Agnes Towler, Aisling Loftus, Amanda Abbington, Frances O'Connor, George Towler, Gregory Fitoussi, Harry Selfridge, Jeremy Piven, Katherine Kelly, Lord Loxley, Mae Loxley, Miss Mardle, Mr. Selfridge, Rose Selfridge, Season 2
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.
The best image in the episode, I think, was of Rose letting the water in the fountain go over her hand when she’s at home. What a beautiful way to depict how she’s needing soothing after hearing her doctor’s diagnosis. Mr Frasier, the butler, enters and asks if all’s well. Stoically, Rose says it is and mentions that she needs to discuss Thanksgiving with him. She needs this holiday more than ever.
There’s a flurry of activity at the store as all departments prepare for the Comforts of Home campaign. A good series of scenes showing how creative and cooperative everyone is and how well Harry knows his business. At home, Rose shows the same vigor and finesse in planning Thanksgiving. Announcing that she’ll make her own pecan pies, Rose amazes Mae, who’s still staying with them. Lois, Harry’s mother, senses that something’s awry with Rose. This holiday’s getting more than the usual attention. At Victor’s Agnes, Victor and Franco plan for the wedding as a quiet George looks on. Agnes suggest putting pine needles on the floor to give the space aroma. It sounds splendid, but everyone–Victor, George and Agnes — is distracted and in their own world keeping their concerns and worries to themselves, which made for a good scene.
Following Miss Calthorpe’s advice to take action, Miss Mardle arranged for Florian to audition with an orchestra up north. He’s ticked off. He’d rather sit and brood in his room. How attractive. He sends her out of his room. It wouldn’t be the least bit hard for him to take action and contact his agency to get moved. Again, I feel there’s got to be someone better for her, someone with a pulse.
Agnes happens into the studio when Henri is packing up, apparently it’s the first time she’s seen him that day, the day she’s learned he’s going to fight. They reminisce about their good times at Selfridges and she invites him for one last moonlight walk in a London park. Evidently, this was one of their rituals when they were a couple. It’s a rather romantic move for someone trying to stick with her betrothed, extra poignant in a time of war when a last walk might be so final. Their silhouettes on the paths are gorgeous–more great imagery that is defining the show, making it outpace Downton, though it’s not a competition. Come to think of it, I can’t think one one American show that would have such a scene. I suppose Everwood had scenes on par with this, but how long has that been off the air and I like seeing romantic scenes with people over the age of 18. After talking about dreams and the wonderful Mr Selfridge they do tiptoe around their feelings for each other. It’s all rather tentative as Agnes’ impending nuptials make this something of a minefield. She did propose the walk, which suggests she’s not 100% committed to Victor. She didn’t jump with excitement at his suggestion of moving up the wedding, yet she’s too ethical to call it off. She’s true to her word and would make life in the restaurant work. (I suppose I’d try, but serving pasta night after night would eventually be too humdrum for me. Those close to her, e.g. George and Victor seem to be reaching the same conclusion.
As they stroll and reminisce, they stop and share that they’ll never forget each other. It’s more of a promise or vow than a statement Foreshadowing, peut-être? Meanwhile, Victor ponders in front on a fire with a glass of wine. He’s been home for hours, but he’s still in his starchy tux sans the collar and tie. (My inner history critic whispers, “I know this isn’t the era of T-shirts and jeans, but I’d think you’d want to keep your tux impeccable for the next day.”) He heads over to Miss Mardle’s. She either has no servants or they’re super lazy. Mr. Frasier would have gotten the door if Victor knocked at Selfridge’s house. George gets the door, invites Victor in and gets him some tea. I’d like to see Miss Mardle with a wise servant to advise her. I like the idea of a working woman getting a servant. They have a great tête à tête about Agnes, loyalty and “specialness.”
