Recapping Mr Selfridge: Series 2 Episode 1

Time for a Patented Pep Talk, "Mr. Selfridge is Back!" (Photo: Courtesy of ©ITV for MASTERPIECE)
Time for a Patented Pep Talk, "Mr. Selfridge is Back!" (Photo: Courtesy of ©ITV for MASTERPIECE)
Previously on Mr. Selfridge. All the drama from last season isn’t going to fit in a paragraph here. Just go skim last season’s recaps. They’re fun, I promise.

Guys, we’re back! Shopping drama Mr. Selfridge returns for what I must presume is another season of random inspirational speeches, poor relationship choices, impromptu appearances from random historical figures, and posh outfits. Admittedly, I was not the biggest fan of Selfridge when it premiered last year, but it really grew on me over the course of the season, mostly because it’s just fun to watch. I’m looking forward to another year of Patented Pep Talks, dreamy Henri, and Lady Mae glaring at everything, so let’s just jump right in.

It’s Been Awhile. Literally. We open as everyone is preparing for some sort of celebration, which we quickly learn is the five year anniversary of the Selfridge’s department store. So, yeah, that means we’ve had a rather significant leap forward in time since last season’s finale. Hope you weren’t feeling very invested in most of the plots that Season 1 left dangling, I guess. We also learn that the rest of the Selfridge clan – Rose, the kids and Harry’s Awesome Mom – have not only gone back to America, they’ve stayed there this whole time, probably because they were tired of putting up with Harry and his continual and varied list of personal failings. The store itself has achieved massive success, however, becoming the third most popular attraction in London, behind only Buckingham Palace and the Tower of London, but Selfridge doesn’t exactly look like a happy person. This random journalist asks awkward questions about where the rest of the Selfridge clan wandered has wandered off to and Harry cuts the interview short to head to the store.

To celebrate the store turning five, the staff has sneakily put together a surprise party for Selfridge, complete with a present: a giant bust of his face, in the manner of American Presidents and/or Admiral Nelson. It’s ridiculous. Where on earth is he supposed to put this? I’m sure his ego will figure something out.  Awesome Mr. Crab gives Selfridge a heartfelt speech on behalf of the staff about how awesome Harry is, and how fantastic it is to work for him. Harry’s touched, and says that he doesn’t have the words to convey how say thank you for the surprise, right before launching into a Patented Pep Talk about loyalty and teamwork and how great all the staff is as a team. It’s possible that he just has generic speeches like this memorized, ready to be deployed at any possible moment. 

Staff Changes Abound. While most of the Series 1 regulars still seem to be around – there are some new faces and the old school folks have moved up in the world. Horrible Mr. Grove is a.) unfortunately still alive and b.) still serving as Selfridge’s chief of staff. Miss Mardle is still running accessories, but Kitty has graduated to heading the new cosmetics department. Victor now runs the Palm restaurant and has hired someone to be the new version of him that also appears to be his cousin. Agnes has just returned from several years in Paris to take over as Selfridge’s new Head of Display. Dreamy Henri Leclair is noticeably absent however, which is very upsetting. 

Surprise! Rose is Back. Rose Selfridge shows up at the store, unannounced and unexpected, to surprise Harry and to take part in the fifth anniversary festivities. Harry looks genuinely shocked and thrilled to see her, but I can’t forget what a crap husband he was last season, or stop being distracted by the fact that Rose is wearing what appears to be an entire dead fox carcass slung over one shoulder. The two of them have lunch in the Palm Court restaurant or I hope that maybe it’s just tea or something because it seems really early in the day to be eating. Rose says the girls and Harry’s mom are fine and send their love, and Selfridge gushes about how good it is to see her and asks if she can’t stay a little longer than originally planned. Rose doesn’t look entirely thrilled at this suggestion, and Harry’s attempts to convince her keep being interrupted by random strangers stopping by their table to congratulate him on the store’s big day. 

Rose – who appears to have found a backbone back in America – tells Harry that she’s happy to come perform all official duties as Mrs. Selfridge for a big day like this, insists that things between them will remain as previously agreed to, which sounds a lot like “we made a deal to keep me from leaving your dumb self,” and I hope is actually the case. Selfridge is less than pleased about this, but Rose gets distracted by the arrival of a new friend she met on the boat over, named Delphine Day. It turns out that she’s kind of famous herself, for running a nightclub called Delphine’s, which apparently has something of a reputation. Rose suggests that the store hold an event for her new friend in honor of her book being released, with a reading and everything. Selfridge agrees quickly, because he is in super suck up mode, even though you kind of can tell he doesn’t like New BFF Delphine at all. Rose heads off to shop with her new friend, and Selfridge looks on in dismay at being ditched. Rose and Delphine chat for a moment about how accommodating and not awful Selfridge is currently being, until they accidentally come upon a woman who is clearly Harry’s new mistress arguing with a shopgirl about her account and the dress she wants made. Rose spreads her hands and declares nothing changes.  

