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This is set in London in 1763. Margaret Wells ( Samantha Morton ), owner of a successful middle-class brothel in Covent Garden, conducts a rivalry with her former employer - Lydia Quigley ( Lesley Manville ), who controls the upper-class end of the market. This is the greatest female on-screen rivalry since Atia of the Julii's story arc in Rome (2005) .
Margaret Wells ( Samantha Morton ) plots revenge on her former employer - Lydia Quigley ( Lesley Manville ). The plan is to find a down-and-out whore who used to work for Mrs Quigley, and then use the unfortunate's downfall to smear the former employer.
An old friend of Margaret's comes to town. He is now a wealthy plantation owner in the Americas, and has a black woman as his wife. Ironically, Margaret is now married to a black man - William North (Danny Sapani - Black Panther (2018) ). Yes, this version of the Eighteenth century is multi-racial. In all fairness, there is a large probability that Blueskin Blake, a true-life criminal who was portrayed as an acne sufferer in the 1720s Jack Sheppard tale Where's Jack (1970) , was actually an Afro-Carribean person.
Margaret Wells ( Samantha Morton ) plans to move into a fancy new location, in the same high class neighbourhood as her former employer Lydia Quigley ( Lesley Manville ). Mrs Quigley has plans to undermine her rival, including good use for the rotting corpse that Wells left on her doorstep.
An old friend of Margaret, a wealthy plantation owner in the Americas, is now her investor. Unfortunately the investor is now on his deathbed. Things seem to work out for Margaret, so presumably she got the cash up front. However, his wife is a black woman. Somehow she is still legally a slave, although slavery on English soil ended in the reign of William the Conquerer and there were legal precedents (such as the case of perot Jones circa 1708AD).
Margaret's daughters have problems of their own, since they are both now courtesans to the aristocracy. The elder one is under pressure from her lover's wife to curb his extravagant spending. The junior one is working for Lord Wonky (Tim McInnerny - ), who is a less than pleasant fellow.
Margaret Wells ( Samantha Morton ) holds a masquerade party to publicise her new location.
Charlotte Wells ( Jessica Brown Findlay ) has a falling out with her keeper.
Margaret Wells ( Samantha Morton ) is still having problems finding a keeper for her youngest daughter. She desperately needs the cash, so she can pay off her debt and buy out her silent partner. The partner is a vicious brute who keeps his half-siblings as literal slaves. This is literally kidnapping, as slaves did not exist in English law.
Margaret is ruthlessly dedicated to her daughter. Now we see at least two people thrown under the bus for her.
Charlotte Wells ( Jessica Brown Findlay ) finally decides to run off with the Irish fellow. Of course, they have no financial resources so if they want to go to the American colonies they will have to find a way to work their passage.
Margaret Wells ( Samantha Morton ) made some hard decisions in the previous episodes. Now the messes she made must be cleared up.
The black whore and the black pimp team up to get her children back, before they are transported to slavery in the Americas. Of course, there was no slavery allowed in England - so the so-called slave-owner was really a criminal kidnapper.
Charlotte Wells ( Jessica Brown Findlay ) and the Irish fellow are jailed on suspicion of murder. The magistrate threatens to have her burned at the stake. Of course, this was not a legitimate method of execution. As with the issue of slavery, this show bears no resemblance to the actual laws of the period.
The survivors of the previous Season start to desert Margaret Wells ( Samantha Morton ). The French girl has left, off-screen. Now Margaret drives out the African-American girl, which alienates her husband from her.
The previous Justice being assassinated to keep him quiet about the conspiracy, a new one has been appointed by the puritanical boss. He decides to arrest Lydia Quigley ( Lesley Manville ), although she is not the most infamous of the brothel-keepers. This gives Margaret Wells the chance to get even with her arch-enemy, and she tries to find witnesses who will testify to Quigley's crimes in Season One.
Quigley sends Charlotte Wells ( Jessica Brown Findlay ) to collect a debt from Lady Isabella Fitzwilliam ( Liv Tyler ). Unfortunately, Isabella's funds are in the hands of her brother the Marquess of Blayne (Julian Rhind-Tutt - Britannia ).
