Dearest reader, did you miss me?
And by "me," I mean the gowns, the sideburns, the firelight, the kissing, the daddy issues, the ever-buzzing bees, and, of course, the dulcet tones of Julie Andrews guiding us through another season of beautiful people in beautiful clothes falling into beautiful love.
Episode 1: Capital "R" Rake
Bridgerton season 2 opens with reluctant debutante Eloise Bridgerton (Claudia Jessie), who's close to hyperventilating before her presentation to Queen Charlotte is interrupted by the arrival of the first Lady Whistledown missive in months.
Across town, Penelope Featherington (Nicola Coughlan) watches the excitement in the streets below from her drawing-room window. Lest we forget, our sharp little Pen's been Whistledown all along, and now she's dressing as a lady's maid and haggling like a boss as she runs her empire. Bonus points for letting Coughlan use her Irish accent while she's in disguise. (Run, don't walk, to watch her in Netflix's Derry Girls if you haven't yet.)
Whistledown's going to have her hands full this season with the news that Anthony Bridgerton (Jonathan Bailey), having parted ways with his opera-singer mistress Sienna, is hunting for a wife. And love won't be part of the equation; he's looking for child-bearing hips and half a brain, although the latter's more a preference than a requirement.
Of note: Anthony's sideburns are under much better control this season, as are Daphne's (Phoebe Dynevor) bangs.
We get our first splashy Vitamin String Quartet cover — Nirvana's "Stay Away" — as Anthony methodically eliminates lady after insipid lady on his list of potential wives, interspersed with scenes of him tackling paperwork and visiting prostitutes. In short, he's having no fun at all… until he comes across a woman racing through the park on horseback.
He gives chase, thinking she might be in trouble, but he's the one who ought to be worried. Because the woman is Kate Sharma (Simone Ashley), a fearless rider with flowing black locks, a challenging gaze, and a jaw that could cut glass. When he catches up with her, they engage in the first of countless verbal skirmishes that'll leave him (and the audience, to be honest) dizzily infatuated.
Meet Kate, everyone. An "old maid" at twenty-six, her only goal this season is to find a husband for Edwina (Charithra Chandran). She and Edwina are half-sisters after Mary Sheffield (Shelley Conn) caused a scandal by marrying Kate's penniless father, but the three women are as close as blood.
Kate's so determined to see Edwina succeed that she finds herself locking horns with Lady Danbury (Adjoa Andoh), who's sponsoring the Sharmas for the season, over the best tactics to snare a husband for little sis.
Still, we do catch Kate holding one of Edwina's gowns up in the mirror, dreaming the dreams she packed away for herself in favor of getting Edwina married.
To the ball! Madonna's "Material Girl" plays as Violet Bridgerton (Ruth Gemmell) rocks the ton by loudly announcing Anthony's intentions to marry this season.
Although this delights almost every eligible woman on the marriage market, Kate's disgusted to overhear Anthony bro-ing it up on the terrace about his intention to marry someone of impeccable breeding stock.
When he busts her for eavesdropping, she coolly informs him that his character's as deficient as his horsemanship, which is an A+ Regency burn. Though she also admits that his smile is pleasing, it's not how Anthony was hoping their second encounter would go.
Kate and Lady Danbury clear the air when Kate confides that the Sheffields — Edwina's estranged grandparents — will give her a sizable dowry if she marries someone of British nobility. But she wants Edwina to find a love match without the burden of that knowledge, so she's keeping it from her mother and sister. Lady Danbury thinks this is unwise but agrees to secrecy.
Penelope's finding it hard to keep her secrets with Eloise constantly by her side at every social event. Although the two are as close as ever, Pen's quietly crushed that Eloise prefers Mary Wollstonecraft to empty gossip these days.
At least Eloise won't have to live up to Daphne's legacy as the diamond of the season. The queen (Golda Rosheuvel), feeling the heat from a series of critical Whistledown columns, names Edwina the diamond. (Song accompaniment: "Shine Bright Like a Diamond," natch.)
With that pronouncement, Anthony locks onto Edwina as his bride, setting him on a collision course with protective Kate, who forbids her younger sister from associating with the man she loathed on sight.
Let the marital games begin.
Episode 2: Off to the Races
This god-level enemies-to-lovers energy is what we all need and deserve. Off to the races indeed.
Since Edwina's been named the diamond, men are lining up to court her, with prickly Kate as the guardian at the gate. When she rebuffs Anthony's attempts to take Edwina to the races, he hatches an alternate plan that involves the Bridgerton clan — including Colin (Luke Newton), newly returned from his travels around the continent — presenting a united front.
Also in attendance is the new Lord Jack Featherington (Rupert Young), fresh from the Americas to claim the bankrupt estate he inherited after the death of the previous Lord Featherington. Lady Featherington (Polly Walker — WE STAN) is relieved that he's got a fortune in overseas ruby mines, as she has three daughters to marry off. She's less thrilled about his antler-and-gun-based decorating motif, which… fair.
At the races, the friendly Thomas Dorset introduces himself to Kate, but she's busy glaring at Anthony as he adroitly sends Edwina's escort away, claiming the vacant seat between the Sharma sisters.
Their bickering escalates, and the rest of the party doesn't know what to make of their raucous, competitive cheering as their chosen horses go neck-and-neck.
