Everyone loves a good feud, that’s why people today are still talking about the Hatfields and the McCoys 150 years later. Harlots is driven by a similar narrative, but instead of the feud being led by men, it is the Wells and Quigley women who are in a state of constant combat in this 18th Century drama.
Margaret Wells is trying to improve her standing by moving her brothel from the gutter to a posh neighborhood, which wouldn’t be a problem if it wasn’t for her nemesis and former baud Lydia Quigley’s interference. As the drama between the two women unfolds and the hatred is passed on to Margaret’s children the feud takes on a larger presence in the lives of the two enterprising families.
Harlots, while it tells the story of rival brothels, is about much, much more than sex. The intrigue is found not in the character’s salacious work, but in the corrupt dealings with the justice system, the abuse of the poor and the obscene actions of the wealthy.
Samantha Morton is the heart of the series in her role as the Wells matriarch and her seething hatred for Quigley (Lesley Manville) is well balanced by the delicate affection she has for her children. Jessica Brown Findlay (known for her role on Downton Abbey) shines as the spirited Charlotte Wells, layering in delicate complexities into her character with each passing episode.
The costumes and set design employed in Harlots provides a splashy color scheme and the wigs are sure to capture the fancy of the audience.
While this show isn’t necessarily a show viewers will want to watch with their families, due to the sexual nature and the language employed throughout the series, it does capture the audience’s mind in an unexpected way. It should be noted that rape and sexual assault is often discussed/seen throughout the series.
Harlots has two seasons with 16 hour-long episodes available on Hulu. Viewers might also enjoy watching Netflix’s Jessica Jones which follows the story of a feisty and aggressive superpowered private investigator.