War is the common theme to all the elements of the episode: the marital rivalry of the embittered Loxley’s and the slowly repairing Selfridges, the Trade Unionists versus the Selfridges staff, Agnes and Mr Thackeray’s departmental one-upmanship, Mr Grove’s internal battle between the life he has and the one he wants. What’s great about this common thread is that it allows necessary development of key characters without detracting from the drama of it all, and in fact allows certain players, somewhat overlooked so far, to come to the fore.
Cal Macaninch’s Thackeray, armed with a very dry wit, is proving to be a great foil for Agnes, who is showing signs of strain under her new position. Tim Goodman-Hill’s portrayal of Mr Grove is expanded nicely, demonstrating the skill of the actor, and this will no doubt be a recurring theme, given the re-introduction of his family in this episode. Even Kitty (Amy-Beth Hayes) is given a nice line in character development as she gets one up on Frank Edwards not once but twice, thanks to a Yardley face cream and a very daring tango.
It’s a wonderfully paced episode, written by Kate O’Riordan (The Bad Mother’s Handbook) which winds up its tension for a very dramatic series of outbursts in the episodes final scenes: the fighting Selfridges, the unsure loyalties of Harry’s son Gordon and, of course, the angry assault of Lord Loxley against Lady Mae. Really wonderful stuff.
The reappearance of Henri Leclair clearly is set up for development in later episodes too, but Delphine Day’s casual declaration of his presence, which causes unnecessary strain in the Selfridges marriage, points that she may have her own agenda in befriending Rose. Time will tell.
At the heart of it all this week was the lovely chemistry between Jeremy Piven’s Harry and Frances O’Connor’s Rose. Despite their mutual mistakes in this episode and signs of both the good and bad times ahead, there’s is a chemistry that makes you root for them as a couple, but not without yet more hurdles along the way.
Having laid all the major plot points down so successfully in last week’s Series 2 opener it was always going to be interesting which ones would take priority over others in the following episodes. Luckily, the balance is struck again successfully with all the major plot points expanded upon to a noticeable degree as well as some entertaining and welcome character development.
Aired at 9pm on Sunday 26 January 2014 on ITV.
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