This episode should have been titled “The One with All the Baby Questions.” An episode so well balanced between humor and heartache, it’s hard to believe it’s only the season’s second. “Shock and Delight” is a whirlwind of adventures, but it’s also the beginning of vulnerability, and the first exhibition of just how much power belief in something, or someone can have.
It’s the episode we start getting glimpses into the demons most characters carry, and it’s the episode where we get some incredible development started.
As far as performances go, commending Adjoa Andoh’s riveting work in this episode must come first. Lady Danbury was already a captivating character, and Andoh is not only stealing every scene she is in, but she sets the bar relatively high for further book to screen adaptations. This is an important episode for Simon and Lady Danbury. It’s an important episode for surrogate mothers and what it means to believe in someone. We write about belief on Marvelous Geeks a lot, and we do so because it’s crucial to bringing out the best in people. Lady Danbury’s belief in Simon is a big deal—the choice to see him as the polar opposite of how his father perceived him contributed vastly to Simon’s growth as a man. And what a powerful scene that moment between the two in flashbacks was.
Andoh didn’t miss a single beat in showcasing a full range of emotions this week, from her sadness after Sarah’s death to the utter horror in her expression as she and Simon revisited the Duke of Hastings, each moment was tremendously telling of the character’s strength. A strength which we learned she worked on and nurtured—a lesson which she taught Simon as well. “But there is only so long one in a position such as ours can hide. I knew I would have to step into the light someday, and I could not very well be frightened. So, instead, I made myself frightening. I sharpened my wit, my wardrobe, and my eye, and I made myself the most terrifying creature in any room I entered. […] When you step into the light, you will be worthy of the attention you command.” And Simon Basset is worthy. There is no denying just how compelling each of his entrances into a room are, and it’s not due solely to Regé-Jean Page’s ridiculously good looks.
It’s the way Simon walks. It’s the way he talks. And it’s the way he carries himself as a man with colossal armor surrounding him. It’s the way he is good even when he doesn’t want to be, and it’s the way he’s adamant on bad men paying for their crimes. It’s the way he tries to control everything the same way he learned to control his stutter, and it’s the way he appears to be trying to keep it all together even when he is living through turmoil in his own head.
It is Lady Danbury’s belief in Simon that not only helped him overcome his fears, but taught him, that there is still good left in this world. There are still people who are willing to help even when one’s own father wishes he were dead. Simon Basset might make a vow to his father that he will never marry, but we get it–who wouldn’t when your last name is tainted by such a filthy display of unkindness? While Anthony’s trauma comes from losing an incredibly loving father, Simon’s comes from the lack of love, and it’s so fascinating to see the men not only as friends, but foils of one another in a way.
Which leads us to their fight, rightfully instigated by Anthony who cannot for the life of him process why he would be courting his sister without his approval. While in the book he is told of the arrangement, TV Anthony remains in the dark. And that’s the thing, as patriarchal as it was and as much as we hate the idea of it today, Anthony being upset makes complete sense. When others come to him for approval, but his own friend does not, it seems like a massive betrayal, especially when dramatic men are involved, which we’ll always deem Anthony king of.
It’s also fascinating to note just how little belief both men have in themselves but thankfully have in Daphne even though the belief is cobbled in their own perceptions, which leads us to the utter shock Anthony faces when he realizes Daphne believes he wouldn’t have believed her if she’d told the truth about Nigel Berbrooke. We took a deep dive into Anthony’s character that we’ll reference to through these reviews, but this is yet another moment of great clarity for Anthony and Bailey touches on it all throughout the episode. The tension that’s building up within Anthony and his own inability to grasp how to make things right is leading to a place of clarity that we’ll get to by the end. This is however, the first step and had Nigel Berbrooke not interrupted the picnic to propose marriage while threatening to scandalize the family, it would have led to something developing sooner. But as we know, nothing makes sense to these men other than a duel and that’s where Anthony’s brain immediately jumps too. Chaos personified. Naturally. But fitting given the times.
