Harlots: I See Only Cruelty

I think Quigley’s starting to get a bit stressed. This procuring business, for one thing, is getting more dangerous by the minute: when she goes to collect the latest girl, she finds the room empty, the window open, and blood spatter on the wall. She confronts Cunliffe about it and he basically tells her not to concern herself with this particular girl any longer. Eeek!

So, there’s that, and also the fact that one of her girls has deflected to Margaret’s. Margaret arrives to pay off Marie-Louise’s debt, so the girl will be completely free of Quigley, and Quigley gets ugly fast, spitting that she should have left Margaret in the gutter where she found her, and then mentioning something about Margaret’s mother. Hands up: how many people are starting to suspect Margaret may be Quigley’s granddaughter? I mean, I’m not sure the math works out, unless both Quigley and her daughter gave birth at very young ages (which, considering their profession, is possible) but it seems strange to have introduced the fact that Quigley had other children besides Charles without actually taking that anywhere.

Margaret stays quite calm throughout the whole payoff and Quigley’s insults, suggesting the two of them reach a detente here, because all this bickering will do neither of them any good. Quigley’s not ok with that at all, so Margaret casually offers to report her for kidnapping again, if she keeps making trouble. Having neatly pressed Quigley’s berserk button, Margaret swishes out, and Quigley takes her rage out on Emily Lacey, beating her quite brutally. When Charles tries to intervene, his  mother accidentally hits him.

He consoles himself with wine and laudanum and, outrageously, tries to get Emily to feel sorry for him. She responds to that by dumping the entire bottle of laudanum into his wine, getting him to drink it, and finally escaping from the house by stealing his keys once he’s knocked out.

Quigley returns from meeting Cunliffe to find her son OD’d on laudanum and spends the rest of the episode desperately trying, with a doctor’s help, to keep Charles alive. This is the most vulnerable we’ve seen her–a mother scared to death that her child might die, and Lesley Manville acts the hell out of all of it. Charles does survive, and not long after he comes around Cunliffe, with supremely poor timing, arrives to tell Quigley he needs another girl. She informs him she’s not doing any more of this until he tells her exactly who’s taking these young women. She knows Lord Fallon’s not the big client; she wants the royal who’s at the top of all this. Cunliffe refuses to say who it is, and she realises he doesn’t even know. She tells him to find someone else to do this dirty work.

Emily, having escaped from Quigley’s, races to Margaret’s, only to be coldly turned away. Margaret refuses to have anything more to do with her, telling Emily she made her choice. She gives the girl a few coins to see her through the night and turns her out into the street. She then tells the rest of her girls that as long as they’re in her house she’ll protect them, but once they leave they’re on their own.

Emily takes to the streets and spends the day wandering around, getting drunker and more disheveled and more desperate. Nancy finds her and gently offers her a place in her house, which Emily rudely refuses. But by the end of the day, realising her options are few, Emily arrives at Nancy’s door and is allowed in.

Margaret, meanwhile, is riding high. Her masquerade was a big success and now Fallon’s showing an interest in Lucy. He shows up at Margaret’s for an appointment with the girl, and arrives with a pomegranate, which is an interesting callback to the pineapple George presented Charlotte with back in the first episode. And any callback or connection to George is a bad one (we’ll get to that soon). Fallon likens Lucy to Persephone (which makes him Hades, which seems appropriate, since last episode he promised to take her to his own inferno someday). He feeds Lucy some of the seeds, which seems to turn her on a bit, but when he declares that she’s his and goes in for a kiss, she shoves him away. He thinks that’s kinda awesome (not surprising he likes someone who resists…) and tells Margaret her daughter’s a goddess and he wants to take her on permanently. Margaret insists on a contract and he promises to get one written up immediately.

She practically dances up the stairs to Lucy’s room, where she finds her daughter sitting on the bed, fully clothed, apologising for not having done better. Margaret’s all, ‘The hell are you talking about? He loved you!’ But Lucy begs not to be attached to Fallon, who seriously gives her the creeps. Margaret tries to find out what’s wrong with Lucy, asking if he hurt her, but all Lucy can say is that he fed her some seeds, which does sound pretty weak. She just doesn’t have the ability to explain to her mother that something is off with this guy and she really shouldn’t get mixed up with him. And she’s so new at this I doubt Margaret would really credit it if she did say that. Margaret knows that being kept by a rich man is the best possible scenario for a young woman in their position, if you don’t want to end up like Emily Lacey.

This is precisely what Charlotte’s running up against. She’s decided to break things off with George, but, being somewhat practical (and having learned her lessons well from her mother) knows she needs a lifeboat to climb onto. So, she immediately sets out to find a new keeper. She nearly has one with one of her admirers, Sir Christopher, but he blanches at the thought of having a kept mistress, because his wife would kill him. He asks instead for a quickie in the park and Charlotte, wisely, turns him down. She even goes to the Reptons, to ask them if they know of anyone who’s looking, but they can’t offer any help either.

