Harry Gordon Selfridge has never been a man to live a simple life. He’s the Earl of Oxford Street after all. But for someone who’s worked so hard to build up a successful empire, he’s sure had some crummy luck. If we look back at the last three series of Mr Selfridge, things were going wrong for Harry way before his wife died. However, Rose’s untimely demise was the catalyst for the mogul’s continuing downward spiral, which seems to be at the forefront as we begin the fourth, and final, series of the department store period drama.
In last night’s premiere episode, Harry’s life of excess is finally catching up with him. The exuberant boss looks haggard; there are bags under his eyes, his hair is noticeably greyer and he’s lost his trademark showman spirit. Though he’s doing his best to cover it, Harry is a shell of his former self, made all the more obvious by the return of Katherine Kelly’s Mae, who seems to be the only one willing to question her friend’s spiralling life.
I hadn’t realised how much I’d missed Mae until she sauntered in with her withering looks and disinterested manner. The years have changed her, as they have every other character, but she seems to be humbled by her altered status, ready to have one last ditch attempt at redeeming her social standing. Harry wants to help but Mae is wary of putting her future in his hands, and rightly so when he spends most of his time gambling away his hard earned money.
There’s a surprising undertone of romance building between Harry and Mae, something that’s never been explored before but feels like a natural progression. Could the pair, who have fallen and risen too many times to count, be each other’s saviours? Only time and the remaining 9 episodes will tell.Away from Harry and Mae, the other characters have evolved. It’s been nine years since we last saw them and the world has moved on. The Roaring Twenties have healed most of the scars left by WW1 and the supporting cast are looking better than ever. Though she’s mentioned a fair bit, Miss Mardle is absent from the episode, having gone to work in New York. She’s left behind Mr Grove, who’s still pining over his beloved Josie and struggling as a single father. Thank goodness he still has reliable Crabb to keep him company (the brief scene of them fishing is a genteel delight).
We check in with all the returning characters over the course of the episode; Victor, George, Connie, Kitty, Frank, Gordon, Grace and Rosalie, but it’s the new characters that pose the biggest threat to Harry’s already wobbly world. Sacha Dhawan’s cocky Jimmy Dillon has already made his dubious presence known, whilst the fun-loving Dolly Sisters (both of whom had liaisons with the real life Selfridge) spell instant trouble. These newcomers have their own agendas and they’re likely to contribute to bringing the Earl of Oxford Street down.
“These are the best of times”, Harry says to Grove, but the lack of conviction in his voice says otherwise. There’s a subdued feel to this first episode, a suggestion that Harry is teetering on the edge, which by the end he quite literally is. It might be a slow start but it sets the dark tone that promises to see the popular series out with a bang. Roll on next week.