Bridgerton from Shonda Rhimes brings Regency-era London to life on Netflix. The series is based on Julia Quinn‘s best-selling series of the same name. The first season is based on the events of her novel, The Duke and I. The series promises us romance and quite a bit of scandal as the eight Bridgerton siblings find their happily ever afters. In “The Duke and I”, tensions between Simon (Regé-Jean Page) and Daphne (Phoebe Dynevor) grow as they prepare for their hasty wedding and Marina is plotting to make Colin a fool.
It goes without saying that this recap will contain spoilers for Bridgerton; if you haven’t watched it, check out the series here!
“The Duke and I” opens with the aftermath of last episode’s duel. Daphne has returned home and hastily cleans herself up and climbs into bed, pretending to have been asleep the entire night. Downstairs, Lady Violet (Ruth Gemmell) is suffering the after-effects of overindulging. Daphne drops the bomb that she is engaged and at first, Lady Violet is a bit underwhelmed until she learns that it is to Simon and not the Prince (Freddie Stroma).
Lady Violet shares that she always knew there was something between Daphne and Simon, and that something is love. Which Daphne does not dispute even though it seems it might not be true. Daphne also requests that they be allowed to marry quickly, three days to be exact, due to the extenuating circumstances. This leads to a very awkward conversation about Lady Violet and Daphne’s father’s love life.
While the Bridgerton household may be overjoyed with the news of Daphne’s engagement, others are not. As Lady Whistledown (Julie Andrews) shares the news with her readers, the Queen (Golda Rosheuvel) celebrates her triumph, only to learn she has failed. Cressida Cowper (Jessica Madsen) and her mother (Joanna Bobin) seem overjoyed with the news, as this gets Daphne out of the way of the Prince. Hyacinth (Florence Hunt) wants to know all about falling in love while Eloise (Claudia Jessie) finds the entire idea unwelcome.
While getting ready to prepare for her upcoming nuptials, Prince Friederick pays a visit to the Bridgerton house. She apologizes that her actions may have led him on and he is ever the gentleman. However, he is worried that Simon may be forcing her into marriage. Daphne remarks that she is forcing him – or rather that love is the greatest force of all. Though no matter how many times she perpetuates the lie that they are madly in love, it seems she herself is finding it hard to believe.
Later that morning, during promenade, Simon shows up late and looking rather unkempt. Lady Danbury (Adjoa Andoh) scolds him for nothing only being late but bringing the bar with him. Things between Simon and Daphne have drastically changed. The easy feeling of being in each other’s company has been replaced with silence and a rather uncomfortable feeling. When approached by another family who remark on how perfect their union will be, both pretend like love is the answer to everything, but Simon pulls away when Daphne tries to hold his hand.
On the other side of London, Anthony (Jonathan Bailey) pays a visit to Siena (Sabrina Bartlett). Genevieve Delacroix (Kathryn Drysdale) answers the door and refuses to allow him to enter. She claims that Siena has left town and no longer needs or wants him. He has already done enough damage to the poor girl.
At the Featheringon household, Lady Portia (Polly Walker) shares with her husband (Ben Miller) that Genevieve is refusing to release the new dresses until their back bills have been paid. Lady Portia believes if the girls can go without new dresses, then he can go without his tobacco. Before she can argue further, Colin (Luke Newton) arrives to pay a visit to Marina (Ruby Barker). Penelope (Nicola Coughlan) shares her worry that Marina is wasting her time with Colin instead of finding someone to wed her sooner.
While being fitted at the modiste for her wedding dress, Daphne has another run-in with Cressida. The two speak privately and Cressida accuses Daphne of using the Prince to make Simon jealous. She then accuses her of luring Simon into the gardens so she could trap him into marriage. Daphne warns her that she will be a duchess in a few days and that Cressida should truly think about how she speaks to her if she wants to remain well-liked among the ton. However, Cressida reminds Daphne that she first needs to make sure Simon goes through with the marriage.
At the royal household, Prince Friederick bids the Queen farewell. He has decided to return to Prussia, though the Queen thinks he should stay and fight for Daphne. He is willing to accept defeat because he can see just how in love the two are. However, the Queen isn’t ready to throw in the towel just yet. Anthony and Simon pay a visit to the Archbishop. They discuss Daphne’s dowery, which Simon declines as well as a brief apology surrounding the duel. The Archbishop arrives to inform them that the special license will not be granted.
Daphne is devastated by the news knowing that this will give Cressida more time to spread the news about the ton and ruin the Bridgerton family. Upon learning of the Archbishop’s choice, Lady Danbury arrives and knows exactly who is responsible – the Queen. Clearly, she is angry that Daphne chose Simon over the Prince and is punishing them for it. The only recourse is to visit the Queen herself and request she grant the special license. All they need to do is tell her they are in love. But can they do that?
Benedict (Luke Thompson), back to his second son status, attends a party hosted at Henry Granvill’s (Julian Ovenden) studio. But unlike the cozy art scene he found the first time, he finds himself in the middle of a scandalous party. Inside he runs into Genevieve. The two hit it off even though she isn’t a fan of his brother. While trying to find a more private place, Benedict comes upon Henry with another man. He quickly leaves the room and returns to Genevieve and the friend she found.
