While many shows feel a distinct void when their lead actor is missing, this actually amplifies the performances of those in the episode and provides a unique perspective in the show’s storytelling, as everyone copes differently in his absence.
Frances O’Connor is given more room to shine, which is great to see with her having been moved on from simply being Harry’s romantic storyline in recent weeks and now integrated more at Selfridges. O’Connor’s Rose struggles under the weight of recent events: the imprisonment of Henri, the betrayals of Lord and Lady Loxley and the general running of the store.
However, it is the brimming yet internalised pain at Harry lying to her that makes us feel for her most. Trust has always been an issue for Rose when it comes to Harry, and O’Connor is effective in retaining audience sympathy in a subtle, nuanced performance.
Aisling Loftus (Agnes) is also given more screen time, as she copes with the Henri situation, enlists Victor’s help to expose Thackeray and, in the episode’s closing moments, may potentially have to deal with tragic news regarding her brother George. Kitty and Frank Edwards’ relationship is also expanded upon as Frank, seemingly sincere in his feelings towards Kitty, risks losing it all by presenting a news article implicating Harry Selfridge in a war scandal. The situation providing both actors with enough dramatic meat to add a further layer of disruption to their, already rocky, romance.
Loyalty (and indeed, the lack of it) is a key theme in tonight’s episode as Kitty demonstrates hers to Mr Selfridge over Frank, as well as Agnes’ display of loyalty towards Henri, Victor’s to Agnes and even Gordon’s, to the family of his dead friend Dave. The lack of loyalty packs a more dramatic punch though, with Cal Macaninch’s embittered Mr Thackeray being exposed as responsible for Henri’s arrest and Lord Loxley using Harry as a scapegoat who, because of his absence, can’t defend himself.
The stand-out is Lady Loxley, and we are reminded here of how far the character has come, as she weighs up the life she has and the life she wants and takes steps to control the damage. The scene with Lady Mae and Rose is fraught with emotional tension, and whilst I’m sure this is not Katherine Kelly’s last episode, there is a beautiful air of finality that the character deserves to have gone out on.
A tight script, crafted by regular Mr Selfridge scribe Dan Sefton, and told from the viewpoint of a world without Harry, provides a welcome focus on everyone with almost all involved being driven forward by the events that unfurl.
We can’t wait for Harry’s return next week though, to see how his character stands within the fallout from this episode’s events.
Aired at 9pm on Sunday 2 March 2014 on ITV.
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