Mr. Selfridge, Season 2, PBS

A funny thing happened on the way to Oxford Street: The characters and situations are more three-dimensional in this return season about the American department-store mogul in London.

Written by:
Emily S. Mendel
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In the well-written, well-acted second season of “Mr. Selfridge,” five years have passed since season 1 began with brash and impetuous American Harry Selfridge (Jeremy Piven, “Entourage”) revolutionizing the London shopping experience.

The eight episodes of season 2 start in the spring of 1914, as prosperity and good cheer accompany the lavish fifth-anniversary celebration of Selfridges. Even Rose (Frances O’Connor), Harry’s long-suffering and now alienated wife, puts her wounded feelings aside to stand beside him at the grand event.

Unfortunately, after Harry’s blatant affairs in season 1, the emotional distance between the two seems insurmountable. Rose has found new friends and new interests. On the ship from America, Rose met the fun-loving feminist and freethinker, nightclub owner Delphine Day (Polly Walker). Lady Mae Loxley (Katherine Kelly), London socialite, now with husband problems of her own, continues to be one of Rose’s friends, but one with her own agenda.

Interestingly (or predictably, depending on one’s cynicism about plot devices), as Rose grows more distant, Harry becomes more ardent. He forsakes his mistresses in an effort to win back his wife’s love. His predicament with Rose and five years of running Selfridges has helped to turn Harry into a more realistic and reflective person, rather than the impulsive and arrogant guy we met in season 1.

In fact, all the returning Selfridges employees and other characters seem more three-dimensional and have been written with more care and creativity, including the spunky Agnes Towler (Aisling Loftus), the creative Henri Leclair (Grégory Fitoussi), the formidable Miss Josie Mardle (Amanda Abbington), and the Palm Court’s Victor Colleano (Trystan Gravelle).

A major enhancement is that season 2 focuses on the dramatic political movements and social causes of the day. Labor union activity, women’s rights, and most notably, the start of World War I, are integrated into the plot lines and personalized by their effects on the characters, thus giving “Mr. Selfridge” some gravitas and drama. I have only seen the first three episodes, but so far, season 2 seems to be significantly more appealing, engaging and nuanced than Season 1.

ITV has already announced that “Mr. Selfridge” has been commissioned for a third series, with some surprises for its viewers.

Emily S. Mendel
©Emily S. Mendel 2014 All Rights Reserved.

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