Bridgerton “Victory” Spoilers Ahead
Bridgerton‘s “Victory” feels more like a defeat for long time fans of The Viscount Who Loved Me, and it bears repeating once more that it’s not due to how far it diverts from the novel but because the shift amplifies the drama as opposed to diving into the heart of the characters. It’s a surprise to no one that the Bridgerton cast is an outstanding ensemble capable of greatness, and in an episode where we could’ve watched that come to life, the series instead glossed over the key moments of vulnerability that make the visit to Aubrey Hall so special.
In an attempt to ensure that her second chance at a proposal doesn’t slip by, Edwina Sharma believes that Kate must charm the viscount in order for their hatred not to stand in the way of his feelings towards her. Kate agrees to accompany Anthony and Benedict on a hunt, but everything starts to veer off course when the yearning between them grows stronger, and Anthony learns she’s decided to return to India after the wedding. Both Lady Danbury and Daphne sense what’s happening between the two, but realizations are no match for the viscount’s intentions to keep love out of the equation. Elsewhere, Colin returns to the past by visiting Marina Thompson and Sir Phillip Crane, while Portia Featherington traps Prudence and Jack in a compromising situation, forcing them to marry.
Thematically, the episode orbits around one’s honesty with the self while the primary characters of this season completely fixate on denial. Still, despite the ending, it does what’s necessary by giving us the kind of longing that works to thrust the enemies closer to lovers.
Victory and Defeat
Perhaps if we weren’t aware of where the series goes in the next two episodes, Anthony’s awkward proposal to Edwina wouldn’t matter. And Bridgerton’s “Victory” doesn’t give viewers the space to see beyond the ill-fated match as it visibly illuminates that neither Anthony Bridgerton nor Edwina Sharma know a single important thing about the other person. Viewers could also argue that the two don’t necessarily know themselves, let alone other people, but this is essentially where the divergence starts to get convoluted.
In the books (and briefly in “A Bee in Your Bonnet“), we understand that Edwina is fond of reading. As a detail that’s translated onto the screen, we realize that it doesn’t necessarily bother her that Anthony isn’t strictly the scholar type in the same way it does in the books. Okay, so perhaps we look at it from a different angle—it’s not the end of the world that they don’t share this similarity, but they share non whatsoever, which makes Edwina’s growing feelings that much more awkward.
She is innocent and doe-eyed to a degree in the books too, but Edwina’s mind is still reasonably sharp. She isn’t solely fixed on marrying and becoming a hostess, and though we’ll get to her growth in later episodes, it’s off-putting that the series goes down this direction when it isn’t required. It pushes forward more drama than is necessary, adding in the forbidden love trope to Kate and Anthony‘s story that doesn’t need to be there. (This is especially jarring when it’s the central trope in Benedict and Sophie’s story, making me question how that’ll come to our screens now that we’ve taken this from them.)
As much as “forbidden love” is one of my favorite tropes when appropriately done, it wasn’t a necessary addition for Kate and Anthony when the essence of their story centers around trauma, and the healing that shared vulnerability leads to.
Catch and Release
On par with the theme of characters not knowing who they are, Bridgerton’s “Victory” gives viewers a glimpse of who they could be by directly showing us the momentary contentment that rushes over Kate Sharma and Anthony Bridgerton when they allow themselves respite from an argument.
It’s primitive where need be in the showcase that their souls and bodies take over their minds when they’re physically close together. There’s absolutely no need for Anthony to show her how to hold a riffle, but we could argue that it comes down to the fact that he’ll find any excuse to touch her because it’s what every part of him demands. His breath catches when she’s around and releases with overwhelming desperation only when she, too, is as enamored. Jonathan Bailey does a tremendous job of showing the audience how drawn Anthony is to Kate, to the scent of soap and lilies, which we get confirmation of later in the season.
It’s in the quiet moment when the sounds of their breathing drown out every other and when her body moves past him during the hunt, spreading the scent farther, etching itself onto him. Bailey and Ashley show us far more than words do in every brief scene, resulting in some of the best moments.
But then there’s the matter of the storm, a fundamental part of Kate Sharma‘s character arc, which the show breezes past, leaving us questioning whether or not her fear is at the same magnitude that it’s in during The Viscount Who Loved Me’s Chapter 12. Simone Ashley floors us in her ability to convey the slightest changes in Kate’s demeanor by allowing us to see both the internal and external battles without a single word.
