Episode 5 of Harlots is huge. Stories develop, moves are made, and danger is around every corner. In Harlots Episode 5 we see Lydia Quigley (Lesley Manville) brings Charlotte Wells (Jessica Brown Findlay) deeper into her life and leaves her with guilty hands. But as things intensify Charlotte becomes closer to compromising herself in the hope of sending Dame Death to the gallows. All of this happens while Lucy Wells (Eloise Smyth) finds herself growing closer to Lord Fallon (Ben Lambert) and exciting the Spartan in him and herself. And Amelia Scanwell (Jordon Stevens) must make a choice that might destroy her relationship. As always, spoilers below the line.
Throughout this season the Scanwells, Amelia, and her mother, Florence (Dorothy Atkinson), have been emerging as characters with their own stories to tell. In season one of Harlots, the Scanwells were highlighted in the background. We learned that Florence is a reformed harlot and that Amelia is in love with a harlot, Violet Cross (Rosalind Eleazar). This season, we see more of everything. We see more of the elder Scanwell acting as a mother and we get to see how Amelia progresses her relationship with Violet while dealing with issues of hiding her love and the hellfire and brimstone preached by her mother.
Up until this point, Violet and Amelia have been stealing kisses and time while Violet has been Justice Hunt’s (Sebastian Armesto) maid. Having worked out an arrangement with Hunt, Amelia is Violet’s teacher. Their love has been growing but as Violet notices Hunt showing affection towards her girlfriend, the tension builds. As much as Amelia has feared to lose her love, the show highlights the danger of being LGBTQ+ in 1800s London. In Harlots Episode 5 the audience sees the secret that Rasselas (Josef Altin) sold to Lydia Quigley come to light, when Dame Death threatens Florence to release the information of Amelia’s relationship to Justice Hunt and ruin any future that her daughter may have in the world and as Rasselas makes the audience aware, Hunt is hanging their kind in his crusade to bring “justice” to the city.
This revelation leads to a confrontation between the Scanwell women and a battle between their interpretation of scripture. Amelia tells her mother that Jesus says, “to walk amongst the sinners.” Her mother affirms this and then says, but not to become one. During this confrontation, we see that Justice Hunt not only proposed to Amelia but also brought it to her mother. Florence repeatedly yells that Violet will pull Amelia down but Hunt will save her. All while Amelia believes that she should be with who she loves.
This, in connection with other conversations she’s had with Margaret Wells (Samantha Morton) – which were had while caring for Fanny’s daughter – shows the audience a mother, desperate to help her daughter. Although it is easy to dismiss her as a bigot, we can see real fear for her daughter. All of this culminates with Amelia accepting Justice Hunt’s marriage proposal, and Violet feeling betrayed. As the show has shown us in the past, for women, of any class, it’s about survival. Accepting the proposal means survival for Amelia, and yes, even Violet.
Quigley Strikes back
Margaret gave Lydia Quigley the moniker “Dame Death” for a reason, for the murders that she’s complicit in and for the girls that she abducts, and the attacks she launches against her enemies. Knowing that Emily Lacey (Holli Dempsey) gave testimony against her, she sends culls to Lacey’s bawdy house and they ransack the place. As one escapes, Nancy Birch tortures the one that is knocked out. He spills his guts and Emily knows that Quigley is out for blood. That being said, she loses the support of Charles Quigley, her shield against Dame Death’s threats.
Persephone or a Spartan?
Having shown that she doesn’t fear Lord Fallon, Lucy begins to come into her own Harlots Episode 5. I have to be honest, in the first season, I didn’t like her character. She was whiny, a brat, and somehow entitled even with her low standing in society. That being said, season two has shown her morphed by the killing of Sir George Howard (Hugh Skinner). It was shown in the last episode in her aggression with the fencing sword and in this one every time she was on screen with Fallon. You see her enthralled with him and pleasured by him. You see her own her sexuality and as we hear Lord Fallon explain how he admires killers, she owns season one’s murder.
In that scene, we don’t see the emotion in them. It’s weird and powerful and their faces don’t crack. If I can explain any emotion that they express, it’s admiration for Fallon and pride from Lucy. It really is a chilling scene. The woman who we thought had been stolen away by Hades we begin to realize that she isn’t a goddess, she is, in fact, a Spartan.
Lord Fallon plainly states that “killers have a certain nobility” gained from the fact that to him, “killing is an art.” This doesn’t scare her. As he explains that Spartans were warriors of superior men, Lucy proclaims that she is a Spartan. When she reveals that she killed a man above her station – granted Margaret was the one who finished the deed – Fallon is intrigued and impressed that the prey had killed the predator. Is this Lucy now? Is this who she has been all along or is she just playing along?
The Five-Headed Beast Roars
While the rest of the story moves with the background characters, Charlotte puts her plan in motion to take down Quigley. She convinces Quigley to hold a party in the style of the Vestal Virgins. This isn’t just the existing women of Golden Square, it’s an auction for a virgin girl, one which Charlotte helps procure. We see the cycle of finding a new girl repeated for the first time this season.
They go to the place where people sit be chosen for work, they question a beautiful girl about her virginity, they bring her to Golden Square, and then they drug her. She remains dazed for the entirety of the night while her virginity is sold and taken from her. It’s revealed that Margaret didn’t have the stomach from it, and although Charlotte pays along, she doesn’t either. After the abduction, Charlotte makes her move with the other women the five-headed beast. She raises money to buy the girl and then take her from the house to safety, where she can give witness against Quigley. The plan should be completed once Noah Webster (Eric Kofi-Abrefa) wins the bid, it isn’t complicated.
But things don’t go as planned. Having been brought into the plan, Lady Isabella (Liv Tyler) attempts to contribute to the bid for the girl. But her brother refuses to give her funds. She instead includes her grandmother’s necklace. After Noah wins the bid, he tries to persuade Quigley to allow him to take the girl elsewhere, but she refuses. As she counts the money and reveals the necklace, Marquess of Blayne (Julian Rhind-Tutt) spots it, his grandmother’s necklace. And suddenly he knows why his sister wanted money, or at least thinks that he does. No matter how much Charlotte vouches for Noah it isn’t enough. He is kicked out as a thief, and she is locked in a room, repeating the captivity of Emily Lacey and the other girls of Golden Square.
What can we expect next?
I honestly don’t what to expect after Harlots Episode 5. We’ve seen Charlotte caged before, and we know that she’s a fighter. But with both of her daughters at someone else’s mercy, I’m hoping we see Mama Wells and their dad, Willaim North, come through with a vengeance. However, I think it’s become abundantly clear that Lucy is no longer a hostage of Lord Fallon, she’s almost his equal. I’m also hoping to find out what the secret that Quigley is holding over Lady Fitz’s head. Now that he brother knows of the blackmail, I think it’s long passed due for the audience to know why she wants to bring Quigley down.
Kate is co-founder, EIC, and CCO of BWT. She’s also a Certified Rotten Tomatoes Critic, host, and creator of our flagship podcast, But Why Tho? and Did You Have To?. She also manages all PR relationships for comics, manga, film, TV, and anime. She has an MA in Cultural Anthropology and Religious Studies focusing on how pop culture impacts society.