Harlots. Whore. Prostitutes. Pick whatever adjective you want, in the end it’s still the same, women selling themselves for money. Harlots isn’t just about sex, although you will find that in this series. It’s about women doing what they have to survive and the struggles they face.
Harlots is a set in London 1793 where one in five women are using sex to make a living. As the time period, there isn’t a lot of opportunity for women to advance themselves. You either marry well, work as a maid or a prostitute. The two biggest brothels in London are run my Margaret Wells and Lydia Quigley. Margaret used to work for Lydia before getting her freedom and buying her own house to have her business. The prostitutes have gain popularity due to a Harris’s List of Covent Garden Ladies, where the Harlots are living. They women discuss their personal reviews in the premiere. However, new laws have been put in place to shut down brothels and to raid houses suspected of being them.
“Sweet Emily, why don’t you just cluck off?” — Kitty Carter
The show focuses on Margaret Wells, her two daughters and the women who work for her. She has a rivalry with Lydia Quigley and Lydia would like nothing more then to destroy Margaret for good. Margaret has already sold her oldest daughter, Charlotte, off to a “protector” and is working on getting her youngest, Lucy introduced into the world of Harlots and find her a protector as well. Margaret is able to move from the lower end of London to a better class of London after selling Lucy’s virginity and gets focuses on growing her business that she starts to neglect her family. Charlotte is unhappy with her protector Sir George Howard and Sir George wants to control CharSirlotte at any cost.
Meanwhile Lydia is plotting to destroy Margaret. She has set up a spy across the street from her new house, two women who are holy religious and Lydia is able to blackmail them both in order to keep them working for her. What Lydia doesn’t know is that soon these two women will turn on her and while there are several twists and turns, bringing in the social problems happening in the new United States, with slaves and how ownership of them is determined. There are also ties into how the constables in London were supposed to be shutting down brothels but many of them are regular visitors to the brothels so they turn a blind eye, to say it lightly.
The first season or series, given that it’s a British TV show, only has 8 episodes to get you drawn in. I was hooked after the first one. I was never sure where the plot or story of these women was going to head. Just when I thought I had Margaret or Lydia figured out, they would do something much worse that it would just change my perception of them. And while there are moments where you really just want to tell these women they’re being idiots, they seem to have to learn the hard way. I give it 9 out of 10 stars. The last episode is especially one that is hard to watch because what happens isn’t how you will want it to go but you will understand at the end. It sets itself up nicely for a second season, which Hulu hasn’t confirmed or denied them of that yet so I’m hoping it gets picked up. Harlots entire first season is now streaming on Hulu.