‘Mr. Selfridge’ Recap: Season 4, Episode 1

Jeremy Piven and Katherine Kelly in "Mr. Selfridge" Season 4. (Photo: Courtesy of (C) ITV Studios for MASTERPIECE)
Jeremy Piven and Katherine Kelly in "Mr. Selfridge" Season 4. (Photo: Courtesy of (C) ITV Studios for MASTERPIECE)
Jeremy Piven and Katherine Kelly in "Mr. Selfridge" Season 4. (Photo: Courtesy of (C) ITV Studios for MASTERPIECE) 

Previously, on Mr. Selfridge: There is too much to put in this paragraph. We’ve got recaps though, so check them out if you need a memory refresh.

Welcome back, folks, as we kick of the fourth – and, yes, final – season of period drama Mr. Selfridge. Whether we’ll be sad or happy that this is the show’s last run remains to be seen, but we’ve certainly had something of a roller coaster ride over the last three years – for both good and ill. Let’s get to it!

Of Course There’s a Time Jump. Season 4 of Selfridge is kicking off in 1928, which means that nine years have passed since the events depicted in the Season 3 finale. NINE YEARS. Honestly, this has always been one of my biggest pet peeves with this show, that it’s completely willing to let huge emotional beats pass totally unremarked upon, simply because they wanted to push the show forward in time the next season. Where you interested in the start of Harry’s emotional tailspin after finding out his fiancée Nancy lied to him about every aspect of her life and identity? Or even what happened to her? Too  bad. Did you want to watch what happened in the wake of Miss Mardle’s stupid decision to get back with Mr. Grove? Oh well. You’re not going to get it – and you’re just going to have to catch up quick to where things stand right now.

Where do things stand right now? Harry’s busy drinking hard and gambling harder with a string of pretty ladies. He’s sporting a sort of dead-eyed stare that suggests none of this is at all fun anymore, either. The paparazzi is tailing him actively, full of questions about how much money he’s losing and particular women he may or may not be dating. So, it certainly doesn’t seem like the better part of a decade has done much for teaching him any life lessons. 

Let’s Catch Up with Everyone Else. Unlike Harry, it seems like the Selfridge supporting cast of characters has been keeping themselves busy over the past nine years.

Victor Colleano’s lame nightclub and gambling establishment has actually become wildly successful, and is now a much larger lame nightclub and gambling establishment. 

Harry’s daughter Rosalie has a nine-year old daughter named Tatiana, and she seems to be spending most of her time worrying about her father’s philandering ways.

George Towler and Connie Hawkins have apparently gotten married, and remain extremely adorable together.  Kitty and Frank Edwards are still married (somehow) and apparently have won the lottery or something since they’ve just bought a giant new house and put a bunch of expensive stuff in it.

It’s Mr. Grove’s birthday, and he, Harry and Mr. Crabbe get all get nostalgic about how old they are, which is hilarious considering that they all look exactly the same as when the show started, ostensibly 20 years ago. Mr. Grove gets a birthday card from Miss Mardle, who is apparently – YESSS! – now in New York kicking butt and taking names doing something or other important. (We learn later that apparently she wasn’t kidding about not really wanting to be a stepmother to five kids, and things didn’t work out between the two of them.)

Gordon Selfridge arrives at the store to see his dad, and he seems extra dull and unhappy. Apparently he’s been tasked with managing “the provincial stores”, whatever that means and he looks bored out of his mind.  Harry misses his meeting with his son, and Gordon’s annoyed that his dad is pretty terrible at being a father. Oh, and by the way: Gordon married Grace the shop girl from last season, and they have two fairly adorable kids. 

Rejoice, folks! Lady Mae is Back! Harry gets a surprise visit from Lady Mae, which has already made this season better than last in my opinion. (I think Season 3 really, really suffered from the absence of Katherine Kelly, particularly when we had to sit through that dreadful storyline with Mae’s Vile Husband Loxley even though she wasn’t there.)  Anyway, Harry’s thrilled to see her (so are most of us, I’d imagine) and you get the sense that she hasn’t been back in London in some time. Last season, she ran off to France and opened some fashion shops or something like that. Apparently she hasn’t been doing so great at it, so she now has to sell her stock in Selfridge’s because she needs the money. Harry, feeling nostalgic because he’s remembering how much Mae helped him when he first arrived in London, promises to help her.

