The latest offering is a Belgian chocolate charity drive commanded by Rose, Delphine and Lady Mae, dubbed ‘the stalwarts of Selfridges.’ As we see the characters react to the reality of war, it highlights the strengths and weaknesses of certain characters in many interesting ways.
This really is an excellent episode and care is taken to respect the war as a human and social circumstance but not to undermine it, or indeed mire the characters down in its stark reality and negativity. It’s a fine balancing act but one that is aided admirably by the cast involved.
Sherlock’s Amanda Abbington, as Miss Mardle, gets her first chance to really shine this series with her kindness and generosity of spirit, but also a playful romantic comedy is played out with her character here. Despite not being as strong a presence this year, this episode more than highlights Mardle’s depth and the actress’ skill. The Towlers, particularly Agnes, are explored here more too, with a satisfying development for George as he enlists despite his sister’s protests, and for Agnes, the unspoken yet obvious realisation of her true feelings for Victor.
Trystan Gravelle, as Victor Colleano, is also a stand-out. He has much to do in this episode, what with the underpinning love triangle between himself, Agnes and Gabriella, his clashing with the Selfridge staff over his intentions in the ongoing conflict and the passing of his uncle, meaning he now takes on the role of the head of the family too.
Polly Walker, as Delphine Day, is back on fine form: her barbed interactions with Lady Mae, her seemingly genuine friendship for Rose yet a fun and boisterous side illustrating that she is also a woman of a certain influence. Walker is doing a fine job in creating a character of depth and range, yet with an underlying unease that she may be up to something. Time will tell.
The episode also has a nice line in comedy: the aforementioned Miss Mardle is given some necessary levity, Lady Mae is allowed to have a witty, comic tongue (something wasted in the draining scenes she shares with her onscreen husband), but it is the dryly comic double act of Mr Crabb and Mr Grove that really shine here. A high point of the series for me so far is the humorous yet endearing relationship and soft chemistry between Ron Cook (Crabb) and Tim Goodman-Hill (Mr Grove) in the portrayals of their characters and this is something I hope to see develop more this series.
Many other elements are also laid for future episodes. Henri’s shady dealings are clearly to be discovered by Mr Thackeray, who is motivated over Henri’s alliance with Agnes. Kitty and Frank are touched upon just enough to keep them relevant and the marital strife of the Selfridges reaches a naturally fitting end as it becomes clear, more now than ever, that both characters really do love each other. It’s been a lovely development and credit is due to Jeremy Piven and Frances O’Connor for making it look so effortless and believable.
The consistent four-star quality of this series continues with this episode, as Mr Selfridge continues to entertain and surprise, but with a knowing wink that despite the optimism, there will no doubt be more drama to come.
Aired at 9pm on Sunday 9 February 2014 on ITV.