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Bridgerton survived the departure of Regé-Jean Page – actually it’s better without him

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HHow does a TV show live on without its main character? It’s a dilemma that producers have often had to solve over the decades – from George Clooney onwards HE in on Kevin Spacey house of cards – and has now fallen on the makers of Bridgeton. When the romantic drama became an instant hit on Netflix in late 2020, something essential to its success seemed to be the fast-paced relationship between Regé-Jean Page’s Simon, the dashing Duke of Hastings, and the town’s ‘diamond’ – or the Queen’s favourite. to be the new debutantes of society season – Daphne Bridgerton (Phoebe Dynevor). Her foe-to-lover arc was a trope that’s not new to the genre but nonetheless caught the eye of 82 million in its first four weeks of release. Video compilations of her hottest scenes went viral on social media, while “I’m on fire for you” – a line spoken by an infatuated Daphne with the Duke – became one of the most talked-about moments of the season. In short, everyone wanted a piece of The Duke, and the promise of Page’s involvement in a second season guaranteed many Netflix subscribers would come back for more.

When Page announced last April that he would not be returning for the show’s second run, fans were distraught. That’s what viewers feared Bridgeton lost its sexiest element and that the show wouldn’t be the same without Simon’s smoldering gaze. Based on this new batch of episodes, available to stream on Netflix starting Friday, they’re right — minus the focus on Duke and Daphne’s relationship. Bridgeton is not the same. In fact, it’s better.

Even before Page’s departure was confirmed, the story was planned to focus on the relationship between Viscount Anthony Bridgerton (Jonathan Bailey) and haughty heiress Kate Sharma (Simone Ashley), in a nod to the Julia Quinn novels on which the Series based on. Immediately, the central couple of the second season has more to offer: On the one hand, there are higher stakes. Though they have an electric first date full of flirtation and promises, things get strained between them when Kate’s younger sister Edwina (Charithra Chandran) is crowned Diamond of the Season. As Anthony is London’s most attractive bachelor, a relationship with Edwina makes sense: she keeps society in order and pleases Queen Charlotte (Golda Rosheuvel).

But however ‘right’ their pairing may seem, there’s no mistaking the tension between Anthony and the older Miss Sharma. As courtship between Edwina and the Viscount develops, he and Kate try to pass off their growing feelings for each other as hatred. Yet life keeps throwing them together: competitive rounds of a croquet-like game that result in them both being covered in mud; a hunting trip where they are up close and alone in a forest; a bee sting culminating in a panicked Anthony putting a hand on Kate’s chest and feeling her heartbeat. Yes, it’s incredibly handy that there are so many opportunities for these so-called “arch-rivals” to interact as intensely as they do. But any cynical eye rolls slowly die down after a while; their connection becomes harder to deny.

Midway through the season, the two are pushed to dance together at one of the city’s many formal events. Though naturally protesting at first, they quickly fall into perfect step, accompanied by an instrumental rendition of Robyn’s “Dancing on My Own.” Their chemistry is sizzling, and while their appeal has long been clear to the viewer, it’s becoming increasingly obvious to those around them as well.

Although the actors do a great job of creating this tension, the added element of Edwina as an innocent but major obstacle to their romance makes it all the more exciting to watch as it plays. in the BridgetonIn season one, the reasons for Daphne and Simon’s initial reluctance to be together were flimsy at best — the attraction was there, but their union was stilted by their own stubbornness. With Anthony and Kate, not only does their strong personalities stand in their way, but there’s an added layer of betrayal should they ever act on their feelings. It’s a love triangle in which neither side is truly at fault, putting the viewer in the guilty position of wanting Kate and Anthony together, even if it results in Edwina getting hurt.

Simone Ashley and Jonathan Bailey in Bridgerton

(Liam Daniel/Netflix)

Such forbidden love means that a satisfying payoff is not guaranteed; Episodes go by where Kate and Anthony are on the verge of accommodating their wishes before pulling out at the very last moment. It’s frustrating but captivating – you keep watching because surely, surelyyou will soon finally get what you want from them.

But even without this, these characters make a more dynamic pair to see on screen. As the brave but regimented eldest siblings of their respective households, they share many similarities and mostly bicker. Jonathan Bailey and Simone Ashley are convincing in their performances and walk an increasingly narrow line between resentment and longing. Plus, it’s satisfying to see those emotions play out between characters who – in the eyes of society – aren’t meant to feel that way. Kate is not the “best” choice for a viscount; In fact, it was noted early on that she was more or less past her prime at “twenty-six.” (It’s the 19th century, after all.) There’s something satisfying about seeing an outspoken, “imperfect” woman involved in such a story rather than the “diamond”: it just has more bite.

While the lack of Simon and Daphne’s love story might take some getting used to, fans can rest assured that the chemistry is there Bridgeton is far from lost. Granted, there’s no way to fully replace the Duke, a character that put the show on the map so heavily. And sure, there’s less direct sex, which might seem like a disappointment to those who were drawn to the show’s first season for those reasons. But with the show keeping us waiting season two for the pinnacle of passion, the reward is all the greater.

https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/tv/features/bridgerton-season-2-rege-jean-page-b2042326.html Bridgerton survived the departure of Regé-Jean Page – actually it’s better without him

JOE HERNANDEZ

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