Furious about Miss Mardle helping his musical career, Florian skips work at the factory to embarrass Miss Mardle at work. I just don’t see this one as a keeper. She tries to explain, but Florian’s made up his mind. He’d rather stay in her house, work in a factory and sulk about getting rejected. (Why hasn’t he enlisted? Seems since his family’s been killed he’d want to serve. He’s able bodied. Everyone else is.) Mr Groves overhears Florian chastise Miss Mardle and somehow confuses petulance for love. When Groves summons Miss Mardle to his office, he apologizes for his earlier insults and urges to pursue love with Florian. No, Groves, there’s got to be someone better for Miss Mardle, better than the phlegmatic infant terrible, Florian.
Mae tiptoes back into her old home in search for the list of boot makers that can clear Harry’s name. Loxley catches her and thinks she’s there for cash. Little does he know she’s found the incriminating evidence. She goes on to tell Loxley off. He’s a war profiteer, born into nobility, though there’s nothing noble about him. How I wish she’d added wife beater to his list of sins.
If there’s a BAFTA or Emmy category for comic relief involving adults over 40 acting childish, may I nominate the two Selfridge secretaries? They did amuse as they bicker over Harry’s diary. In the days of the Internet and online scheduling we avoid these things. I’m not saying we’re not childish, just not about this issue. Kudos to Mr Crabb for insisting these women cooperate. Mr Crabb is wonderful. I hope he’s here for season 3. (Yet another reason why I hope they don’t fast forward 5 years again. Mr Crabb can’t be flung forward 5 years year after year.)
Rewatching these episodes, I’m noting a lot of top notch cinematography. It’s so creative that we see Harry and Mae’s reflection in a mirror when she gives him the evidence he needs to clear his name. The scene at the House of Lords, when Harry confronts Loxley in a verbal showdown was stunning. How I hope Loxley rots in jail.
Victor gazes at Agnes’ swan song, the window of the comforts of home with the jam like jewels. Henri comes along and admires it as well. “Honest and true like Miss Towler herself,” Henri muses. Victor’s been thinking. Hard. He asks Henri point blank if he’s in love with Agnes. After a long, dramatic pause, Henri admits he does love Agnes, but adds that he’s leaving for the war in the morning. Victor’s got a choice. He can move forward. Agnes would never know. She’s agreed to marry him and he isn’t offering her a bad life. He does love her. Usually, dramas have someone marrying someone who’s clearly wrong, while the right person stands on the sidelines. Here Agnes has two decent choices, though I prefer Henri, or at least staying on at Selfridge’s and finding someone else, say Franco to manage the restaurant with Victor.
At Selfridge’s there’s much rejoicing when Frank gives out papers hot off the press clearing Harry’s name. Huzzah!
Agnes contemplates what to do. She carefully removes her engagement ring and goes to the park. Who’s there but Henri, no doubt contemplating losing Agnes. Yet Agnes explains the wedding’s off and they declare their love for each other. Huzzah! But . . . the rest of the show will have these tense scenes. Love is declared, but Henri’s off to war.
Miss Mardle reconciled with Florian. I’m far from excited. I think she’s right that given that she can’t have children and he’s so young, his interest will pass. If she knows that I suppose she has little to lose. Better to have loved and lost then never to have loved at all, right?
The show took another sad turn when Rose tells Harry she’s sick, that the doctors think it’s incurable. True to form, God bless him, Harry vows to find the world’s best doctors. But Rose has reached a more accepting state. She realizes it’s inevitable. She asks him to go downstairs, be thankful for all they have and later help her break the news to the family. What a great scene, one that shows a marriage, not a perfect marriage, but a strong one dealing with the complexity of life. I’d like to see more such scenes on television.
The final scene struck a good note for the finale of a drama. The joy of the end of the procurement scandal and Henri and Agnes are together. The family’s all gathered and sharing what they’re thankful for. It’s a beautiful family scene, with a twinge of sorrow as we know what will happen to Rose. Hankies may have been needed. I was weepy. Yet Rose and Harry’s determination to be stoic and their strong bond have a beauty that makes it all okay.