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Toward the end of the first episode of Harlots , something distinctly odd happens. Our primary protagonist, the soon-to-be prostitute Lucy Wells Eloise Smyth , offers up her virginity as a quick way to make up the outstanding funds needed for her mother, brothel owner and proprietor Margaret Wells Samantha Morton , to buy a new place of business.
In the mid-to-late 18th century, in which Harlots takes place, the immorality of this act was less, er, noteworthy, both for strangers and for Margaret herself. Her presumed influence on her daughters to take up the same kind of work comes from a place of experience, knowledge, fear, and more than a little anger.
All the time, pressure, and thought that goes into her offer seems to dissipate like steam immediately. This is a rather persistent problem with Harlots , at least from the two episodes that were screened for critics. In fact, what seems to drive Harlots more than a tone or genuine insight is a give-no-shits attitude evoked by a cadre of women of all ages just trying to get out from under the thumb of the ruling class. Even as the creators heave exposition and the most familiar dramatic dynamics onto this cast, they ably spin much of the bad jokes and plot-laden dialogue into rhythmic duels of flimsy perspective.
What is one meant to do with a blues-rock riff playing over scenes of poverty-strewn London and its sinful lot that seems more at home in a Black Keys demo that never became a song? How about trap percussion that undercuts a dramatic sequence for no tenable reason? I can only presume that all of it is meant to communicate the toughness and nimble, clever nature of these women, which would have been evident to me about 10 seconds after first setting eyes on Morton.
One does not need a throwaway Stevie Ray Vaughn lick to figure that out. Facebook Messenger Click the button below and wait for a message from our Facebook bot in Messenger! Reviews Movie Clips Interviews. Image via Hulu. Previous Article.