Bridgerton Season 2: the battle of duty and slow burn romance

Bridgerton. Jonathan Bailey as Anthony Bridgerton in episode 201 of Bridgerton. Cr. Liam Daniel/Netflix © 2022
Bridgerton. Jonathan Bailey as Anthony Bridgerton in episode 201 of Bridgerton. Cr. Liam Daniel/Netflix © 2022 /

Bridgerton season 2 shifts its focus to Anthony Bridgerton (Jonathan Bailey) as the ton prepares for another marriage season, with its lead character setting his sights on finding a wife. His search seems futile until Lady Danbury (Adjoa Andoh) sponsors newcomers Kate (Simone Ashley) and Edwina Sharma (Charithra Chandran) for the new season, splitting the viscount’s vision for the future.

Season 1 was a big hit for Netflix. With its dramatic look at the lives of Regency high society but with new characters and scandals on the horizon, there is a noticeable change in almost every way. Does it live up to the antics of season 1? Well, it was a risky move to create an anthology series centered on romance, but turning the attention to Anthony was worth the gamble. The story doesn’t rely on forced drama and conflict to go on for multiple seasons and instead offers an origin story.

While the Duke of Hasting’s (played by Regé-Jean Page last season) absence is noticeable, it’s not for the reasons you may think. Sure, it’s odd to see Daphne (Phoebe Dynevor) without him by her side after their happily ever after in season 1 but it’s the forgotten friendship with Anthony that raises eyebrows. It seems out of character for Simon and Anthony to no longer interact as their relationship is one of the key dynamics from the books.

Now the season may be less steamy but that in no way takes away from the intensity. Making a rehash of Simon and Daphne’s story would have been a mistake and recognizing that feelings can develop in a variety of ways is what makes the show so captivating. So, if you’re here for the same style of storytelling, you won’t get it. But this season proves that a slow burn romance is just as tense; the chemistry between Kate and Anthony is particularly electric.

On the other side of this love triangle is Kate’s sister Edwina, who on paper is the perfect match for Anthony. Quite similar to Daphne, she’s looking for true love and believes she found it with the viscount. It’s not that easy though as Anthony struggles with getting back a part of himself that’s been absent since the death of his father. His perspective changes and he begins to question how his past has shaped him; it’s one of the best character arcs. Bailey noted:

"“Bridgerton can really take the time to dig into the psychology of a man of that era. He wasn’t given the easy route in some ways, and there’s a lot of unpacking that he has to do this season. He’s a victim of a patriarchal system in which men weren’t encouraged to talk about their feelings.”"

Bailey’s performance is brilliantly chaotic as you feel that shift throughout the episodes. Ashley likewise gives Kate the right balance of stubbornness and heart, to challenge Anthony. She explained:

"“Sometimes when you meet someone who has qualities that you see within yourself, they can frustrate and annoy you…It’s a really special thing to meet someone who has the same kind of fears as you, the same kind of heartbreak as you. ”"

As for the supporting characters, they continue to be scene-stealers. Benedict Bridgerton’s (Luke Thomson) charming demeanor and Eloise’s (Claudia Jessie) wit particularly stand out. It seems that each of the Bridgerton siblings possesses a rebellious streak, which is why they can carry a plot all on their own in Julia Quinn’s novels, the source material for the series. Queen Charlotte (Golda Rosheuvel) also deserves a shout-out as the glimpse into her life is a welcome addition.

The lavish sets and costumes can’t be overlooked in a series like Bridgerton as the iconic pop numbers adapted into elaborate string covers, larger-than-life wigs, and bright dresses all help to sell this modernized version of Regency London. It’s almost like a fantasy filter, and it makes for a great escape.

But it’s not just the creative elements that give the series its modern edge. This season champions women and most importantly it’s inclusive in its representation. Period dramas are rife with overlooking diversity and creator Chris Van Dusen knew that Bridgerton was a chance to change that:

"“This is a modern period piece, and so we want modern audiences to relate to it. I’ve been thrilled about the response to the Sharma family. We’re not a colour-blind show — things like colour and race are very much a part of the show’s conversation.”"

Executive Producer Shonda Rhimes added:

"“Finding some South Asian women with darker skin and making sure that they were represented on screen authentically and truthfully feels like something that we haven’t seen nearly enough of…When you’re watching television, you should get to see people who look like you.”"

Admittedly, Lady Whistledown’s reveal last season feels premature as while it’s exciting to see the behind the scenes of the operation, for the story it feels, well…unnecessary this early on. The sense of mystery is absent. That being said, Penelope (Nicola Coughlan) is one of the more interesting characters as we see her struggle with her choices; it’s satisfying to see her navigate the gossip column and come into her own as a businesswoman.

Bridgerton celebrates both romance and platonic relationships this season, but it’s also not short of scandals and scheming. Though above all, it’s a study on whether you should listen to your head or your heart.

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