Lady Mae’s Husband Arrives. To the shock of Lady Mae and her heretofore unseen but completely hilarious lady’s maid, Lord Locksley has returned from whatever country estate he spent the entirety of the first season in, and appears to be settling in for the long haul. He and Mae snipe at each other, she says she’s headed to Selfridge’s and he complains about how much money she spends. He informs Mae that he’s coming along with her on her shopping excursion, ostensibly because he wants to meet Selfridge. 

Lord Locksley is not at all impressed by the store or by any of Mae’s special orders, which he proceeds to cancel. He’s also super rude to Harry – which, admittedly is kind of fun to watch – and proceeds to make many snide comments about how much money Mae keeps spending at the store. Selfridge tries to be social, but Locksley simply says he’s only there for business and is closing his wife’s account. He also declares that he’s not paying any of the money that is still outstanding on it either, and yells at Mae because obviously, he's just a mean jerk. Selfridge finally takes offense at this, getting all extra American about defending Mae's honor, claiming that no gentleman can talk to a lady like that in his store. Locksley says that since she’s his wife, he can talk to her anyway he likes, and it’s glaringly apparent that the show is going to attempt to make Mae more sympathetic by giving her a spouse that’s a huge, borderline-abusive jerk for no apparent reason. Awesome. She breaks up their argument and the Locksleys head out, but the whole store was already staring. 

Planning the Book Event Begins. Selfridge goes to see Agnes, who’s settling in to her new office. They chat about her time in Paris, and how good he thinks her portfolio is, and how grateful she is that he gave her the opportunity to go abroad and study. Agnes says she’s excited to be back though, and Selfridge tells her about the book event he’s agreed to put on for Delphine Day. He also introduces her to the new Head of Fashion, named Mr. Thackeray, who immediately gets all judgy about the fact that Agnes is young and hasn’t studied anywhere. His attitude gets even worse when he learns that she’ll be heading the display design for the book reading, even though the event’s taking place in the Fashion department. Agnes says Selfridge likes the department heads to collaborate together, but Thackeray just snips that this sort of thing would have never happened at Harrod’s and refuses to work with her Dun dunnnnn. 

Agnes orders a bunch of stuff to set up a huge gazebo looking thing in Fashion. Thackeray is so very unhappy about this, but Agnes thinks it’s awesome, and claims that she was just taking him at his word about his desire to not have any input on the event. Everyone acts like Agnes has just built Noah’s ark in the dress section, but she’s confident it’s going to look great when she’s finished with it. 

Guess What We Still Aren’t Free of Agnes and Victor Drama. Agnes pops down to the Palm Court to look for Victor. A random waiter says that he’s busy overseeing lunch, but recognizes her as Agnes Towler. It turns out he’s Victor’s cousin Franco, which it seems that Victor has told her about at some point offscreen, because she knows who he is. He says that he saw all the postcards she sent from Paris, and fills her in on Victor’s promotion. Agnes’ awkward response to all this lets us know that Victor wasn’t exactly prompt at responding to her postcards (or acknowledging their existence) and everything is awkward. Franco tells her that they’re having a party that night for their uncle’s birthday and he invites her to come along. She says she’ll think about it.

George convinces Agnes to go to the party, since he and Victor are quite friendly now. Agnes is obviously anxious over it, but calms down a bit when she sees his Uncle Joe again, who is very happy to see her. Or at least she is calm until Uncle Joe tells her about Victor’s new lady friend Gabriela, who’s the daughter of his oldest friend and “good for Victor”. Agnes freaks out and immediately says she has to leave, even though she’s been there for approximately four and a half minute. She tells George to stay and enjoy himself and starts to rush off – but of course Victor catches her in the stairwell. He asks about Paris, and she says he learned a lot. He comments that she’s got what she’s always wanted – the Head of Display job – and she says that she couldn’t have turned Paris down, but says it in such a way that it’s clear they’ve had this conversation several times already. She says it was hard to decide to go, just so he knows. Victor says he thinks things have worked out for the best for both of them, and Agnes awkwardly leaves. 