One of Margaret's employees has been murdered, as an example of what will happen to anyone who testifies against Lydia Quigley ( Lesley Manville ). This is what might be referred to as women in refrigerators, although the storyline here is about female characters instead of males.
Fanny goes to her favourite customer, the local constable. He tries to comfort her, but points out There's not enough lawmen to protect the rich, never mind the poor. After all, the Charlotte's rich lover was mysteriously murdered at the climax of the previous Season, and the killer has never been caught. The lawman then tells her Women will always be at the mercy of mens' power , which is basically a line of Female Supremacist propaganda.
Margaret Wells ( Samantha Morton ) starts a riot against the new magistrate. Her friend Nancy the dominatrix is arrested, and can hardly be expected to receive a fair trial. The punishment is a public flogging, although it is the kind of thing her customers pay good money for.
Charlotte Wells ( Jessica Brown Findlay ) has another fight with her mother. She also witnesses Lydia disown Charlie - a reminder that most adults in this show have dysfunctional relationships. Not only is it about a group of empowered women, but they are well-written characters and deeply flawed human beings.
Lydia Quigley ( Lesley Manville ) cannot operate out of her own house, so she takes her girls to the house of her own mentor. Quigley then sends Charlotte Wells ( Jessica Brown Findlay ) to ask a favour from from Lady Isabella Fitzwilliam ( Liv Tyler ). Isabella offers to help Charlotte, but with one condition - stay away from her brother the Marquess of Blayne (Julian Rhind-Tutt - Britannia ).
Lucy Wells ( Eloise Smyth ) has a new offer from her potential suitor.
Emily Lacey ( Holli Dempsey ) needs some girls to staff her brothel. She decides to go for the niche market, It turns out that there are at least three Black whores in the neighbourhood. Charlie takes a liking to a little white woman, Cherry Dorrington ( Francesca Mills ).
Margaret Wells ( Samantha Morton ) has a few vacancies in her own brothel. Her new recruit, Hannah Dalton ( Nichola Coughlan ), is a bit more mainstream. Audiences may recognise her as the Wee Lezzer from Derry Girls.
Lucy Wells ( Eloise Smyth ) settles into life with her rich new protector. He offers to teach her sword-fighting, among other things. Although he seems quite taken with her, which may cause a rift between him and his co-conspirators.
Lydia Quigley ( Lesley Manville ) decides to hold a party with a virgin auction. Charlotte Wells ( Jessica Brown Findlay ) offers to help out, but decides she cannot go through with it. With help from Lady Isabella Fitzwilliam ( Liv Tyler ), she tries to save the virgin.
Lucy Wells ( Eloise Smyth ) shares a secret with her rich new protector.
The Justice asks the preacher-woman's daughter to marry him. She is torn about it ... common sense says to take the good deal offered, but her religion will not allow her to tell a lie. Well, she tells lies of omission by being a closeted lesbian.
Charlotte Wells ( Jessica Brown Findlay ) has been caught out by Lydia Quigley ( Lesley Manville ). It was only a matter of time - she was never discreet about her intentions, and now is no different.
Lord Fallon now has left additional witnesses to his murderous attacks. His best option is to take Lucy Wells ( Eloise Smyth ) and go on a Grand Tour of Europe. Unfortunately his conspiracy of rich old white men does not approve.
Everyone else decides to share their innermost secrets. This seems to be a set-up for lots of climactic confrontations in the Season's final two episodes.
Margaret Wells ( Samantha Morton ) is on death row for the killing in Season One. Charlotte Wells ( Jessica Brown Findlay ) teams up with Lady Isabella Fitzwilliam ( Liv Tyler ) in an attempt to get her clemency.
Lord Fallon is also arrested for murder. The Marquess of Blayne (Julian Rhind-Tutt - Britannia ) conspires with Lydia Quigley ( Lesley Manville ) to free him. But will Lucy Wells ( Eloise Smyth ) purjor herself to protect her protector?