Mr. Dorset lets it slip that Anthony arranged for him to chat Kate up, and she burns with fury at being manipulated, yet again vowing to keep Edwina from his devious clutches.
Eloise, meanwhile, is haunting print shops in search of Whistledown's identity when she meets adorable printer's assistant Theo Sharpe (Calam Lynch). They trade fuzzy little barbs, and Theo wins the first round by handing her a pamphlet advocating women's rights. Progressive causes are definitely the way to Eloise's heart.
Anthony works out his frustration by fencing with his brothers, who are amused to see him so rattled about Kate. (I'd watch eight full episodes of just this, by the way.)
He's right to be all worked up; Kate purposely left him off the invitation list for their party that night where the young men will be reading poetry and performing magic tricks to catch Edwina's attention.
Anthony's not content to sit idly by while other men move in on his diamond, so he heads to former boxer Will Mondrich's (Martins Imhangbe) new club to ask his brother for help with poetry. Anthony considers it deceitful, and Benedict — the most sensitive of the Bridgerton men — earnestly demonstrates how to honor a woman through words.
It inspires Anthony to crash the party and start reciting Benedict's stolen words at a smitten Edwina, but he stumbles when his eyes land on Kate BECAUSE OF COURSE THEY DO.
Shaken, he tosses the paper into the fire and declares himself a man of action and duty. And Kate has to watch her sister tumble head over heels for Anthony, who insists on sending errant glances her way. Hot, errant glances, just constantly.
At this point, Lady Danbury's Spidey senses start to tingle, and she warns Kate that she needs to cool it. Kate, naturally, doesn't listen.
Meanwhile, everybody's still after Whistledown. The queen makes it clear to Lady Danbury that she chose Edwina as her diamond in part because she's new to town and able to be manipulated to help her. Also, the queen's list of suspects — with delightful hand-drawn portraits of each lady — includes Penelope and Eloise.
The latter, meanwhile, notices a consistently misshapen K on the Whistledown printings and matches it to other pamphlets she's seen. She tells Penelope that she plans to track down that printer. But Pen sneaks out to buy a non-wonky K for the press, bumping into a surprised Madame Delacroix in the process.
Oooh, Pen, you're so busted!
Episode 3: A Bee in Your Bonnet
Book readers: it's happening! Grab the mallet of death and bee (sorry) prepared, for episode 3 is our time to shine!
We open ten years ago, when wee little teenage Anthony is hunting with his father (Rupert Evans). Edmund's clearly an excellent dad, doling out encouraging advice and checking his pocket watch on the elaborate fob that we've seen Anthony wearing all season long.
Then Edmund stops to pick some flowers for Violet, and dear reader, I yelled at my TV like I was watching the final girl in a horror movie deciding to run to the attic.
Edmund's stung by a bee lurking in the hyacinths, and within seconds his face pales and swells, and he crumples in front of Anthony's horrified eyes. An extremely pregnant Violet runs over in time to hold Edmund's hand as the life drains out of him, and in the distance we see the blurry figures of the other Bridgerton children looking on.
It's the defining trauma of all of their lives, but it especially haunts Anthony because in that moment, he becomes Lord Bridgerton. He's no longer the oldest brother; he's now guardian, caretaker, head of household, tyrant. Poor little Anthony.
In the present, the Bridgertons are gathered at their country estate, and please take a moment to appreciate the outstanding family vibe this season as the siblings squabble and tease and poke each other with love and affection.
To wit, Daphne's over the moon that Anthony's invited the Sharmas a few days before the massive house party gets underway, and she promises (threatens?) to help him with Edwina the way he helped her with Simon (Regé-Jean Page, gone but not at all forgotten this season). She also can't help but notice that all Anthony wants to do is complain about the sister.
When the Sharmas disembark from their carriage, Anthony's eyes land on Kate first, and he's drawn to her like she's a magnet and he's a pin. Their resulting verbal skirmish throws off so many sparks that Daphne naturally assumes this is Edwina.
He corrects her, then asks his mother for the family engagement ring. She urges him not to rush, holding out hope that he'll make a love match. And we flash back to the new teenage Lord Bridgerton being buffeted with questions from the staff as an inconsolable Violet sobs in the background (But for real, does staff have to move her belongings out of the bedroom RIGHT THEN?).
Before we get to the scenes that every book fan is dying to see, let's check in on the London crew. With Jack intent on marrying someone ASAP, Lady Featherington decides that it might as well be her own dim, biddable daughter Prudence (It's okay, they're fourth cousins. "It's regal!" Portia insists).
But Jack's set on the odious Cressida Cowper, who remains the worst in both personality and hair decorations. That woman deserves to spend her life surrounded by antlers. But at least a conversation about Cressida's love for the new modiste in town sparks an idea in Penelope.
The next Whistledown dispatch slams the new modiste and praises Madame Delacroix as "old but capable." That one column sinks the competition and saves Delacroix's struggling business, and it's Pen's way of not just assuring the modiste's silence but getting her to assist her in Whistledown subterfuge. After all, they've both built thriving businesses in a world of men, so why not help each other? (RIP to the new modiste's shop, caught up in gossip column wars she can't possibly understand.)
And now, friends, it's time for a little game of Pall-Mall, a cut-throat croquet-like game — at least when played by Bridgertons. Daphne gives the Sharmas a quick rundown on the rules, and Kate immediately understands that she needs to play her opponents rather than the game itself.