That said, where there is belief, credit goes where credit is due and that is entirely to the women. As we said during the first episode, the women run this show, and that’s exactly what they did. They took matters into their own hands and they talked. After the maids find out that Nigel has a son he is not supporting, word travels fast and purposely to Lady Whistledown. And we loved that scene with all the chatter around town. It’s moments like this that make adaptations so fun because we’re seeing what would have otherwise not translated in the same way.
However, some men aren’t ready to accept this, which is largely due to their belief that they themselves should step it up. Anthony thus tries to call Violet out on how the matter was resolved, but she turns it back to him, and we’re here for it. We’re especially here for it because tulips are a large Easter egg towards his love story. As most of you will remember, Anthony picks a tulip from the garden and gives it to Kate (Chapter 8). We see you, writers and we’re grateful.
This doesn’t change the fact however, that Anthony is completely falling apart and we’re just starting to see the signs. Jonathan Bailey’s physicality is something we’ll keep mentioning as well because it’s plain as day just how strained the character really is. Is there a masseuse in town? He has now broken up with Siena (temporarily, as we know), and he is trying to be the viscount while learning just how wrong he really is, but he can’t quite figure out how to make it right. Yet. Because as mentioned last week, the lack of communication is a running theme throughout the season, and when there is conversation, it’s often layered with the fact that no one is fully listening.
That is the obvious case with Daphne and Eloise, who much like Simon and Anthony are foils of each other. While Daphne’s beliefs are traditional and she carries herself with proper societal etiquette, Eloise is the polar opposite sneaking cigarettes in the yard. And frankly, it’s fascinating to see just how different both characters are as they mirror how real women actually are. Feminism isn’t just stepping out and being different, it’s accepting that a woman’s choices are always valid. Both Daphne and Eloise, and the choices they make are valid. Some women are utterly terrified of childbirth while others bask in the pregnancy glow through and through. We are complex, multifaceted beings, and each woman, in her own right is riveting. There’s no right or wrong and though they have yet to understand each other fully, that is certainly the case with the two eldest daughters trying to find common ground.
At this point, it’s safe to assume no two people really understand each other fully just yet, but Benedict and Eloise are on the right track towards it. We get a bit more on their nightly ritual in episode three, but Benedict joining Eloise as opposed to chastising her for smoking does a fine job of reminding the audience that he’s the brother who is always listening. (Perhaps not so well in his own story, but we’re hoping changes take place there.) The two of them want something different. The two of them are exhausted. And the two of them are actually talking. A for effort.
There’s a lot of conversation in this episode, and a good amount of pep talks, but you know what no one’s really talking about? Babies. Where do they come from? Someone tell Eloise and Penelope before they lose their minds thinking it’s contagious and could happen from cake. I’ve never been more thankful to be a woman living in the 21st century with google at my disposal. But I’m also thankful that they didn’t know because if I had to choose one scene with the family that is now my favorite, it’s Eloise barging into the drawing room asking how a woman comes to be with child. It’s Lady Bridgerton straight up baffled expression by the question, it’s Benedict refusing to even look at her, and it’s Colin bringing in farm metaphors. This is to the t in how we imagined the Bridgerton family, and it’s to the t in how we imagined each of them behaving at awkward moments. Benedict immediately denying his part to Violet as the momma’s boy that he is was gold. Colin stating they’re going to go take their sticks out had me howling. Gold. Just gold. (More please. Are these not everyone’s favorite scenes? Am I wrong in deeming the best?)
But in all seriousness, these women know so little about their own bodies, about sex, and marriage that as we continue with the episodes, we’ll be drawing back to just how quiet the time really was. So much of Eloise’s fear is due to Violet’s final labor following such a dark time. But it’s easy to appreciate what Daphne says: “At dawn the world had Hyacinth and we are all the richer for it.” It’s a beautiful nod to one of my favorite parts of this series, the profound detail we get in It’s in His Kiss, which is the fact that Hyacinth saved Violet. (Cue the tears.)
