Mr Selfridge Season 2 Finale, Part 2 Comments

vlcsnap-2014-05-28-06h16m25s124

The second part of the finale in the US (or episode 10 in Britain) begins with lively conversation at the Selfridge dinner table and Rose asking everyone to count on a traditional family dinner for Thanksgiving. The girls and Harry’s mother are back and the mood is elated. Then the mopey musician, Florian, knocks on Miss Mardle’s door. He asks about why she’s ending their affair and she explains it’s age. Really, I just don’t see this earnest violist as making anyone all that happy. It seems a matter of convenience. Whoever the agency would have sent would eventually have wooed Miss Mardle.

Harry has quite a morning. First Henri learns the charges in the U.S. are all dropped so he’ll sign up to go off to war for the French. Given what he knows about how the war is really going, I’d expect Harry to sit his friend down and try to talk him out of fighting. A little later both Agnes and Victor resign as they’re getting married while George is on leave. Like last season’s finale, Harry loses a lot of those he counts on at once. He did offer Agnes the chance to stay on, which she refused. Big mistake Agnes. Though the real Selfridge seemed more conservative and didn’t hire or promote as many women as we see on the show, this chance to bend the British rules of not letting married women work should have been considered.

The Palm Court looks elegant and I wish department stores had such lovely restaurants, not only food courts. Henri goes to Victor to apologize for speaking out of turn about Agnes’ belief in George’s well being when he was missing. He also mentioned that he’s signing up for the army. I did notice that Victor didn’t apologize for grabbing Henri’s arm and almost coming to blows. This is one reason I’ve wanted Agnes to choose Henri. She was upset to learn that Henri’s off to fight. She does care.

The saddest thread of the story is Rose’s diagnosis. Her doctor tells her her condition is fatal. We don’t get all the details. We just get stunned as she does. The scene in the doctor’s office is short and well done. Just enough to convey the severity and provide tension.

George is overwhelmed by his colleagues as the flock around him when he visits the store. They mean well, but a mob is not what he needs. Gordon saves George saying that he should go talk with his father. I wish Henri and Gordon, who’s so keen to serve, sat in on this talk. George describes refers to the horrors of war. News and letters are censored so the public’s in the dark about the truth. It’s still a bit oblique. I wish he’d gone into more detail since we don’t see actual battle scenes. That could have been more powerful. By the end, George has inspired the store’s new displays “The Comforts of Home” about all the things that keep the soldiers going. Agnes’ swan song.

Continue reading “Mr Selfridge Season 2 Finale, Part 2 Comments”

Catching Up: Mr Selfridge Episode 8

Harry returns, the press descends

Harry’s back!

May 4th Americans saw Harry Selfridge return to chaos at home. Loxley has framed him for a scandal with the military procurement committee so it looks like he profited by getting the Brits shoddy boots for their soldiers. Not a word of truth in that, but no one will believe him and only The Times prints his side of the story. On top of that, Henri LeClair is being held at the American Embassy since he’s suspected of embezzlement.

Harry bravely enters his store through the front past the vultures or journalists await. He’s determined to face things head on. The store’s dead. Few customers want to shop in a store with this black cloud hanging over it and raving protesters outside accosting all who enter.

Till now I hadn’t realized how many fresh flowers there were in the store. How lovely! I grow more nostalgic each week.

Lady Mae is at a posh hotel with her maid, who informs her that her bank draft was refused and the hotel wants its money. Mae plans to sell the jewels she stored in the safe deposit box. Married to Lord Loxley, she should have store more and loads of cash for years in banks all over the city if possible.

Snake in the grass, Delphine, who I think is worse that Mr Thackeray, visits Rose to get the scoop on Harry’s return and to offer to cheer Harry up with “stardust,” i.e. a dash of Hollywood. Rose handles her perfectly. She’s friendly, but skeptical in a way that’s not rude, but sincerely shows that Delphine’s help with Harry isn’t needed. Rose isn’t going to stop Delphine’s plan, which shows confidence in Harry and in herself.