Things get off to a rocky start when she grabs the black mallet, a.k.a. the mallet of death. Although Anthony's "like a child with a blanket" about it and threatened to beat Colin when he tried to claim it last time, he grudgingly allows Kate to keep it and takes the pink one for himself.
While Edwina's not into it, Kate's delighted by the Bridgertons' childish competitive spirit, and truly, this scene is everything any book fan could've wanted.
When Kate learns that she can knock an opponent's ball out of play, she gleefully sends Anthony's sailing into the forest. He grits his teeth and applauds. Edwina shoots hers into the greenery too, but she decides to sit out the rest of the game with the mamas. Colin then whacks Kate's ball after Anthony's, and the two of them head out to claim their wayward equipment.
They find their balls side by side in the mud, and Kate doesn't hesitate to wade into the muck with her gorgeous pink silk shoes to knock hers free. But she gets stuck, and Anthony reluctantly takes her hand to pull her out. In the time-honored tradition of romantic comedies everywhere, they both end up flat in the muck.
Their stunned silence turns into laughter, which turns into the beginning of a truce. But when Kate gives Anthony's ball a playful whack, he storms off. She retrieves it to find that it landed near Edmund's grave.
Flashback to Violet's harrowing delivery of Hyacinth. (Yes, the name of the flowers Edmund was picking when he died. I'M FINE. THAT'S FINE.) She's breech, and the doctor asks Anthony to choose between saving the mother or the baby. It's an impossible situation, particularly for Violet, who's scared and in pain and grieving her husband.
The camera tilts and rolls around the room as if they're on a boat in the middle of a stormy sea, and in the background, we see a brief shot of Daphne trying to distract Eloise in a callback to their season 1 conversation about the horrors of childbirth.
Back in the present, Violet and Lady Danbury watch with approval as Anthony and Edwina chat amiably in the drawing room, then they listen through the doors that night to hear what the would-be couple is saying to their siblings.
In Daphne's case, she's describing to Anthony how it feels to be in love. Although he seems to recognize the symptoms she's describing, he'd clearly rather die than admit the identity of the person he's feeling them for.
The next morning, we get to see Kate's tea ritual — she hates English tea almost as much as she hates Anthony — and she and Eloise commiserate about living on the edges of society as single, independent women.
We get another flashback as Anthony visits Edmund's grave, to a grief-flattened Violet struggling to make it through the days. Anthony begs her to rejoin her family, but she merely voices her wish that the baby had done her the courtesy of killing her so she could be with her husband. THAT IS TOO MUCH TO DUMP ON YOUR SON, MA'AM.
In the present, we see a content and peaceful Violet joining Anthony to assure him that love isn't the weakness he thinks it is. But he vows never to subject his wife to that kind of pain, even if the world thinks he's hard-hearted.
At dinner with the families that night, Anthony gives a charming toast, clearly gearing up to propose to a giddy Edwina, but when he looks at Kate, he fumbles it and changes the subject.
Alone in their room, Edwina blames herself for not being good enough to secure a proposal. "I thought he liked me," she cries. Kate places the blame squarely on Anthony's shoulders. Maybe so, but he was looking at you, lady.
Before we get to the main act, let's break for Bridgerton sibling hijinks: Benedict has been nervously waiting to hear if he was accepted into the Royal Academy of Arts, and to keep him calm, Colin offers him a mind-expanding drug, presumably opium, that he picked up in his travels.
Benedict takes all of it and is tripping balls through dinner and into the evening. When Eloise delivers his admission letter, he celebrates by throwing open the window and shouting his triumph to the world. (Anybody else have some wicked The Great flashbacks?)
*whispers* We're here. It's time for the bee.
The following day, Kate finds Anthony kicking at the flowers, and I'm honestly shocked he didn't have those beds torn out ages ago. He tells Kate that he still plans to propose to Edwina, but "my feelings would not allow me to speak" at dinner. Sure, Jan.
They start to argue about who knows Edwina better, then suddenly all Anthony can see is the bee landing on Kate's collar. He grabs for her hand, but she bats at it and it stings her.
His eyes widen, and he starts to slide into a full-blown panic attack, but Kate speaks calmly to him, whispering, "It was just a bee." She places his hand on her heart and puts hers on his. They draw closer as his breathing slows, their foreheads pressing together, their noses bumping, their lips so very close.
Then the WORST HORSE IN THE UNIVERSE whinnies and shatters the moment. They break apart and literally sprint away from each other.
Episode 4: Victory
Episode 4 answers the age-old question of how close and how often two beautiful people can press their faces together without actually kissing.
The answer is many times. So, so many.
Kate's marching orders from Edwina are to charm Anthony so he'll finally propose. That is not at all what Kate wants to do, but she reluctantly agrees to join the men's hunting party. In true younger brother fashion, Benedict's thrilled by Anthony's annoyance at this.
Kate's in a smashing blue hunting dress and top hat as Anthony upbraids her for not following the rules, for riding alone, for getting stung by a bee, for making him yearn for her every minute of every day (This last part is only implied, of course, although when she lifts her skirt to step over a log, that long stretch of leg almost kills him).
