BBC 1 The Paradise – Ladieswear to Love Summing up Series 1

The BBC 1 television series The Paradise is a love story set in England’s first department store in the 1870’s, where the art of shopping is a serious business. It has concluded Series 1 after 8 episodes so if you haven’t watched it yet and don’t want us to spoil it for you please don’t read on.

In Episode 8 the finale, John Moray owner of The Paradise must choose the woman that he really wants to marry. Will it be the rich, spoiled, controlling, bittersweet and very nasty Katherine Glendenning, the only daughter of a powerful member of the British Upper Classes Lord Glendenning, who can help Moray advance both his career and ambitions? She is all ready with superb lace veil in hand to leave for the church on the arm of her father.

Or will it be the simple country girl Denise, formerly of Peebles, who used to work for him in Ladieswear, and whose spirit he so admires who wins the day. Denise not only shares his passion for retail, but is also head over heels in love with him, which is a sight that is very appealing for most men. Moray’s modern and fashion-forward thinking persona and drop dead gorgeous looks has landed him in what is a very sticky situation.

We are left at the very end with the vision of him racing through the store to seek out Denise all dressed in his ‘wedding’ clothes, because as we have all hoped, he finally knows he loves her above all else. But will that result in action this day, or is he merely rushing to find her to say goodbye before he leaves for the church to marry Katherine?

Denise has already given him the nod to marry advantageously, reassuring him that no matter what happens she will always be there for him.

She doesn’t believe that she can be so selfish as to share his love. But can he do it? Can he truly give up the one woman who means so much to him to share the bed and life of another just to realize his ambitions for his department store, The Paradise. Will he take Denise, escape the debt-ridden situation he finds himself in so that they can start all over again together somewhere else?

Well, we won’t know until Series 2.

What we do know now though is that finally they have admitted their feelings for each other in an age when that was certainly not a fashionable thing to do.

It was refreshing to discover too just how completely honest Denise and Moray can be with each other in a time when frankness, kindness, compassion and consideration were not really regarded as virtues but weaknesses.

Katherine certainly wouldn’t, and doesn’t appreciate his honesty when he tries to tell her that the wedding is off.

She refuses point blank to give in and be usurped by a shop girl of all people.

It’s all so beneath her and she plots how she can win him back and put Denise out of their life forever. It has helped that her father has bought up all the real estate in the street where The Paradise is situated, plus the leasehold over the department store itself. It appears that he now holds all the shots.

This series is pure escapism at its best. Superb scenery, wonderful sets, interesting characters, good acting, great direction and so beautifully produced. It is truly scrumptious and sumptuous to look at and has plenty of mystery and a great many magical moments to savour.

The finale of Series 1 was indeed satisfying and writers of this interesting series, based on a French novel, didn’t fall into the trap of making Denise a martyr thank heavens, but an independent woman able to make up her own mind.

She knows she wants Moray, but she also is wise enough to know that he must want her just as much or it will never work out between them.

She certainly knows there are rules in society, but the challenge for Denise is how she can subvert them in order to achieve her own ambition in what is essentially a man’s world.

How she could possibly resist the melt down caramel coloured eyes of such a charming handsome store owner, played so ably by actor Emun Elliott, is anyone’s guess.

This series looks set to grow its popularity as it proceeds. The characters are all very appealing and the performances by its fine ensemble cast absolutely spot on.

They all leave us wanting to know more about how their relationships progress and how each in their own way will have an affect on the success or failure of those who make up ‘The Paradise’ family.

The big surprise in this final episode is when Ladieswear’s doyenne Miss Audrey and Denise’s Uncle Edmund across the road sharing a passionate kiss!

Goodness, no one but the Brits would be brave enough to give us the sight of a couple of senior citizens sharing a marvellous moment of passion and pleasure.

As her employer’s wedding approaches Audrey muses back on her own life and is all contrite as she comes to realize what she has done in refusing to marry Edmund Lovett, who has remained true to her all these years.

Why she asks him, did he choose a woman so afraid of love? As Edmund tells her ‘when you love someone as much as I love you there is no room for blame’.

‘Do feelings never fade’ she observes as she collapses into his arms. But what happens when he thinks she has betrayed him?

The finale starts with Moray talking with Dudley, his manager and choosing young Arthur to represent all the staff at his coming nuptials because his bride to be would not welcome any of them to her high class affair. She is so much above them all and has her sights firmly set on what she wants – Moray.

‘I have taught him to love me once – I can do it again’ she warns Denise, when she finds out that her rival for his affections has come back to work at The Paradise in Ladieswear after a short time with her Uncle Edmund’s shop across the road.

Katherine is certainly not a woman to be trifled with and over the series her feelings for Moray have met morphed into what has become an unhealthy obsession.

He should feel alarmed. It seems she will do anything at all to get her way and it will be interesting to see how far she will go to achieve that aim.

Denise came back because she had failed in her attempt to ‘unite’ the other individual shop owners on the street and have them co-operate with each other to achieve sales.

She had not realized just how much they would all resist the sort of change that she views as exciting and challenging, or her brilliant attempts to help them ‘market’ their wares together.

In the end she has to earn money to survive. As it is about rising every time you fall, with cap in hand she crosses the road and asks for her old job back.

She is welcomed with open arms. After all she had established a wonderful working relationship with the management and a majority of the staff, except perhaps for Clara her colleague in Ladieswear.

Clara also happens to be in love with Moray and had a brief affair with him long before Denise arrived on the scene. She resents the fact that he finds Denise attractive at all and she does her best to undermine her rival at every turn.

Jonas, the one-armed security officer is not so much in the background during this episode as the body of one of the vendors on the street, who had opposed Moray’s ideas about expansion finally floats to the surface of a pond where he has drowned and is found by police.

Was it an accident or murder?

Will the trail lead back to The Paradise and to Jonas who is such a shifty unlikeable man? He scares the *&^%$# out of most of the staff, who do not want to incur his wrath as they fear what might happen to them next.

He’s a very dangerous man to cross. Denise it seems is one of the only people who can make him laugh.

Dudley, who is Moray’s oldest friend and store manager, has a warm heart and that makes him very popular with his staff. They all believe he is firm, but fair. But is he out of his depth when challenging Jonas, who will stop at nothing it seems to safeguard the reputation of the store?

Jonas was given a chance to have a life at all, not an easy thing to achieve for someone who was disabled in the 19th century. It was given to him by the former wife of its Moray, who also seems to have died in strange circumstances falling down the stairs of the store. What was written in the little black ‘book’, which Jonas throws off the bridge into the pond and destroys?

Well we will all just have to wait until next year to find out what happens next at The Paradise.

Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle 2012

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