice. We see more of Lady Mae's home since her home life becomes more of a focus point. A new location for the story is Delphine's, Delphine Day's night club. It's always dark/candlelit and noisy inside of Delphine's, which would go with the fact that it is a night club. Miss Mardle inherits a house from her brother that she finds too big for her, so she decides to take in a Belgian refugee and Agnes after George goes off to fight in the war. The house does appear to be big (which is emphasized early on when Miss Mardle is eating in the huge dining room alone), but we only get to see a few of the rooms in it.

Rose in Lady Mary's Dress
And still great! I question some of the accuracy of some of the styles, but I still liked the costumes. The costumes went from the Late Edwardian fashions of the previous series to more teens era fashion (both pre-WWI and WWI fashions, though, honestly, both looked a lot alike). Rose has a lot of very nice dresses in this series (and she stole Lady Mary's dress from Downton Abbey!). Lady Mae continues to be the best dressed in the series, sporting plenty of fur coats and nice day and evening wear. Her hair is a lot more normal than the previous series (which looked as if her hat was just floating on top of her head and nothing like I had ever seen before for the era).

Although, can we talk about the women's hairstyles in this series for a minute? Didn't it seem like a number of the main female characters had bangs and hair that almost looked like they bobbed it? Rose and Lady Mae had nearly the exact same hairstyle. I'll grant that it doesn't look that outlandish/unrealistic for the era (though a little too fluffy from hairstyles I've seen from the era), but it just seems odd that they would be dressing their hair almost the exact same way. And then I also noticed some of the shop girls had "victory rolls" hairstyles (see the picture below), which I think is more associated with World War II and not WWI.

Shop Girls' Attire
The shop girls have the same dress that they had at the beginning of the series all the way to the end. It is different from their Series 1 dresses, but there wasn't any variation for the work clothes. Agnes had the same black dress with a collar poking out (which did look nice, by the way), and Kitty had a white shirtwaist with a black jumper (which also looked nice), but that was all they wore to work... Every...single...day. (okay, so there might have been a different outfit occasionally, but just go with me on this; it looked like their wardrobe was severely limited) It wasn't like the girls all had a specific uniform that they had to wear (which would explain the lack of variety), but my impression was that they could wear something that met the requirements of the store. So I would expect that maybe they might have a couple of dresses, not just the same one, to wear to work. But, then again, I'm not an expert on shop girls of the early 1900s, so I could be mistaken.

Overall: 4/5
I wasn't sure how I was going to like Series 2, but wow, was it an improvement on the previous series! This is one of those shows that gets better as the series progresses (like Upstairs, Downstairs). Nearly all of the characters showed more depth than the previous series and were considerably more likable. The ridiculous philandering of the previous series by various characters were just about nonexistent (a reference might be made here or there to previous incidents, however, but other than that there wasn't much new... unless you count the Miss Mardle/Florian bit). I find myself pleasantly surprised by this series and would say that even if you have to stomach Series 1, Series 2 was pretty good.

Unlike the previous series, there were a lot less scenes to skip. There is really only one I can think of at the beginning of episode 9 (which was less graphic than skipped scenes from Series 1), but other than that and some suggestive dialogue, this series is a lot less TV-14 and a lot more TV-PG. Either Andrew Davies was less involved in the creation of episodes or he really toned it down, but either way it was an improvement!

Mr. Selfridge is available on DVD and Blu-Ray. This series is made up of ten 1-hour long episodes.


  1. This looks soooo good! Thanks for an amazing review!

  2. Great review! And it totally agree with you regarding series 1 vs series 2; I, too, loved series 2 so much more.

    I wanted to add that I also really liked the scenes with Selfridge's son Gordon. I thought he was a nice character and the friendship between him and the blonde shopgirl (whose name evades me now...) was sweet

  3. Hi! I've awarded your blog the Sunflower Blogger Award! Here's the post about it.


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