They argue about who's been looking at whom (they're both guilty of this), and then Anthony puts his arms around Kate to show her how to hold her rifle. It brings them so close together that he's overcome with the need to smell her. And then the rest of the party interrupts, dammit. This season is a master class in drawing out the tension without ever once letting up.
While the rest of the group's hunting, Colin does what he's clearly been dying to do since he set foot on English soil and pays a call on Marina — Lady Crane, now. Colin, baby, what is your endgame here? Yes, Marina doesn't seem particularly fond of her bookish, plant-mad husband, but this isn't helping anybody.
She's not pleased to see him and states that her happiness (or lack thereof) isn't his concern. In fact, he should quit spinning fantasies and open his eyes to what's in front of him, namely Penelope, who does care for him. Speaking on behalf of the audience: YES, PLEASE DO SO POST-HASTE, COLIN.
I will say, Colin's self-consciousness about his talkativeness regarding his travels is charming and, I hope, is setting up his story for future seasons.
A trickier point for future seasons is Colin telling Penelope that he blames Lady Whistledown for ruining his chances with Marina. Ooof, even picturing how that eventual reveal will go down is awful. But Pen's still at it, determined to find good gossip for the next installment of Whistledown.
Post-hunt, Edwina wants to know if Kate made headway with Anthony, and she sure did, but not the way her sister wanted. Incidentally, Bridgerton did an amazing job casting two different types of beauty for the Sharmas: Kate's all elegant edges, while Edwina's all soft curves.
Likewise, Edwina's a surprisingly compelling foil in this love story. Some viewers may not appreciate the love triangle, but it's hard not to root for her happiness even knowing that it means rooting against Kate. She's calm, gentle, and kind, yes, but she's also smart and motivated. You can understand why Kate wants to give her beloved younger sister the world.
That night, Kate's not able to sleep, so she prowls through the library in her nightgown, her hair long and loose. And of course she bumps into Anthony. The intimate setting leads them to lower their walls. She confesses that she's afraid of storms, and Anthony tells her about his father's death. They're looking at each other again, leaning close, about to kiss. But a clap of thunder interrupts the moment, and Kate scurries to bed.
Daphne and Violet are seeing what we're all seeing and agree that Anthony's perfect match would be a little sharper, a little quicker, than, well, Edwina. So they watch what happens at the ball that night with interest.
The only person having a worse time than Kate, watching from the sidelines as Anthony and Edwina dance, is Eloise. Her interaction with a potential suitor ends as disastrously as you'd imagine, and she leaves the ballroom in tears, knowing she's disappointed her mother and frustrated that everyone expects her to shed her progressive ideals like a party dress. Endless praise to Claudia Jessie for using her physicality in every scene to convey Eloise's enthusiasm and discomfort. Her wriggly whole-body flails are a thing of beauty.
Kate, meanwhile, lets Anthony lead her to the dance floor so he can ask for her blessing to marry Edwina. With the orchestra playing Robyn's "Dancing on My Own" (perfect, chef's kiss, 10/10, no notes), Kate and Anthony are so lost in each other's eyes that they don't speak at first. The tension doesn't just crackle; it smolders. It burns.
They end up with her back against his front, both gazing at a hopeful Edwina, an, if someone doesn't give me a fan edit of this scene set to "Satisfied," you're all fired.
Kate asks Anthony if he can make her sister happy, and almost too quickly, he asks if Kate wants him to reconsider his proposal. He's giving her the chance to put words to what they're both feeling, but instead she tells him that she's returning to India the instant Edwina's married.
Shaken, he storms from the floor, and she follows him to the library, finding him agitated and breathing hard. He demands to know why she dislikes him so, and she snaps, "Because you vex me."
Anthony's practically on fire now. "And what is it, do you think, you do to me?" Then his voice quiets. "You … you hate me." Kate agrees in a thready tone, and although he starts to say that his heart belongs to her sister, he can't bring himself to finish the sentence.
They're standing so close that his breath disturbs the hair curling around her ear. He begs her to tell him that she feels nothing for him. She doesn't because she can't, and they're moments away from giving in to the temptation that's been dogging their every interaction when Daphne comes crashing in.
Anthony chases after her to smooth things over, and Daphne reminds him that a similar situation led to her marrying Simon. Yet again, she tries to make him acknowledge that he loves Kate, and this time Anthony seems to hear her. He stills and announces that he knows what he has to do. (Neither was able to get through this conversation without reaching for the liquor, by the way.)
Lady Danbury has a similar conversation with Kate on her balcony, asking why she's jeopardizing all of her hard work by putting herself in the middle of Edwina securing the Sheffield money, but Kate's not ready to admit the real reason.
The next morning, Anthony grabs the Bridgerton ring and strides outside to stop the Sharmas from leaving in their carriage. Kate's face brightens as he approaches, but he (and the camera) brutally swerves right past her so he can drop to his knee in front of Edwina.
He can't see the pain on Kate's face, but we certainly can.
Episode 5: An Unthinkable Fate
Welcome to episode 5, where we're all wondering, "How on EARTH are they going to get themselves out of this?"
We open with a stony-faced Anthony breezing past Kate, extending his pinky in a near-miss as his hand approaches hers.
The Sharmas and the Bridgertons are meeting with the queen, who takes credit for the match and insists on hosting their wedding (and ferreting out Whistledown in the process).
