Spoilers ahead. In the final episode of Bridgerton’s newest season comes the show’s most heartfelt — and romantic — moment. Sisters Edwina and Kate Sharma (played by Charithra Chandran and Simone Ashley, respectively), have been at odds, after the latter fell in love with the former's fiancé, Anthony Bridgerton (Jonathan Bailey). (Yes, it’s messy.) Edwina — the younger sister — encourages Kate to, after a season and lifetime of doing what she thinks is right and not necessarily what she desires, put herself first and go for Anthony. Sensing her elder sister’s hesitancy to follow her heart, Edwina tells Kate: “Be the sister I know that you are. Be funny and brave and feeling. Be unafraid to follow your heart after doing the exact opposite for far too long. You have spent so much of your time shining your light on me, it is time for you to shine all on your own.”
This selflessness is part of the reason why, despite the fact that we’re tuning in to watch “Kanthony” fall in love (the Ship name Ashley is trying to get off the ground), I’m sorry to say that Kate and Anthony need to sit down. Because the true love story of season 2 is between the Sharma sisters, portrayed so excellently onscreen by Chandran and Ashley (the pair bonded, alongside on-screen mom, played by Shelley Conn, during their 5 a.m. call times in the makeup trailer).
For Ashley, this moment between the sisters stands out as one of the most moving moments on set and of the season. “I remember filming that scene,” she tells Refinery29 over Zoom. “That's such a gift to give to someone, whether it's your friend or relative or partner."
"That's true love,” she says, “when you just let someone go and you want them to be the best version of themselves.”
From the onset, both actors knew their characters’ relationship was going to be the “heartbeat” of the season, according to Ashley. In fact, the sisters’ bond is pretty much the catalyst for the relationship between Anthony and Kate. Especially in the first few episodes of this season, Ashley is very aware that her character is motivated by her need to protect Edwina and put her sister’s best interests first, which led to quite a few moments of Kate being ahem persnickety and more than a few straight-up hot exchanges between Kate and Anthony. “There has to be a fuel to that fire. Kate's fuel was her sister,” Ashley says.
The audience sees this from our first introduction to the women of the Sharma family: Kate as the knowledgeable (somewhat cynical) protector, and Edwina as the more optimistic, if somewhat naïve romantic. Edwina reminds Kate to “play pleasant” and tries to keep the peace between everyone. It’s a relatable dynamic between siblings, and not an entirely unique one, as viewers saw Anthony take on essentially the same role for his sister Daphne in season 1. But for some reason, in a show that, at its heart, is and has always been about family, something feels different about the Sharmas and the strength of their sisterly bond.
In episode three, when Kate carefully and laboriously massages oil through Edwina’s hair — a familiar ritual for many South Asian women and one associated with care and affection, often from female relatives — you can feel this unique connection. Having grown up as an older sister, this scene in particular made me (along with many people on social media) extremely emotional, as a physical manifestation of the unbridled care and protection we go on to see Kate exhibit throughout the rest of the season.
For Chandran, it’s not surprising that the bond between the sisters feels different, because their circumstances are drastically unique to those of the Featherington’s and Bridgerton’s. For one thing, having grown up in India away from London society and being new to the world of balls and high society, they only really have each other. “There's only two of them, which means that there's a heightened level of intimacy there because you share more. They’re your one confidante,” Chandran says. “But,” she continues, “it also means that there's a heightened pressure; when you only have one outlet, they become your everything, and that comes with pros and cons.”
Say, for example, denying your feelings and falling in love with your little sister’s fiancé.
While Kate’s betrayal was shocking for both Edwina and viewers, in its messiness, we’re presented with a rare and honest depiction of the changing nature of these types of relationships. We see Edwina go from the compliant younger sister to finding and owning her own voice and, in turn, supporting Kate. Ultimately, both sisters grow as individuals and come out stronger for it, as equals and friends. “[They’re] learning that they can still be super close and super intimate and soulmates without that level of dependency; by the end they’re getting to a healthier point then when they started.”
Which brings us to those final few scenes. After a period of turbulence, Chandran sees Edwina’s encouragement of Kate not necessarily as a sign of complete forgiveness, (because anyone who has a sister and knows the lengths of a sisterly grudge knows that wouldn’t be realistic), but rather a reaffirming of the sisters’ commitment to each other. Regardless of what happens, they will always be there for each other — because they’re the real soulmates.
“It’s a very raw and genuine portrayal of what siblings go through,” Chandran continues. “It's not always happiness and sunshine and roses, but at the end of the day, you're bonded by blood and that's what matters.”