This post contains spoilers for Bridgerton Season 2. 

Where’s the Duke? That’s the question Bridgerton fans might be asking after tucking into the second season of the hit Netflix show, which debuted Friday. It’s no secret that star Regé-Jean Page, who played the saucy royal in the first season, announced he would be leaving the show ahead of its second season, which pivots to focus on Anthony Bridgerton. Still, it was unclear how the show’s writers were going to handle the conspicuous absence of the Duke, who is married to Anthony’s sister, Daphne. Now that the season has landed, however, that little mystery has finally been revealed.

The Duke is…away! Or rather, he’s at home, far from the ‘ton, tending to his duchy, his wife, and son Auggie. In the first episode, that much is presumed when Daphne pops in to visit her family ahead of the ball where her younger sister will make her debut, in hopes of being named the diamond of the season and catching the eye of a worthy suitor. 

But she’s then gone in a flash, with the episode keeping its focus on the season’s new star, Anthony. This is his story, after all, and any mention of the Duke or a prolonged visit from Daphne might be too distracting.

Once the narrative is established, the Duchess pops up again in episode 3, this time bringing Auggie with her so her family can ooh and ahh over the baby future duke. There’s no mention of his father, with Daphne keeping the conversation strictly to the baby and Anthony’s potential engagement. Later in the episode, she has a private heart to heart with Anthony, imploring him to only pursue his relationship if it feels like true love. Then she monologues about how love makes “your body and soul feel as if they could burst into flames whenever the two of you are near.” It’s a fiery nod to her relationship with the Duke, and the sumptuous Season 1 moment where he declared, “I burn for you.”

That’s the closest the season gets to openly referencing the missing heartthrob at the center of the narrative. And no: despite teasing from Page himself that there might be a cameo from the Duke in the second season, no such thing ever happens. The Duke is just absent, quietly tending to his dukely duties, somewhere out in the Bridgerton universe.

The season doesn’t suffer from the duke’s absence, though. Sure, fans might be frustrated that Page doesn’t return in any fashion, but Jonathan Bailey, who plays Anthony, is a strong anchor, playing the bitter Bridgerton brother with angsty ease. It’s a different energy from that of the Duke—in place of Simon’s easy charm is Anthony’s cold, Mr. Darcy-esque posture, charming in its own way. But for anyone who misses the Duke’s specific charms, just remember the gorgeously commercial words of executive producer Shonda Rhimes: “The Duke is never gone. He’s just waiting to be binge-watched all over again.”

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