the battle of duty and the slow burn romance

Bridgerton Season 2 focuses on Anthony Bridgerton (Jonathan Bailey) as the ton prepares for another season of marriage, with its main character aiming to find 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 Regency high society life but with new characters and scandals on the horizon, there’s a noticeable shift in almost every way. Does it live up to the antics of Season 1? Well, it was a risky move to create a romance-centric anthology series, but bringing attention to Anthony was well worth it. The story does not rely on dramas and conflicts forced to span multiple seasons and instead features an origin story.

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

Now the season may be less hot, but that doesn’t take away from the intensity. Reworking Simon and Daphne’s story would have been a mistake, and acknowledging that feelings can develop in different ways is what makes the series so gripping. 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 seeks true love and believes she has found it with the Viscount. It’s not that easy as Anthony struggles to reclaim a part of himself that has been missing since his father’s death. His perspective changes and he begins to wonder 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 from that era. He hasn’t had it easy in some ways, and there’s a lot of unpacking he needs to do this season. He is the victim of a patriarchal system in which men were not encouraged to talk about their feelings.

Bailey’s performance is brilliantly chaotic as you feel this change over the episodes. Ashley also 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 in you, they can frustrate you and annoy you… It’s really special to meet someone who has the same kind of fears as you, the same kind of sorrow than you. ”

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

Lavish sets and costumes cannot be overlooked in a series like Bridgerton while iconic pop numbers have adapted to elaborate string covers, larger-than-life wigs and bright dresses, it all helps sell this modernized take on Regency London. It’s almost like a fantasy filter, and it’s 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 is inclusive in its portrayal. Period dramas are full of overlooked diversity and creator Chris Van Dusen knew Bridgerton was a chance to change that:

“It’s a modern period piece, so we want modern audiences to relate to it. I was delighted with the response to the Sharma family. We’re not a colorblind show – things like color and race are an integral part of the show’s conversation.

Executive producer Shonda Rhimes added:

“Finding darker-skinned South Asian women and making sure they’re portrayed on screen in an authentic and sincere way feels like something we haven’t seen enough of…When you watch TV, you should see people who look like you.”

Admittedly, the reveal of Lady Whistledown last season seems premature because while it’s exciting to see the behind-the-scenes operation, for the story, it seems, well… pointless so soon. The sense of mystery is absent. That being said, Penelope (Nicola Coughlan) is one of the most interesting characters as we see her struggle with her choices; it’s satisfying to watch her navigate the gossip column and become a businesswoman.

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

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