Instead of a public execution, the hangman does his work in a dingy basement. This allows the boss a certain leeway.
The preacher's daughter has survived her wound. Lord Fallon now has to shut her up permanently. Unfortunately Lucy Wells ( Eloise Smyth ) has developed suspicions.
This is set a year after the ending of the previous Season. Charlotte Wells ( Jessica Brown Findlay ) has taken over her mother's position as boss of the house, while Lady Isabella Fitzwilliam ( Liv Tyler ) tries to organise charitable support from the rich wives.
Isaac Pincher (Alfie Allen - Game of Thrones ) drops by to enjoy Charlotte's delights. He is creating a new handbook of all the whores in London, which gives him leverage over the whores themselves. Of course, the very first scene of Season One started with the girls reading their entries in a directory. Anyway, the Pinchers now want to become super-pimps and get a quarter of every whore's earnings.
Charlie Quigley has failed as a businessman, and has been deserted by everyone except Cherry Dorrington ( Francesca Mills ). Emily Lacey ( Holli Dempsey ) is working in one of the Pinchers' taverns. She has ambitions, and wants to become involved in commerce. This in spite of the fact that she failed as a bawd herself, and that the House of Exotics is now run by her former minion.
Lucy Wells ( Eloise Smyth ) amuses herself by teasing the rich customers. Now she becomes a junior partner in a Molly House, using the Golden Square townhouse formerly owned by the Quigley clan.
Charlotte Wells ( Jessica Brown Findlay ) seeks revenge on Isaac Pincher (Alfie Allen - Game of Thrones ), who she suspects - without proof - of burning her brothel. Lucy Wells ( Eloise Smyth ) provides a distraction by stripping in front of the Pinchers' Pub as a way of advertising her new molly-house, which pretends to be a tailor's shop for discerning gentlemen.
Meanwhile, Lady Isabella Fitzwilliam ( Liv Tyler ) has discovered that her daughter has eloped with a servant. Luckily, Isabella still has time to participate in the main storyline.
Emily Lacey ( Holli Dempsey ) gets lessons in commerce from her favourite customer (Gordon - ). She has plans to invest her pimp's earnings.
Kate Bottomley ( Daisy Head ) is getting treatment for her excessive libido. The Doctor is giving her the hair of the dog, so to speak. This is the same treatment that led to the invention of the vibrator - a toy that today is treated as a prize of female liberation. Luckily her cellmate Lydia Quigley ( Lesley Manville ) has a plan for them to escape from Bedlam hospital for the insane.
The Wells sisters and the Trimmer brothers have an uneasy truce. Charlotte Wells ( Jessica Brown Findlay ) and Isaac (Alfie Allen - Game of Thrones ) secretly meet up for illicit sex to seal the deal.
The Trimmers have a new plan - invest their money in land in the American colonies. They visit a businessman (John Lynch - Merlin ) who can sell them the land. It turns out that he bought himself an indentured servant in the Americas, and ended up marrying her. She is a familiar face ...
Lydia Quigley ( Lesley Manville ) has plans for her new protege, and introduces her to polite society. Her big plan is to gate-crash a boxing match being held at the house of Lady Fitzwilliam ( Liv Tyler ). The other main plot threads all converge at the same event. Unfortunately the truce is now declared over, which escalates things and ends in a horrendous tragedy.
Lydia Quigley ( Lesley Manville ) and her new protege were the first ones to find the body. Emily Lacey ( Holli Dempsey ) sees them leave the party, and passes the word along. This is before the creation of the police detective agency, so the Judge does his own investigating. Luckily Justice Knox is a keen investigator.
It turns out that Quigley has turned over a new leaf. She is protective towards her new protege, and regretful over Charlotte's fate. After all, if she can forgive her son for sending her to Bedlam she can forgive anyone for anything. Well, perhaps not exactly anyone. As with the previous episode, she has no trust for the Marquis of Blayne (Julian Rhind-Tutt - Britannia ). However, he is eager to get into the good graves of Prince Henry so he is willing to pay good money to borrow Kate.
