The Harlots Season 3 Finale is finally here! How does it hold up against previous seasons, and is there potential for a fourth season? Keep reading for our thoughts.
After some massive casting changes, it seemed as though the Harlots viewers knew and loved was a thing of the past. While it’s certainly true that Harlots will never really be the same after Charlotte’s (Jessica Brown Findlay) death and subsequently Margaret’s (Samantha Morton) departure, the season finale shows that it doesn’t have to be.
This article contains major spoilers for the Harlots Season 3. You’ve been warned!
There’s no doubt that Harlots season 3 has been much different than its earlier seasons. After killing off, arguably, the central character, it seemed as if the show lost its footing. Not only did this have to do with the unearned focus on the brief romance between Charlotte and Isaac Pincher (Alfie Allen), but also with the addition of more new characters to an already bloated canvas.
With five new series regulars, the focus in the first half of season three was all over the place. Obviously, they need to become somewhat established for people to begin to care about them. But one big issue from the start was that these new characters were added seemingly at the expense of season two’s series regulars. It’s a bit jarring considering season two set up a love triangle between Violet Cross, Amelia Scanwell, and Justice Hunt, only for those characters to be completely ignored in season three. It makes the viewers question why they should care about the characters in the first place.
With Charlotte gone, Harlots needed to refocus the show in a short amount of time. This led to some significant pacing issues when the season needed to be ramping up—fans were still reeling from Charlotte’s death and it seemed as though the show wanted to shoehorn Kate Bottomley (Daisy Head) into her place.
There was also more focus on the Pincher storyline than desired; Isaac turned out to be extremely one note before he’s killed by Nancy (Kate Fleetwood). His death is somewhat shocking but his character didn’t serve enough of a purpose to warrant care over it. Hal (Ash Hunter) didn’t prove to be much better, simply going from one extreme mood to another with no other character traits. Their storyline was pretty disappointing for how hyped it had been in the trailer, and the big names attached to the roles.
By the time episode seven rolled around, it was time to make or break the season. And ironically enough, it’s after Margaret’s permanent departure (due to Morton’s new role in The Walking Dead) that Harlots, as Lucy (Eloise Smythe) puts it “breathe [its] own air.” While Charlotte’s death still affected the whole season (she’s mentioned in every episode), eliminating three characters from the show gave it much more room to breathe and flesh out much-neglected stories, as well as weave the various plots together in a satisfying way.
One of the stories that gained more attention is the Golden Square plot. This story had a lot of potential from the beginning as Harlots has never included a molly house before, and it immediately tied Elizabeth Harvey (Angela Griffin) to two established characters, Lydia Quigley (Lesley Manville) and Lucy.
Elizabeth and her son Fredo (Aiden Cheng) were instant scene stealers from the beginning. When viewers finally get the opportunity to get to know them, it creates a conflict because Elizabeth is a compelling character, but she’s thrown Lucy under the bus causing her to get put in Debtors Prison. It’s where the Pinchers’ storylines went wrong; they weren’t compelling enough for viewers to care what happened to them in spite of what they’d done.
Other side characters that shine more in the reshuffling of the canvas include Harriet Lennox (Pippa Bennett-Warner), Lady Isabella (Liv Tyler), and Nancy. Each of these characters has been able to come into their own at the end of season three, and have more involvement in the story overall. Harriet’s story as one of the only prominent black women on the show has been important since it was first introduced, however, it often doesn’t take priority. While the show still has quite a long way to go in giving Harriet more to do, episodes seven and eight ties all of the plots together, including Harriet’s, who gets involved with Hal Pincher only for him to turn on her in the end.
While Harriet is turning out to be a power player, Lady Isabella’s story arc this season has definitely been lackluster. From her woefully short affair with Charlotte to a retread of her plot last season, it seemed as though the show was unsure of how to use Tyler’s talents. In the aftermath of Charlotte’s death, she isn’t given much to do; the role of grieving lover has (unfortunately) been taken by Isaac and with her daughter gone off her role as a mother has taken a backseat. Her story gains more traction when her brother, the Marquess (Julian Rhind-Tutt), returns and she manages to get his new son away from him and back to his mother with Nancy’s help. The two share a brief kiss after Nancy punches Harcourt, and it’s clear from the final scenes of the finale there may be more romance between the two. Since we’ve yet to see Nancy romantically involved with anyone in the previous seasons, it would be a great change of pace.
Then there is the question of Lydia Quigley. The entirety of season three has been a “will she/won’t she” in terms of betraying those she claims to love. It’s frustrating to say the least, as her previous actions don’t warrant a redemption arc in the slightest. This behavior lasts up to the finale, as the Marquess wants her to procure a girl for him to kill, or risk Kate being the one he takes his ire out on. She attempts to do as he asks since she’s after his influence, but she is unable. However, it seems like she may have a change of heart when she drugs Lucy (newly free from the Debtors Prison thanks to Lydia blackmailing Elizabeth to take her place) and brings in the Marquess to see her.
Watching the Marquess attempt to assault Lucy is distressing, to say the least. Of all the characters this season Lucy’s development has been the most rewarding. She’s been through so much and is still trying to find her path; it would make Charlotte proud. However, just before the Marquess tries to harm Lucy, Lydia stabs him in the back. Lucy, who has finally come to, also stabs him before he can kill Lydia. They each watch him die and the relief is visible on their faces.
Because he attacked first, they won’t face any charges; and given the Marquess’ history of abusing and murdering women, the law isn’t exactly upset about his untimely demise. Lydia making the choice to betray the Marquess is a relief, but it’s still difficult to actually want her character to thrive given what she has done to dozens of other girls. Only time will tell what her character is capable of.
While it doesn’t quite reach season two’s level of intrigue, Harlots season three manages to end the season on a strong high note. Elizabeth (who reveals her real name is Emma Harrison) is living in Debtors Prison but taken care of, Fanny is running the Wells’ house, and Emily Lacey (Holli Dempsey) has taken over the Pincher’s tavern after sending Hal into the Navy for his involvement with slave traders.
Kate is still on good terms with Lydia, but cannot live with her any longer. Lydia says she understands, saying “I scare you.” Kate’s silence is as good as a yes, but soon after Lucy tells Lydia “You don’t scare me.” And the episode ends with them together, drinking in Golden Square. Presumably, the Wells-Quigley feud is over and a new era has begun. Whether or not Harlots is renewed for a fourth season, at least season three brought a satisfying conclusion for all the characters.
Do you think there should be a Harlots season four? Or was the season three finale a satisfying conclusion? Let us know in the comments below!
All three seasons of the Harlots are currently streaming on Hulu.
(Source: Entertainment Weekly)