With friends like these, Rose . . .

Harry debriefs Bill Summertime apprising him of how met with a German manufacturer who’ll help the Brits and mentioning how the Germans questioned him for hours and ransacked his room. Bill offers little appreciation and no help whatsoever with the problem with the boot scandal.

Harry does speak to his staff assuring them that Frank wrote a pack of lies and that he’d get to the bottom of this. Neither Frank nor Rose have had great luck with friends in London.

Continue reading “Catching Up: Mr Selfridge Episode 8”

mr selfridge, recap & comments

vlcsnap-2014-05-03-13h50m11s211

The opening this Mr. Selfridge episode with the removal of all German products was a great way to show the patriotism and anti-German sentiment of the day.

Poor Franco, Victor’s dashing brother, got rejected when the brown-haired girl at the cosmetics counter wouldn’t go out with him because her father forbids her to date “foreign” men. Mind you Franco was born in Britain. Seems she could have been more diplomatic.

The weasel-y Thackery spies outside the store to see what Henri’s up to. He disapproves of Henri’s hat, a Hamburg, though we learn that during the war they were renamed. Agnes was still upset with Henri, who does owe her an apology for being so abrupt and rude the day before.

At home Harry finishes an early morning interview with his reporter friend Frank. Harry makes it clear that he disapproves of the U.S. profiting from war by selling to both the Germans and British. I do agree and didn’t realize we did that. We also learn from Rose that Americans are hurrying home to the U.S.

Gordon, who’s now promoted to the tea department, is getting friendly with Miss Calthorpe, the young lady who’s training him. They do make a good couple and he’s gallant enough to buy her sister a beautiful doll after remembering something she mentioned in passing.

In a department meeting Kitty manages to take a compliment and turn it around to put down all the other department heads. I enjoy her lack of self-knowledge and her usually harmless egotistical quips that just make her look silly in spite of herself. Miss Mardle’s heavy sigh said it all. I love how the shows humor surfaces from Kitty, Mr. Crabb and sometimes Mr. Grove’s little blunders. Harry shares a nice moment with Miss Mardle encouraging her to enjoy her money. Yes, live a little, Miss Mardle. “Your brother would have wanted it.”

At the Loxley house, Lord L slinked into Lady L’s room while she’s preparing her toilette. He’s discovered signs she has a lover and tsk-tsks her in his cold-blooded fashion. He certainly is part reptile. You realize he minimally cares about her. No passion, no anger. It’s all about control. He’s somehow gotten the key to her door. God knows why she let that out of her sight. She’s missed a beat and that’s not like her. She’s quite sad and I think rather fearful that this abusive man has taken her key. I would say she should get another lock tout suite.

Next Bill Summertime (yes, that’s his name) barges in on Harry at work and proposes he help the war effort by spying for the secret service. Harry’s non-committal but will think it over. This could get very interesting and does.

Kitty secures a dinner invitation from Frank who breezes into the store to show Harry his article. Talk about a quick turn around. Seems the interview was before work. When Miss Mardle kindly advises Kitty to be wary of Frank, the known philanderer, Kitty again puts her in her place with a snide personal jibe. If you only knew, Kitty. Miss Mardle has enjoyed a man’s company, just the wrong man’s company –or way too long up till 5 years ago more or less. She knows whereof she speaks.

Thackery throws some barbs Henri’s way. He brings up his Hamburg and notes that his shoes are also made in Germany. Talk about obsessed. Henri brushes off both comments and tells Thackery to dress the mannequins properly. Yes, Thackery, keep your mind on your work. Your department’s slipping. I do wish we could see some of Thackery’s underlings. I imagine many would aim for transfers or quit with regularity.

