So last Wednesday, Hulu’s new series Harlots concluded it’s first season. And man was it an emotional rollercoaster, like one of those indoor ones so you have no idea where it’s going and you aren’t sure if it’ll be good or horrible.
Harlots centers on two(ish) bawdy houses in 18th century London, one owned and operated by Lydia Quigly (Leslie Manville) and the other by Margaret Wells (Samantha Morton). The women have a history that unfolds pretty quickly in the series allowing for their current battle to take centerstage as Lydia tries to prevent Margaret Wells from rising up and Margaret tries to tear her down.
Of course, there are many people caught in the crossfire between these two madams. Two are Margaret’s own daughters, Lucy Wells (Eloise Smyth) and Charlotte Wells (Jessica Brown Findlay). Charlotte, whose virginity was sold to the highest bidder by their mother at 12, is a renown courtesan and professional lover to Sir George (Hugh Skinner), while her sister Lucy, who is probably 16ish, has been kept from the life of a whore. When their mother has financial trouble stemming from legal trouble, she finally auctions off Lucy.
Lucy’s misfortunes start the moment her mother does this, for while she manages to avoid losing her virginity to Sir George, who won the auction to piss off Charlotte, it opens her up to a life she wasn’t prepared for and doesn’t have the temperament for. Three episodes in and she almost dies, and is most certainly beaten by a regular client of her mother’s and Charlotte’s. The incident changes her and makes her different, leading to the final misery of the season, making Margaret chose between her two daughters.
Charlotte on the other hand doesn’t like the idea of being kept, or a professional mistress to Sir George, not that I blame her he’s a fool. Which causes Sir George to lash out to try to hurt her. In the fifth episode it seems he might have broken her, but it is Charlotte Wells, and she can’t be broken by a man. Charlotte walks an unfortunate line, as a harlot she has the freedom to chose clients, but she’s still bound differently to the laws then the men she services. She has a type of freedom which is threatened by the idea of a keeper.
In the end, Margaret choses Lucy. Lucy choses to beat men. Charlotte choses Lydia. And no one is really happy. But that’s probably closer to life then any sort of happy ending would have been.
I really do like the series, mostly because all of the plot twists were a mystery to me. I was never sure something was going to happen until it did. However, the last episode was a bit corny as it tried to tie up all lose ends. Every scene felt rushed, the placement of people sloppy, and some of the dialogue was laughable. But I’m not discouraged for a second season, in fact, I’d totally be down to watch a second season. One bad episode does not a series ruin.
Let me know your thoughts. Did you like or dislike the show? Any recommendations for other shows I’d like?