Plans continue for the Empire Exhibition at Selfridges, with all concerned reaching various professional or personal improvements, as the big day approaches. It is also announced that Winston Churchill will visit the store, but the official announcement of war threatens to throw everyone’s lives into chaos.
The episode feels incredibly well balanced, providing greater chances for character development. Rose and Harry take a backseat but still maintain a positive presence throughout the episode. Kitty and Frank Edwards’ relationship develops nicely, with an enjoyable line in witty banter and a soft, believable chemistry. The scene with them in the grounds of a park, drinking champagne, is not only a great scene for character development, but it showcases Rob Gould’s artful direction and proves a refreshing change of look from the usual studio sets. This and the tearoom sequence with Agnes and Henri shows how Mr Selfridge would perhaps benefit from more location shooting, expanding the show’s world.
Tim Goodman-Hill as Mr Grove continues to be a delight to watch. It’s lovely to see him continue to develop and his friendship with Mr Crabb is a particular highlight, with the two sharing an almost father/son chemistry. Aisling Loftus as Agnes also remains engaging, quietly boiling over with the stress and responsibility of her role at Selfridges. The reintroduction of Henri Leclair is an episode highlight, as he literally puts the cat amongst the pigeons with the staff but evokes a joy and positivity in Harry that he will need, given the declaration of War at the end of the episode.
Victor and Franco Colleano and their family, highlighted as an immigrant family in pre-war Britain, are given enough development to be engaging but given this unique standpoint, it would be a shame if they didn’t explore it more in future episodes. With the Loxleys, we also take the good with the bad. Aidan McArdle’s Lord Loxley is still a cardboard cut-out Scooby Doo-style villain and while Katherine Kelly’s Lady Mae is as compelling to watch as ever, the direction they are taking her character in (purposely pushing Harry to work with her corrupt, bankrupt husband) leaves a bad taste in your mouth.
A solid episode, with the continuation of the quality we have come to expect from Mr Selfridge. With the cliffhanger of the announcement of war providing an incredibly interesting hook for future episodes, that will no doubt ripple into the lives of the Selfridges staff, we can expect much more drama in the second half of Series 2.
Aired at 9pm on Sunday 2 February 2014 on ITV.