Harry tells Frank that he’s not at all interested in the procurement committee and that he doesn’t trust Loxley in the least. (Note this for next week, folks.)

vlcsnap-2014-05-03-14h15m03s7

Delphine receives a huge shipment of liquor from Harry, which she takes as a sign. The cogs in her head go full throttle and we can tell she’s got Harry in her sights. Poor, Rose. Who needs such “friends”? I’m guessing Harry is just generous. There’s no sign (yet) that he’s got an interest in Delphine, who fancies herself an expert in men and believes the lie that “I understand him so much better than his wife.” Moreover, she’s distancing herself from Rose, reflecting her invitations with feeble excuses. Yes, it’s easier to seduce a man’s husband if you aren’t friends with her. Though it seemed that Jim was sweet on Delphine and wise enough to suggest that perhaps Delphine doesn’t understand Harry. He was just way too subtle for Delphine.

vlcsnap-2014-05-03-13h47m58s197

Mr. Thackery slithered into Mr. Grove’s office insinuating that Msgr. LeClair is a spy because he looked unkempt and seems secretive. It’s clear that Mr. Groves is just annoyed, but now has to speak with Henri.

Speaking of Henri, in a memorable scene outside the store he is with Agnes, who wears a lovely embroidered jacket. A discussion of whether Agnes could do better than the honest, hardworking Victor leads to her asking him about his secrets. Henri behaves very French-ly (Frenchesque?) and reflects her questions and rebuffs her. She’s saved by Victor’s entrance and he escorts her off to a night of fun at a variety show.

vlcsnap-2014-05-03-13h49m01s31

The show was fun and Miss Mardle and Florian, the Belgian border join Victor and Agnes. (Odd that Victor didn’t mention the male boarder at the store where the news could travel. Was he sworn to secrecy? How does he feel about the “arrangement”?) Back stage Mae asks Richard Chapman, the singer to perform at the Selfridge patriotic concert. She remembers her days on the stage as a popular entertainer when men would lie at her feet in swarms apparently. Richard’s an old friend and Mae soon shares that she’s made a terrible decision, that staying with Lord Loxley is hell. She’s funny, honest, vulnerable and wise.

Gordon surprises Miss Calthorpe with the gift of a doll for her sister, who has few toys. So sweet.

As Henri goes up to see Mr. Groves about Thackery’s troublesome speculations, Agnes hangs up his coat in a way that suggests she’s not over him. I wanted her to go through his pockets in search of clues about his secret. How terrible of me.

Rather than tell Mr. Groves what he’s been up to Henri announces he’s going to hand in his notice. At first it seems like another rash decision just like the end of season 1, but perhaps he is wise. He’s hiding something and did warn Harry that his return to the store wouldn’t be good for anyone. Such cloak and dagger stuff, Henri. What are you up to? I believe and hope there’s a perfectly reasonable, even honorable explanation.

(Grégory Fitoussi’s characters land in jail a lot. Poor Pierre from Spiral, a.k.a. Engrenage was in a terrible fix. Check it out on Netflix. Warning – that French police show is gritty, violent, but the acting is superb.)

After getting a bank loan to reopen his uncle’s restaurant, Victor proposes to Agnes. He thinks it’d be great for them to marry and run the restaurant together. Well, Agnes accepts, so I suppose she is done with Mr. LeClair, but run a restaurant? When you could continue with your career at Selfridges? Agnes, really?

vlcsnap-2014-05-03-13h54m37s92

The show ends with a riveting sequence of scenes cutting between the concert, where Richard brings Mae on stage much to Lord Loxley’s extreme displeasure, to Henri’s search for Harry, who’s been whisked off to Germany to spy, to Henri’s arrest for espionage. The action and cuts from each scene to the next were powerful, some of the best television has offered.

Viewers were left stunned, waiting for more and the next episode is sure to deliver. Do not miss it.

Drama like this is rare and I hope the Mr Selfridge writer is wise enough to stick with WWI for more than one season.

Mr. Selfridge, Season 2, Episode 3

mr-selfridge-ep-5-1

In the third episode of Mr. Selfridge’s second season, Delphine Day (Polly Walker)organizes a card game with some of the influential movers and shakers she knows including Harry and Lord Loxley. It’s wonderful to see the smug Loxley lose to Harry.

