Picture this: It's the final week of 2020, and all the horrors of that terrible year have faded into the background as your TV screen, brain, and social media feeds are completely taken over by the swoon-worthy period romance that is season one of Bridgerton. It was a magical time, to be sure, and a much-needed respite from the barrage of increasingly awful news stories—carried in large part by the steamy relationship between Daphne Bridgerton and Simon Basset, played by Phoebe Dynevor and Regé-Jean Page (opens in new tab).
Bridgerton is back with a second season this week, and while season two has no shortage of Regency-era scandals, poofy-sleeved gowns (opens in new tab), and enough illicit glances and hand touches to put Jane Austen to shame, it is sadly missing one of the first season's most critical components: the Duke of Hastings. That's right—Page opted not to re-up his contract (opens in new tab) for the Netflix series' sophomore season. Here's everything we know about his absence and how the show oh-so-casually glosses over it.
Why didn't Regé-Jean Page return for season two?
Don't fret: By all accounts, Page's departure from Bridgerton was completely amicable. In an Instagram post he shared (opens in new tab) last April, after Lady Whistledown herself had revealed (opens in new tab) that Simon wouldn't be returning for any additional episodes, Page called his time on the show "the ride of a life time."
"It's been an absolute pleasure and a privilege to be your Duke," he wrote. "Joining this family—not just on screen, but off screen too. Our incredibly creative and generous cast, crew, outstanding fans—it's all been beyond anything I could have imagined. The love is real and will just keep growing."
In an interview (opens in new tab) with Variety, Page said that the "limited" aspect of the role had actually been a main draw for him. He recalled the producers' original pitch for him to play the duke as, "It's a one-season arc. It's going to have a beginning, middle, end—give us a year."
Page also noted: "One of the things that is different about this [romance] genre is that the audience knows the arc completes. They come in knowing that, so you can tie people in emotional knots because they have that reassurance that we’re going to come out and we’re going to have the marriage and the baby."
Producer Shonda Rhimes is also supportive of his one-and-done appearance—even though she, too, tried to get him back into his Regency breeches after the uproar (opens in new tab) that stemmed from the announcement of his departure.
“Rightfully, he said, 'I signed up to do this one lovely story, this closed-ended storyline. I'm good!'" she told Variety (opens in new tab) of his response to the proposal. "And I don't blame him for that. I think that he was really smart to leave the perfection as the perfection." She added: "As I like to say, the idea that we would write Regé to stand around in the background doesn’t make any sense at all to me. What would he do? is what I like to say.”
How does the show handle his absence?
Simon and his spoon-licking antics may no longer be seen onscreen, but he's still in Mayfair in spirit. He's mentioned several times throughout season two of Bridgerton, as Daphne periodically returns to her family home to witness her sister's social debut, give her older brother some much-needed advice in his own marital pursuits, and help her mother plan out the family's lavish parties. Within the first few episodes of the first episode of season two, an irritated Daphne tells Eloise, "Do you realize I left my husband and child at home for this?”
Another reminder of Simon? His and Daphne's baby son, whose name starts with "A" (no spoilers here!), in keeping with Simon's sweet suggestion at the end of the first season that they pay homage to the Bridgertons' own alphabetically ordered brood.
Critic Nicole Vassell even argued in The Independent that the show's second season and its central romance was stronger without Simon, writing: "Without the Duke and Daphne’s relationship as a focus, Bridgerton is not the same. In fact, it’s better...In Bridgerton’s first season, the reasons for Daphne and Simon’s initial reluctance to be together were flimsy at best—the attraction was there, but their union was stilted by their own stubbornness. With Anthony and Kate, not only is there the matter of their strong personalities standing in the way, but there’s an additional layer of betrayal should they ever act on how they feel."
Where can we see the Duke of Hastings next?
Just because Simon Basset has become an unseen presence on Bridgerton doesn't mean Page has gone similarly quiet. Quite the contrary, in fact. He'll next appear in what promises to be another major Netflix phenomenon: the action-thriller film The Gray Man, alongside fellow Hollywood heartthrobs Ryan Gosling, Chris Evans, and Ana de Armas. And in 2023, he'll take to the big screen yet again in the movie adaptation of the game Dungeons & Dragons, which will also star Chris Pine, Hugh Grant, and Michelle Rodriguez.
But if you're still at a loss without Page's presence in the new episodes of Bridgerton, look no further than Rhimes' own advice (opens in new tab): "Remember: the Duke is never gone. He's just waiting to be binge watched all over again."
Andrea Park is a Chicago-based writer and reporter with a near-encyclopedic knowledge of the extended Kardashian-Jenner kingdom, early 2000s rom-coms and celebrity book club selections. She graduated from the Columbia School of Journalism in 2017 and has also written for W, Brides, Glamour, Women's Health, People and more.
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