Bridgerton “An Unthinkable Fate” Spoilers Ahead
Despite the flaws in Bridgerton Season 1, the pacing is astute, giving the core romance ample time to develop, sail, crash, and recover. It might not be unusual for the climax to occur more than halfway into the season, but when all we have are eight episodes to work with, it’s abysmal to have characters act as plot devices as opposed to equal players, steering the story entirely off course instead of riding the clear road ahead of them.
It’s hard, frankly, to enjoy most of what occurs in Bridgerton’s “An Unthinkable Fate” because, as mentioned in “Victory,” the looming shadows that dim Kate and Anthony’s spark mar the moments that would’ve otherwise been a sight to behold. This is the kind of episode that should’ve either never occurred or one that should’ve come earlier. In the words of Violet Bridgerton, “time is of the essence.” The episode features an even more awkward family dinner than what we witness in “Swish,” secrets coming to the surface, and decisions that could’ve been better orchestrated.
An Unthinkable Fate, Indeed
In short, Bridgerton’s “An Unthinkable Fate” is aptly titled, as it’s genuinely hard to grapple with all that arises. We knew Kate’s secret would blow up in her face, but even that seems to be an easy fix considering Edwina’s love for the viscount is the only thing on the young diamond’s mind.
The best outcome from this dinner, outside of Anthony Head being way too good at playing the bad guy once again, is Mary Sharma boldly declaring “two daughters” and standing up for all that she’s endured after her family cast her out. Shelley Conn’s love for these women and the motherhood she brings to life is exactly how I pictured Mary, long before we ever had the cast. (And it’s such a shame we don’t see the scene where she tells Kate about her mother, visiting her grave, etc.) Because Conn is utterly mesmerizing in displaying the fervent, unceasing, and genuinely equal adoration she carries for her daughters.
It starts with the conversation she has with Kate in the courtyard first, and Conn showcases such potent gratitude for the love she and her late husband lived through. In the same way that we could always feel Violet’s adoration for Edmund, we could sense the same depth for Mary. “It’s a very powerful thing—to meet someone and to feel that you know them in a way unlike any other,” she tells Kate. And it’s during moments like this where we could see how important this conversation is for Kate and Anthony, but what about Edwina?
Perhaps if these conversations had occurred earlier, Edwina would realize that there is no spark or pull between her and Anthony. She’s a mere pawn in his dutiful decisions, and it’s upsetting to see her fall so hard; meanwhile, his mind is completely elsewhere. It’s also saddening how little screen time Mary gets when Shelly Conn is a mesmerizing and gentle performer.
We’ll discuss the pangs of grief in later episodes, but it’s yet another change that makes very little sense, only binding Kate and Anthony that much closer even while it wasn’t necessary because the similarities between them are plenty without Kate taking on every burden alone. Burdens that Edwina does not see and cannot begin to understand quite yet because of how sheltered she’s been. (A large part perhaps, because of Kate as well.) Thus, her innocence makes certain scenes much more uncomfortable, specifically, the changes to the serpentine.
While it was never a scene I cared for as much other fans do (I was more partial to him falling in the lake during Pall Mall), but watching Anthony come out of the water and seeing Edwina completely enamored put me off. Yes, Jonathan Bailey is an utter catch, and we all fawn over him, but because Edwina is supposed to be nearly 11 years younger than him (assuming she’s 18), then it’s just…uncomfortable.
The same can be said for the ring scene, which is one of my least favorite tropes, and seeing it occur between two sisters again is jarring. But still, to watch Anthony gently brush his hand over Kate’s, over the ring that was always meant for her, at a time where they were supposed to be engaged is heartbreaking. It’s disheartening when Edwina’s so utterly clueless, not only of Kate’s feelings towards Anthony but also of his. He is clearly zoned out every time they’re together, and it’s an unthinkable fate to think that this isn’t fate at all—it’s the outcome of choices.
And Violet thankfully realizes this, going to Anthony once more and nearly begging him to reconsider because she can see, clear as day, that he has absolutely no romantic feelings for Edwina. One of the most intriguing bits in The Viscount Who Loved Me is Violet wondering precisely which Sheffield sister her son is interested in and picking up on the fact that it’s Kate is what’s important. Violet might not always have the words, but Ruth Gemmell packs so much into “my darling,” it shatters me. Because more than anything, she doesn’t meddle because she’s bored, but because she knows what true, great love is like, wanting that for her children more than anything else.
And paying attention to Anthony, seeing how off he is, understanding that his feelings are with someone else, as well as noting that it would break both her heart and Edmund’s if he settled is crushing. Almost as crushing as yet another dinner where she learns that someone has essentially withheld information from her son.
Some changes work exquisitely, and one of those changes is hearing Anthony Bridgerton utter the words “you are the bane of my existence and the object of all my desires” out loud. As words that are written through the narration, hearing them come from Anthony made my heart burst. As one of the lines that not only best describes their relationship, but Kate Sharma as a character, Abby McDonald deserves much credit for including this.
How anyone (Edwina, namely) cannot see the pull between them is unthinkable. But it also comes down to how they’re left alone constantly. It digs into this trope of a forbidden romance, which theirs never is. They don’t sneak off behind anyone’s back, noses brushing, heat rippling through their every move. It wasn’t supposed to be this way.
The problem with all this, this episode, in particular, is that Bridgerton’s “An Unthinkable Fate” is very much orchestrated drama for the sake of the queen’s entertainment in her attempt to unmask Whistledown. But if we look at this moment separately, if we merely take apart the performances, Jonathan Bailey makes this line work in a way no one else would be able to. These scenes are beautiful because of the performances Ashley and Bailey bring to the forefront, making it impossible for us to look away from them.