Simon and Daphne’s ruse continues, however taxing it may be for Daphne–leading to a gorgeous moment of formality with their first names. As we mentioned in our review of “Diamond of the First Water”, this is always a big deal with endgame couples. And it’s always one of the finest moments in regency romance. Simon insisting that Daphne call him by his name then proceeding to use hers sets up the beginning of something real appropriately. It might have been instigated to make their ruse appear to be more believable, but there is something enticing about hearing one’s own name come from the person they are growing an attachment to, and that’s the case with Simon. (He wanted to hear his name from her lips and that’s the tea.) It’s what prompts him to change his entire demeanor when Daphne is then dancing with someone else and he’s forced to watch. It’s presumably no big deal. He is meant to find her a husband, but the duke is already falling, and in his nervousness, for a moment, his stutter returns. It’s a subtle return, but it’s enough for the audience to understand that there is something more now. Page delivers that moment with such meticulous stoicism amidst the cracks, it’s fascinating to watch. Simon Basset is falling and well, we all called it.
To conclude thematically, Simon’s belief in Daphne, in her spirit, and in her heart, is a direct result of the belief that was instilled in him by Lady Danbury’s love. It is easy to appreciate the fact that he made the conscious decision to tell her that she wasn’t wrong in standing up for herself to Berbrooke. And perhaps he should not have told Anthony about Berbrooke despite promising to Daphne, but at the end of the day, he did so because he could not stand the idea of her being with a man like that. While Anthony thought it was a good thing that Nigel hadn’t been seen at brothels, and fights hard against Simon marrying Daphne due to how much he knows of his friend, he should have been made aware of the advances Berbrooke made. Both men act on the belief that they are doing something right to protect Daphne, but what both men will learn next week is that a woman’s agency matters and listening to her matters even more. We have got a long way to go, but that is where we are head–“Shock and Delight” was intriguing in every way where development is concerned.
Afternoon Tea and Reflection
- Can we talk about the tulip scene again because really, is anyone else not losing their mind every time something foreshadows Kate’s entrance? And God, that conversation Anthony has with Violet about Simon not being a serious suitor is also one that’s going to come bite him right in the … The man has no idea what he is setting himself up for by thinking he is protecting his sister and that is exactly what Kate Sheffield will do. Karma. Amazing how wrong they both are in their beliefs. We love to see it.
- “Mama could I go play with Eloise” might just be my favorite line in the episode following “Have you ever visited a farm, El?” because Penelope is so damn precious, which sets up her arc remarkably noting that no character is as they seem. Portia’s eye roll in that scene was also a delight. Young ladies do play, ma’am. Can I interest you in a game of Clue? Or better yet, Pall Mall?
- Marina reveals that love is the reason she got pregnant. (Again, scaring off Eloise completely when Penelope tells her.) And mentions George Crane. If we didn’t already know where this was going based on her name, this would do the trick.
- On this week’s episode of what was Benedict’s face doing? Grumbling about dancing with Daphne because Anthony told him to might just be peak middle brother antics. The man just wanted to stand around and do nothing, but now responsibilities. Blah. Is it any wonder why isn’t Daphne’s favorite brother? Lol.
- But it’s Eloise’s face that wins in this episode, the back and forth in the carriage between looking at Anthony then back at Daphne when she announces she’ll marry Berbrooke was everything. We just spent this entire episode freaking Eloise out about everything that marriage is and this isn’t helping. Is it any wonder she basically wears hard pass on her forehead through everything?
- The final ball’s theme with red, cream, and black was so stunning. We didn’t know where to look because of how gorgeous all the costumes and floral arrangements were. But also, passion, purity, and darkness are very on theme with each of the characters in that final scene–we see you costume department; we see you.
- Simon and Daphne’s first dance and the two of them laughing together might’ve given us a few butterflies. (We’ll reference back to this season in episode five, but adorable has new meaning now.) The slow dances are fire, but some of these others are so sweet, we can’t help but notice.
What are your thoughts on Bridgerton’s second episode, darling readers? Do tell.