Harlots season 3 episode 6 review: A tension-filled hour brings even more changes

The breakneck pace of Harlots season 3 continues as a(nother) favorite says goodbye, several secrets are revealed and new alliances form.

It’s fairly rare, one would assume, to call a period drama intense. The whole point of these sorts of shows is that even in the midst of high emotion, everyone’s pretty chill.  It’s unlikely that your heart will be pounding during an exchange of sharp words over tea, or that a particularly eventful turn around a room at a party will take your breath away.

Well, those period dramas are not Harlots.

True, this show doesn’t include anything so mundane as tea dates or garden parties. But the sixth episode of season 3 is positively heart-pounding, as everyone tries to convince Margaret Wells to get out of England, Margaret attempts to guilt Lucy into coming with her, and Lydia Quigley gets the law involved.

Since Margaret is supposed to be dead and all, her entire existence in England at the moment is a risk. Harlots has mined that fact for all its worth, dramatically dressing her in a ridiculously large cloak as a disguise as she tries to hide the fact that she’s still breathing even as she strides through the street in broad daylight and has multiple conversations out in the open with virtually everyone she’s ever met.

Margaret is really not good at stealth, y’all.

As a result, there have been several dramatic close calls as a variety of different people have realized Margaret’s both 1.) back in London and 2.) not dead. Both Lydia and the Pincher brothers have been busy trying to blackmail various Wells family members to keep this information quiet, and it often seems as though every working girl in town knows the truth.

But there’s a sequence at the very end, and reader, let me tell you – my heart was in my throat. Between a furious Hal Pincher charging toward the dock where Margaret Well is busy attempting to convince her new husband Jonas to let her come back to America with him, while Emily is being dragged along behind him as she shouts at him to stop and Will North looms ominously ahead.

It’s honestly a shock that no one died in this moment. This entire sequence felt like anything could happen – at varying points it seemed as though Will would surely kill Hal to protect Margaret, that Hal might harm Emily in that “accidental” way he has of pushing women around, or that Emily might be driven to confess her knowledge of Isaac’s murder in the heat of the moment.

None of those things actually happened, believe it or not, but it’s a testament to how great this show is that I 100% believed that any/all of them could.

Now, Margaret is back off to America, though I wouldn’t be surprised if we see Samantha Morton again on Harlots at some point. Yet, to be fair, it’s not entirely clear what sort of story she might have if she did.

Her departure – complete with closure for her loved ones this time around – allows Lucy to step out of the shadows of her family into her own future. It gives Will a truly fresh start. (Just as Elizabeth Harvey is single, a move that’s probably no accident.) Kitty and Nancy move up to bigger roles as they take over the house on Greek Street, and Lydia had an opportunity to demonstrate – rather than just repeatedly say out loud – that she has changed. At least a little bit.

Sure, she’s the one who gave the law a heads up about Margaret’s still alive status to begin with, but she did step up to protect her when it came right down to it. If that’s not the ultimate coda to the prickly, complicated relationship these two women have had over the course of this show, I don’t know what is.

Of course, his frustration over Margaret’s departure also spurs Hal Pincher to confess to Emily that he’s the person who’s really responsible for Charlotte’s death, a gut punch of a moment that Holli Dempsey sells for all she’s worth. Emily barely says anything in response to Hal’s words, but the complicated war of emotions on her face does it for her. Shock, disgust, guilt and fear are all there, as Emily realizes that not only is her boyfriend’s a killer, but that she indirectly caused the death of an innocent man by telling Margaret and Nancy that Isaac for sure murdered Charlotte. Then there’s the not so small concern that Hal very well might kill her when he finds out everything she’s both known and done. And she’s getting blackmailed on top of everything else.

The bulk of Emily Lacey’s journey on Harlots to date has pretty much involved her getting out of one problematic and/or threatening situation after another. She’s been up and down the ladder of fate and fortune, but has managed to survive everything, by the skin of her teeth. How will she survive this?

New episodes of Harlots stream Wednesdays on Hulu.