He gives her Violette’s flat, since she’s apparently still in Paris…chasing a husband or whatever it was she originally went over there to do. She’s grateful for the roof over her head, but laments the fact that she basically has to start her life over “at her age”.  Harry tries to cheer her up, and promises to take her out the next night.

Harry also sends her to the store the next day, so that Connie can show her around and she can pick out a new outfit for the night out. Mae seems deeply unimpressed by Connie and also by the store’s new ready-to-wear department, which has cheap, easy to purchase clothes, for like, secretaries and things. The sad ready-to-wear gives Mae an idea though – she tells Harry the store should start offering luxury ready to wear, like they do in Paris, aimed at middle class ladies who can’t afford coture, but don’t want to buy secretary-level clothes. Harry loves the idea, and tells Mae she should help Selfridge get the new department off the ground, since she already knows all about it and can tell what women want. Mae promises to think about it.

Grove is Kind of Terrible at Parenting.  In other Grove related news, apparently he’s been busy raising a pack of wild teens, who are so obnoxious he can’t even manage to keep regular help around the house, since his kids keep driving the housekeepers away with their terrible behavior. Could not happen to a nicer person, IMO. He asks his eldest – Meryl – why she’s literally the worst, and she just pouts. Who’s shocked that Grove is raising kids he can’t control? Sheesh.

Anyway, the next day Meryl gets a letter offering her a teaching job at a girls’ school. The rest of the family is super proud of her, but Meryl is down in the dumps about it. Meryl says the job doesn’t start till September, so there’s always a chance she could find something she likes better by then. Grove tells her that teaching is a responsible, respectable career and she should give it a chance. Meryl just rolls her eyes at him, because Meryl is awful. 

This Guy is Obviously Not Nice. Frank Edwards has a meeting with a sneering newspaperman who has a name I didn’t catch but it’s probably something like Lord Jerkface. He also doesn’t seem to have a very high opinion about women’s rights, claiming that these women who are getting the right to vote are really only interested in babies and recipes, not politics. He sneers that women are just stupid and easily led so they’ll just vote the way his papers tell them to. Lord Jerkface sucks!

Frank makes a face, but invites Lord Jerkface VIP press access to the unveiling of the new Oxford Street statue “The Queen of Time”, meant to commemorate the 20th anniversary of Selfridges store. Lord Jerkface is way more interested in Harry’s “colorful” family, particularly Sergei who, to the surprise of no one, is probably cheating on Rosalie again.

Time For…a Boxing Match? The Dolly sisters – an infamous pair of twin dancers and actresses – arrive at Victor Colleano’s slightly larger new awful nightclub. They are very famous, and VERY over the top, so of course Harry loves them. The girls are there with some promoter named Jimmy Dillon, who’s organizing the boxing match taking place that night, and they love talking about how rich they are. They seem terrible, so I’m sure they’ll be in every single episode this year.

The boxing match gets under way, an exhibition which pits the British champion against the American one, who happens to be African-American. Harry and the Dolly girls bet a bunch of money on the American champion, enough that it’ll clean fight promoter Jimmy out if they win. The fight continues, and the Dolly girls flirt shamelessly with Harry, telling him about how much they love drinking and partying and gambling, while making gross sexual innuendo. Meanwhile, Mae sits near Harry, rolling her eyes and speaking for all of us. (It seems incomprehensible to me that Harry has had terrible taste in women for this long. And yet. Here we are.) The Dollys want to get into acting – because of course they do – and Harry promises to intro them to some producers.

Unfortunately, the American boxer does not emerge triumphant and both Harry and the Dolly girls lose a bunch of money.  Selfrdige offers to cover the debt for them, but it turns out he doesn’t have to. Jimmy Dillon’s super pleased because the girls’ big bets made everyone else bet more too (Um, why??) and he tells them that they can not worry about what they owe. Harry looks jealous that someone else is footing their bill, and Mae just rolls her eyes at everyone some more. She eventually gets so sick of things that she just goes home, and tells Harry she’ll see him next week.

