Review : Bridgerton Season Two

Review : Bridgerton Season TwoBridgerton by Chris Van Dusen, Julia Quinn, Sarah Dollard
Series: Bridgerton
on March 25, 2021
Genres: Romance, Drama
Buy on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Bookshop.org
Find on Goodreads
three-stars
Source: Netflix

During the Regency era in England, eight close-knit siblings of the powerful Bridgerton family attempt to find love. What happens when duty is in conflict with the heart's true desire? There is potential for a considerable scandal, indeed. Duty, desire and scandal collide when Viscount Anthony Bridgerton decides to marry, only to meet his match in his intended bride's headstrong big sister.

Way back when, Bridgerton first released on Netflix, and I started watching it without knowing anything about the series of novels on which this regency show was based. Imagine my surprise when what I thought would be a regency romance a la Jane Austen, complete with smoldering eye contact and some scandalous hand-holding turned into countless Game of Thrones-esque sex scenes (thankfully with no incest, however). So I  belatedly realized Bridgeton was based on a series of romance novels. At that point, I was too invested in the messy lives of the Bridgerton family in an alternate regency London, filled with diversity, so I saw my way through to the end of the first season.

 

Last week, season two of the steamy show released, with a focus on the eldest of the eight siblings of the Bridgerton series, Anthony Bridgerton. I debated watching the show, as I despised Anthony in season one, but ultimately decided to pick the show up, only to binge it in two separate sittings.  I found the show really entertaining, straddling the line of the ridiculous for sure, but if I had to sum it up in one sentence, it would be that these idiots all truly deserve each other, especially the male and female lead.

 

The Bridgerton family is back in Season Two, with male lead Anthony on the right.

 

Along with Anthony, this season of Bridgerton focuses on Lady’s Danbury’s new sponsors of the season, two sisters returning to London from India, Kate and Edwina Sharma. Kate, at the ripe old age of 26, is a spinster who plans on returning to India to become a governess, after making a match for her younger sister, Edwina. Of course, Kate is absolutely stunning, immediately has a chance run-in with Viscount Anthony Bridgerton, and almost instantly the two “loathe” each other in what is obviously attraction to anyone with eyes. Unfortunately, Edwina, who is the most eligible young lady of the social season and named the Queen’s diamond, is one of those without eyes, and sets herself on marrying Anthony. Drama ensues.

 

Kate and Anthony meet for the first time.

To my surprise, Bridgerton Season 2, does a pretty solid job of making Anthony less despicable. It certainly doesn’t hurt that the show removed his repulsive sideburns, but mainly the actor portraying Anthony, Jonathan Bailey, has amazing emotional range. Every agonized or conflicted thought process flits across his face with ease, and he has perfected the smolder of the leading man of the regency era. He convincingly utters heart-stopping lines to the leading lady such as, “You are the bane of my existence…and the object of all my desires.” 

 

Despite these great lines and Bailey’s flawless performance, I found actress Simone Ashley’s portrayal of Kate Sharma, his female lead, to be quite stale in contrast. Unless she was sobbing, which she does with aplomb, the actress portrays the same wide-eyed and slightly astonished face in almost every scene. That face is absolutely stunning, of course, but for me, her acting left a lot to be desired.

 

The Sharma sisters.

That being said, it also didn’t help that the actress didn’t have a whole lot to work with in order to make her character even remotely likable. Both Sharma sisters are completely irritating for different reasons. Their relationship is incredibly codependent and unhealthy. It is painful to watch Kate speak for her sister constantly and to make decisions for her without consulting her. Though I believe the character of Kate is supposed to be witty, defiant, and assertive for her time period, à la Elizabeth Bennet, she simply comes across as rude, inconsiderate, and defensive.

 

Unlike Elizabeth Bennet, the eldest Miss Sharma fails to deftly tread the line of what is polite in society, and instead condescendingly bulldozes through this line, with little regard for the consequences of her actions, which she’s then shocked by. It feels like Kate is constantly picking fights, ignoring her sister’s wishes and then claiming everything she does is for her sister. Kate’s very much like her male lead, Anthony, who is also obnoxious and thinks that he always knows best, when truly he knows the least. Plus, the show’s reliance on Kate’s “exotic” background to make Kate appear “not like the other girls” is shallow, underdeveloped, and hard to watch. We never are offered any glimpses of why Kate is so different, how she grew up, who nurtured her rebellious side, or any judgement she received as a result of shirking the traditional—she simply is this way for drama.

 

On the other end of the spectrum of ladylike behavior, is Edwina, the younger sister, who is sheltered and portrayed as innocent and pure. She doesn’t ride astride horses, hunt, shoot, or get competitive like her older sister. There is not much more to her than being sweet and wanting a good marriage. We are informed she’s well-educated, but outside of a few vague book references, we never see this esteemed intelligence at play. Instead, the poor girl merely follows the lead of those around her, or obviously urges her sister Kate to become closer with Anthony in an attempt to secure her own marriage to the man who is smitten with her sister, which is somehow unbeknownst to someone who is supposedly so intelligent.