The Younger Selfridge Goes to Work. Gordon arrives home from school (which may or may not have been in America, this is unclear), and is suddenly a rather gangly teenager that’s actually almost taller than Harry. Gordon drops the bomb on his parents that he’s not going back to school next term, because he wants to start working at the store. Selfridge backs him up, saying that since the store will be his one day, he should start working there. Rose does not like this idea, and figures out that her son and husband decided to tag team her over it. She says Gordon’s too young, but Harry says there’s no point wasting time and money on it when he doesn’t want to go back. Rose is angry, but has clearly lost.

Gordon goes with Harry to the store the next day and asks if he’ll be getting a desk in his father’s office. Selfridge informs his son that he’ll be starting in the loading bay, so he can get a full experience for all the departments and work his way through them. Gordon looks a bit shocked, but Harry leaves him in the care of George Towler and says everything’ll be fine. I bet school suddenly looks a lot more appealing. 

Delphine’s Book Reading is a Big Hit. Everyone on the Selfridge’s staff is fascinated by Delphine Day’s book – a memoir which chronicles her frequently scandalous life, including affairs with apparently hundreds of men. The reading draws a huge crowd of women even though it wasn’t advertised, because apparently everyone back in the day was just as intrigued by tawdry stories as people in 2014. Selfridge praises Agnes for her summer gazebo-style set piece. Thackeray snarkily mentions to Victor that he hates it and thinks it’s completely overdone, but Victor defends Agnes because this show is so predictable sometimes.

Delphine reads a semi-scandalous segment from her book, all about some affair that was apparently quite pleasurable, and the crowd of ladies looks somehow both taken aback and fascinated, while the men look confused and kind of scared. Rose, on the other hand, looks like she has just found religion, especially when Delphine gets to the part about being powerful and free and realizing that she doesn’t want to tie her life to any man, blah blah blah feminism. Seriously, Rose is basically crying.

Edwards, the newspaper reporter from last season, is back in England following an unsuccessful stint as a novelist in America and shows up at the reading late. Kitty tells him that the event’s started, and mentions offhandedly that she’d love to visit that club that Delphine owns. Edwards smirks, because apparently he too thinks it’s hilarious that Kitty hasn’t found anyone else to flirt with in five years, and says he’ll totally take her there.

 Afterward, Delphine is mobbed by women who want her autograph and Selfridge suggests that he and Rose go to the cinema that evening. Newly empowered by feminism, Rose tells her husband that Delphine’s having a party and she’d much rather go to that. Selfridge looks depressed. 

Meanwhile, at the Locksleys. Mae eavesdrops on her husband having a meeting with someone from the House of Lords, I think? Locksley wants a position on the military procurement committee, but random Parliament guy shoots that down with a quickness. He says that Locksley can’t just swan back into government and demand a plum role. Locksley basically says that yes he can, because otherwise he’s going to blackmail Random Parliament Guy with a scandalous statement from a young man who will claim that his innocence was taken advantage of. Cough cough. Random Parliament Guy is furious, but says he’ll see what he can do. He also snaps that a committee seat won’t fix Locksleys financial issues, because all the power has shifted to captains of commerce like Harry Selfridge, whom Locksley openly snubbed. 

Party Time at Delphine’s. A big crowd gathers at Delphine’s to celebrate her book. She’s pretty excited because it seems as though people have read it and liked it and Rose is thrilled for her friend. Kitty and Edwards are there for the party, engaging in the World’s Most Awkward Dance Moves. Things get even more awkward when they sit down and try to have a conversation. Kitty tries to talk about her dreams to be successful in the cosmetics industry, but Edwards just stares at her lecherously, and then tries to get her to go home with him like a call girl. Yikes. Kitty is furious and says that he can’t take advantage of her just because she’s a shop girl. She makes her excuses quickly and stomps out. Ick.

Rose, who is having a drink with Delphine, offers to come in to the club with her as a business partner. Delphine says it’s a very risky venture and points out that Harry wouldn’t approve of it anyway. Rose says she has her own money, so it doesn’t matter whether Harry approves of it or not. Rose has embraced feminism at lightning speed y’all.  It’s interesting – Rose clearly feels, and has likely felt for a while, that Harry and his cavalcade of poor personal decisions has robbed much of the personal agency from her life. It’s kind of fun to watch her decide to be her own person and to make some space for herself apart from just being Harry’s wife, particularly since that was something she struggled so much with last season. Delphine looks wary but pleased.

