After a massive hit of a first season, Netflix’s “Bridgerton” premiered its second season on March 25. Based on the New York Times Best Selling book by author Julia Quinn, this new narrative is threaded around viscount Anthony (Jonathan Bailey), the Bridgertons’ firstborn. While the second season already broke a record by being the best-ever opening weekend of any English-language Netflix series, does the second season live up to its predecessor?
“Bridgerton” follows everyday life in the 1800s London royal court. The Bridgertons, a high-aristocracy family, are the chief center of attention, with one of the eight siblings getting the spotlight each season. Last season was Daphne’s (Phoebe Dynevor) time to shine as she got anointed the “diamond” by the queen of England (Golda Rosheuvel), propelling her to the title of the most coveted lady of the season. Daphne met her love match in the Duke of Hastings (Regé-Jean Page), who was warmly welcomed by fans around the world. The couple hooked viewers with their impetuous and refreshing romance and managed to overcome the obstacles that hampered their union to finally complete the first installment with an “all’s well that ends well.”
This said, “Bridgerton” is also the nest to the historical version of “Gossip Girl,” with weekly columnist Lady Whistledown. Anonymous and seemingly aware of the upper crust’s most crusty tea, the writer hides behind a fictitious name to divulge the Bridgertons’ scandalous affairs. The show stands out with its racially diverse cast, depicted by showrunner Chris Van Dusen, who was inspired by the theory that Queen Charlotte could have been of African ancestry. The sophomore season, on the other hand, draws attention to characters of Indian descent.
“Sex Education”’s Simone Ashley joins the English aristocracy as Kathani, known as Kate Sharma. Following her father’s passing, she takes it upon herself to marry off her younger sister, Edwina (Charithra Chandran) to ensure both Edwina’s happiness and her family’s prosperity. Kate wants her sister to marry well, along with finding true love. So, when Edwina finds interest in the viscount, who is all but interested in romance, Kate wears her prickliest thorns to mama-bear her. This is without counting on Anthony’s tenacity and his will to marry nothing less but “perfection” to match his family’s reputation and expectations. Things take a complicated turn once Kate and Anthony start developing feelings for one another.
Anthony’s distance from love is due to his witnessing his father’s death. He seems to have been shutting down his father’s memory for years, and viewers get to experience his everlasting loss. This was poignantly captured when the viscount opens up about how he wants his marriage to be “untouched by heartbreak and the ravages of grief.” His mother, however, tells him that “it is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.”
Anthony’s steadfastness to reject love might have made the passion for “Bridgerton” fans got accustomed to in the former season burn slower, but it plays an advantage to the character’s nature. The cutthroat fight against their desires leads Kate and Anthony to electrifying eagerness every time they get close enough to feel each other’s breath. The couple dexterously proved there was no need for nudity to create palpable addictive chemistry.
One thing that was quite irritating was Edwina’s storyline. There was plenty to do with Kate’s feminist avant-garde disposition and Anthony’s will to give justice to his late father’s education. Having him propose to Edwina just seemed too far-fetched. Although the protagonists managed to have their happy ending, it’s such a disservice to throw in more drama, especially when it’s so unnecessary.
It should be reminded that the first season concluded by revealing the identity of Lady Whistledown. Penelope Featherington (Nicola Coughlan) was labeled as the “ugly duckling.” Her passion for literature is probably what got her to befriend Eloise, the Bridgertons’ fifth child. Both women have strong feminist ideals and Penelope started Lady Whistledown to sarcastically mock and manifest disdain for the establishment. While Eloise is a witty defender of women’s rights, Kate wonderfully fits the f***-the-patriarchy persona. The queen, when exploring who could be the diamond of the season, yearned for “someone fresh, someone unexpected to run this season on its head.” That someone did not end up to be Edwina, but rather Kate. And she didn’t even try.
Along with the diverse group of characters and hooking plot, the show enraptured viewers with its outstanding writing. As a way of example, Anthony’s first confession of love to Kate was told this way: “You are the bane of my existence and the object of all my desires.” There is not much to say except that the wording is poetically stupefying.
The enemies-to-lovers and the duty v.s. desire tropes are not unheard of, yet doubtlessly engaging. A confession of love under fireworks and uplifting music building up to a happily-ever-after ending, yes, it is cliché, but does that necessarily hinder the fun of it? Breaking Netflix’s record for most hours viewed in one week behind “Squid Game,” “Bridgerton” manages to have viewers flocking to stream it without moderation. And fans will be thrilled to catch the Easter egg Anthony pulls up when asking how many fingers Kate sees on his hand, indicating the show is being renewed for not only a third but a fourth season as well. While the third season propels the third Bridgerton child, Benedict, to the protagonist status, the fourth will focus on the fourth child, Colin.
Although the author is not insensible to Benedict’s light-hearted and well-read disposition, I very much look forward to seeing Eloise’s character finally rise to the leading-female role. Her ability to always come up with the best come-back gets my jaw on the floor every time. And justifiably so. Eloise is exceptionally well-spoken, ahead by centuries and unafraid to speak her truth. Unfortunately, her time won’t be coming before a potential fifth season.
The second season of “Bridgerton” surely had its fair share of emotional, gripping scenes. From “forbidden love” to grief, family responsibility and epoch restraint, the Netflix show knows how to point out societal issues in a smooth tongue-in-cheek rather than brutal way. The British accents match the strong lyrical aesthetic of the script, and the character arcs are well-thought. The classical rendition of pop songs, one of “Bridgerton”’s hallmarks, will keep you excited every time you watch. Naturally, the period drama leaves fans replete. Hopefully the wait for the next season won’t be too much aggravation.
“Bridgerton” is now streaming on Netflix.