 

 

It’s hard to suspend disbelief that Edwina is this naïve. And though Bridgerton does its best, it is quite hard for its main characters to appear tortured when they are incredibly privileged, affluent, and most of their burdens are self-wrought. In both Anthony and Kate’s sakes, neither of their siblings asked them to take on all of these burdens on their behalf. Anthony’s new and updated portrayal as a beleaguered older brother and heir to the Viscount title, after he was portrayed as such a rake with a devil may care attitude in the first season of Bridgerton, feels like an overnight change. Though I really enjoyed this season’s delving into Anthony’s past, his relationship with his father, and the aftermath of his father’s death, it didn’t seem to quite add up with his past characterizations, to the point of it feeling that they outright changed Anthony’s character to make him less despicable. I wish the first season had laid more groundwork for his portrayal as someone who puts his own wants and desires last, as it just feels a bit random and out of place to the man from season one who was sleeping with an opera singer that he wanted to wed, scandal be damned.

 

But other than a brief image of Anthony burning the opera singer’s picture, she is not mentioned at all, and viewers are obviously supposed to forget abut the entirety of Anthony’s season one tryst. This is a challenging endeavor, as it made up most of the man’s storyline. Another thing that was difficult for me to wrap my head around, was how easy it was for so many female characters, like Eloise, Penelope, and Kate, manage to go around unchaperoned in regency London all the time.  Sure, we see a few characters ditching their painfully oblivious maids once or twice, but bizarrely, there also isn’t any any trouble in these characters constantly hiring a carriage or convincing their own family coaches or footmen to take them to the seedy side of town. This is something that other shows in similar time periods, such as Downton Abbey, handle more deftly and with realism. Though I must say that I really enjoyed the results of these sneaky, unchaperoned visits in the case of Eloise, who clandestinely meets a dashing young radical of a lower class, who works at a printing press.

 

Theo and Eloise at the printing press.

Though Bridgerton excels at this sweet forbidden romance of first love, I struggled with other romances in the show. Anthony and Kate’s romance is, thankfully, a slow-burn romance, without the rapacious sex scenes, but for me, the duo lacked the chemistry of season one’s leads, Anthony’s younger sister, Daphne Bridgerton, and her love interest Simon. In part because of this lack of sizzling chemistry, I was even more relieved not to be inundated with graphic sex scenes this time around. Personally, I am always much more of a fan of the slow burn romance, but I must admit to being seriously irritated by all the near-kisses Anthony and Kate share. There is only so much secret nose nuzzling one can take, okay?

 

Other romances in the show take a back seat to Kate and Anthony’s frustrating will-they-won’t-they-that-we-all-know-will-end-in-a-happy-marrige-and-could-they-just-get-on-with-it. Colin Bridgerton, who is supposed to be the nice Bridgerton brother, is an absolute ass to Penelope, who I also found to be quite unsympathetic in this season. And I couldn’t care less about Benedict Bridgerton, the second son, even though the show tries to make him a struggling and misunderstood artist, which is a tired trope if I ever saw one.  I also enjoyed the glimpses of seeing Daphne as a happily married duchess and mother, even if her husband was regrettably absent. It was also quite entertaining to watch the new Lord Featherington arrive and his scheming with the despicable matriarch of the family, Lady Featherington, who shows new and hidden depths in this season. 

 

Penelope overhearing Colin.

It also really doesn’t help that beyond the diversity of the cast of characters, that’s not really anything new that Bridgerton offers. Every single character, and his or her romance, is a trope that we have seen time and time again, but executed better in other forms of entertainment. We see the enemies-to-lovers, the pining of the loyal friend-zoned, the tortured artist who just wants to be respected for his talents, the rule-breaking lady who falls for someone beneath her station, and countless more. What’s more is that the show isn’t at all subtle about from where it gets its inspirations either. For example, we see Kate’s muddy skirts from riding, ripped straight from Keira Knightley’s Elizabeth Bennet’s walk to visit her sister Jane, at the Bingley home. Later, we see Anthony take a dip in a pond in a sheer white shirt to the delight of the Sharma sisters, a la Colin Firth’s Fitzwiliam Darcy in the BBC Version of Pride and Prejudice, and see hand touching reminiscent of Matthew MacFayden’s own portrayal of Mr. Darcy, opposite Keira Knightly.

 

I suppose it is a feat that with so little original to it, Bridgerton still manages to be quite diverting and a great guilty-pleasure watch. Granted, with all of these romances and everyone acting so abhorrently, and with little thought to anyone else, the accidental message that Bridgerton really sends is not one of true love match conquers all, which is so obviously wants to depict, but that these awful people just have to find the right person whose misery and terrible behavior matches theirs. Isn’t that just romantic?

 

 

 

Did you watch Bridgerton Season two? What were your thoughts on the show?

 

three-stars
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Review : Bridgerton Season Two - Blogging with Dragons

Posted April 1, 2022 in Other Shows, Watch

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2 responses to “Review : Bridgerton Season Two

    • I am excited for the next season as well. Penelope’s story is definitely one of my favorites. Your artwork is lovely!

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