Rose gets distracted by seeing someone she thinks is Henri Leclair across the room. She brushes it off, thinking it was just a mistake, but nope that was totally Henri, who has traded in his dashing suits for what appears to be dingy hobo attire and scraggly facial hair. This is straight up distressing, y’all. 

The Times They Are A Changing. Archduke Francis Ferdinand has just been assassinated in Austria, and a group of union protestors have set up shop outside Selfridge’s, shoving paraphernalia and pamphlets at the staff as they come into work. Some members of the Selfridge’s crew are concerned about the prospect of war, however, and Franco points out that there’s nothing to stop Harry from heading straight back to America if there’s real trouble, and then what would happen to all of them? (Though why the store couldn’t continue to function in Selfridge’s absence, I don’t know.)  Mr. Crab fills Selfridge in on all this and he declares they have to reassure the staff as soon as possible that everything’s okay. He calls a head of department meeting to discuss things, which is mildly hilarious if only because Agnes is late, flustered and so overwhelmed by the four folders worth of work she just received that she’s dropping all her stuff everywhere, while Grove is clearly so exhausted that standing looks to be a challenge. Kitty suggests they have a dance and tango demonstration to boost morale. Thackeray sucks up to Kitty because he hates Agnes and suggests they have a staff party afterward.  Selfridge also suggests that they have a big British Empire Exhibition in the store itself tor prop up general public feeling, but he doesn’t like Agnes’ initial low-key idea for it. Womp womp. Not a great day for our girl, huh? 

So We All Hate Locksley Okay? Mae and her Awesome Lady’s Maid are packing up some things, ostensibly to head out to the country, since they’re both talking about how they can’t wait to get away from all the boring war talk going on.  They’re both also pretty psyched about the fact that Mae’s husband won’t be coming along with them, because he sucks and they both hate him, just like the rest of us.

However, Locksley tells his wife that she needs to get him a meeting with Selfridge. Mae seems deeply uninterested in this plan, but Locksley insist that with a war coming, the military will need supplies and Selfridge will know about that. She’s still resistant, but he says to just do what it tells her because it’s to their mutual benefit. He also drops the bombshell that Mae won’t be heading out to their country house after all because he’s leased it out already. Sheesh. So slimy, this guy. He must have had buckets of money when they got married, or a title really does cover all sins. 

Edwards and Harry Attempt to Be Less Vile People. Edwards shows up at the Selfridge’s cosmetics counter in what is ostensibly an attempt to apologize for treating Kitty like a prostitute. He manages this by getting Kitty to help him find a present for a “very special lady”. Kitty sniffs at passes him off to one of the new unnamed shopgirls, but hovers nearby to listen to all the vomitously flowery things he has to say about this person, who is obviously her, before butting back in to suggest the most expensive beauty kit they have.

Meanwhile, Harry’s busy breaking up with his mistress of the moment, who really only seems concerned with whether she’ll get to keep all the clothes and jewelry she’s ordered. He then tells his secretary to cancel all the various accounts he keeps for his girls of the moment and call Rose to say he’ll be home early for dinner, because Harry seems to be on the upswing of a moment where he’s going to pretend to be a decent husband and not a gross philanderer. After the requisite cute family time with Rose and Gordon, Harry decides to have a heart-to-heart with Rose, and tells her he misses how their relationship used to be. He says he loves her, no matter what’s happened in the past. Rose says that she knows he gets lonely sometimes, but that’s his problem. She says she can’t give him everything in their relationship again because she feels she ends up with less and less of herself every time he ruins things. He argues that there isn’t anybody but her now, because he ditched all his mistresses like five whole hours ago. Rose just smiles and walks away. I really like this new empowered version of her character, it’s such an upgrade from last season. And, by giving Rose more decision making capability within her own life and marriage, it’s allowed me to actually almost feel bad for Harry a little bit, because I can admit that it’s obvious his love for her is genuine when he isn’t also being allowed to completely run roughshod over her life. I’m actually looking forward to see where this relationship goes this season. Who would have ever thought. 

Henri! Finally! Henri! After making me wait over an hour into this episode, finally Dreamy Henri is back for real! Huzzah! Sadly Henri is not looking at his utmost dreamiest at the moment, but let’s hope that this Homeless Don Draper on a Bender look will be short lived. Rose tracks Henri down to his dingy flat in a shady neighborhood, thanks to the address she got from Delphine. Henri, wearing what appear to be Jean Valjean’s castoffs from Les Miserables is quite shocked to see her. Rose lies that he looks well, and says that a lot has changed since he left, that Harry’s changed, and it’s obvious that his New York adventure didn’t quite pan out. She tells him that Harry misses him and feels badly about the way the two of them parted, and admits that her husband doesn’t know that she’s come to see him. She says that Harry needs a true friend, and it’s obvious that Henri does too. He doesn’t want her charity and sees her out the door. Rose looks sad. 

