Call up Bridgeton “Jane Austen with sex” would do both parties a disservice. But when it first aired in 2020, Netflix’s adaptation of Julia Quinn’s novels inevitably drew this mundane observation. It’s a show, after all, that embraces the conventions of social class, mansions and slow-burn courtship that have popularized Austen for two centuries. If Austen is buttoned up, unrequited and implied, then so be it Bridgeton rendered the same dynamic in overt, even garish colors – not to mention a smattering of breasts and buttocks. And where Austen is favored by people keen on etiquette, Bridgeton aimed at an even larger demographic: people who are just plain horny.
Upon its return, the show hopes to pick up where it left off, tonally if not narratively. Bridgeton it’s basically about courtship, not marriage. So Daphne (Phoebe Dynevor) and Simon (Regé-Jean Page), the Duchess and Duke of Hastings, are shuffled out of the pack and replaced by a bevy of childless singletons. Chief among the new arrivals are Sharma sisters Kate and Edwina (sex education‘s Simone Ashley and Alex Riders Charithra Chandran). The Sharmas represent an inversion of sense and sensitivityThe core dichotomy of : Edwina, the Marianne character, desires to marry “a prince or duke” while her older sister Kate – who is Eleanor – urges her to marry for love. But Kate is the responsible ‘old maid’ who, at 26, is shockingly found too old to find a husband of her own.
From the existing cast, storylines are mostly passed on to Jonathan Bailey’s chaotic Anthony Bridgerton and his rebellious younger sister Eloise, played by Jonathan Bailey exercise of dutyis Claudia Jessie. Anthony, who was abandoned by his opera singer, is looking for a wife. He pursues Edwina, who has won Queen Charlotte’s title of Diamond of the Season, while incessantly flirting with her sister and guardian Kate. Eloise has now “comed out” but is desperately avoiding all sorts of suitors. Equally important is Penelope Featherington (derry Girl Nicola Coughlan) has now been revealed (to viewers at least) to be Lady Whistledown, removing one of the central mysteries of Bridgetoneven if it allows us to witness the methodology of a person described by her peers as a “bland wallflower”.
The reset of this new series of Bridgeton is, it must be said, a touch harsh. The entire central dilemma (and the very attractive couple trying to solve it) from season one has been excised, giving this opening episode – “Capital-R-Rake” – a spinoff feel. They might as well have renamed the entire show The other Bridgertons. And on a spectrum expires Frasier to Joey, The other Bridgertons would be somewhere in the middle: a more trivial work than its parent, but not without its charm.
The reality is, for all her doe eyes and baby hair, Daphne was a less charismatic Bridgerton than either Anthony or Eloise. Indeed, in her proto-feminist, anti-establishment leanings, Eloise has always had a stronger grasp of the main character’s energy than her older sister (she has begun to read Mary Wollstonecraft, described by Penelope as “rather haughty” in the off-season gossip rags by Lady Whistledown). Still, the new season lacks the romantic power of Simon’s tormented pursuit of Daphne – the dynamic between Kate and Anthony (all fairly transparently Lizzie Bennett and Mr Darcy) feels far more forced. And Jonathan Bailey, even with a razor on his facial hair, felt more convincing and comfortable as the wayward son than the romantic lead.
But you see, sometimes television criticism, like television itself, is best served by taking it easy. and Bridgeton has no illusions about what it is: a deeply unsubtle opportunity to see beautiful hooded people by candlelight. From the over-dressed sets – which share the same aesthetic as a WeWork on Valentine’s Day – to the over-dressed cast, it’s a show that indulges our lowest qualities, but does so delightfully. Bridgeton might be on the verge of losing the plot, but be honest with yourself: you weren’t paying attention anyway.
https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/tv/reviews/bridgerton-season-2-review-netflix-b2043786.html Bridgerton season 2 recap: The Netflix show is so different, they might as well rename it