‘Mr. Selfridge’ Recap: The Series Finale

This is actually a picture of Harry getting fired, surprise? (Photo: Courtesy of (C) ITV Studios for MASTERPIECE)

Mr. Selfridge, The Final Season Sundays, March 27 - May 22, 2016 at 10pm ETon MASTERPIECE on PBS Episode 9 Shown from left to right: Jeremy Piven as Harry Selfridge and Greg Austin as Gordon Selfridge (C) ITV Studios for MASTERPIECE

Previously, on Mr. Selfridge: Jimmy’s feeling pretty great about himself for getting Harry to buy London department store Whiteleys. Or at least he is until he realizes that he’s terrible at his new job, and didn’t pay attention to simple business lessons from Crabbe like “How to Keep Your Store Stocked with Items to Sell”. He basically blackmails Crabbe and George Towler into helping him smuggle Selfridges goods into Whiteleys to sell, but of course they get caught and now everyone’s in trouble. Mae’s having some regrets about her decision to sleep with Harry. Lord Wynnstay’s reporter manages to dig up enough conflicting info on Jimmy to run a story that maybe implicates him in Victor’s death,  and Harry’s furious. He tells Jimmy he has a PR plan ready to fight back, but Jimmy just confesses that, actually, he killed Victor after all. Harry is horrified, even more so after he learns that Mae suspected Jimmy and didn’t say anything. Jimmy, for his part, throws himself off Westminster bridge because he can’t face what he’s done.

Want more details? Last week’s recap is right this way

Before we dive into this last ever installment of our Mr. Selfridge recaps here at Telly Visions, allow me to just say a big, loud THANK YOU to everyone who has stuck with me through four years of writing about this show.  Thank you for always reading and commenting and sharing, whether the recaps were complaining about Harry, swooning over Henri, hating on Mr. Grove or loving Rose. It’s been a wild ride, but I’m grateful for every pair of eyeballs that’s read any of this. So, you know. Thanks.

And now: ONWARD. For the last time. Sniff.

The Fallout From Jimmy’s Death is Pretty Bad. Things are not going so well lately for Team Selfridge. The papers are full of stories about Jimmy Dillon – his suicide, his shady business practices, the suspicions that had begun to surface involving his connection to Victor’s death. There are even stories about Harry’s money troubles and Mae’s historically bad taste in men.

Harry, for his part, has basically locked himself in his house for a week. He’s stopped coming to work, won’t see anyone, and has pretty much dumped his whole life on Gordon to deal with. Meanwhile, Mae’s been dragging herself in to work, as her own sewing girls gossip aggressively about her dating life and divorce history. It’s pretty terrible.  

The Stock Issue is Still a Problem. Mr. Keen, whose job I swear I STILL could not explain to you, beyond the fact that he maybe reports back to the Selfridges board, is still furious about the Whiteleys stock switcharoo Jimmy tried to pull off before he died. He demands to see the Selfridges books because he doesn’t trust anyone to be open and accountable about the store’s business practices anymore. Crabbe looks nervous about that, because we all know Harry is dreadful with money. (And it turns out that he actually owes a bunch of money back to the store, himself personally.)

Things get worse when the supplier that the gang tried to sweet talk last week about Whiteleys stock shows up to yell at Gordon. He also knows about the fact that Jimmy and friends tried to move Selfridges stock to Whiteleys last week, and he is furious. He feels like this proves Team Selfridges cannot be trusted about anything at all now, and he’s putting BOTH stores under a Stock Embargo until they pay off the Whiteleys debts they owe. Gordon splutters that this kind of thing could close them down completely, but the supplier guy doesn’t care. Womp womp.

Afterward, Gordon storms over to the Selfridge house to confront his dad about his ongoing pity party. He fills him in on the trade embargo that all their businesses are now laboring under and stresses they are all in terrible trouble. Harry, who looks like he’s been on a five-day bender, just whines about how he put too much trust in Jimmy Dillon and dragged Gordon down with him. Gordon says that his dad needs to get himself together, because he’s “still Harry Selfridge”, which I guess must mean something, because next thing you know, Harry’s dressed and clean and back at work, determined to fix the suppliers’ problem. 

Mae Should Know Harry is a Terrible Boyfriend. Mae is pretty much hating her life right now. Everyone’s gossiping about her, her name is in all kinds of scandalous stories all over the papers, and Harry won’t answer any of her phone calls. Rosalie tries to explain that her dad just needs some time because he’s wallowing in his own emotional rot, but it doesn’t seem to help much.