People are coming to terms with the war. Agnes receives a letter from her brother George and though it’s been redacted he seems chipper. Miss Mardle takes in a Belgian refugee. She expects Florian to be a woman’s name, but it turns out that her refugee is a young man, a rather innocent and attractive Belgian. If he brings any chocolate into the house, she’ll be putty in his hands. This mix up is rather weak. Of course, Miss Mardle could arrange to have a woman live with her and someone else could take in Mr. Florian.

I’m worried about Henri who’s very mysterious this episode. His secret life remains so, to a larger extent. He’s giving lots of money to a suspicious looking man, who’s supposed to track a woman down for him. Since he’s gotten on Mr. Thackery’s bad side, Thackery follows him around town looking for dirt. Henri had best watch out. My guess is that while the problem may not be innocent it’s not as bad as it seems. Thackery expects that Henri is a German spy. Poppycock, Thackery. Poppycock.

Things are looking up for Lady Loxley as her husband’s finances are going up since he’s getting kick backs for army procurement deals. She’s been authorized to get a new wardrobe. It’s a pity that Mr. Thackery just couldn’t pick up on the newer trends. All he could show her seemed dated, though I thought the gowns were stunning, just not right for wartime.

Rose was used nicely in this episode. She saved the day as the store must employ women in the warehouse. Their garments made work nearly impossible. No one at the store really knew what to do, but Rose stepped in and figured it all out. Later when Mr. Crab organized shooting practice for store employees, Rose impressed her son Gordon with her expertise. I love seeing these new facets of hers and I’m glad to see she and Harry’s marriage is improving. Yet I do fear Daphne is up to something with Harry. She was needlessly secretive about the card game when she saw Rose.

All in all, the season’s shaping up nicely. The new characters are intriguing, though troublesome and having the mother and girls away makes the cast size more manageable for the writer. I don’t miss Miss Love at all or Harry’s philandering. While that will no doubt return, I’m glad the show isn’t all about infidelity and illicit romance. The show had a sleazier streak last season, which I’m not missing.

Mr. Selfridge, Season 2

Selfridge2_Twitter_icon_1920x1080

Mr. Selfridge’s second season kicked off a couple weeks ago. The first episode picks up as Selfridge’s is about to celebrate its firth anniversary. Time’s flown by and it shows for some and not for others, which is odd. I was glad to see my favorite characters/actors, but the first episode was strange because the story pretty much wipes aside, or minimizes the problems Harry faced at the end of season 1 when his wife, fed up with his philandering and the public ridicule of a satirical play about Harry, left as did his best friend and most talented colleague, Henri LeClere. As if that weren’t enough, Harry’s reporter pal childishly turned on him, because he wasn’t available mmm.

I found it implausible that Harry wasn’t more affected by isolation. He’s a gregarious man who needs his social network to make him who he is. Without that energy, Harry’s nothing. He’d have hit rock bottom and then had to find new friends as well as new loves. He did find new women to replace his lover Eva Love, but Henri and Frank’s friendships were left void. I didn’t buy that that wouldn’t have left a big hole or that Selfridge would have tried to fill it. I also found it odd that Rose, Gordon and Frank all reappear at the same time. Yes, it’s the anniversary, but someone would have reconnected earlier and others might never have.

It’s just weird that in pre-WWI era Agnes, Kitty and Vincent are still single. One of them would have married. It’s odd that we don’t really know why Henri hit the skids. If J. Walter Thompson, New York didn’t work out, why not return to Chicago’s Marshall Fields, Macy’s or Paris? Why would he wind up in squalor? It’s not like he’s a gambler or drinker. I’m also surprised that Miss Mardle has chosen to stay on at Selfridge’s and work with her lover Mr. Grove as his new, young wife has baby after baby. Only a glutton for punishment would. Since she took a risk on Selfridge’s store, you’d think she’d have the pluck to get a new job.

