Packed with bare-bottomed debauchery, nefarious scheming and enough repressed emotions to keep any period drama aficionado satisfied, the first season of Netflix's Bridgerton was a revelation.
Set in Regency London and fashioned around the emergence of debutantes in search of a suitor, it quickly established itself as a bodice-ripping high society drama, overrun with gossip-filled cliches and illicit liaisons.
As season 2 returns to Netflix, it feels like an ideal time to cast aside those inhibitions, jettison those jodhpurs and consider its imminent arrival in depth. However, whether this sophomore effort can deliver on the quintessential scheming and dastardly digressions that made its predecessor so popular is the real question.
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It is a truth universally acknowledged that on Christmas day 2020, when Bridgerton was released to eager audiences facing their first festive season in lockdown, Netflix had stumbled upon a gold mine. Based on the best-selling books by Julia Quinn, then adapted by Grey’s Anatomy alumni Chris Van Dusen and Shonda Rhimes, Bridgerton quickly became a favourite obsession as it made period drama sexy again.
By introducing audiences to would-be heart throb Regé-Jean Page amongst a coterie of other contenders in this Regency style EastEnders, Bridgerton became a nation’s new obsession. Not only would a captive collective be introduced to a prospective James Bond contender, but Page would get launched onto the international stage in projects including The Gray Man and Dungeons and Dragons with Chris Pine.
During that first season alongside Phoebe Dynevor’s demure Daphne Bridgerton, he would steal the hearts of millions as Simon Basset. A conflicted man battling personal demons, in a society where reputation and reproduction were everything. One storyline amongst a multitude of too many, this show revelled in self-perpetuating scandal, as the Featherington family and Bridgerton brood crossed paths in social circles.
Featuring a self-assured cast of character actors and one piece of acting aristocracy in Julie Andrews, this polished piece of period drama remained infinitely engaging. Making sure to keep audiences hooked by combining outrageously salacious antics, with contemporary takes on ethnic inclusivity within sharply written episodes by Chris Van Dusen.
For those who are eagerly anticipating this second season have no fear, as the quality and quantity remain unabated. Regé-Jean Page might be missing in action, but new arrivals on the debutante scene are sure to keep audiences interested.
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Those include Simone Ashley’s Kate Sharma, from Netflix series Sex Education, while Charithra Chandran also features as her sister Edwina. Adjoa Andoh’s Lady Danbury and Golda Rosheuvel’s Queen Charlotte are also back to match make, while Jonathan Bailey continues to cut a dash as Lord Anthony Bridgerton.
Watch a trailer for Bridgerton S2
Between his extended clan of siblings, who engage in sexual shenanigans, family fencing contests and croquet on the lawn, Bridgerton can sometimes be an exhausting watch. An endless stream of social events back up like London buses, while young ladies are paraded like cattle in front of eligible men of title. However, every single participant in this game is clued in, switched on and fulfils their role perfectly.
Amongst the superior supporting players, Nicola Coughlan gets more screentime as wallflower Penelope Featherington, while gossip columnist Lady Whistledown continues to haunt social functions. As her friendship with Claudia Jessie’s Eloise Bridgerton continues to flourish, these two intellectuals form an intriguing alliance. Alongside the more amorous distractions which make up a large majority of this season, both Eloise and Penelope represent a much-needed change of pace.
However, the main thrust of this second season sits with Anthony Bridgerton, who is more in need of a wife than any man alive. Having suffered in his labours of love through the first run, he now seems adamant that a suitable match should be made immediately. An exercise which offers ample opportunity for sharp-witted banter opposite Simone Ashley’s Kate Sharma, while he attempts to woo her sister Edwina.
Each encounter simultaneously increasing their dislike, confirming their attraction, whilst confounding anyone in earshot. Both petulantly dismissive in their appraisal of each other, this is pure rom-com territory. What raises it above the realms of pure Jane Austen is the judicious use of flashback to broaden character, as audiences get a better understanding of the Bridgerton back history.
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In the few fleeting examples which allow audiences beneath that Teflon coating, Lord Anthony Bridgerton is granted flaws, foibles and moments which make him fragile. It is in the aftermath of one such event that he experiences an epiphany, which organically brings about a personal realisation. That is when this season really opens up and ceases to feel frivolous or flighty in its fascination with marrying for social advantage.
Not only that, but it delivers a meet cute moment of mammoth proportions, which makes this second season ensemble series worth every second.
Bridgerton S2 is now streaming on Netflix.