As a performer, she is entirely capable of saying more with less, which makes it an even bigger shame that the library scene is as short as it is. We could see that she’s distinctly uncomfortable from the first drop of rain on the field, and we could see that it isn’t easy to fall asleep. We could also sense her unwillingness to divulge her loss further to Anthony. The groundwork is all there, but is the fear not as crippling as it is in the books, leading her to the same panic attack that Anthony faces when the bee stings her?
We could also argue that everyone showcases panic attacks differently and that severity in reactions fluctuates depending on the circumstances. That’s precisely why, after my first viewing, I wondered whether or not there’d be a worse storm that’d petrify Kate. However, considering we don’t see it (and we also see her riding in the rain), it essentially tells us that the fears many of us closely related to aren’t part of the adaptation.
And to pretend that’s okay wouldn’t be fair because part of the reason why Kate is such a relatable heroine wasn’t because of her fierceness but because of her vulnerabilities. To see that she could be strong one minute and crumble the next showcased that women aren’t defined by their strengths alone, but the perils they endure when they aren’t putting on a brave face.
It could’ve been so compelling to see the juxtapositions of the physical manifestation of a storm and the ones beneath them. There’s so much to be said about how stunning this scene is—the two of them, completely disheveled, open with one another and conversing in the silence as the storm roars outside. The detail that in that brief silence right before the lightning strikes, the two are looking into the eyes of a true equal, and this time, they aren’t seeing the parts of themselves that aggravate them, but they’re gazing into corridors where grief and insecurities plague them in similar ways.
We didn’t need a word-for-word adaptation of the twelfth chapter, but we certainly could’ve used more to unravel the pieces of the character arcs that lead to some of the most wholesome conversations in the books, namely, Kate and Anthony’s visit with Mary. The series glossing over a woman’s trauma like this ultimately doesn’t sit right with me. Bridgerton is great at dismantling toxic masculinity through Anthony’s growth, but to dismiss Kate’s pain thus feeds into the one-dimensional feminism that tells us women cannot be both brave and vulnerable. It isn’t fair that we don’t see her struggles as potently when the library scene exhibits much of her soul.
And through the changes, the library scene could’ve also shown us is a bit about Kate’s father, such as how he died. How old was she? Or, we could’ve learned more about her mother. We didn’t need her to be crouched under a desk. We didn’t need her to be completely distressed, but the scene was the perfect opportunity to give us further insight into the character, along with a chance for her and Anthony to learn more about each other. This would’ve been the perfect opportunity for Anthony to help ride her waves the way she was beside him during his. We merely needed to learn more about her grief, to perhaps even dive deeper into the aching loneliness she feels. Something anything, about three more minutes of dialogue could’ve worked wonders for this moment.
Hearts and Flowers
To then go from the library scene to the dance where nothing is more evident than the fact that they want each other is utterly gut-wrenching because we’re back to the place where we need to remember he’s courting her sister. Insistent on a proposal, yet gravitating entirely towards her, it’s whiplash-inducing. The circumstances start to sting more in Bridgerton’s “Victory” not because of the actual bee sting, but because the writing is now inadvertently pitting two sisters against each other, forcing one to essentially betray the other in a dance that’s so much more than a means to bestow a blessing. (Yet another perfect opportunity for Edwina to notice their feelings.)
As a cover of “Dancing on my Own” plays, Kate and Anthony are the only two people in the entire ballroom with their eyes fixed on one another throughout the whole number. As their bodies move in perfect unison, their eyes never falter, continuing the conversations they’ll deny—pretending as though they’re the only two people in the room, understanding that the mix of contentment and fire burning between them isn’t something they’ll ever find elsewhere.
It’s why Anthony asks what of her future; it’s why it riles him to learn that she plans to leave because he knows that what he feels with her is absent elsewhere, around Edwina included. It’s why he doesn’t want her to run away, to leave him behind as well as everyone else.