After a bath (thank you, Bridgerton, for picking up where The Witcher left off), Anthony throws himself into the planning stage, much to his family's amusement. He does get a little jumpy when asked if Kate will live with them after he's married, just like Kate practically turns green when Edwina says she'll be their children's favorite aunt.
The awkwardness ramps up when Anthony's jeweler uses Kate to size the wedding ring in Edwina's absence, allowing Anthony to run his thumb over the band and down her finger. Of course the ring gets briefly stuck, and Kate has to yank it off to hand it over to Edwina.
Ugh, poor Kate. Poor, selfless-to-an-extreme Kate. Anthony even gives her another chance to let on that she wouldn't be opposed to marrying him, but she denies any such desire, and he grimly moves forward with his engagement.
Kate then accompanies the newly betrothed couple on a promenade, where Anthony glares like a Regency terminator as she takes a boat ride with Mr. Dorset from the races.
When the time comes to disembark, Anthony muscles his way into helping her out of the boat. She takes his hand, and when Anthony forces himself to step away, he trips over Newton and ends up in the river. Alas, his shirt is made of the WORLD'S THINNEST MATERIAL and becomes entirely transparent. Take that, Colin Firth's Darcy.
While Anthony gets a change of clothes, let's check in on the rest of the cast.
Lady Featherington insists that Jack and Prudence keep the engagement because she's come up with a new plan: Jack will spread his convincing fake rubies around town and frequent Will's struggling club to attract unsuspecting investors in his non-existent mines.
An unchaperoned Eloise attends a public lecture series and is delighted to bumps into Theo there. The two of them exchange flirty insults, both obviously into each other's adorable faces as well as the brains lurking underneath.
Penelope gets concerned that Eloise is blowing her off and lying about her whereabouts, particularly when she spies her with Theo, a man clearly not of her class. I love Eloise to bits, but if she was even five percent less self-involved, she'd have all the answers she needs about her best friend and Lady Whistledown.
Finally, Benedict's loving his new place at the Royal School, particularly when he learns that one of the nude models is doing it so she can absorb the lectures as she poses because women aren't allowed to enroll as students. When she asks Benedict to strip and model for her, he cheerfully agrees.
Okay, back to the central angst: Mary's parents, the Sheffields, heard about Edwina's engagement and came racing to town. Mary's nervous to see the parents who disowned her for marrying the man she loved, and Kate wonders aloud if that kind of sacrifice is too high a price. Gee, I wonder why she's thinking about that.
As Anthony and Violet prepare for dinner with the Sheffield-Sharmas, she again encourages him to wait for a love match, which is what his father would've wanted. And again, he shuts her down.
Off to dinner we go, where things almost immediately go off the rails when Lady Sheffield starts haranging Mary about her past sins.
Lord Sheffield (Anthony Head, in loathsome Ted Lasso mode rather than kindly Buffy the Vampire Slayer mode) brings up the settlement that Edwina will receive for marrying a lord, and as Lady Danbury feared, the news stuns Edwina and Mary and leaves the Bridgertons feeling used and betrayed.
But Anthony nevertheless defends the Sharmas, all three of them, and disinvites the Sheffields from the wedding. Once they're gone, everyone turns an accusing eye on Kate, who stops Anthony as he prepares to storm out of the house.
Edwina's barely a part of their ensuing argument, which results in Anthony hissing that even India won't be far enough away to make him stop wanting Kate. "You are the bane of my existence," he declares before his tone turns desperate. "And the object of all my desires." He steps closer to whisper, "The things I could teach you." HAVE MERCY.
The camera's moving like it's on the deck of a ship again, capturing the emotional churn in the room. When Kate admits that she shares his feelings, he cups her head, nuzzles her skin, hovers a breath away from her lips.
But he pulls away at the last moment, his honor hanging by a thread. He begs her not to sentence them to a lifetime of torment, knowing full well that if he actually marries Edwina, he'll inevitably succumb to the temptation of Kate.
But it's what Edwina, in her blissful ignorance, wants. She loves him, and she's ready to be his wife.
The next morning, Kate and Anthony meet at their secret riding spot without either of them discussing it first. Anthony wants to end things with Edwina so they can all go their separate ways, but Kate refuses to let him break her sister's heart. She even calls him by his first name, swearing that the passion they feel for each other will fade. "It must because it has to," she insists.
Alanis Morissette's "You Oughta Know" plays as Anthony agrees to this doomed marriage, and Kate weeps when he rides away.
Episode 6: The Choice
Who's ready for a wedding? *Nervous laugh*
While the queen sees to every detail, the Bridgerton boys toast to Anthony besting Kate, while the Sharma women engage in a Haldi ceremony that's set to a cover of "Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham" from the Bollywood smash by the same name. Edwina's radiant with joy as Mary and Kate daub her with the turmeric paste. Kate, bless her, is doing her best.
The day of the wedding, the Bridgertons gather and give us another boisterous family scene. Daphne tries one more time to get Anthony to admit his feelings for Kate, but he won't hear it, not even when she tells him that the family pities him for marrying without love. He's adamant that he's doing this for the family he has, not the family he might want, which is simply heart-breaking.
In the bridal suite, Kate offers Edwina her own late mother's green wedding bangles, but Edwina insists that Kate wear them. This will turn out to be the best, worst mistake.
