If Harlots is about anything, it’s about women making the most of some pretty shitty situations, and making the world work for them at a time when the world really didn’t work well for women. So, it’s fitting that in this, the last episode, everyone set about finding ways to make it work.
First: Emily Lacey. Now free again, she takes refuge with Nancy, who urges her to go to the law about her kidnapping. Kidnapping, let’s not forget, is a hangable offense. Of course, the problem here is that the law is actually colluding with her kidnapper, so that’s not much of an option, is it? Instead, Emily chooses to go to Quigley’s and blackmail Mrs Quigley into giving her a brothel of her own, all her gowns, and a heap of money.
For some reason, Quigley does not consider the fact that Emily’s threat to go to the justice is fairly toothless, probably because Quigley and Cunliffe are currently on the outs. Cunliffe’s fired her as the procuress for the Spartans, which ultimately just prompts her to go straight to Fallon and offer her procuring services on a freelance basis. She also warns him that Cunliffe is an idiot who’s going to get them all killed. But before that, she has to deal with Emily.
Charles, who apparently found his balls in that basement where Emily was being held, intervenes and tells his mother they’ll be giving Emily whatever she wants, because what they did was so, so wrong. So, Emily is the new madam in town, by episode’s end. Well done, Emily. I wish you’d been more compelling, because then I might have been in some way invested in anything that happened to you, but I wish you well anyway.
Quigley, armed with the info Rasselas provided her with regarding George’s non-viable status, goes to the Scanwells and orders Amelia to go tell Cunliffe she saw George being taken from Margaret’s, dead. Amelia’s reluctant, since she can’t say anything of the kind for sure, but Quigley threatens to tell Amelia’s mother about Violet, so Amelia folds.
Charlotte is freed, on Amelia’s evidence, and Quigley collects her from jail. She takes her to her place and offers Charlotte a room there, and a pretty sweet deal: no debts, and she gets to keep all she earns. She wants Charlotte there because she thinks her notoriety will bring in more customers. Charlotte thinks about it, but first she has to see to Marney, who’s still languishing in jail.
She goes to George’s home and pleads with Haxby to take back his claim he saw Charlotte and Marney covered in blood the night of George’s murder. It just so happens that George’s wake is being held, and Lady Caroline comes downstairs when she hears the commotion. Since Haxby isn’t playing ball, Charlotte appeals to Caroline, telling her Haxby lied to the constables. Caroline asks Haxby if this is true, and when he (stupidly) says it is, she fires him on the spot and agrees to see to Marney’s release. Wow, Lady Caroline’s pretty awesome. And also understandably relieved to be rid of her awful, useless husband.
Charlotte returns to Quigley’s, where Margaret finds her and demands to know what the hell she’s doing there. Charlotte points out that she has nowhere to go, since Margaret twice refused to house her, and then failed to speak up when Charlotte was thrown in prison and accused of murder. Margaret is sent on her way and Charlotte agrees to stay with Quigley, even dressing up, creepily, like the woman’s mini-me.
Then it’s Marney’s turn to come by, having been released thanks to Lady Caroline. He begs Charlotte to leave with him, like they planned, but she tells him they need to split up, because frankly, she seems to be a bit dangerous for him. Also: she plans to bring Quigley down from the inside. Yep, that’s right, Charlotte’s actually a mole now. I admire her spunk, but also think this is incredibly stupid. Quigley’s no fool, and we know what happens to women who cross her.
Meanwhile, Harriet meets up with William, who’s tracked down her children and awful, awful stepson. William distracts Benjamin in the main room of the tavern while Harriet sneaks upstairs and gets the kids. But of course Benjamin turns around juuuuust as she’s about to get away scot free, and he screams about them being thieves. Harriet yells back that these are her children in the eyes of the world and offers to take him to court over it. Although he’d likely win that case, it seems Benjamin reads the tone of the room, which is deeply disapproving of all this, and he backs down. Harriet gets her children back!
She, William, and Jacob return to Margaret’s and Harriet tells William just how grateful she is to him. Margaret sees a teensy bit of a look pass between the two, which gets her hackles up, so methinks Harriet had best watch her back for a bit.
And Margaret? Well, Margaret’s having a shitty day. She gets torn a new one by her eldest daughter, her youngest daughter is…not helpful at all, really, and Amelia’s testimony leads Cunliffe to drag Margaret in for questioning. He offers her a deal: serve up Amelia Scanwell for the Spartans, and Cunliffe will look the other way on this whole murder situation.
Cunliffe needs this to work, because a new girl is the price of a seat at the table with these psychos. And the wolves are kind of at his door: Bobby, the young clerk who witnessed Emily’s abduction, goes over Cunliffe’s head to some higher-up to report what happened. The higher-up goes to Cunliffe with the accusation that he’s refusing to look into this matter, but Cunliffe deflects the questioning by telling his boss that Bobby’s not exactly a reliable witness. He then fires Bobby, but how long can he really keep these accusations at bay? He needs more powerful people protecting him.
Margaret, trapped, goes to the Scanwells and lies that she has a place they can stay. She offers to take Amelia there to check it out, and prepares some drugged tea for the girl. As Amelia goes to drink it, she tearfully confesses to Margaret that she told the justice she saw George being carried dead from Margaret’s and she feels really terrible about that. Margaret immediately tells her not to drink the tea and bundles her out of there. On the street, she spots Rasselas and demands to know what he’s doing there. He says he’s looking out for his friend, Amelia. Aww! Margaret thinks fast and tells him to fetch Nancy and Bobby.
Cunliffe is summoned to the same place where Quigley used to leave the girls. Amelia lies on the bed, gagged, seemingly unconscious. Margaret and William are both there, exchanging heavy ‘here we go,’ looks. Cunliffe picks up Amelia and starts heading out to a carriage, but as he goes to put her inside, Bobby comes charging around the corner with the watchmen, screaming kidnap. Cunliffe drops Amelia and throws himself into the carriage, ready to flee. But Fallon’s just on the other side, ready to tie up a loose end. He stabs Cunliffe in the chest and leaves before anyone even knew he was there.
So, Cunliffe expires, but Fallon’s still on the prowl. Lucy’s offered to go be his mistress after all, but Margaret won’t hear of it, after all this. Instead, Nancy takes the girl under her wing, hands her a switch, and directs her to a bag hanging from the ceiling and tells her to channel all her anger into her arm. Lucy beats the hell out of that bag, and then puts on a Nancy-style coat of S&M asskicking, goes home, and tells her mother she’s ready. For what? We’ll just have to see if there’s another season so we can find out.
And presumably then we’ll find out how Charlotte gets on Chez Quigley, what further nefarious deeds Fallon will get up to, whether Margaret will join forces with the Scanwells to bring Quigley down, if Rasselas’s lover pulled through, whether or not Harriet will make moves on William (please, please, no!), and how well Fanny will take to motherhood. For now, things are quiet, with Margaret walking through her house on Greek Street, smiling at the girls as they cuddle Fanny’s daughter, grateful that they have, again, managed to squeak by. Just.