“I don’t need a rescuer. I am the rescuer,” Kate Quigley tells the well-meaning magistrate who’s trying to save her from a life of luxury as the Prince’s mistress. This is generally where a woman would be punished for her ambitions by being victimized by a wealthy cad before she falls into the arms of a man who lacks in wealth, but is rich in kindness.
That may yet be the case, as Kate Quigley has already suffered harm at the hands of her keeper by the time she makes this declaration. As her surrogate mother Lydia tells her, she’s reached the pinnacle of her profession, but Kate still feels there’s work to do. The Prince is less than gallant, but he also has complexity. He’s mostly well-meaning towards Kate, but he also has a very bad influence in Blayne. In one of the show’s less than subtle moves, Blayne passes on a few pointers about how women supposedly respond to brutality. By showing the repentant and receptive Prince otherwise, Kate even envisions a possible route to making her nation a better place. Only on Harlots could this be a possibility rather than a pipe dream.
In any case, Harlots is quick to point out that this strategy usually backfires spectacularly. Emily Lacey’s situation is bad enough. She’s still clinging to her belief in Hal’s love, even if she finally reveals to Nancy that he was the one who actually murdered Charlotte. This hardly gives Nancy peace of mind, since she now has even more reason to repent for murdering Isaac. Yet it still pales next to Emily’s regrets once her involvement in the murder is partially revealed to Hal. Given what’s happened to the other main cast members, there’s genuine suspense regarding her fate, even after Hal reassures Emily he’d never hurt her. She may agree, but the growing doubt in her eyes says otherwise.
For all that, Emily is still savvy enough to recognize that Isabella’s daughter Sophia is in a tight spot. Last her mother heard, Sophia was happily married to the servant she eloped with. There’s an irony in Emily calling her a poor fool, but Sophia deserves some sympathy, seeing as her husband is in league with Blayne, who has plans that make even the most jaded conman hesitate.
At least Blayne gets dealt a very satisfying blow by his sister when Isabella literally walks out of his sumptuous estate with his son and returns him to his mother. Some men are past reform though, as this only makes Blayne regret not doing more to silence the women in his life. He even wants to double down on his bad behavior and silence Lucy, who’s now in debtor’s prison due to her business partner Elizabeth Harvey’s mistakes. Really, can’t she ever save herself just once?
More importantly, though, is just what action Lydia Quigley will take, as she’s still associating with Blayne and actively helping him to keep her fragile hold on power. Even if she’s able to face him down when he threatens her with death, Blayne also demands she return to her old ways and bring him someone to victimize. Lydia is unnerved, but is she unnerved enough to refuse? The answer is once again unclear in what remains the most watchable character arc yet.