Directed by: Tricia Brock, Alex Pillai, Tom Verica, Cheryl Dunye
Distributed by: Netflix
Written by Maria Athayde
There is nothing quite like the feeling when a song, book, movie, or series comes out at the right moment. That is what “Bridgerton” is for me. It feels like a lifetime ago but when “Bridgerton” Season 1 premiered, on December 25, 2020, it felt like something special. While the world was reeling from the COVID19 pandemic and the first vaccines were being administered in the United States, “Bridgerton” provided a delicious escape from the reality of the pandemic. It became an overnight sensation that you couldn’t avoid and one of Netflix’s most successful series to date – logging 625 million watch hours, according to their internal metrics. Much like Season 1 “Bridgerton” Season 2, which premiers on March 25th, 2022, comes out at a time when all the news around us feels heavy and fraught. I was able to screen Season 2 and I am happy to report that “Bridgerton” continues to be as delightful as Season 1, and the ideal respite for anyone looking to escape from the real world for 8 episodes.
Based on the best-selling series of novels by Julia Quinn “Bridgerton” tells the story of an aristocratic family – the Bridgerton’s set in the world of Regency London. Season 2 is inspired by “The Viscount Who Loved Me” the second book in Quinn’s series of novels. This time around our story focuses on Anthony Bridgerton (Jonathan Bailey), the eldest Bridgerton sibling, and his quest to find a wife. Bearing a lot of unresolved grief and trauma, Anthony does not seek to marry for love. Instead, he seeks to take love out of the equation and find a wife that fits into his impossible and neatly constructed list of what a wife should be like. Anthony seeks a woman that is tolerable, dutiful and has, at least, half a brain. Things, however, get a little bit more complicated when the Sharma family – sisters Kate (Simone Ashley) and Edwina (Charithra Chandran) and matriarch Lady Mary Sharma (Shelley Conn) arrive from India to London for the social season. The arrival of the Sharma family is what sets the season into motion and when Anthony identifies Edwina as the woman that meets his impossible standards the fun and scheming begin.
For me, the best adaptations find a balance in presenting parts of that book that are suited for visualization and then improving on them for the screen. “Bridgerton” was able to thread that line perfectly by building on what we already know, about Anthony Bridgerton and the other members of the ton, from the previous season and, at the same time, provide more context to their stories. While Season 2 is a bigger departure from the book than Season 1 Chris Van Dusen, the series’ showrunner, is able to capture the essence of all the characters we have grown to love. This was wonderfully realized in episode 3 when we get to meet Edmund Bridgerton (Rupert Evans), the patriarch of the Bridgerton family, who helps us understand Anthony’s trajectory. Edmund’s introduction is one of the events that help set the tone for this season – as we see many characters struggle between their sense of duty and their deepest desires. This tension is not only confined to the romantic relationships we see on screen. Instead, this battle, between duty and desire, permeates friendships like – Eloise Bridgerton (Claudia Jessie) and Penelope Featherington (Nicola Coughlan) who struggle to fit into the molds of what proper young ladies in Regency London should be like. The introduction of new characters Theo Sharpe (Calam Lynch), a printer’s apprentice, and Jack (Rupert Young), a new and well-connected member of London’s high society, help expand the “Bridgerton” universe in interesting ways. I was particularly fond of Theo whose revolutionary inklings are a departure from other characters in the series. The friendship Theo strikes up with another character and his ability to see people for who they are is a welcome addition this season and I cannot wait to see how they develop his character next.
While I am not an expert on historical romance there is always going to be a bit of misogyny involved. The question is how much you are willing to take. In that sense, Season 2 is able to improve upon the source material. The series, more so than the book, really allows us to understand why Kate and Anthony are the way they are. The burden they carry and the deep love they have for their families is beautifully translated on screen. You get to see these characters change and evolve in the best ways as the series progresses. Their characters are so similar, equal parts headstrong and heartbreaking. But, this only works because Ashley and Bailey are in full control of their craft. Their chemistry is magnetic, once sparks start to fly it is impossible to not fall in love with them as well. Along the way, there are a few surprises that will certainly keep you entertained and wanting more. This is a slow-burn romance for the ages.
Besides romance one of my favorite aspects of “Bridgerton” is how they explore different types of relationships. During this season, we dive deeper into Anthony’s relationship with his siblings, especially with his sister Daphne Basset (Phoebe Dynevor) who encourages him to become less consumed by the expectations others have of him and to follow his heart. We also get to see more of the bond Eloise and her older brother Benedict Bridgerton (Luke Thompson) share. Both characters, at times, feel like outsiders because of their love for literature and art. There is also the sisterly bond between Kate and Edwina, two smart and complex women, that gets tested throughout the season. As the season progresses the relationship between Kate and Edwina could have been fumbled and one could have grown to hate them. But this does not happen, which is a testament to Ashley’s and Chandran’s portrayal of these characters. Both Ashley and Chandran play Kate and Edwina with such nuance, charm, and wit. Which makes it difficult not to root for both sisters even when they find themselves at odds with one another.
But perhaps my favorite aspect of this season is the glimpses and power of female friendships we get to experience. We see Kate strike a friendship and camaraderie of sorts with Daphne and Eloise. There is a lovely scene almost halfway through the season where Kate and Eloise discuss a woman’s place in society. Even though the series is set in Regency London a lot of the discussions between Kate and Eloise ring true to this day. Throughout the season we also see Kate confide in Lady Danbury (Adjoa Andoh) and reveal the reason why her family returned to London. In return, Lady Danbury serves as a guide to the Sharma family as they navigate the gossip, suspicion, and rivalry that comes with being a member of London’s high society. This season gives more depth to its characters and tests friendships like the one between Eloise and Penelope as they try to uncover the identity of Lady Whistledown (Julie Andrews) and, at the same time, navigate new alliances and their entrance into London’s marriage market.
It is no wonder that “Bridgerton” is a tremendous success. Capitalizing on this momentum and their partnership with superstar producer Shonda Rhimes, Netflix is eager to expand the “Bridgerton” universe. Netflix has already announced a spin-off based on Queen Charlotte (Golda Rosheuvel) and renewed “Bridgerton” for seasons 3 and 4. Much like Season 1, this season looks beautiful as it sprinkles bits of modernity into Regency-era London through its use of color, costume design, and classical arrangements of modern pop songs. Season 2 is the perfect blend of romance and rivalry that makes you care deeply for its characters. By the end of its 8 episode run, you become immersed in this world and start wondering what you can do to become a member of the Bridgerton family as well.
“Bridgerton” Season 2 Trailer
“Bridgerton” is streaming on Netflix.
You can follow Maria Manuella Pache de Athayde on Letterboxd, Twitter, or Instagram and view more of what she’s up to here.