In Harlots Episode 7, we are confronted with emotions and choices for all of our characters. Margaret Wells (Samantha Morton) told no one of her plan to confess. When her family discovers how dire her situation is they scramble to save her. While her mother waits in her cell, Charlotte Wells (Jessica Brown Findlay) desperately clings to hope as she asks allies for help. But she isn’t just working against the Justice, she’s working against Lydia Quigley (Lesley Manville), who is plotting a way to end their feud for good.
Hurt by Charlotte’s betrayal and eager to gain more influence, she aligns with the most dangerous to get what she wants. This episode opens with Margaret singing a haunting song, and as the events unfold and fates are sealed, the path forward after this episode will be a rough one. As always, spoilers below.
The abuse and control the Marquess of Blayne (Julian Rhind-Tutt) excerpts over his sister is a gut punch, to say the least. This entire season we haven’t seen the physical abuse that Lady Fitzwilliam (Liv Tyler) has suffered but the emotional abuse and mental manipulation has been hard to watch. In Harlots Episode 7, in order to extract her secret, her brother brings Lady Fitz to Bedlam, known as the most infamous and horrific insane asylums of the time and thereafter, the threat of imprisonment there is almost enough for her secret to slip. Instead, Lady Fitz tells her brother about her recent sexual relationship with Charlotte Wells, only she pretends that it was while he was away. His reaction is scary.
After their visit to Bedlam, the Marquess seeks out Quigley for confirmation of his sister’s story. With the promise of more power, Quigley explains that the true secret she holds is a bastard, a daughter born to an unknown father. She gives him all the information he needs to decide to send Lady Fitz to the horrors of Bedlam and also take the child. Harlots Episode 7 showcases the fear that asylums put in women, how they robbed them of their agency, and how they were used for convenience, not health.
Luckily, Charlotte has helped Lady Fitz take her daughter and move her to the Greek Street house, well before the Marquess’ men come for her. The child is confused about being a bawdy house. When she is reunited with her mother, she explains that she lives in a rich and comfortable house, but that house is violent. It is clear to her daughter that she is being shielded from the violence of the Marquess, although not that he is her father.
The majority of Harlots Episode 7 takes place around Margaret and her impending trip to the hangman. There are questions about her fate when her family finds out and acts to stop her sentence. Charlotte goes to Lady Fitz, hoping her influence can lead to a pardon. It’s important to note that to both the women and to Justice Hunt (Sebastian Armesto), the murder was in defense of her daughter, it was not in cold blood, it was not like the stabbing of Amelia Scanwell (Jordon Stevens). But she killed an aristocrat, and for that the Chief Justice refuses leniency.
While Charlotte’s pa, William North (Danny Sapani), work to provide a favor for Lady Fitz, the two women confront the Chief Justice, informing him that they will let the whole of London know of his relationship with the well-known bawd Quigley. It seems like it will work, and it may have if Lord Fallon (Ben Lambert) had been convicted or if the Marquess was not set on sending his sister to Bedlam and thereby silencing her. It would have worked if it wasn’t for Quigley informing the Justice of Bedlam or even her plan to take Charlotte off of the playing field. It would have worked if it wasn’t for Lucy Wells (Eloise Smyth).
While Margaret spends time with Charlotte, Nancy Birch (Kate Fleetwood), and William in her cell she is calm. Although she knows her fate she is comforted knowing that in her death she will save her daughter Lucy and will imprison and hang Lord Fallon with her testimony. Her willingness to lay herself on the bonfire to “drag down a demon,” as Justice Hunt put it, is what gives her testimony weight, but only to Hunt.
When the time comes for Fallon’s trial the line of questioning is aimed at his potential alibi, and as soon as Lucy walks through the door, she provides it. Instead of telling the truth, knowing good and well that Fallon is a murderer from both his own confession and her mother’s, she lies. He goes free. Hunt is relieved of his position. Now that Fallon is free, Quigley is set to have even deeper connections with her powerful allies. The impending death of her rival is something she revels in, but Charlotte worries her.
