We’re at the end of the season and boy does this season end with hits as hard as Nancy Birch’s (Kate Fleetwood) broom. In Harlots Episode 8 the remaining women are moved to action after the events of the last episode. They move against Fallon, leaving Lucy (Eloise Smyth) in a difficult position in which she proves herself to be a Wells Woman first and a Spartan as only a dalliance. The women collect a list of names and galvanize themselves to take them all down, including Dame Death herself, Lydia Quigley (Lesley Manville). As always, spoilers below the line.
The Women Move
At the beginning of Harlots Episode 8, you see Lucy start to understand that Lord Fallon (Ben Lambert) is indeed a killer. I’m not sure what she believed him to be after they bonded over opium and spoke of murder but it slowly dons on her that Fallon is behind Amelia’s stabbing. When Lucy decides to look at his coat, the one worn when he attempted to kill Rasselas (Josef Altin) and wounded Amelia (Jordon Stevens) she discovers blood on the sleeve. She visits Amelia and asks her if she could identify the man, identifying Fallon. It starts to come together and Lucy is broken by it, if only for a moment. She pieces together that it was her testimony, her lie, that saved Fallon but also that killed her mother. From that moment on we see a Lucy who has snapped back to the girl we saw in season one, but one changed by her experiences still.
When Lord Fallon is caught attempting to kill Amelia in her bed, the women, incapable of finding a justice, decide that the law is theirs to enforce. When Lucy makes her way back to Hunts’ house she sees a tied up Lord Fallon. As she moves to him she pieces together the death of Kitty Carter (Lottie Tolhurst), and with so much death on his hands, she wants to kill him. Yelling, “my mother is dead because of how you used me,” Lucy is in her feelings but also realizes her mother’s sacrifice. Instead of killing Fallon upon his confession and reveal of the others involved in the Spartans and their agreement with Quigley, Lucy restrains herself. Instead, she acknowledges that her mother died to save her soul and she won’t spoil it with him again.
One of the most striking scenes of Harlots Episode 8 and the season is seeing Florence Scanwell (Dorothy Atkinson) standing over Fallon with a knife. A blind woman but a vengeful mother, Florence is ready to enact biblical justice. Since her daughter bears his mark, she gives Fallon one from her. A woman of God does not mean a woman without fire and like the other mothers of the show, she will protect her daughter.
Once the women have the names of whom to go after, Lord Lidington (Jack Staddon), the Marquess of Blayne (Julian Rhind-Tutt), and Lydia Quigley, they move on them. Nancy, Charlotte (Jessica Brown Findlay), and Lucy move forward, through their grief and drawing power from it. However, Lady Fitzwilliam (Liv Tyler) leaves Charlotte out to dry out of the need to save her own daughter. As it has been since episode one of the series, these women survive.
Regardless of class, they have all been fighting and it is satisfying to see them moving with purpose and promise. It’s also revealed that Nancy’s love for Margaret, as much as they became sisters was something more to her. The women of Harlots are shaped by pain, they move through it, with it, and they refuse to let it cripple them. Told from their perspectives, watching them move in to capture the Spartans is extremely satisfying.
Lady’s Fitz’s Priorities
Although Quigley initially came after Noah Webster (Eric Kofi-Abrefa) in order to find Lady Fitz’ daughter Sofia, Quigley moves to the Wells Greek Street house, realizing that it was William and not Noah who pulled her from school. At least partially blaming Charlotte for her daughter being taken to the home of the monster who raped her, her brother, she throws out loyalty and acts to protect herself. With the knowledge that the women moving against Spartans have a signed confession from Fallon as well as his location, she trades it for her freedom.
Bedlam is not an option, a house in the countryside, her money, and her daughter. But she reveals the truth in front of her daughter, ruining his reputation in front of Sofia, and highlighting the danger he poses to her. Although she exchanging information for her daughter seems to look like the main motivation, it is her final words to him, that she wouldn’t let him fall because he is her brother, that strikes me. Did she do this for Sofia? Herself? Or to save him?
Regardless of her motivations, her actions help Blayne and Lidington escape justice. However, it does doom Fallon. Although Blayne and the other Spartans rescue Fallon from the women, they require his death as payment. Similar to the women, Blayne requires that Fallon writes out a confession. This time, he takes all responsibility for the attempted murder of Amelia and the murder of Justice Cunliffe. Having completed the confession, Blayne offers him the choice between hemlock and a knife. Fallon, in Spartan fashion, chooses a knife. The same one he used to kill his victims. Although his death is a close to his acts, he is surrounded by five other Spartans. They aren’t done and his confession assures it.
Dame Death’s Reckoning
Quigley’s downfall is quick. As Charlotte informs Charles of his mother’s actions, it’s clear that she had never changed. She still kidnapped women. She fed them to hungry men who would kill them. And she convinced the judge to bring Margaret Wells to the gallows. After Quigley is locked in a room by her son, she verbally abuses him, only to be removed from her room sometime later and thrown into Bedlam. Highlighting the fact that in the 19th century, the word of one male relative is all that was needed to put a woman in an institution. As the women always do, they use the system that oppresses them to their advantage, convincing Charles of Bedlam’s mercy and punishment.
A Path Forward
After searching for the body of his wife all episode, William finally breaks and confronts the former Justice hunt. No matter where he goes he could not find his wife, but Hunt reveals that the reason her body is missing is that there is nobody to bury. The grief William feels all episode is alleviated. Having told his daughter, “There is no getting through for me,” his faith and hope is restored. Throughout Harlots Episode 8, the sadness of the Wells’ family, Jacob, William, Charlotte, Lucy, and Nancy is extremely well-acted. Each and every one of them is grieving in their own ways, and the love that surrounded her is apparent, finally at the forefront.
The path is clear for a future, albeit changed for many and yet the same for some. For those who ran Emily Lacy’s bawdy house, Harriett (Pippa Bennett-Warner), Nel (Sheila Atim), and Noah, some of the series’ Black characters, it seems that in season three they will get their stories highlighted. As they pack to leave the house, they talk about their future together. For Greek Street, the house is bustling with culls. Lucy is back home and as Harlots Episode 8 ends you get a shot of William and Charlotte at the door. When he looks at her, you tell he’s seeing her mom, and as the audience, we are too. With her father protecting Greek Street, her sister safe from the harm of Fallon, Charlotte is there to take care of business while her mother is away, however long that may be.
What to expect?
I have two wants for season three. The first is to have Harriett the bawd of her own house, making and keeping the money she and her girls earn. This show has proven that people of color can have stories in period pieces. Beyond that I need to see the women take on the remaining Spartans again, directly. With all of the information that they have, I find it hard to believe that they won’t at least attempt to take them down.