The wedding gets underway, and yes, I was as freaked out as you were about what a trainwreck it was going to be. Anthony smiles as Edwina comes down the aisle to Harry Styles' "Sign of the Times," but it doesn't reach his eyes. Violet and Daphne are also unhappy, although the queen and her wig are thrilled. (Seriously, her wigs this season are beyond.)
As a very "mawwiage is what bwings us together"-looking priest gets things underway, bridesmaid Kate ends up in Anthony's direct eyeline, and time slows as he pictures the two of them alone at the altar. EVERYBODY CAN SEE YOU STARING AT HER, MY MAN.
When Kate fiddles with her bangle, it pops off, and Anthony dives to rescue it. They both kneel, and again they just stare at each other in front of God and everybody.
Finally, finally, finally, it clicks into place for Edwina, who gasps and runs back down the aisle. The crowd is baffled as the celebratory fireworks erupt in the sky outside.
What a perfect mess. Yes, Kate and Anthony should've been honest, but they're both so used to pushing aside their own wants for the sake of their families, you can see how this all got away from them.
Okay, as the guests mill about, it's the perfect time to check in on the subplots.
Lady Featherington sends Jack out to con the less beloved (and therefore more fleecable) members of the ton, which is pretty much everybody but the Bridgertons. Jack, meanwhile, is looking at Portia with increasingly warm, admiring glances.
The queen worries about Whistledown's take on the failed marriage of her diamond, and she turns the blame on Lady Danbury while also sending her minions out to spread rumors to catch Whistledown in the act.
Eloise tells Pen that she needs clarity about her relationship with Theo and runs off in her wedding finery to ask if he ever thinks about her. Theo steps inside the print shop and comes back with a stack of books he'd like her to read so they can discuss them. Aww, those two, so busy making eyes at each other that they miss the queen's footman skulking around the corner in his extremely obvious livery.
Although Penelope's worried about Eloise's association with Theo and the other radical thinkers, she at least manages to have a nice conversation with Colin, whose face softens as he listens to her talk. It's like he's finally seeing her, with all her compassion and loyalty (eep!).
Elsewhere, Violet and Lady Danbury end up doubled over with laughter over what a boondoggle this is, and it repairs the rift that's existed since the dreadful Sheffield dinner.
Now back to our angsty trio. Edwina is livid, particularly because Kate doesn't deny that she loves Anthony when her sister asks.
Wait, no. When her half-sister asks. It's perhaps the cruelest thing Edwina could say, and Kate takes refuge in a storage closet when Mary kicks her out of the room.
Anthony comes knocking to see if Edwina still wants to, you know, get hitched. She asks if he wants the marriage or her, and he says it's both. Their roles as the viscount and diamond yoke them together, and while he doesn't love her, he understands her.
Yeahhhh, he could've handled that better, and Edwina asks for time to think. Anthony then discovers Kate's hiding place and charges in to confront her.
Kate's wracked with guilt for ruining Edwina's life, yet Anthony can't stop himself from grabbing her hand to keep her from leaving. They engage in more tortured gazing before Kate bids him goodbye and leaves the room.
And now it's time to see the queen, who is most displeased. But her rage stops dead in its tracks when the confused king bursts into the room and thinks he's stumbled into his own wedding.
Everyone freezes in horror save Edwina, who calmly tells him that he and Charlotte will have a long, loving marriage, but he should rest before the ceremony.
Afterward, the queen is so grateful for Edwina's kindness and discretion that she gives her the choice about whether to go through with the wedding.
So Edwina summons Kate and Anthony to the church to inform them that she won't be marrying this man who doesn't love her the way she deserves, especially not when he looks at Kate the way he does. She also takes Kate to task for pushing all the things she wanted for herself onto her sister and announces that she'll make her own decisions from now on. This is the episode where Edwina fully becomes her own woman, and good for her.
Edwina leaves, and as Pink's "What About Us?" comes to a close, Anthony's vision of being alone at the altar with Kate comes to pass. She closes the distance between them, and at long last, Kate and Anthony kiss.
Episode 7: Harmony
Time for the fallout, y'all. I mean, thank Shonda that nobody got married in the previous episode, but it's gonna be bad before it's better.
At the most awkward group bath in history — and that's saying something because yes, I did say group bath — Edwina's icy to Kate, who glumly reaches for her favorite lily-scented soap.
When the Sharmas and the Bridgertons head into public, they find themselves thoroughly shunned by polite society. Lady Featherington can barely contain her delight. And look, it's one thing for his siblings to mock Anthony (Benedict in particular is clearly dying for gossip), but this public censure cannot stand.
Violet suggests a co-sponsored ball to prove that the wedding cancellation was mutual. Good idea, but who on earth let Kate and Anthony sit side by side for this planning meeting?
"Was I truly that blind?" Edwina asks when they engage in a round of heated gazing. "Were they always this obvious?" Girl, yes, they really were.
Afterward, Anthony lashes out at his mother over his failures, telling her that his brothers can carry on the family line. He heads to the Royal School to break the news to Benedict, unprepared for the naked party atmosphere. But Benedict, who's happily carrying on an affair with the model (did we ever learn her name?), calls Anthony out for wallowing in self-pity.
In a joint public outing, Anthony apologizes to Mary, who acknowledges that she put too heavy a burden on Kate. Edwina's still furious, though, and Kate refuses to discuss the kiss with Anthony.