Dinner with the Edwards. Connie and George go to dinner over at Kitty and Frank’s new house. Which, by the way, is a ginormous mansion, so how in the world they’re affording it is a mystery. (Seriously, Harry cannot be paying them that well, and Frank is awful at journalism!) Connie and George ooh and ahhh over everything, while Kitty tries to cover up the fact that she’s obviously upset that Frank’s not there. One gets the impression that he’s missed a lot of stuff like this, doing important work things like drinking with Harry. Gross.

Anyway, Connie and George have big news – they’re having a baby. Connie looks thrilled, but Kitty looks crushed, even though she manages to say congratulations and hug her sister and do all the right things. It begs the question – is Kitty’s big house and fancy furniture covering up an emotional hole? Probably, because even though Kitty’s never seemed particularly maternal, that’s likely where this story is going.

Grove’s Daughter Wants a Job. Meryl Grove tells her dad that she wants to get a Saturday job if she’s going to be forced into teaching, and she wants to work at Selfridges. Mr. Grove dismisses this idea out of hand, insisting that shopgirls are exposed to all sorts of disreputable people and ideas. (You know, in the store he himself runs.) He says a school environment is best for her and she’s just going to have to lump it. Meryl gets all teary and says that if her mother were still here, she’d let her, because we certainly haven’t had enough petulant daughter storylines in previous seasons of this show. Iccck. 

Mae Makes Choices. The next day, Mae comes to Selfridges, intent on turning down his job offer to create a new middle class ladies’ fashion line. She says it’s because she can’t live a life where everyone is assuming she’s using rich men to take care of her, and insists that she has to learn to stand on her own two feet. She says she has to sell her Selfridges shares, and she’s sorry about it. Harry protests, insisting that he needs her, because he needs a a real friend who understands him.

This is the exact moment when Frank Edwards arrives, with the sole mission of plot exposition-ing Jimmy Dillon to Mae. Turns out that the rumor mill says he’s the son of a maharaja, and super rich, but because he’s a self made man who made his own fortune. Harry insists that he doesn’t want Mae to leave, and begs her to consider coming to work for him. Mae doesn’t say no, which we all know in this show is the same as a yes.

Behold the Queen of Time. The entire Grove clan comes to the store to witness the unveiling of the Queen of Time statue. Grove introduces his many kids to Harry, though we’d all guess he should know who they are by now. Anyway. Whatever. In the midst of all this, somehow Meryl manages to corner Harry and tell him all about her dreams of working at the store herself. Harry, who is a huge sucker, totally falls for her story about how much it means to her that her mother used to work there. He mentions how much he regrets telling his own daughter Violette that she shouldn’t work at the store, and decides to give Meryl a position in Fashion instead, because that’s somehow even remotely the same thing? This decision on Harry’s part makes no sense, but whatever.  Of course Grove gives in once Meryl tells him, because no one ever says no to Harry ever, and he and his daughter hug it out.

Mae comes back to the store, on the fence about accepting Harry’s job offer. She mentions that she’s worried about his gambling problems, but he promises that everything is okay. He tells her that he wants to work with her – on her terms – and eventually she says yes.

Everyone heads out to watch the unveiling of the new Queen of Time statue.  There’s a big crowd, and Harry waxes nostalgic about the success of Selfridges and Oxford Street generally. He unveils the statue – to be honest it’s kind of ugly – and somehow manages to fall backward off the scaffolding, knocking himself out. Yikes.

Harry comes to and is sent off to recuperate out of town with his mother, Rosalie and Tatiana, because I guess they want to pretend as though his accident was like 1000x worse than it actually was? (Seriously how far was this fall supposed to be anyway?) He’s sporting a dramatic eyebrow scar, in case you didn’t’ know his injury was definitely all caps serious. 

Time for Some Selfridge Family Time. In the wake of his father’s (questionable, possibly overly dramatic) injury, the London paparazzi are basically stalking Gordon, looking for some kind of comment. Gordon just tells everyone that Harry’s fine, and the Selfridge business is in safe hands.

Later, Gordon and Grace go to see the recuperating Harry at some random family estate that we’ve never heard of before. Rosalie is also there, and Violette arrives to surprise everyone. (Isn’t she going to be irritated when she finds out her father rented out her flat?) She brings a newspaper along with her and everyone – particularly Harry – is shocked to read about how pretty much the entire world is assuming that the elder Selfridge will be replaced by the younger in terms of running the business. Harry, of course, takes this very personally and gets angry, insisting that he’s not planning on taking a step back in running the store, no matter what people think. Gordon looks annoyed, and the girls look like they want to be anywhere else. Awkward.

