TV Ramblings 16 – Mr. Selfridge

 Mr. Selfridge

A belated posting on the second season of the series set in the early decades of the 20th century. I should have done it after it wrapped up but I think a little distance makes me appreciate the story better. I loved the first season, especially since never watched a lot of series set in Edwardian times. I was blown away by the fashion and manners and definitely dismayed by the sexist attitudes rearing their ugly heads time and time again.

There are some slight spoilers, but nothing major because I think reviews ought to keep big reveals secret. Mostly it’s just some thoughts on the characters and their personalities and some things that get revealed early on in season 1, nothing too in-depth.

Henry Selfridge and his store promotion event

A party for the employees hosted by Delphine Day, a new friend of Rose Selfridge

The main character is Mr. Henry Selfridge, an American businessman in Britain. He’s a complex man, flawed, but still capable of much good. That is what makes him so interesting – you know he’s a decent guy and then he goes and has an affair with an opportunistic singer. Big minus point in my books yet I can’t hate the guy. He’s not my favourite because he does have some double standards going in the first season. He does learn to appreciate his wife more in the second. The next thing you know his wife is aware of it and of his previous dalliances. Ouch. Henry may be a charismatic person capable of turning everything into an advantage for himself and his company, but here he’s reached the limit.

Rose is not without thorns after all, although it may take her a really long time to show them. She’s a wonderful person; she could be less gullible when it comes to friends. People take advantage of her gentle nature, so I’m really glad for Lady Mae to have taken an interest in her. Now that is a woman who knows her mind and who can take care of herself. At first I did not like her that much – she comes off as very cold and calculating at first, and I loathed her when she put a stop to the budding romance between Agnes Towler and Victor Colleano, then I realised the two don’t suit each other and I forgave her the meddling. Agnes is her best with Henry Leclair, her mentor. This man makes her shine and grow into a competent, strong woman. Not that she needs that much help – only a friendly word and a boost to her confidence. He’s also not afraid to let her go her own way and he treats her as his equal always. Now that is a man!

Agnes Towler and Henri Leclair visiting a local market on a hunt for inspiration for display windows during a sale

Lord Loxley and Lady Mae

The fashion in this series is phenomenal. Lady Mae’s fashion sense, in particular, is impeccable and her costumes extravagant. My eyes love to feast upon the textures and colours she sports. Not that other women fall behind her – even the shop girls are polished and charming in their simpler dresses. I love the hair especially; the Gibson girl style is wonderful and yet simple enough to not divert attention from the face. Men’s fashion gives us amazing silhouettes, simple yet elegant cuts, somewhat darker colours, and amazing hats (which still pale in comparison to huge women’s millinery). There are also many small details that make a dress – gloves, scarves, some jewellery.

I love that series is character driven. We have a number of people from different origins and situations in life that we follow from the first season. My favourites are Miss Agnes Towler, Mr. Henri Leclair, and Lady Mae Loxley, as I’ve mentioned before. They’ve changed since the first season, some more than others, but I believe most matured. All characters have different aspirations and many are significantly affected by the war. So there’s always a conflict or two to spice things up. Despite the major effects war has on the society and people, it is still more of a background theme. For which I am very thankful; I did not want to watch battleground scenes.

Rose Selfridge and Lady Mae

Henry Selfridge invites a world-famous ballerina to dance at an evening event for a select group of friends and his family

Still, the series deals with many issues; family troubles connected with money, alcohol abuse, adultery, also female emancipation, the choice between pursuing a career or turning into a housewife, work related rivalry, gossip, romance, and greed. I like characters that support each other, who are good friends, supportive family members and co-workers. We also have selfish characters like the abusive Lord Loxley, the ‘proper’ Roger Grove, and the self-important Mr. Thackeray. I can’t abide them, each for their own failings.

The series can pride itself on many romantic relationships budding or evolving throughout its run. I was very surprised at the number of extra-marital relationships. Society at that time wasn’t very accepting but we can see a change in the air. People turn a blind eye on them as long as everything is kept under wraps and no public impropriety occurs.

I enjoyed the look behind the business; how the big store like Selfridge’s stays ahead of the times and how they promote new trends and fashions. Women’s emancipation started in a small way when many got positions of power in the company and really took a swing when the war called away the men and they took over their positions. Henry Selfridge did a good deed, but I guess he had not much choice with having so many strong women in the family. They make it clear that they are just as capable as any man.

Henry Selfridge’s family in happy times

I’m looking forward to the next season. 😀

Links:

Henry Selfridge looks at one of the first display windows of his new store

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