Harlots: It’s I Who Shall Burn

Well, now we know just how far Margaret’s willing to go to protect her daughters: actually committing murder.

How did we get to that point? Let’s reel back…

It’s the day after Charlotte’s break with George, Emily’s flight from Quigley’s, and Lord Fallon’s offer for Lucy. Charlotte has found refuge in an actual garret somewhere, and is now unsure what to do. She turns to Nancy, but Nancy’s a little distracted what with hiding an extremely anxious Emily and all, and tells Charlotte just to go home to her mother.

But Charlotte’s mother is dealing with things, even before she has to start Dealing. With. Things. She’s irked with Lucy for turning down Fallon, though to Margaret’s credit she doesn’t force her daughter to accept Fallon, even if her reasons for turning against him seem a bit odd. Upset with her mother (and, probably, herself), Lucy gets shirty with the other girls. They are in no mood because they’re trying to support Fanny, who’s pregnant and freaking out, because she doubts Margaret will allow a baby in the house. Also, Margaret’s recent behaviour towards Emily suggests she’s not going to be terribly charitable towards a girl who’s not earning. Fanny tries going to an abortionist, but this baby’s coming any day now, so it’s just too late for that.

So, Lucy’s throwing attitude around and getting sent to her room like a sulky child, Fanny’s bursting into tears at every turn, and Quigley’s banging down the door, certain Emily Lacey’s hiding at Margaret’s. With Charles now on the mend, Quigley’s ready to get some revenge on the girl who poisoned him. When she can’t get any satisfaction at Margaret’s, she sets herself up across the street at Florence Scanwell’s. Florence tries to turn her away, smugly informing Quigley that she can’t be blackmailed anymore, since she came clean with Amelia about her past. But Quigley just threatens to kidnap Amelia and hand her over to these snuff rapists she’s supplying now, and that quiets Florence down. But not before she figures that Quigley’s obsession with Margaret has less to do with hatred and more to do with some very twisted version of love.

Oh, and just to ensure she has both Scanwells under her control, Quigley threatens Amelia with the secret of her kiss with Violet at Margaret’s hell party.

Also at the door: Benjamin, that endless little shit. Margaret and William meet him in the coffeehouse in an attempt to make a deal about Margaret’s debt, and he continues to be repulsive. He acts super racist towards William (of course) who pleasantly refuses to take it. Margaret pays back as much of the debt as she can and offers terms, but Benjamin wants to take his interest out in trade at the house. William seems only too pleased to inform this kid that none of the women will have him, so repulsed are they by the fact he’s keeping his own brother and sister in bondage. William gets upset and demands full repayment right now.

It looks like it’s going to be a rough day for Margaret, but then she goes home and George shows up. He’s done with Charlotte and now wants to take Lucy on. Eeeeewwww. Margaret swiftly barters for some very cushy terms for her daughter, then goes to tell her the good news. But George gets up there first, tells Lucy what’s up, even as he strips, and tries to force her to have sex with him, telling her over and over that now she belongs to him. She shows him that no means no, goddammit, and stabs him in the belly with the knife Fallon used on the pomegranate last night.

And from now on, shit gets real, guys. Margaret is summoned, and she takes one look, bundles George into bed, sends Lucy downstairs, and tells Fanny to fetch a surgeon. But as soon as she and Fanny are out of the room, she whispers that Fanny is to fetch no one. They’re just going to let George slowly bleed out, because otherwise Lucy will be hanged for attempted murder. If he dies, they might be able to keep this whole thing hushed up.

Easier said than done when you have Quigley AND her spy watching the house. Everyone at Margaret’s does an admirable job of pretending it’s just business as usual, horrified though they are. The girls take in clients, George is stashed in a bed upstairs, Lucy is cleaned up. William’s not pleased by this insane and inhumane plan, pointing out to Margaret that this is very likely to blow up in all their faces and get pretty much everyone in the place hanged, not just Lucy, but Margaret’s determined. Her girl will not go to the gallows.

Charlotte arrives, looking for a place to stay, and is immediately apprised of what’s happened. I don’t think she knows who to be more repulsed or horrified by, George or her mother. Margaret asks her to fetch Nancy, and she does, before retiring to her favourite gambling den. She finds Marney there and asks if the offer to go to the colonies still stands. It totally does, but (after being filled in on everything that’s happened, including George’s stabbing), he points out that they’ll need money. Charlotte has nothing but the clothes on her back, so they go to George’s so she can get her things.

Haxby is there, having begged his job back by throwing Charlotte under the bus (‘she seduced me!’). He acts like such a snivelling jerk that Charlotte just leaves without her stuff and Marney punches him in the gut. Honestly, they should have just pushed past Haxby and gotten her jewellery, at least. How was he going to stop them? They gave up way too easily.

The two return to Charlotte’s new garret lodgings and make love, after Charlotte admits this is strange for her. She’s never been with anyone she just genuinely wanted to be with, and she’s uncertain how to proceed. It’s both sweet and pretty heartbreaking.

George is taking ages to die, and Margaret’s getting tired of waiting. William’s in her ear, telling her that letting him die will result in Lucy going to hell for being a murderess, even if she isn’t prosecuted on earth for it. So, Margaret climbs onto the bed and strangles George to death. ‘Now it’s my murder,’ she announces. Woah. Talk about a mama grizzly.

Nancy, frighteningly, knows just what to do. She strips George of his rings, keeping them for herself (only fair, I say) and saying this’ll make it look like he was robbed. Once night falls, they can remove the body.

But first, Benjamin reappears, wanting his money. William pays him off (thanks, George!) and also pays for Harriet’s children. But Benjamin has decided he won’t sell them, out of some twisted desire for revenge against his father and Harriet for having gotten together in the first place, allegedly while Benjamin’s mother lay dying. Furthermore, he’s leaving for Virginia the next day, and taking the kids with him. Harriet begs him not to do this, but the little twerp just smirks and leaves. William promises to help Harriet but he’s got some things to take care of first.

And how. He and Nancy bundle George into a carriage, drive to a park, and launch him into the river, probably both saying a few prayers as they do so.

While they’re out, Quigley once again appears at Margaret’s and Margaret, exhausted and wrung out and just so, so done, tells her that Emily’s at Nancy’s. Quigley smiles and purrs at Margaret, telling her she’s a good girl who ‘tells mama everything.’ Hmm. It could have just been a turn of phrase, that. Or, Quigley could be Margaret’s mother, which is twisted, but par for the course on this show.

Quigley gets into her carriage and drives to Covent Garden, where her goons burst into Nancy’s and grab Emily. She’s thrown into the carriage and driven away, and I think we can only imagine the sorts of horrors that await her at Quigley’s hands. This is, after all, a woman who basically went, ‘Well, what’s one murder or five between friends, right?’



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