Lydia Quigley is out, but she’s not being too secretive about it in the latest Harlots episode. You think she’d be more discreet, but she’s going to all her old haunts, and so is quickly spotted and recognized, since she’s also back in her old wardrobe. And most of the women are… cool about it, with only Nancy seeming to recognize how much of a threat Quigley still is.
This episode of Harlots is indeed one of the most suspenseful in recent memory, with a shock few will see coming. So unexpected is this twist that the return of Wells matriarch Margaret, who just strolls in like she was never absent, pales in comparison. Since this is Margaret, her return is complicated, and just due to the fact that she still has a literal death sentence hanging over her that she just barely managed to escape. In order to get back to her family, the woman who refused to marry was forced to do exactly that it seems. And her husband Jonas Young is no mere patsy, genuinely caring for his wife and displaying a shocking amount of not just respect for her, but a great deal of comfort and knowledge about her past, even if it seems he’s unaware of the existence of her partner William.
There’s a whole lot of happy reunions, but it’s not exactly all joy. The Wells daughters, and everyone else, have missed Margaret, but life has also gone on, with everyone managing to overcome various attempts to control the business they’ve continued to build. Lucy even points out that their mother’s absence has allowed her to come into her own, and just how much she tends to take over their lives when she is present. Margaret’s return also coincides with a relatively new development for the Wells family: they’re all keeping various secrets from each other. Lucy hasn’t told William about the true nature of her new house, namely that they cater to gay men, Charlotte is keeping quiet about the fact that she’s bedding Isaac Pincher, and Margaret hasn’t told them the whole truth about her new husband.
Then again, she seems conflicted herself, and is too smart not to know just how trapped she still is, even if she hopes to somehow take her old family back to America with her. As Margaret confides to Nancy, she has a respectable life with Jonas, but she can’t bear to be separated from the people she was torn away from, yet she can’t exactly remain with them. They’ve not only surviving, they’re thriving without her. And as William points out, he and Jacob wouldn’t exactly be welcome to start a new life in America, and Margaret could still meet her end if the wrong person happens to recognize her in London.
There may be a whole new family in the process of forming with Quigley, who is still full of venom, but may become something of a wild card. She’s determined to rebuild, but she’s also formed a true bond with Kate, who decides to take the name Quigley now that her family has officially declared her dead after her escape from the asylum. Kate has proven herself capable, but she also has the kind of wide-eyed vulnerability of a new arrival in this world, one that men are all too happy to take take advantage of.
Things all come to a head at Isabella’s party, where menace hangs in the air, just waiting for someone unlucky enough to be destroyed. When someone finally is, it just might be the most shocking development on a show where selling sex is part of daily life and imprisonment and murder are regular occurrences. But the tragedy that unfolds has little to do with sex and everything to do with money and being in the wrong place at the wrong time, committed by the least likely suspect. What will happen next is nearly impossible to predict and may just build bridges that seemed to have burned forever. Or it may ignite a fire that will consume the world each character has struggled to build. But it all depends on if Harlots is able to handle it as skillfully as it has many of its other major storylines.