But it requires noting before we get into everything how brilliant Jonathan Bailey and Simone Ashley are at switching between the solemnity of their dance to the heightened rage that simmers to the burning desires within. Bailey’s face especially stuns me as he states, “you hate me” because something else in his expressiveness here touches on his demons more than anything else. It’s the underlying insecurities he dons like a cravat, fully believing that everyone around him, his family included, hates him. The thought of Kate hating him too penetrates his heart with unbearable force.
It’s his inability to say the word “sister” when noting that he’s courting her; it’s her inability to confirm that she feels nothing, stopping instead right at the word feel.
Because they feel everything, which is a prominent detail within The Viscount Who Loved Me, only no part of their longing in the book is clouded by Edwina’s genuine feelings for the viscount. This scene could’ve been so utterly breathtaking and achingly raw if Edwina weren’t vocalizing her feelings aloud because it puts Kate in an awful position.
“The damnable spark that never seemed to dim between them. That awful prickle of awareness that burned every time she entered a room, or took a breath, or pointed a toe. That sinking feeling that he could, if he let himself, love her“—the part of their soul that begs to be challenged, the one each of the Bridgerton’s carry, it’s all there. It’s potent and perfectly enunciated by the performances, but it’s…a bit marred because someone else’s feelings are involved.
The Past and Future
This is precisely why Daphne Bridgerton‘s presence this season is such a comforting reassurance because she holds nothing back by calling out Anthony’s hypocrisy and how he behaved in “An Affair of Honor.” Phoebe Dynevor is also electric throughout this episode as she meticulously shows the audience that Daphne understands, clear as day that Kate Sharma is the one Anthony should be courting.
She knows Edwina will make the perfect bride for someone, but that perfect someone isn’t her sharp, quick, a little too exacting eldest brother. She also knows what it’s like to play pretend and deny one’s own feelings, and it’s why she’s the right person to knock some sense into him, only she cannot do so because the writing doesn’t allow her to. It doesn’t drive the characters towards the pathway of understanding themselves; it leads them in the opposite direction.
Daphne is doing right by her past by not only honoring who she is at present, but who she’ll grow to be as a woman and a mother in her future. The same cannot be said for Anthony at this moment, Colin, or Eloise. But we’ll get it there. It’s only episode four.
While I appreciated seeing that Marina appears genuinely content (and that the twins are born!), it was mostly enjoyable to watch Colin get closure together. It’s why Marina calling him out, voicing that she needs nothing from him, is another part of the episode that made me cheer out loud.
If Bridgerton’s “Victory” does one thing right, it’s how it details the importance of sitting with our feelings and inadvertently ourselves. It’s looking into the parts of us that others see better (Marina to Colin, Daphne to Anthony, Lady Danbury to Kate). But in showing us that this is the most important angle, it leaves us with a proposal instead, one that complicates matters while all the characters are all befuddled.
Afternoon Tea and Further Thoughts
- Let it be known that this is my least favorite title in the show’s history.
- It’s actually ridiculous how breathtaking Anthony and Kate both look in the library.
- The decor at Violet’s hearts and flowers ball was stunning.
- Kate and Anthony and their ridiculous “you looked at me!” / “you looked at me!” I love them, Your Honor. I do.
- The way Anthony’s foot glides during that dance when the camera pans out lives rent-free in my mind. (I’ll have a whole scene breakdown about this later.)
- Starting to feel a bit like Eloise every time Colin talks about Greece.
- And speaking of Eloise, that dude was sh!t but her dress was perfect.
- Sir Phillip Crane looks so much better than he did with the mutton chops. Not everyone can rock them the way Anthony did. I’m sorry, but it had to be said.
- LADY DANBURY KNOWING EVERYTHING IS EVERYTHING TO ME.
- Pushing the trapped engagement to Prudence and Jack…I just…my mother said that if I don’t have anything nice to say, I shouldn’t say anything at all.
- Can we talk about how unfair it is that Simone Ashley somehow still looks like the most beautiful goddess even when she’s crying?
- Anthony’s audacity to eat the apple Benedict is painting while clearly being a mess also owns me. As does Benedict being completely for Kate joining them on the hunt. A shame she doesn’t paint in the series. A true shame.
Bonus Content: Listen to the Lady Geeks’ Society Podcast Episode of “Victory” for more Bridgerton
Now streaming on Netflix: What are your thoughts on Bridgerton’s “Victory?” Let us know in the comments below.