Charlotte consoles herself with a little gambling, during which Marney tells her he’s considering hopping on a ship and going to the colonies. He asks her–sincerely, it seems–to come with him, saying they could set themselves up pretty well. Considering Charlotte’s wearing about £1000 worth of jewellery just to wander around town during the day, I think he’s right about that.

She turns him down, but goes back to George’s and starts packing, despite not really having anywhere to go. Haxby comes in and starts yanking things away from her, insisting the jewels and clothes rightfully belong to Lady Caroline who did, after all, pay for them. He and Charlotte, stupidly, refer to their screw last episode, and George overhears. He horsewhips Haxby and tells him to get lost for having the audacity to steal George’s property. He then tells Charlotte she’s not going anywhere. When she tries to shove past him, he brutally punches her in the stomach, then rapes her. Remember how in the first episode he was a frivolous and ridiculous character? Man, did they ever turn that on its head, because this is horrifying.

That evening, George takes Charlotte to Sir Christopher’s for a dinner party, which shocks everyone, because there are wives present, and you don’t show up to a dinner with your courtesan. Sir Christopher tries to point this out to George, who insists Charlotte will behave. She does, indeed, remain rather meekly quiet throughout most of the meal, but when the hostess calls upon her to display some of her famous wit, Charlotte winds up flat-out telling the entire dinner party what George did to her that afternoon. Daaaaamn, girl. Charlotte does not take shit, and I love her for it. Everyone’s shocked. George tries to insist that she’s lying, but tellingly, nobody believes him. The guests aren’t exactly all ‘Team Charlotte!’ but they’re definitely not Team George. Sir Christopher shakes his head and mildly scolds George for his poor form.

Charlotte flees and climbs into a carriage, weeping, heading off to…who knows where. The colonies, with Marney? Possible. It’s not like they were the backwater they once were, and she and he could probably do really well there. But she has ties in London, and a long, perilous  journey to an unknown place where she knows nobody would be daunting to anyone. So, perhaps she’ll try going home, though who knows how Margaret will receive her. We’ve already seen she’s capable of considerable coldness with Emily Lacey.

Plus, Margaret’s got some other dramas to deal with. There’s this whole Lucy situation, and also one of her girls is pregnant (though it seems Margaret is unaware of this. Marie-Louise notices immediately, and promises not to tell anyone else, but I find it hard to believe Margaret, considering her line of work, would be so clueless as to not notice such a thing. Let’s give her the benefit of the doubt and say she knows, but is choosing not to say or do anything about it just now.) And, there’s Harriet.

Harriet is now full-on one of Margaret’s girls, and she points out that if Margaret’s willing to pay off Marie-Louise’s debt, she should also be willing to buy Harriet’s children. Margaret agrees and summons Benjamin to discuss terms. Ben, being an absolute little shit, informs the ladies that the price of the children has gone up to £100, which was a hefty sum. Everyone objects to such obvious price gouging on his own brother and sister, but this kid’s got no conscience, and he doubles down by becoming so insulting William just picks him up and tosses him out. So, they’re all at a bit of a stalemate.

And finally, there’s the drama with the Scanwells. Florence is so ill she’s confined to bed, so Amelia tries preaching in her stead. She doesn’t seem to quite have Florence’s conviction, and she’s lured away by the charms of Violet, who takes her to the coffee house they all love. While Violet tries to charm someone into standing her some drinks, Rasselas, the molly-boy who spies for Quigley but secretly relieved Florence the night before, sidles up to Amelia and teases her about spending so much time with the prostitutes. Amelia begins to panic, but he quickly reassures her he has no intention of telling her mother about this.

Violet sees him talking to Amelia and yells at him to leave her alone. Amelia steps in and says he wasn’t bothering her, that she was thanking him for having helped her mother the night before. Rasselas looks a little hurt to have been yelled at by Violet. This is a strange, small, scrappy world they’re all living in. They go back and forth between being friendly and being enemies pretty quickly. They hate that he spies for Quigley (which is at least one of his survival techniques–guy’s gotta eat, after all), but use him when they need to, and it seems like he’s eager enough to be in this community that he’s willing to be used in that way. Nice of Amelia to show him some kindness, after Violet was rather unnecessarily rough. But then, Violet’s protecting her girlfriend.

Amelia doesn’t quite know what to do. She goes home and reads a psalm that’s all about the temptations of women, and then Violet shows up on her doorstep, tells her she’s interested in a non-transactional romantic relationship, and kisses her tenderly right there on the street in front of everyone. How long before this gets back to Quigley, or someone else who can use it for their own ends?



2 thoughts on “Harlots: I See Only Cruelty

  1. I understood that Quigley took Margaret in after her mother sold her for shoes. She had mentioned Q had taken her in at 10 and told her she would take care of her if she satisfied her gentleman friends. In later episodes Q said Char was born under her roof, so I see it as Margaret grew up there, but is not related to the Qs.

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