There’s so much that happens in Bridgerton’s “An Affair of Honor” that it’s easy to look beyond certain scenes that are quieter and less explosive. That’s the case with Benedict clearly wanting to say something more to his brother Anthony, and Anthony refusing to listen.
If you go into this series knowing everyone’s full stories then you go in knowing that Anthony Bridgerton doesn’t talk about his demons or his trauma. He bottles everything up, he buries it all deep within, and in the end, it eats him whole instead.
In retrospect, I kept screaming to my TV screen during this scene because I selfishly want to know what Benedict was going to say. Was it going to be something along the lines of “don’t get yourself killed?”, which is also the equivalent of saying I love you in other words. What was he going to say? It’s also one of those scenes that’s so brilliantly acted, allowing the chemistry between Jonathan Bailey and Luke Thompson to show us so much with so little words.
None of this is easy for Benedict and Thompson makes it clear that not only is he not ready for any of these responsibilities, but more than anything, he isn’t ready for where his brother is headed–where he’s been all these years. But that said, with the Bridgerton siblings, there’s so much warmth in them calling one another “brother” and/or “sister” as opposed to by their names. It’s the ultimate showcase of their adoration, and it’s a showcase of the closeness they only share with each other.
It’s starts with the way Anthony grips Benedict’s shoulder for a moment, (which Bailey shows with keen emphasis through his physicality) to say with actions what he cannot say with words that gives Benedict the momentary ease to try. It’s the way that he then sighs, grappling with the reality in a way that a younger sibling should never have to.
Thus, it becomes very clear in that moment that whatever Benedict was about to say is something that’d require too much vulnerability from Anthony, which he effortlessly picks up on because Bailey’s quick shift in his demeanor followed by the “that is all,” boldly states we’re not going there. We’re not going to go any further. The colossal weight of vulnerability that “brother” holds in that moment is heartbreaking because Thompson’s tone harbors a plethora of emotions submerged into a single word. It equates to over two decades of memories for them.
And it’s crushing because in open space such as the field they’re in, it’s a moment that’s so painfully suffocating because the duel aside, it’s a rather obvious showcase of the disconnect between brothers. A disconnect that isn’t brought on by the absence of love or the lack of closeness for whatever reason, but instead, it’s a disconnect brought on by the immensity of the adoration.
If Anthony didn’t love his family as deeply as he does, listening to whatever it is that Benedict had to say would have been easy. If Benedict didn’t love his brother as deeply as he does, his expressiveness wouldn’t be laced with such harrowing pain and fears.
Responsibility here isn’t the issue. It’s clear that though Benedict might not be prepared for the viscountcy, they’re each raised in such a way where the love for family would ensure he does all that’s necessary, but it’s the very understanding that there are demons inside of his brother he might never know of because he isn’t given the chance to.
And as the audience we know that this isn’t because Anthony doesn’t care for or trust in his siblings, but rather because of all that he harbors, he is of the firm belief that he must bear it himself. He is of the firm belief that the responsibility he carries isn’t something that’s to be shared, and it’s something that ultimately reveals his selflessness though we see the brash sides of him in season one.
Though as broken records now, we’ll repeat this once more, Edmund Bridgerton didn’t take on seven children and the viscountcy on his own, he had Violet. That’s not something kids, the eldest especially see until they find the comfort and adoration in a partner themselves—someone to help carry the demons.
But until then, it’s hard to pass that down to a brother. It’s hard to look at a sibling and share your burdens though they’re likely to understand it on a deep level no one else might. That’s what makes each of the Bridgerton men so fascinating because they all very clearly deal with Edmund’s death differently. They all lost a father that day, and though it weighs so heavily on Anthony as the eldest, it’s still something they each carry like crosses on their back.
And if there wasn’t so much heartbreak in Anthony, this exchange would’ve been easier for him to bear. He would have allowed his brother to say what he needed to. They had time. It was the deliberate choice to opt out of conversation because it entailed the kind of vulnerability that’d make potentially dying that much harder for them. Better a brother who’s stoic and guarded than one who’s warm and who’d be missed. Isn’t that his whole mindset? Stemmed from the darkness that gnaws at him at every corner to be someone who’d be forgotten in time as opposed to a man who’d leave the kind of poignant, eternal mark that their father has.
It’s one of those scenes where again, if I wasn’t a book reader, if I had no idea what was happening within each of them, I’d sit here for hours and think about dissecting this because the performances demand to be excavated. Full of raw heartaches tucked beneath each of their expressiveness and coupled with a myriad of uncertainties, this isn’t easy for either of them. Such performances demand to be heard and paid attention to. I wouldn’t even say it’s a blink and you’ll miss it moment—it’s full of depth and loud even in the hushed tones they’re speaking with. And it’s one that I hope we get to see some sort of call back to when we’re given the chance to go deeper into Anthony’s character next season.
P.S. you should also listen to Lord Huron’s “Brother” and cry with me about how gorgeously this fits ABC. (And especially in this scene.)