I have a weakness for PBS historical dramas. A weakness that’s real, slightly ridiculous, and just a tad bit embarrassing. Every Sunday night, I crawl into bed, ready to watch the latest installment of Masterpiece. The current series on air is Mr. Selfridge, a British drama about the birth and success of London’s famous department store, Selfridge’s. And, good grief, is it sumptuous, scandalous, and fairly accurate in its depiction of early 20th Century London.
Because a department store needs many people to run it, the series has multiple characters, living out their stories within and without the store’s marbled halls. I find that each storyline is rather thoughtful and interesting because it is based on the outcome and the implications of the characters’ daily actions, rather than on the characters’ responses to bombastic, shocking, barely believable plot twists (::cough::cough:: Downton Abbey). This keeps the drama in the quiet, the mundane, and the daily.
I’m particularly drawn to the Miss Mardle / Florian storyline. Miss Mardle is the the head of ladies’ accessories. She is middle-aged and unmarried. In Season One, she was entangled in a love affair with the married Mr. Grove, who, upon the death of his wife, promptly married a much younger women, while suggesting to Miss Mardle that they continue seeing each other. Miss Mardle was able to tell Grove to stuff it, with all the gracious firmness of a proper Edwardian lady, but the event left her deeply wounded, unsure of her own worth and lovableness.
Then comes Season Two and earnest, sweet, handsome Florian. A young Belgium violinist, exiled from his country due to the beginning of World War I, travels to England and becomes Miss Mardle’s lodger. It isn’t long before the two develop a mutual attraction and admiration for each other. And there are plenty of longing looks, blushing, and abruptly ended conversations. Basically, all the things that make a British love story so awesome and awkward.
Yet, even more compelling than romantic awkwardness, is how Miss Mardle responds to their mutual attraction. Though it is a shared experience of mutual attraction, her past experience with Mr. Grove, and the stories she’s learned to tell herself about how that experience defines her life, keep the mutual attraction from being shared. I find this beautiful and sweet scene to be an excellent example of her struggle and her self-realization:
Miss Mardle cannot see the goodness, the honesty, and the love that is right in front of her because she still chooses to live with a narrative that makes her feel unlovable. It is only when she decides to see what is front of her first and narrate the situation later, that she can finally allow Florin’s earnest sweetness to be part of her story. Her new story.
Miss Mardle is creating fiction within Mr. Selfridge’s fiction. Yet somehow, in this creating of fiction there is a cementing of a deep human truth: Stories are powerful. We tell them to remember, to solidify, and to redefine. Every morning, when we emerge from sleep, the experiences of our past and the fantasies of our future weave together, creating our stories of the present. These are the narratives that will either close us off to the goodness, honesty, and love around us—or, open us up to it.
I am deeply touched by your writings about the relationship of Miss Mardle and Florian in “Mr. Selfridge”. Your words bridge the time gap from past to into the present and have helped me come to terms with my own thoughts about this storyline. If only these actors knew how truly engrossed we can become in their portrayals they would more completely comprehend that they are doing so much more than staying in character. How do you feel about the Agnes/Victor/Henri storyline? There will be a series 3; and I feel that is when their stories will be truly finalized.
Thank you! And, I’m glad that my musings helped. Agnes is also a favorite of mine. Though Victor is a kindred spirit to her, I worry that he wouldn’t be able to let Agnes be herself, have her own career. Henri could.
In reality (dare we delve into reality) Henri is 14 years older than Agnes. Victor is 9 years older than her so Victor is closer to her in age. Henri has more of a past and apparently has some ties to France in various ways. As long as Agnes could work with Henri and be his wife then that might work out for the both of them.
But, my heart really aches for Victor who tries so hard to show her how much he loves her; I’m sure he’ll be the one who will be hurt the most because he is so vulnerable.
In the end, it is Mr. Selfridge who started Agnes down her path of a changed life. He is the father she never had. She has a relationship of loyalty to Mr. Selfridge that is special. She would never have met either Victor or Henri as she did without being first hired by Mr. Selfridge. And, Mr. Selfridge has a fatherly loyalty to her.
Yes! That all makes sense. Mr. Selfridge did Agnes a great kindness. He is the father figure she never had. It is hard to watch Victor, he does deeply care for Agnes, and I worry about him getting hurt. I’m looking forward to seeing how things all work out in Season Three!
Yes, I feel Season Three will hopefully help Agnes to be happy and with the man she is truly meant to be with for a lifetime.