Mae is Making Her Own Way. Meanwhile, Mae is butting heads with Mr. Crabbe over the budget for her new department. She’s already spent a ton on new materials, and all manner of things to get her luxe ready-to-wear line off the ground. She even volunteers to do her own designing if that’s what it takes, but says that will mean she has to be allowed to hire whoever she wants. Mae proves she’s legit by wandering down to the sewing room to stare in a vaguely threateningly manner at the ladies’ working there, before retiring and starting to draw new dresses.

Unfortunately, Harry’s less than helpful. He insists that the Dolly sisters would be perfect to model at Mae’s fashion launch, even though it’s crystal clear that Mae doesn’t like them, and that she has a very different idea about the sort of woman who ought to be wearing her clothes.

Meryl is Terrible at Fashion.  Grove’s daughter Meryl officially begins working at Selfrigdges – it’s just too bad she’s awful at it. A young black woman named Matilda comes to the store for an interview and Meryl is of course snotty and rude to her when she wanders into the Fashion department looking for where potential seamstresses should go. (This young woman is named Matilda, and she makes her own dresses, and she’s so talented she gets hired by Mae on the spot. Shows what you know, Meryl.)

Later, a customer asks Meryl’s opinion about an outfit she’s considering. Instead of attempting to really make the sale, Meryl decides to tell the woman that the color of the dress she’s looking at is all wrong for her, and also she’s too old and overweight for the style of fashion. As you might imagine, said customer is displeased and goes straight to Connie to complain. She pulls Meryl aside to reprimand her about her poor customer service, and the girl just complains that the dress she’d been considering wouldn’t have suited the woman anyway.  Meryl also tries to blame Connie for not training her in the first place, but Connie throws up her hands and says she can’t teach her to have common sense. Such as, you know, not calling potential customers fat to their face. Ugh. Meryl pouts, because Meryl is terrible.

Connie says Meryl’s just going to have to stay in the stockroom until she has time to deal with her, and banishes her from the showroom floor.

Harry’s New Department of Things That Don’t Exist. Harry, who let us all remember did crack his head pretty hard, is now proposing that they install a “Technology Department” on the ground floor of Selfridges. No idea why this is, especially considering they’ve already got something similar upstairs, where they sell radios and such, and the products meant to stock this department….don’t actually exist yet.

I’m really unclear on what Harry thinks they’re going to be selling. He says he wants to market “prototypes” basically, but that are models for…experimental products. (What on earth is a televisor?) It’s deeply confusing as to why any potential costumer would order something that they can’t actually use because it’s not being manufactured yet, but here we are. Mr. Crabbe points out that this new department would displace their tea section, which actually has real products and makes money, but Harry doesn’t care. Because he definitely hit his head during his fall.

Later, Grove and Crabbe have a conversation about this – Crabbe is rightly quite concerned about selling products that don’t exist, but Grove just whines about how he needs a vacation. Crabbe tells him he should just go to Harry and ask for one, but when he does, Selfridge almost faints in front of him. So…that’s also awkward.

Harry Needs to Reevaluate His Life. Harry’s Awesome Mom, who seriously must be like 95 by now, tries to give her son some Real Talk about his life. She says she’d hoped his Terrible Accident (??) would have made him think about the fragility of the universe or something, and make him understand that time is finite.

He should be taking things easier and spending more time with his family, she says, and tells him to make up his fight with Gordon. She says whatever he’s scared of, it has nothing to do with his son, who’s always been loyal to him and the store. She says he’ll need Gordon some day. Harry looks mulish but promises the two will talk when things are calmer.  

The Dolly Sisters are a Hot Mess. By some twist of fate, the launch of Harry’s new Technology Department and the first fashion show for Mae’s new ready to wear line are the same day.  At least the Technology section seems to have settled on embracing actual products – their tag line is for the home of the future – so they’re  selling real things like vacuums and radios. Meanwhile, Harry has forced Mae into accepting the Dolly sisters as models for her new collection, basically because they’re famous. She’s not happy about it – even more so when the two are ridiculously late for the fashion show AND show up drunk.