Outside of a bar in London, Will (Martins Imhangbe) finds Simon drunk and singing out of tune love songs. Will realizes that Simon has been kicked out of the bar due to his excessive drinking and questions if marrying Daphne is really that bad. Simon believes that he has trapped her in a marriage that she doesn’t want because he allowed his feelings to get in the way. Kind of like how Daphne feels like she has trapped him.
Lady Portia heeds the advice of Penelope and informs Marina that Lord Rutledge (Michael Culkin) will be joining them for dinner soon and to be ready to accept his proposal. However, Marina has plans of her own. She convinces Lady Portia to allow her to continue trying to pursue Colin. If he doesn’t propose by the end of the week, she will accept Lord Rutledge’s hand. When Lady Portia reminds her that she doesn’t have the time for a lengthy engagement, Marina reveals the worst part of her plan. She intends to trap Colin in marriage by seducing him. Unknown to both Lady Portia and Marina, Penelope has heard the entire conversation.
Back at the royal household, the Queen joins King George III (James Fleet) for dinner. Things seem normal until the King starts asking about their daughter, who has passed away. He grows angry at the Queen, demanding to know what she has done. All of these clear signs of his instability due to his illness and the tragic loss of their daughter.
Daphne, unable to sleep, takes a late-night walk out into the gardens. Her maid Rose (Molly McGlynn), finds her and the two discuss the upcoming wedding. Daphne confides in her about Simon’s inability to have children. Rose shares her aunt and uncle’s story, who never had children of their own but still have a happy marriage regardless. Daphne finally admits to someone that there is no love between her and Simon.
Simon awakes the next morning at Will’s home. They discuss the finer points of marriage, most notably that the wife always knows what is going on. Simon invites Will and Alice (Emma Naomi) to attend the wedding and Alice brings up Will’s exhibition series they hope Simon and Anthony will fund. Later that morning, Simon, Daphne, Lady Violet and Lady Danbury have their moment in front of the Queen.
While Daphne tries to perpetuate the lie that they are in love, it becomes quite clear that the Queen doesn’t believe it. Simon speaks up, denying that it was love at first sight for him and Daphne. Rather it was the understanding that there wouldn’t (and couldn’t) be the romance between the two that led to the friendship they both valued. Simon shares that he eventually found that friendship wasn’t enough for him. He wanted Daphne to be his wife. Moved by Simon’s speech, the Queen grants them their license.
In front of their family and friends, Daphne and Simon finally tie the knot. Though this is meant to be a joyous occasion, both seem to be looking rather melancholy indeed. Even during their wedding party afterward, tensions are high between the two. Even knowing that Cressida will no longer bother her, Daphne is still having trouble finding happiness during her party.
Penelope is using the occasion to attempt to introduce Marina to other suitors. She has no interest in them and only wants to marry Colin. Penelope asks that it be anyone but him. He is her friend and she does not want to see him tricked into a life long commitment. Lady Portia also shares that Marina has no other choice than Colin since Lord Rutledge has found another lady to marry.
Marina seeks Colin out immediately and pretends she is having trouble breathing to lure him away from the party. Once alone, she seduces him though, Colin being the gentleman he is, denies her. However, he does ask her to marry him which she agrees to. Colin just asks that they not say anything just yet since this is Daphne’s day. The only wrench in Marina’s plan is that Colin requests a rather long engagement. Marina agrees but knows she must find a way to speed things up.
Then Queen makes her rounds during the party and visits with Daphne. She shares that she hopes her choice was the right one, but regardless Daphne will at least enjoy the wedding night. This gives Daphne just one more thing to worry about. The Queen moves on when she overhears Eloise accusing Lady Danbury of being Lady Whistledown. The two discuss what Eloise has uncovered so far in her pursuit of Lady Whistledown’s true identity. Benedict runs into Henry and his wife, who just so happens to be Genevieve’s friend from the party.
Anthony finds Daphne during the party and informs her that Simon has declined her dowery. He has placed it into a trust to do what she pleases with it. He suggests using it for their children, believing the two will have a family as large as their own. Daphne, overwhelmed with everything going on, rushes away from the party to be alone. Lady Violet finds her and the two discuss Daphne finally leaving the nest and what to expect on her wedding night. But Lady Violet is a bit too embarrassed and the conversation takes some pretty awkward turns.
Before Daphne can ask any more questions, Rose arrives to let them know Simon is ready to depart. Daphne wishes her siblings all the love and happiness as she prepares to depart. She shares a special moment with Eloise and lets her know that she has faith that Eloise will make her mark in this world one way or another. Daphne’s happiness ends abruptly when Simon informs her they will be spending their wedding night at an inn instead of his home in the county.
Things only worsen when Daphne learns that Simon has requested a separate room on their wedding night. When Simon and Daphne finally come together again before dinner, the tension of the past week finally catches up to them. Both share how they feel they have trapped the other in this marriage and that they could not bear hurting the other. They finally begin to understand that, had they only talked to each other; they would both have seen how much they truly want to be with each other.
“The Duke and I” comes to a close as Daphne and Simon finally get to enjoy the company of one another on their wedding night. However, it appears that Simon might still be keeping a huge secret from Daphne.