Thackeray Backstabs Agnes. Thackeray calls a meeting with Agnes and Selfridge to tell them he’s just had the most glorious idea about their upcoming British Empire Exhibition. He suggests that they should roll the whole thing out storewide and do something different in every department, so show that Selfridge’s is stable and trustworthy and blah blah platitudes. He literally does not mean any of this and is clearly just trying to create more work for Agnes, since he already knows that she’s overwhelmed and overworked, and hates her. Agnes looks incredibly pained, but says she can handle it when Selfridge gets excited about the idea. Thackeray is a huge jerk.

The Staff Party is a Night to Remember. Selfridge decides to let Delphine’s host the special party for the staff after Rose asks him nicely about it, and everyone’s pretty excited about it, from the cosmetics girls to the Palm Court waiters. Selfridge, of course, gives a massive Patented Pep Talk before the party gets officially underway, going on about how they’re all going to face whatever might come their way, war or otherwise, together. There’s a tango demonstration, and Kitty ends up dancing quite provocatively with the lead performer as part of the proceedings and some of the staff looks quite shocked. Edwards is all kinds of jealous.

Agnes and Victor have an awkward conversation where she’s bitter that he wouldn’t listen to hear complain about Thackeray earlier, and he’s uncomfortable because he doesn’t know how they’re supposed to behave around one another now. Agnes, who is still angry, leaves the party early. Mr. Grove throws back drinks like it’s his job, gets wasted and starts getting existential about the roads not taken in life now that he’s about to have yet another child with Doris. Edwards gives Kitty the very large and very expensive beauty set she picked out earlier and promise to work harder to be worthy of her. Why on earth Kitty couldn’t have just found a different boyfriend by now I don’t know. What happened to her cute flirtation with George Towler anyway?

Mae and her reprobate husband show up late, and Locksley is boorish as usual. He tries to make amends about suddenly cancelling his wife’s account, and Selfridge just says that it’s all done between them. Locksley decides to take this as an invitation to try to get Selfridge to talk business, but he’s not having that because it’s a party and inappropriate. Locksley says that perhaps his lovely wife can convince Harry to hear him out, but Mae backs up Selfridge and says it’s neither the time or the place for such talk. Locksley is furious, Mae is smug, and Selfridge clearly hates Locksley’s guts, so that’s going to be fun.

After the Party’s Over. Harry, Rose and Delphine go out for a late night stroll, because Delphine says she’s got a surprise for Rose and convinces her husband to come along. They get jellied eels from a street vendor and walk around the park. Neither of the Selfridges seem to be into the eels at all, and Delphine asks out of the blue whether Rose found her mysterious Frenchman from the other day. Rose is forced to confess about going to see Henri, and Selfridge is mad that she didn’t tell him about any of this before now. He storms off, and Rose is left angry at Delphine for having a big mouth.

Meanwhile, Mae’s happily taunting Locksley about being a general failure as a person, because she’s so excited about finally having scored some points against him with Selfridge’s help. She says it must be terrible to be made a fool of by a shopkeeper like that. Locksley responds by hitting her so hard in the face that she falls over into lamp. Again, honestly, I like the idea of giving Mae a storyline that lets her be a more fully realized character, but forcing her into a victim position like this, and giving her not just a mean, but an actually physically abusive, husband is emotional manipulation.

Rose comes home and tells Selfridge the details about Henri’s rather sad lot in life at the moment. He’s still angry that she didn’t say anything to him first, and she says it’s not like Harry fills her in on every detail of his life anyway. She says she meant well and isn’t going to apologize again (go, Rose!). Selfridge mournfully says that they used to share everything, that’s what marriage is supposed to be about. Rose is (rightfully) annoyed, and says that her husband only wants marriage when it suits him, and drops it when he doesn’t. Harry says he’s trying to make amends, but Rose furiously asserts that she’s not the one who made a mess of their relationship so he’s going to have to be the one to live with the consequences, just as she’s had to do over the years. Yup, this new Rose with a spine is definitely going to be my favorite part of this season.

Whew. An extended episode equals an extended recap apparently! What did you all think? Hit me in the comments, I’m actually rather looking forward to talking about this. 

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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