Closer to the Truth
Outside of awkward family dinners, Eloise Bridgerton is getting closer to unmasking Whistledown and learning that there are people who care about the same causes she does. While Theo Sharpe isn’t a difficult character to like, it feels shameful to waste working-class characters like Alice and Will by only showing us small glimpses of them. The same goes for the Featheringtons and Portia doubling down on the scheme because it’s hard to be concerned with this part of society.
I would’ve loved to watch Eloise accompany Benedict to Will’s club (since women are clearly allowed there) and find a kindred spirit in Alice. Though, of course, tying Theo in with Whistledown brings other matters to the surface, and while I don’t particularly dislike it, it feels like a wasted opportunity not to add more characters as opposed to allowing us to get to know the ones we already have.
And as Penelope sees her, more of the drama begins to unravel here, allowing us to understand the lengths both women are willing to go to. In a romance, situations aren’t meant to get this twisted, and while I generally love good angst, taking it too far never ends well.
The jaded truth of Benedict’s future is an interesting detail that’s alluded to here as artists note that he still seems fresh-faced. And as creative people, we can understand exactly what’s going to happen here. It’s fun and exciting until imposter syndrome strikes. It’s fun and exciting until criticism isn’t so constructive. It’s a mess that doesn’t seem to have an ending, but it’s made more manageable through time, and seeing it come to life through Benedict will make for great storytelling.
You Oughta Know
Alanis Morissette’s “You Oughta Know” is such a cut-throat song to feature because as Kate essentially begs Anthony to marry her sister, both their worlds come crashing down. To think that they could’ve been married by now and they’d be skipping balls for shared joy in their bed chambers hurts a bit.
There’s much at this moment that’s fascinating, and for Anthony, knowing he’s cupped her face, has been close to her lips, not once but twice, isn’t willing to tarnish his honor is commending. Anthony does unsettling things, but this isn’t one of them. While perhaps the question here is: well, what would’ve happened if the bee sting never occurred, trapping them into marriage? The very same thing that’s happening in this field.
Anthony Bridgerton would come to the realization that despite Kate’s blessing, he cannot marry Edwina because it would trap the two of them in a maddening cycle where he’d spend his entire marriage thinking of and wanting to be with her. That much is clear in the books, too. Because when Anthony talks about being a gentleman and honor, he isn’t trying to convince himself; it’s the truth. In the same way that he testifies that Kate and Edwina are a product of both their parents, he knows that very fact runs through him and each of his siblings.
The books clearly state: “Maybe the time had come to search out a new bride, tedious though the prospect may be. Maybe the time was right to kiss Kate Sheffield again, here in the perfect beauty of Aubrey Hall’s gardens, with the flowers grazing their legs and the smell of lilac hanging in the air.” We know that Anthony makes the mistake of throwing the key then destroys himself thinking of how much pain it must’ve caused her. He is flawed, but he is still honorable, hanging by a thread or fortified. Still, just as he was going to do now, he would’ve found another bride to chase, perhaps then forcing the true unthinkable fate to intervene, the universe finding other ways to bring him and Kate together.
We could have gotten so much more than this engagement, and this could’ve been the moment to do so if only Edwina weren’t in love, forcing Kate to put aside her own feelings and fight for her sister because more than anything, it’s her first, most formidable love story. She would do anything for Edwina, and that’s especially an obvious outcome after Lady Danbury noticeably questions her, stating right before the dinner, “after passion cools, and fate intervenes—who else is a woman left with but herself?” Kate could live with herself after many outcomes, but being the cause of her sister’s unhappiness isn’t one of those things.
And that much is perfectly in character for both of them, but the unnecessary change in the plot doesn’t allow the story to move forward with the romance we’re all so desperate to see. It hinders their path with shadows and heartbreak, bringing in external angst when their internal battles were one of Julia Quinn’s most admirable means of storytelling. Their struggles were supposed to be from within, and by the time we get there, well… it’s sadly over.
Bridgerton’s “An Unthinkable Fate” has some of the most swoon-worthy moments in the season, but it’s hard to appreciate them when we know we’re heading toward sadness. It’s easy to enjoy the good moments when you disregard canon, but when you remember what’s to come, the thematic framework of the episode leaves very little room for character journey’s to take precedence. A choice will be made in the next episode, but at what cost?
Afternoon Tea and Further Thoughts
- I am once again, in awe of everything Kate Sharma wears.
- Did anyone else cry a little when Anthony said he’d like the wedding at Aubrey Hall? Because SAME. It’s where it should’ve always happened and with Kate.
- Benedict asking if he’d like them to also be polished and braided was chef’s kiss. And his first day of art class is going swell as he meets a lady. Get it, sweet boy. Do you.
- Hyacinth asking about Kate and Eloise saying it’d be nice to have another intellectual woman around is just … everything to me.
- “Here I am feeding the ducks”…Colin, buddy, those are swans.
- Kate saying she made friends with the turtles is the very Kate that talks to flowers and I have 1000 feelings about this.
- When Kate says “my mother has a name” I literally screamed THEN TELL US, PLEASE. Why can’t we know Kate’s father and mother’s names? This is crucial information.
- Kate introducing Edwina to the opera…On The Way to the Wedding, Kate would have some words about this.
- THE WAY KATE CRIES IN THAT FINAL SCENE HURTS SO MUCH. (Also, no one should ever look THAT BEAUTIFUL CRYING? How does Simone Ashley’s face do that!??)
- This is also not how I wanted Kate’s first time using Anthony’s first name to be, but well…what can we do.
Bonus Content: Listen to the Lady Geeks’ Society Podcast Episode of “An Unthinkable Fate” for more Bridgerton
Now streaming on Netflix: What are your thoughts on Bridgerton’s “An Unthinkable Fate?” Let us know in the comments below.