A quick little suggestion: do yourself a favor and watch this season a second time just to enjoy Jonathan Bailey's non-verbals. His expression when he catches a whiff of Kate as she breezes by is perfect.
While the families are coming together, Eloise is having a bad day. The queen, convinced that Eloise is Lady Whistledown because she's been hanging out at the print shop, swoops her up in the royal carriage to give her three days to come clean. Penelope finds her freaked-out bestie tearing through every issue of Whistledown in search of clues to the real culprit. Pen warns Eloise to stay away from Theo in order to not make things worse.
One of the delights of this season has been the sheer pride on Penelope's face when anyone praises Whistledown. It's a potent mix of pleasure and frustration at being the architect of it all without being able to take credit for it.
Madame Delacroix is aghast to discover that the queen's involved and suggests that Pen write something ugly about Eloise — something so ugly that Eloise would never write it herself, thereby proving her innocence.
Theo, meanwhile, tells Eloise to stop coming around the shop since he doesn't have the protection of a wealthy family like she does. Eloise is now fully committed to finding and destroying Lady Whistledown.
Jack's still out doing crime, this time at Will's club. He strolls into the mostly empty establishment to blackmail Will about the fight he fixed with the former Lord Featherington. It's a shame Jack didn't end up with Cressida; those two deserve each other.
The harmony ball turns out to be a big flop, although the combined families make the best of it, launching into a dance that includes everyone from Hyacinth and Gregory to Lady Danbury. The joyful explosion of activity leaves them all breathless and happy — even Kate and Anthony, who are paired up as the music comes to an end.
It becomes clear that it's not just the failed marriage that kept people away. The latest Whistledown spills the ink about Eloise's unchaperoned association with political radicals. (After Pen wrote the damning entry, she felt so guilty that she dramatically broke her quill and tossed it into the fire. Whistledown, out.) At the news, Lady Featherington gives Jack the go-ahead to fleece Colin out of an investment.
Alrighty, Kanthony hive, your patience is about to pay off. After another rebuff from her sister, Kate goes for a walk in the moonlight and, of course, Anthony's there. They immediately start sparring.
He calls her obstinate and inflexible, then admits that even though his family hates him and he's on the brink of ruin, his only reason for drawing breath is Kate, Kate, always Kate. Kate, and the scent of lilies on her skin. She in turn blames him for throwing her whole world off its axis.
Anthony briefly struggles to keep himself under control (see above re: those damn nonverbals), and then they're kissing. After years of pushing aside their own wants in favor of what they think their families need, they're choosing themselves. Each other.
When Anthony tries to stop — his honor, don't you know — Kate orders him not to. And then what choice do they have but to get undressed and see this through? Kate's hair comes down and her stocking comes off as Anthony kisses down her body.
Listen, I know a lot of you are excited about the near-miss pinky moment in episode five, but for me, Anthony reaching up so Kate can clutch his hand is the finger-based hotness of the season. It may even be better than the Matthew Macfadyen Pride and Prejudice clench. That's right. I SAID WHAT I SAID.
In the morning, Anthony wakes up alone in the gazeebo, while in her bedroom, an overwhelmed Kate recalls every kiss, every touch. To escape it all, she takes her horse for a run.
Anthony, all hot and tortured and wet from the rain, storms into Lady Danbury's with the ring, ready to propose to Kate. But when he learns that she's gone out, he charges after her, screaming her name as her horse shies from a jump and she falls, hitting her head on a rock.
Episode 8: The Viscount Who Loved Me
One episode really doesn't seem like enough to wrap this season up, but we're sure going to try.
Blood pours from Kate's head as Anthony and his tissue paper-thin shirt burst into Lady Danbury's house, bellowing for the surgeon. The man arrives and forces Anthony to step away so he can work. Blaming himself, Anthony storms out.
While Kate lingers in a coma, Anthony keeps his distance and takes his poisonous mood out on his siblings.
Eloise, now considered a "radical ruffian," receives a delivery of a book from Theo and races to meet him. Turns out he White Fang-ed her because the queen's men were poking around, but now that Whistledown's taken her business elsewhere, he wants to help, starting with the fact that the missives arrived in silk dresses.
Eloise goes straight to Madame Delacroix to hurl accusations, but the Featheringtons arrive in time for Pen to intercede. Eloise drags her outside to share what she's learned, and Pen warns her that gossip's circulating about Eloise and the Gutenberg Chalamet she's been spending time with.
But it's not enough to deter Eloise, and during a late-night Whistledown research session, Theo moves in for a kiss. (In his defense, this wasn't out of nowhere; he was accurately reading the room.) Still, Eloise shies away, afraid that he'll be the one who gets hurt if people find out about them. He declares her no different from all the other ladies of her class who enjoy slumming it, and they part ways.
Meanwhile, at his gentleman's club, Will intercedes when Jack starts spinning tales of his mines to Colin, owning up to his involvement in fixing the fight. But Colin shuts Will down, haughtily defending the Featheringtons. He suggests that he and Jack take their business elsewhere.
Jack celebrates this success by almost kissing Lady Featherington and floating the idea of running away to the Americas with their stolen money.