Quigley attempts to have Margaret give her Charlotte, to have her explain that the feud ends with her death. But Charlotte’s hatred is deeper than her mother’s and this is futile. For a moment, it looks like Quigley cares for Charlotte enough to save her from the Spartans that she threw her to, but only for a moment.
Harlots Episode 7 ends with starts closing with goodbyes, including an emotional scene between Margaret and Nancy. We have seen them close, but at this moment it’s undeniable that the two have survived because of each other, they’re family, sisters. They have relied on each other so much that when Margaret asks for Nancy to look over the girls like they’re her own, she can’t make that promise. Her own pain is too great. The final goodbye comes from William. Prior to this, he was angry with her, angry that her choice to remove Lucy’s burden would give Jacob (Jordan A. Nash) one. Jacob would not know her love and would have a want for her that William could not fill. But when they see each other for the last time, that frustration is gone and all you see is a man and a woman so in love, and yet so somber that they won’t be together again.
Having had her execution rushed up by the persistence of Quigley, Hunt is tasked with her execution. Having been removed from his position, this is his punishment. One that he first refuses to do while his betters are able to slay with impunity. However, the Chief Justice threatens to have her body paraded in the street if Hunt isn’t there to show her mercy. When the time comes, Margaret isn’t scared. She wants it done with, but Hunt is terrified. The only man on this show with a moral compass that doesn’t favor the rich is more in pain than her. As he motions for the hangman to remove the box, the camera work and use of lighting in this scene create a feeling that this is truly the end. As her feet kick, the death of Margaret Wells is imminent, until it isn’t.
Unable to watch her die, Hunt orders that she is saved. Instead, he decides to send her to the Americas to serve out her time in servitude. But she isn’t relieved. America isn’t a life with hope, it’s a life without her family, the only reason she has fought so hard. Visibly shaken, from her near-death and being sent out, Margaret implores that Hunt follows the law and hang her. To which he replies, “The law is ink placed on parchment by self-serving rich men.” But he can’t let her go, a man of morals first, sending her to America is fitting to the crime while also offering salvation.
Margaret’s story this episode is closed by the notice being posted that she has been hanged. The crowd is crying. And her children, Charlotte and Jacob take comfort in their pa.
With her mother seemingly hanged, Charlotte’s future is grim. Having blindsided and betrayed Quigley, Dame Death throws her to the Spartans. Although she seems uneasy with the violence she will suffer, this isn’t an excuse. Quigley continually works to either put Charlotte in jail through the testimony of the virgin they abducted together or through Margaret relinquishing their feud and sending her daughter to Golden Square. All of these avenues are terrible for Charlotte. Quigley will make her pay but it is clear that the Marquess wants to break her.
Quigley makes it clear that Charlotte will face a reckoning by being outside of her protection. With Margaret out of the picture, for now, at least, she doesn’t have that protection either. However, as William has shown before, and told his wife, the girls became his the moment Margaret became his. I trust that William will protect her, however, as the show has shown before, a Black man standing up to an aristocrat does not end well. This scares me, for him, for her, and for Jacob. Nancy is also on the watch, for Charlotte, and most certainly for Lucy, as she waits outside Fallon’s house.
What to Expect Next?
The closing scene of the show sets up what is next. Emily Lacey remains the only person left with the ammunition to take down Quigley. Scared by her move to Golden Square, which is based on a fake pregnancy, Emily knows that it is only a matter of time before she is sent to the gallows. Nancy is not going to let Quigley go, and is not stopping until justice is served, convinced that Quigley will not shed her skin this time. I expect episode eight to circle around this new move, as well as the Spartans closing in on Charlotte. Ultimately, it’s important to note that Amelia is now awake. We don’t know how much she remembers but the stage is set for the next episode.
Kate is co-founder, EIC, and CCO of BWT. She’s also a Certified Rotten Tomatoes Critic, host, and creator of our flagship podcast, But Why Tho?. She also manages all PR relationships for comics, manga, film, TV, and anime. She has an MA in Cultural Anthropology and Religious Studies focusing on how pop culture impacts society.