Once Harry comes back to work though, Mae seems pretty angry with him. She’s annoyed that she’s been running the gauntlet of stares and gossip and slander by coming in to work every day, while he was hiding and drinking at home. Harry tries to apologize – for his behavior after Jimmy died, for getting angry at her last week – and says that he’s going to make it up to her once he gets on top of work stuff. Mae just looks even angrier, and says he can’t just shut her out whenever he feels like it and expect her to happily accept the crumbs of his attention once he decides to talk to her again, like nothing’s happened. Harry tries to apologize some more, but Mae’s not into it and just slams a door in his face.

Later, Harry tries to send her some flowers, as a more tangible apology, and offers to take her to dinner so they can continue to talk things out between them. Mae says no, because she’s decided to leave – she’s planning to sell her shares and move back to Paris, probably because her job is horrible now and she’s dating a total narcissist. Harry’s stunned. Mae explains that when Jimmy died, she really needed him and he wasn’t there, and she just can’t live like that. Harry tries to protest that he loves her, but Mae just says goodbye and peaces out. 

Another of Harry’s Grand Plans is a Big Fail.  As is his wont, Harry decides that the best way to deal with the trade embargo is to throw a party. So, he invites a bunch of local suppliers to a big reception in the Palm Court, complete with free champagne and snacks, where he’s determined to sell them all on…well, selling him some goods again.

Harry does one of his Patented Pep Talks and convince them that it would be really awesome it would all just signed three-year fixed trading contracts with Selfridges and Whiteleys. He insists that it’s a great opportunity and will benefit everyone, though he doesn’t necessarily explain how exactly that would happen/ The suppliers all look pretty confused, so it’s obviously not just me who’s having some issues figuring out how this is a good deal for anybody. 

Jerkface Supplier Dude from earlier pipes up and says that all their earlier bills from Whiteleys are still unpaid, so, again, still not clear on how this is a win for anybody in the end. Harry says he’s good for it, and will clear all his debts in time, but he can’t pay any of them right now. He even straight up says that’s why he’s offering them this “exceptional deal” that’s so fantastic no one can even explain it. Jerkface Supplier snorts and wants to know how much the fancy reception is costing, when that’s money that could be going to pay the people who are owed. Harry tries to argue that he just wants the suppliers to know how appreciated they are, but Jerkface keeps shouting that they’re all tradesmen who have bills to pay themselves. He says there’s no way any of them are going to sign any kind of deal, and the embargo will stay in place. None of the other suppliers say anything, but all just shuffle out after Jerkface. Yikes.

Welcome to Harry’s Downward Spiral. Harry and Gordon retreat to his office after the disastrous supplier reception, and Harry immediately starts drinking and depression spiraling.  Gordon wants to know what they’re going to do now – they need a loan, but banks won’t touch them, so he wants to go to the board and ask one of the major shareholders for the money. Harry says Selfridges is his store so this is his problem and he’ll figure it out once he’s had a minute to think. Gordon says there’s no time to waste, and Harry whines that his son just needs to trust him. Ooookay? Gordon snaps back that he’s trusted him his whole life but he needs to realize that he has to fight for the store, the way he didn’t fight for Mae. Harry doesn’t respond, just sits and his desk and mopes. Gordon stomps out.

Later, Harry goes by Mae’s apartment, ostensibly to fight for her or drink some more, who knows. But, she’s gone - all her furniture is covered up and her belongings are packed and I guess the front door’s just wide open, because Harry strolls right on in. He mopes some more. Meanwhile, Gordon’s having a secret late night meeting with Mr. Keen at “the club” which somehow still continues to let any Selfridges be members there. 

Time to Face the Board. To what should probably be the surprise of no one after the supplier reception fiasco, Harry is summoned in to meet with the board the next day.  Crabbe is also there, because Gordon told him to come, which both he and Harry seem to think is a little bit weird. They both head in to a large room and face a tableful of like twenty random dudes, plus Gordon and Mr. Keen at the far end of it.  Gordon looks kind of guilty. None of this seems like a good sign.

That’s because it’s not. It turns out that the board has heard all about what went down with the suppliers and knows that the trade embargo is still in place.  The board leader says that it’s time for them to take action. This means that they’re going to pay the debts owed to the Whiteleys so that the stores can both start receiving stock again. In return, Harry and Gordon are going to sell Whiteleys to them once they have full control of it again (after Jimmy Dillon’s stock passes to them).  Harry looks defeated, but says he guesses he has no choice.

