A still from Bridgerton
A still from Bridgerton

Bridgerton season 2: Less on sex, lesser still on romance

Bridgerton veers away from its signature treatment of period romance, and it works against the show 
Rating:(2 / 5)

The second season of Bridgerton doesn't treat its central conflict the way it did in the first season. It takes the same old route to depict one of the oldest tropes in the romance genre — a love triangle. The Netflix show produced by Shondaland productions is based on the Bridgerton series penned by Julia Quinn. It is not the show's plot that invited the interest of the audiences in the first season, but the treatment of the period drama. The content was titillating enough to keep viewers hooked and the performance helped keep them invested in the characters. The makers have tried to dupe the success of season 1, but have not used the same means. Instead, they have a garden variety period romantic drama with inclusive casting.

Creator: Chris Van Dusen

Cast: Jonathan Bailey, Simone Ashley, Charithra Chandran, Claudia Jessie and Nicola Coughlan

Streaming on: Netflix

After Daphne Bridgerton (Phoebe Dynevor), it is time for the eldest Bridgerton, Viscount Anthony (Jonathan Bailey) to find a partner. He had his heart broken in the first season by an opera singer — Siena Rosso (Sabrina Bartlett) — and now, he believes it is time to think of his responsibilities towards his family. He needs a woman who is noble, classy, intellectual, among other things. Primary among them is taking care of his children while providing them with a respectable upbringing. After having witnessed how heartbroken his mother had been after his father's death, Anthony cannot comprehend loving someone deeply enough to allow them to hurt him. So, it is of course left to a woman to capture his heart, and for him to struggle with the sudden burst of feelings he would experience in her presence.

A still of Kate and Anthony in <strong><em>Bridgerton</em></strong> season 2
A still of Kate and Anthony in Bridgerton season 2

Kate Sharma (Simone Ashley) accompanies her step-mother Lady Mary Sheffield Sharma (Shelley Conn), and her step-sister Edwina Sharma (Charithra Chandran) to Mayfield in an attempt to find Edwina a life partner. Kate wants only the best for her sister, and their family attracts attention the moment Edwina is crowned as the 'Diamond' of the season. Kate's hopes that Edwina finds a loving partner get dashed the moment she overhears Anthony speaking of his expectation for his future bride. His cut-and-dried version of family life grates Kate's nerves. She believes that he wants his wife to be nothing other than a child-bearing machine who would take care of his family without any questions. In other words, a woman who would suffer in silence rather than speak. 

Unfortunately, Kate's first impression of Anthony is not a flattering one either. He sees her riding fast in the park and jumps to the conclusion that she will meet with an accident if she stayed on the horse. A woman riding in the park at the speed that Kate is, can only lead to an accident because 'how proficient can she be'? This question is not asked out loud in the show, but the judgment comes across clearly in Anthony's body language. Of course, this rubs Kate the wrong way. It is no surprise then, that she wants Anthony as far away from Edwina as possible. However, the man is charming enough to woo her sister. Even as Kate's frustration around him increases, Edwina falls for his charm.

The love triangle drags on for many episodes without any hint of physical tension, and that is the show's first failure.  All of the events above are disclosed in a matter-of-fact manner. The sensuality, flirtation, and chemistry that is built upon such pursuits are absent. This then affects the overall dynamics of the romantic drama, because no one is rooting for Kate vs Edwina or otherwise. Anthony's reason for choosing a loveless marriage, Kate's decision to return to India seeking independence, and the moment Edwina falls for Anthony are key moments in the show but they do not feel important. In fact, there is more attention paid to the animosity between Kate and Anthony than there is to the rising sexual tension between them. The indication that they might be interested in each other romantically, is all but absent.

A still of Edwina in <em><strong>Bridgerton </strong></em>season 2
A still of Edwina in Bridgerton season 2

More than the lack of nudity, it is the lack of sexual tension and flirtation that drags the show down. The portrayal of the show's central conflict — the love triangle — is also sober and boring. Sobriety is an element that doesn't suit this period drama all too well. By choosing to remain grounded, Bridgerton lets go of a chance to shine bright. The only spark in the show stems from Kate's rebellious outlook on life in Mayfield. Yet, all of her sassy comebacks and witty remarks do not help in making this show enjoyable. This is, unfortunately, a missed attempt at subverting a trope. 

Alas, the only intriguing thing about this show is the search for Lady Whistledown. Voiced by Julie Andrews, she is an anonymous gossip columnist who repeatedly attacks the Queen. The last season revealed to the audiences that the columnist is Penelope Featherington (Nicola Coughlan), and in the current season, the Queen hunts for her identity. The conflict that arises from her best friend Eloise Bridgerton (Claudia Jessie) being mistaken for the columnist brings about a huge chasm in their relationship. If we were to tune into the next season, it would only be to see how this friendship fares.

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