'Harlots' season 3 episode 2 review: Emily Lacey's plight, Charlotte's revenge and Lady Quigley's perseverence highlight the various shades of women
The female characters on the show - from the good ones to the villainous - display a range of characteristics that is representative of the depth women are capable of
Spoilers for season 3 episode 2
It’s been said once and it will be said a few hundred times more – no other show knows how to depict the many shades of being a woman like Hulu’s ‘Harlots’ does. The show’s season 3 has just begun but even in the two episodes so far, the period-piece has drawn parallels between the current world and what it meant to be a prostitute in 18th-century London.
Episode 2, which started off with Charlotte (Jessica Brown Findlay) and her girls figuring out how to float after Isaac Pincher (Alfie Allen) tries to shut them down by burning their house, and ended with Charlotte not only getting reparation for the damages, but also getting a promise from the Pincher brothers that they will leave her alone. To say, she has inherited her mother’s tenacity would be an understatement.
At the other end of the spectrum is Charlotte’s enemy Lydia Quigley (Lesley Manville), who has just escaped the loony bin with an ally. With no money, dress or even a piece of bread to her name, we see her and her dependent sitting in the comforts of a cozy room, plotting their next move in the last few moments of the show.
As villainous as she is, Quigley’s survival instincts is definitely worth admiring. As ‘Harlots’ executive producer Moira Buffini tells MEA WorldWide (MEAWW), “Lydia is a villain, yes, she's an absolute horror - but she's so much more… Lydia is indestructible.” And, that is the flavor of Lydia that the show explores time and again, even though she is the villain to the Wells women’s story.
Within the spectrum of brilliant female characters on the show is Emily Lacey (Holli Dempsey), yet another harlot who believes that it is not enough to just survive, but one needs to thrive.
Having started off as one of Margaret Wells’s girls, Emily snuck into Quigley’s kingdom only to burn and escape. After this she survived on the streets and got by with scrapes before now, finding her place in Hal Pincher’s (Ash Hunter) heart and bed.
She is the embodiment of scrappy, having struggled to reach where she has. In this episode we see her facing the problems of every woman – fighting for a seat at the man’s table. She is ambitious, and she knows she cannot fulfill them without Hal aka a man by her side.
Emily tries to inspire him, only to be discouraged by Isaac. She tries to learn from one of her clients, only to be undermined. The only reason he teaches her is that he knows Emily will not sleep with him if he doesn’t do as she demands. Ultimately her body becomes her tool for education, power, and advancement. There is much to be respected about her.
With season 3 episode 2 which aired on Wednesday, July 17, ‘Harlots’ has proved yet again that there are many shades of women, and all of them are worth admiring.