At the Royal School, Benedict's shocked to learn that he was Lori Loughlin-ed in thanks to Anthony, which creates a crisis of confidence that'll no doubt carry into season 3. He and Eloise have one of their lovely swing chats where they both admit to feeling like imposters, but at least they're imposters together.
Okay, back to Kate. While I wake up from a twenty-minute nap looking like a bog witch, Kate wakes up from a multi-day coma all dewy and radiant. As soon as she's conscious, she asks about Anthony and is disappointed that he hasn't been to visit.
When Violet hears that Kate's okay, she immediately tells Anthony, who dissolves into quiet tears. She apologizes for everything that happened after Edmund's death but tells him that she'd choose her life with her husband every time, even knowing how it ends.
"You cannot lose her," she insists as tears drip down his face.
Anthony shows up at Kate's bedroom with tulips and a proposal, but she informs him that she's still moving to India. He accuses her of running away (true!), and nobody says "I love you" (boo!).
After he's gone, Kate and Edwina officially make up. Kate admits that she's been lying to everyone, including herself, and Edwina wants them to get to know each other as the women they truly are.
On the eve of the Featherington ball, Kate's packing for India when Mary comes in to reaffirms that she loves Kate like a daughter. Much like Violet, she apologizes for shutting down after the death of her husband and leaving the burden on Kate's shoulders. Kate fesses up to her gazebo activities and says that Anthony's proposal was out of obligation only. Oh, those two beautiful dummies.
At the Bridgerton house, Gregory finds Anthony staring at a portrait of Edmund, and they share what could be their first-ever real conversation. When Gregory asks for stories about their father, Anthony hugs him and talks about Edmund's love of a good prank while an emotional Violet listens at the door.
Anthony's a changed man; now we just need to get him in front of Kate.
Time for the ball! Eloise actually listens this time when Pen starts unloading all the gossip she's witnessing, which includes Colin dancing with Cressida.
It's actually a ruse to get his hands on a Jack-provided ruby necklace. Colin takes Penelope aside to tell her the rubies are fakes and demands that Jack and Lady Featherington return the money and leave town. Portia pretends she didn't know (always savvy, that one), and once they're alone, Jack kisses her and suggests ditching her daughters to head to America.
Colin, meanwhile, takes Pen for a turn around the dance floor, telling her that she's special to him.
Kate and Edwina are also dancing — Edwina insisted that Kate shine a light on herself for a change— when Anthony approaches. This time, Kate's the one who initiates things by suggesting he ask her to dance. The orchestra starts playing Miley Cyrus' "Wrecking Ball," which could not be more perfect.
Everyone clears the floor to stare, but Anthony tells her to keep her eyes on him. And now the whole ton can see what's been obvious for so long. Speculation starts to circulate, but the queen steps in to declare that she's the one who changed her mind about the wedding, which Edwina confirms.
The dance ends with Kate and Anthony dangerously close, then Lady Featherington herds everyone outside for fireworks.
Before we get to the happy ending, let's cover some less-happy ones.
Lady Featherington sends Jack packing. She's keeping a substantial chunk of their stolen money and has forged a document giving his title to the firstborn son of her daughters. Jack should've known she'd never choose him over her daughters.
The most painful scene of the episode belongs to Penelope and Eloise. After listening to Pen's cleverly worded gossip earlier, Eloise tossed her room and discovered her stash of Whistledown money. And then she remembers all the things Whistledown wrote that only Pen would've known, including Marina's pregnancy and Eloise's association with Theo.
Pen insists she was protecting Eloise, but Eloise sneers that Pen's an insipid wallflower too scared to stand up for herself. Reader, I gasped. And then I cheered when Pen does stand up for herself, declaring that Eloise is jealous because she did something great. Friendship over.
There was never going to be a good way for this reveal to happen, but wow that was hard to watch.
Also devastating? Penelope then overhears Colin telling a group of young bucks that he'd never in a million years court her. COLIN. HOW DARE. Did he really mean it? Probably, but he'd never have said it like that if he'd known she was listening. Still, he did say it, and our patron saint of red curls and ink-stained fingers is heartbroken.
Okay, back to our central couple. After giving Benedict a pep talk, Anthony finds Kate in the garden and tells her he loves her. Has loved her since that first glimpse on horseback. And hey, good news, she loves him too, although she warns him that he'll vex her every single day.
He smiles as he asks, "Is that a promise, Kathani Sharma?" And then fireworks explode in the background as they kiss.
The final voiceover of the season belongs to Penelope. She wipes away her tears and picks up her quill as we say goodbye to our friends for now.
Colin apologizes to Will for using him to uncover Jack's villainy, bringing a pack of his friends to the club as thanks.
Benedict sadly packs away his paints and prepares to become season 3's leading man.
Lady Featherington smiles as she embraces her oldest two daughters under the glow of the fireworks.
Eloise cries as she watches the fireworks from her room.
The queen stands tall, presiding over everything.
And Julie Andrews' voiceover returns as Pen starts to write her next Whistledown installment. We knew she couldn't stay silent for long.
And the season ends with a scene of marital bliss between the Viscount and Viscountess Bridgerton. Yep, Kate and Anthony are super married and having the kind of super-married sex that makes them late for Pall Mall.
Once they're clothed, Kate beats him to the mallet of death, and they kiss and tease and argue, their love for each other as strong as their competitive natures.
No bee would dare ruin this happiness.
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