The Pincher brothers are also suspects. Isaac (Alfie Allen - Game of Thrones ) is grief-ridden, but unable to attend the funeral for obvious reasons. Instead he just lurks about, and accidentally overhears more than he should.
Arthur Chadwick (Gordon Kennedy - ) is still eager to make the land purchase from Mr Young ( Merlin ). However, despite knowing that Emily was a whore and that her associates the Pinchers were happy to help him to dispose of a gunshot victim's body after a duel went wrong, he has decided to no longer keep company with crooks. Yes, he has gotten a high opinion of himself and as a result Emily and the Pinchers are out of the deal.
Margaret Wells ( Samantha Morton ) has been too highly visible, and now too many people know she is back in town. Although she insists on staying in London until the killer is found, the two major suspects are able to use her vulnerability as leverage. Lydia Quigley ( Lesley Manville ) already has a one-third share in the Molly House, and now she has something that enables her to enforce her will. The Pinchers extort Mr Young (John Lynch - Merlin ) into selling his land.
Justice Knox is a Radical, who wants to depose the aristocracy and replace it in power with a meritocracy. Somehow that makes the young and choosy harlots want to give him free goes. What makes his job easier is the harlots conspiring together and coming forth to testify against their enemies for their own personal gain.
There is a strong theme of racism in this episode. Stronger than usual, anyway. One Lord enjoys the companionship of a black harlot, much to the envy of a black man who feels entitled to the woman himself. Although the Lord always pays his debts, including public support for a posthumous pardon for Margaret Wells, he is still targeted with accusations of villainy. His jealous shrew of a wife confronts his mistress, and makes accusations about her husband being the cruel and racist owner of a massive slave plantation in the West Indies. Naturally the harlot assumes the worst of her loyal customer.
Margaret Wells ( Samantha Morton ) knows she will have to take the blame for what happened to Isaac Pincher (Alfie Allen - Game of Thrones ). Luckily one of her husbands, Mr Young (John Lynch - Merlin ), is returning to Virginia on the next ship available.
Someone is kidnapping young black men off the streets of London, presumably to ship them off to Virginia too. Nobody bothers to tell Magistrate Knox, even though slavery had no legal status on English soil and it would have been called good old-fashioned kidnapping.
Lydia Quigley ( Lesley Manville ) tries to run interference for the Marquis of Blayne (Julian Rhind-Tutt - Britannia ). He is a very powerful man, with the Prince's ear. However, the other harlots seem intent on ruining him rather than simply playing his game by his own rules. This is a high risk strategy with very little for them to gain.
Lydia Quigley ( Lesley Manville ) and the Marquis of Blayne (Julian Rhind-Tutt - Britannia ) have introduced her new star to the Prince. Everything is going well for them. Unfortunately the Magistrate seeks to build a case against them, with Lucy Wells ( Eloise Smyth ) as his star witness.
The Molly House in Golden Square is in serious financial trouble. As soon as the first backer pulled out, the rest are soon to follow. Now Lucy is hunted down for debtors' jail.
Emily Lacey ( Holli Dempsey ) and her boyfriend Pincher get caught up in several subplots. He offers his services as a supplier of security to the black bawd, now that her boxer boyfriend Jack has been kidnapped. Pincher agrees to find Jack. After all, they are both members of the massive Afro-Carribean community.
Meanwhile, Lady Isabella Fitzwilliam ( Liv Tyler ) knows that her brother the Marquis knows where her daughter is. She steals the baby, and returns it to its birth-mother. Is the mother merely a temporary wet-nurse until the baby can be traded for his cousin?
Emily Lacey ( Holli Dempsey ) has to choose sides. Her boyfriend is involved in shipping rivals to a Lord's slave plantation. While this is kidnapping, a crime punishable by hanging, there is another form of enforced servitude that is still legal. The Royal Navy press-gangs men ...
The old myth is that the men had all the power. This episode disproves its own theory, and shows that every man is a slave to the women in his life.