Amanda Abbington

The second episode, where Henri seems to return for good, had a better storyline. I’m glad that Miss Mardle has come into money. We’ve got some new villians this year. Poor Lady Mae is married to a wife beater, who’s destitute. He’s cut off her funds since he has no money. It’s good to see Harry defend Lady Mae and all women against this abusive blackguard.

Rose is back and has taken up with a new friend, Miss P whom she met on the ship back to London. Rose needs a few more friends in London, but it’s just too convenient for the writers to make this one the owner of a risqué bar. Mr. Selfridge always tries to titillate in an anachronistic, implausible way.

Agnes’s character and storyline draw me it. I’m happy to see her back from Paris where she apprenticed at Galleries LaFayette. As the new head of display she’s got her hands full, particularly since the new head of fashion took an immediate dislike to her and is doing his best to sabotage her. Thank God, Harry knew that Henri would consider coming back if it were to help this damsel in distress, (whom he loved and left). Though I like Victor, I prefer to see Agnes with Henri. Most characters don’t get two fine young men to choose from. It’s an embarrassment of riches, in a way.

Mr. Selfridge

mrselfridge-harrygordonselfridge-itv-selfridges-07012013-jpg_103642

That sign is the spitting image of Marshall Field’s sign

I never saw Mr. Selfridge last year. I’d left the US and just didn’t get hooked. Friends thought it wasn’t up to Downton Abbey and no one I knew followed it. From the promos the show seemed more brash, than Downton so I wasn’t drawn to it.

However last year I loved The Paradise, a period drama covering the same exciting era of the development of department stores, which affected women’s rights and freedoms. Shopping was revolutionized (a mixed blessing) as now it wasn’t just a task, but a creative, imaginative endeavor. With a lull in programming for the Anglophile who likes history, I gave Mr. Selfridge a try.

At first I really didn’t like it. Though he was inventive and a caring employer, Harry Gordon Selfridge (Jeremy Piven) is a womanizer, drinker and a bull in a china shop. Though he’s married to a beautiful, smart woman who is portrayed as having no problems in the bedroom, he prefers to frequent girly shows and pursue Eva Love, a burlesque singer. Granted this girly show is PG by our standards, it wasn’t then and it’s hard to get drawn into a show about a pig, after watching Downton Abbey where high standards predominate.

mast-selflridge-twitter-hires

I’m not sure why, but I did stick with the show and liked it more as time went on. The female characters in this era of suffragettes and working women drew me in. We’re supposed to identify with Agnes (Aisling Loftus), a shop assistant who gets sacked for letting Selfridge behind the counter in the first store she worked in. The stern floorwalker saw this and saw her exchange with friendly, American Selfridge and gave her the sack saying “We’re not that kind of store.” Out on the street, unable to find another job with a younger brother to support, Agnes summons the pluck to ask Mr. Selfridge for a job. Pluck’s Selfridge’s life’s blood and he hires her. In the first season Agnes’ growth has been as compelling as watching Selfridge succeed. She’s been promoted to lady’s fashion, fallen in love (though she doesn’t call it that), escaped a drunken, abusive father and shown her talent for design and retail. She’s not as interesting as The Paradise’s Denise, whom I think has more spark, but her rags to riches story entertains.

In the first episodes it was hard to watch Rose Buckingham Selfridge (Francis O’Connor) put up with her philandering husband. That hasn’t gotten easier, and I cringe when Rose gets too close to a starving artist, who later tries to come on to her teenage daughter, but Rose’s scene when she puts Harry’s lover, Eva in her place showed grace under pressure. Rose is complex and it can’t be easy to be married to Harry, not just because of his carousing but also due to his personality.

