The second season of Bridgerton isn’t without its flaws. But Kate and Anthony (a.k.a. Kathony or Kanthony) aren’t on the list. Their chemistry is electric, and every single one of their moments together shine. That said, their story isn’t exactly the same as it is in the source material. It would perhaps be more accurate to call the season loosely inspired by the novel (after a certain point) than an adaptation of the same. But those changes, while met with somewhat mixed reviews, served at least one purpose: highlighting the conflicting pulls of duty versus desire in both Anthony and Kate.
Heavy Is The Head
It’s unfortunate that Kate’s backstory doesn’t get the same level of exploration as Anthony is afforded during the season. However, there are enough crumbs sprinkled through the episodes to give us an idea that there are more similarities between the two than meets the eye.
Both Anthony and Kate lost their fathers before their time. (It’s never stated how old Kate’s father was when he died, but given the ages of all other relevant parties, one can infer he likely wasn’t elderly.) Indeed, Kate also lost her mother at a young age. And upon losing their fathers, both were prematurely shoved into the role of head of the family. Both were forced to assume the heavy weight of familial duty.
For Anthony, the impact of needing to grow up too soon is excruciatingly depicted. In the added flashback scenes, his trauma is given a depth and breadth that is greater even than that in the novels. He became the head of the family when he was but a teenager. His father’s body wasn’t even cold before Anthony had to step into his shoes – taking over his rooms, overseeing his family’s finances, and ensuring the futures of his younger sisters. More than that, he was asked to decide whether his mother or youngest sister should die in childbirth.
Kate’s trauma is implied more than seen. While her family grieved, she took on the responsibility of guiding her younger (half-)sister. She ensured Edwina had the skills needed to make a splash among the British ton, and she apparently even assumed the responsibility of looking toward their financial future. At a time when women could only really marry into their fortunes – and Kate was too old (by society’s standards) to do so – it would have been a heavy weight, indeed.
Is in any wonder, then, that Anthony swore to never fall in love? To never subject another to the potential pain of losing him? And is it any wonder that Kate’s actions were marked by sacrifice?
The Price Of Love
Although Anthony was more straightforward in stating his intent that love would have no place in his marriage, he wasn’t alone in his sacrifice. Kate professed repeatedly that she would return to India to become a governess, once Edwina was securely wed. But there were moments throughout the season when it seemed that her prickly demeanor hid a romantic heart.
Throughout their courtship, Kate repeatedly professed her desire for Edwina to make a love match. And, of course, I’m sure Edwina would have preferred a future filled with love to one without. Who wouldn’t? But was she as set on a love match as her sister was on her behalf? Honestly, I’m not so sure. Consider that one of their first scenes together had Kate telling Edwina what she was looking for in a match, not the other way around. And consider Edwina’s reaction when Anthony said he wanted to speak to her father at their first meeting. She wasn’t appalled or even concerned – although the two had only just met, they couldn’t possibly be in love, and “speaking to her father” had a very distinct purpose (asking for permission to marry and discussing marriage settlement/dowry details) in that era.
In Edwina’s anger during the latter part of the season, she made some allegations and said some things that weren’t entirely fair. Or even nice. But in saying that Kate gave her everything she wanted for herself, she might not have been completely off the mark. Kate not only sacrificed her childhood on behalf of her family; I think that she probably did set aside her own desire to find love one day, in order to focus on giving Edwina the best future possible.
And, of course, in the present, she was willing to sacrifice the love she had found with Anthony for Edwina’s sake, once her sister professed her own feelings for him. No doubt in part because her habit of self-sacrifice in order to do her duty by her family made her see the truth of her feelings a little too late.
Duty Versus Desire
Both Kate and Anthony put family before themselves. And in their attempted sacrifice, both made mistakes. They did not giving enough credit to their siblings to make their own choices. Kate should have been honest with Edwina much, much sooner. Before things could get out of hand, leaving Edwina humiliated at her own wedding. And for his part, Anthony received a lot of hate for his stubborn handling of Daphne’s romantic prospects. Some of that anger is surely well-earned. However, he was doing what he thought he should as the head of the family. Possibly even trying to imagine what his father would have done in his place. (If so, he got that way, way wrong.) At any rate, he was not acting on his own self-interest.
In trying to convince Edwina to proceed with the wedding, Anthony professed that he understood her. And perhaps he did to a point. But it is really Kate who’s the most like Anthony. More than anyone else in the show, including his mother, it is Kate who can understand how the loss of his father, his assumption of familial duty, and his errors in self-sacrifice, have made him who he is today.
Is it any wonder they are drawn to each other? (Plus, I mean…look at them.) Or that, despite their best intentions, they can’t help but play with fire every time they’re alone together. Neither has met anyone like the other before. They’ve never met anyone so much like themselves, wrapped up in their familial duty to the point that doing something solely for themselves seems too selfish to consider.
Even as they try to deny the desire that binds them together, it helps tear down the walls they’ve built around themselves. It allows them to see what they really want. They both want love – although one is scared of it and the other feels they have to earn it. They both have made mistakes but genuinely want their family members to be happy. And they naturally want a future where they can be loved by their siblings without the resentment that their position as head (or acting head) of the family has put them into.
Anthony and Kate have both assumed duty and sacrifice on behalf of others. Desire is the one thing they have found that is solely for themselves. Even when they don’t particularly want it – or at least thing they don’t want it. And even when they try to deny it. In a sense, it’s no wonder that they couldn’t resist its allure. Even when trying to act with the best of intentions. One can only put others first for so long.
It is no doubt at least in part because they were so unaccustomed to putting themselves first that their road to love was such a rocky one. Anthony, still scared of ever putting another person through what he witnessed his mother suffer after his father’s death, pushed Kate away, even as he found himself drawn to her. Kate kept silent about her own feelings for far too long, even in the face of Lady Danbury’s warnings.
Fortunately, Edwina did for them what they would not have been able to do for themselves. At least not until it was entirely too late. Edwina walked away, teaching Kate – as Anthony learned last year with Daphne – that loving one’s sibling means trusting them with the truth and allowing them to make up their own mind. Kate and Anthony both had to fail in their duty toward their families to even consider that they, too, deserved to be happy. More, they owed a duty to themselves to embrace that happiness.
Now that they’ve done so, I hope we get to see them grow into their roles as heads of the Bridgerton (and Sharma?) families. To see them guide their younger siblings next season with a healthier perspective about love than they allowed themselves this season. And, yeah, I want to see that they desire each other every bit as much now that they’re married as they did on the journey to get there. Because, again…I mean, just look at them.
Bridgerton is streaming now on Netflix.