Their arrival is hilariously awful – they’re both swigging from champagne bottles and making gross innuendo-laden comments to the press. Crabbe shuffles them off to their dressing room, but not before they spend an entire elevator ride making him deeply uncomfortable talking about their sexual exploits from the night before.  Yuck.

The two of them do their whole modeling thing for Mae’s show and real talk – between their crazy hair and the ugly outfits, they look horrific. Seriously, y’all, Mae’s dresses are SO UGLY. The situation is not helped by the fact that the Dolly girls idea of “modeling” appears to be “dance up on each other suggestively”, so this would probably be a trainwreck even if the dresses were cute. There’s more gross innuendo about how easy the outfits are to take off and put on, which the Dollys decide to demonstrate by ducking behind a pillar to strip and trade outfits. Everyone looks shocked and horrified, and Mae is particularly furious that these losers are ruining her show, since all the press from this will – obviously – be about the two of them and not the new fashion line.

Everyone Keeps Talking to Jimmy Dillon For Some Reason. Harry invites Jimmy Dillon to meet him at the Palm Court for some reason, and tells him he’s curious about his business. Jimmy immediately gets all offended that they’re not having this meeting at Harry’s club, an affront which he perceives to have a racist intent behind it. Harry shrugs and says he just likes meeting people at the Palm Court and whether he’s club is racist or not, they’d have let Jimmy in if they’d gone there together. He tells Dillon that he admires him, and that he himself knows what it’s like to be a plucky upstart outsider. The two swap stories about their early days in London, one of which involves young Jimmy being brought to Selfridges as a child and thinking a prince must live there. The two bond about the toy young Jimmy’s mom bought him back then, because apparently it’s still a bestseller and they’re BFFs now and someone somewhere thinks any of us care about this.

Plus, for some reason, the Selfridge writers seem to think that Mae needs a love interest in the show’s final season, and are not content to let her remain a badass businesswoman and generally awesome person on her own terms. This is the only possible explanation for Mae heading out to meet – and seduce – Jimmy, who earlier in this same episode seemed to have zero problem treating women like objects. I mean, yay, I guess he’s very attractive in a physical sense? Mae can do better than this. 

Time for the End of Episode Wrap Up. We’re down to the last five minutes of this episode, and suddenly stuff starts happening super fast.

After being harassed about the issue by her co-workers all episode, Kitty asks Frank if he wants to have children. He says no, she agrees, and they both look extremely relieved that they’re on the same page. Kitty says she likes her job and being out in the world, and Frank applauds her for being ambitious. Good for you, Edwardses! (Honestly, I think they’d be terrible parents and this is some awesome self-awareness if you ask me.)

One of the Dolly sisters (Rosie) shows up to see Harry and tempt him to come out with her and her sibling to some wild party or other. Harry, displaying the incredible maturity he is known for, says sure and proceeds to make out aggressively with Dolly #2, despite the fact that he’s just spent five minutes listening to Mae tell him what a liability these girls are.  He’s apparently attracted to their ability to “never worry about tomorrow” or something like that, so it’s good to know he’s learned zero lessons from his supposed near-death experience.       

Harry returns home from his night out with the Dolly girls, doing whatever sort of living in the moment stuff one does when out with people like that, looking fairly pleased with himself. Unfortunately, his good mood is dashed when he discovers his mother, asleep by the fireplace with the record player skipping. Only, since we’ve all watched a television show previously, ever, we all know that Harry’s Awesome Mom isn’t asleep, she’s dead. Harry starts sobbing, distraught, and Jeremy Piven’s Ugly Cry Face is genuinely upsetting, so at least I’m having an emotional reaction of some type to this scene. Honestly, I’m just sad one of the only acting partners that actually seemed to give Piven a reason to make an effort is gone. Oof.

Anyway, that’s the first episode of Mr. Selfridge Season 4! Thoughts? Nitpicks? Feelings to share? Hit the comments. 

Lacy Baugher

Lacy's love of British TV is embarrassingly extensive, but primarily centers around evangelizing all things Doctor Who, and watching as many period dramas as possible.

Digital media type by day, she also has a fairly useless degree in British medieval literature, and dearly loves to talk about dream poetry, liminality, and the medieval religious vision. (Sadly, that opportunity presents itself very infrequently.) York apologist, Ninth Doctor enthusiast, and unabashed Ravenclaw. Say hi on Threads or Blue Sky at @LacyMB. 

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