Like Downton Abbey, subplots and secondary characters like the sophisticated, conniving Lady Mae Loxley (Kathleen Kelly) who arranges Selfridge’s financial backing when his first partner pulls out, Mr. Grove the head of staff who’s wife is an invalid so he’s got a thing going with the strict head of accessories, Miss Mardle. I will criticize Mr. Selfridge for trying to spice up history for the sake of ratings. While infidelity is nothing new, it’s rampant in this drama and it comes across as a play for ratings. One philandering character is enough for an hour’s television. Give other characters other problems. (I doubt that request would be heeded.)

Henri Leclair (Grégory Fitoussi of Engrenage fame) lends savoir faire to the store as he’s a master of window design. He’s also a pillar for Selfridge, a loyal colleague and friend from their days in Chicago. He adds romance as towards the end of season 1, he turns to innocent Agnes to replace his French lover, a modern woman who always wears a tie and who works for J. Walter Thompson. I was sorry to see how Agnes got left and didn’t quite buy how stoically she let him off the hook.

The show’s a bit of a guilty pleasure. It could be better, but I guess I’m on board for another season. Some critics have pointed out that Piven’s not good with nuanced emotion. Close ups should stop. They fall flat. (Downton doesn’t use them.) I think that would help. That’s probably valid, still since Selfridge puts so much of his heart into his store, his work family.

Spiral (a.k.a Engrenages)

spiral

Formidable!

I’ve just discovered and gotten hooked on Spiral, a fast-paced, well written police/law show from France. Season One focuses on the murder of Elina, a beautiful, young Romanian woman who was a biology graduate student and a prostitute on the side. Her younger sister is missing and soon turns up dead.

Caroline Proust stars as the Laure Berthaud, the police captain, who leads a male staff with some gender bias. It’s clear that some fully accept her and others less so, but this isn’t the 1990s of Prime Suspect. Unkempt and down to earth, Laure is loyal to her men, protecting even the Coke addict troublemaker Gilou. She’s masculine in her attitude towards sex, very open and not looking for commitment. Yet despite, or because of her indifference to fashion, Laure is beautiful.

Grégory Fitoussi plays the Vice Prosecutor, Pierre Clément, a straight arrow lawyer. Pierre is recently separated from his wife, who could pass as a model. She’s the antithesis of Laure, polished, fashionable, willing to break inconvenient rules and annoyed when her husband isn’t.  Pierre’s childhood friend has a big role in season 1 as his name appears in a murder victim’s diary placing Pierre between the Scylla and Caribdis having to choose between loyalty to an old friend and professional ethics.

Clément often opposes Joséphine Karlsson, a gorgeous, intelligent defense attorney with no scruples whatsoever. In season 1, episode, Karlsson’s boss dies suddenly. She soon agrees to work for a disbarred attorney, who was convicted for raping his last colleague. Together they make the good guys work for every conviction. If the money’s good, and Karlsson will always ask for more, she’ll get any scumbag off.

The police are a varied lot. Tintin’s a dependable, astute detective, while another, Gilou, is a junkie with a hooker as a girlfriend. Soon the junkie turns as a informant to the underworld. Viewers are on pins and needles whether Gilou’s

At first the French legal system confused me. They call a man “judge” who seems to have the duties of the State’s Attorney in our system (i.e. he reminds me of the D.A. in Law and Order.) Yet he interviews suspects and victims in his office and someone else presides in the courtroom. Like the Brits, lawyers wear black robes and white neckwear, but no fake wigs are needed.

The plot gets more twisted and complex as time goes on. The suspense rises and rises. The story’s very Aristotelean in that the greatest threats are often characters near and dear to Clément or Berthaud. In each episode you don’t know what will happen till the very last second. Your stomach will turn as you get glimpses at the criminal’s depths.

Warning: The program’s got several gruesome scenes. I admit I had to look away and since my French is poor wasn’t sure when I could resume viewing.

The characters are complex and even perplexing psychologically. No one, except the criminal and the Elina, are completely good or bad, but rather intriguing. As a viewer I was never sure if good would win out. I was rarely sure of anything other than that there’d be a complete reversal by the end of each episode. If you like The Shield or The Wire, watch Spiral on Netflix.