Sadly, the board isn’t done. They say that, as a further condition, Harry will also have to sell all his personal stock in Selfridges and resign as Director and Chairman of the store. Gordon will be installed in his place, and will work with the Civic Board to insure the future of the store. Harry declares that there is no way they can fire him.  Mr. Keen says that they’ve all done the best they can to work with him, in spite of his recklessness and extravagance and never-ending series of personal scandals that have dragged down the name of the story. Harry tries to protest, but Keen is insistent that he can’t be continued to allow to ruin everything.

The Board says he can still call himself President of Selfridges and provides him with a pension of £6,000 a year, which was a decent enough amount of money in those days, but nowhere near enough to keep Harry in the lifestyle he’d been living. Harry angrily reminds everyone that he built Selfridges from nothing, and it’s his name on the door. Gordon just reminds him that it’s his name too.

And that’s it, Harry Selfridge is fired. 

WHAT. IS. THIS. ENDING. So, for kind of a long time, I’ve been living for the end of this show, if only because I thought that finally Harry would get something like a comeuppance for his several decades of poor decisions, adultery, bullying and general terribleness. I could not wait to watch Harry really spiral, go on a bunch of gambling benders, and lose his store, his friends, his money and his reputation, all because he’s been too much of a self-centered narcissist to exist in the real world. OH WELL I GUESS.

In what can only be described as a…massive departure from actual historical reality, none of this is what happens. What happens instead is that, yes, Harry loses his job at the store and has to endure a virtual coup by his own son, but he still keeps a token position, the respect of his employees, and his relationship with family. He also gets a girlfriend and a happy retirement in France. Wait, what?

Yup, after the decree that Harry has to give up his stock and cede control of Selfridges to his son and the Civic Board, he basically has to go to his office immediately and pack his stuff up. He looks through a photo album at his desk and has an emotional flashback montage, where we’re all treated to scenes from four seasons worth of the show, including Harry’s speech to investors over the hole in Oxford Street that would become Selfridges, his first meeting with Agnes (!!!), several shots of Henri (!!!!!!!) arranging the store windows, celebrity guests, that time Harry launched giant balloons into the sky, and one of Mae’s first dramatic entrances. It’s kind of fun, and the sort of sentimental finale season thing you’d have expected the show to do more of. (HENRI. AGNES. AAAH.)

Gordon apologizes for what’s happened, but says he had to do what he could to keep the store open. When it’s time for Harry to leave, he shares emotional goodbyes with Crabbe, Mardle, George and Miss Plunkett. The rest of the store’s employees gather in the hallway outside his office to thank and/or applaud him as he leaves, and a big crowd is waiting in the store lobby to cheer him. Harry looks overcome and gives them one last Patented Pep Talk about how great the store looks for its 20th anniversary and how hard everyone has worked to get them all there. He says he’s proud of everyone and is sorry he won’t be there to celebrate with them, but they should keep fighting the good fight…of consumerism? IDK. He tells Gordon to look after Selfridges for him, and exits.

Outside, Harry tearily looks up at the Selfridges store front and windows. But, his sadness doesn’t last for long, since Mae’s waiting for him. For some reason. Somewhere during this episode, I guess she’s decided she’s not mad at Harry anymore and has forgiven him, IDK. She gives him a pep talk, insisting that he’s more than Selfridges, and always has been. Mae says she loves him, and has plans to visit Paris and Rome, anywhere really as long as he comes with her.  Harry kisses her, and it looks sort of uncomfortable – like the angle of the shot is super terrible, it looks like he’s eating her face – but they both look super happy. Harry says he doesn’t deserve her, and Mae says it must just be luck then. They stroll off hand in hand as music swells in the background and a title card pops up with the dates of the real Selfridge’s life. 

Um, okay.

This is, in case you were curious, not at all how the real Harry Gordon Selfridge spent the last few years of his life – still gambling and addicted to showgirls, ruined by the Great Depression, ending up destitute and living with Rosalie – but welcome to the magic of television, I guess. Why the change? Why the super soap opera ending to tie everything up with a bow?

I don’t know, but I’m going to be interested to see what people think of it. How do you feel about the show just blatantly ignoring history? Is it more fun this way? Was this a more satisfying ending than Harry in ruins? Hit the comments, please.

(And thank you, again, for reading for all these episodes!)

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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