The hit series, Bridgerton¸ which first premiered on Netflix in 2020, released a second season on 25th March 2022. Fans had high expectations after the period drama’s all-round success in Season One, but were hopes met or were viewers left ultimately disappointed? Suniti Vyas reviews.
The first season of the hit show Bridgerton followed the playful, passionate and intimate romance of Daphne Bridgerton and the Duke of Hastings Simon Basset, who struggled to balance love and responsibility, while being continually scrutinised under the watchful eye society and, of course, of the mysterious Lady Whistledown. Whilst the presence of hypercritical onlookers and the subplot of Lady Whistledown continues in the second season, the previous two protagonists remain largely absent. Based on Julia Quinn’s novel, The Viscount who Loved Me (2000), the season follows the marriage pursuits of the eldest Bridgerton brother, Anthony, and the conflicts that arise from his imbroglios with the newly arrived Sharma family.
The backdrop against which the story unfolds, inevitably strengthens the appeal of the show, as the production continues to indulge its viewers in the exquisite locations and glamorous costumes that depict the aristocratic fashions and indulgences of 19th-century England. The picturesque and tranquil ambience of the palatial gardens, the opulence of the Danbury Ball conservatory, and the vibrancy of the racecourse, collectively emanate an enticingly charming aesthetic, and the costumes in each scene carefully and successfully compliment the setting, with soft pinks and creams in the ballroom delicately contrasting the deep blues and greens in the forest. The jewellery and dresses of Kate, Edwina and Mary Sharma subtly incorporate detailing of Indian designs and patterns, a feature which only begins to construe the profusion of Indian cultural representation in the season.
Perfectly epitomises the diversity and multiculturalism we should like to see
As well as the notably efficacious anachronistic soundtracks that include classical covers of contemporary songs such as Miley Cyrus’s Wrecking Ball and Madonna’s Material Girl, which perfectly intertwine the bona fide traditionalism one seeks from a Regency period drama, and the popular tastes of a 21st-century audience, the inclusion of a covered Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham perfectly epitomises the diversity and multiculturalism we should like to see in today’s media.
As well as a subtly embedded soundtrack, the audience witness Indian cultural practices including the preparation of chai and the practice of the haldi ceremony before the wedding, the latter interestingly utilised symbolically in its depiction of Edwina applying haldi (turmeric) on Kate’s face, a tradition that is reserved for the bride-to-be, thus foreshadowing the growing passion and relationship between Kate and Anthony.
We feel the sorrow, hurt and love alongside the Viscount
In his performance as Anthony, Jonathan Baily deserves utmost recognition for an ability to evoke an array of emotions in his audience; we feel the sorrow, hurt and love alongside the Viscount in this season, which must be especially appreciated in light of his introduction as the largely irritating and overprotective older brother of Daphne at the start of Season One.
I find that the character of Kate, on the other hand, appears rather cold for a majority of the episodes, especially when considering the contrastingly playful nature of Kate in Quinn’s novel – perhaps a flashback resembling Anthony Bridgerton’s in episode three would have helped to justify her largely inhospitable exterior, which presents a difficulty in warming to the character. Charithra Chandran, in her role as Edwina Sharma, is able to convey the sincere sisterly love for Kate that we see in Quinn’s novel, but whether that love was reciprocated in Ashley’s expression and body language as Kate, remains a subject of contention, thus hampering the depiction of genuine love intended in the sisters’ relationship.
The ‘enemies to lovers’ storyline is unique in its involvement of contractual and financial affairs, leaving the viewer on edge as to how the characters of Bridgerton may possibly untangle the knot they appear to be entwined within. Episode Six is particularly powerful, as we see Edwina Sharma step into her power, finally taking the reigns on a situation in which she previously appeared to be merely a naïve pawn.
The revelation of Whistledown’s identity at the end of Season One creates a curious dramatic irony
Unfortunately, the Featherington subplot is not particularly engaging, and instead appears more so as tedious breaks in between the primary narrative. The overarching narrative of Lady Whistledown and Eloise Bridgerton’s quest to find her is nicely developed, as the revelation of Whistledown’s identity at the end of Season One creates a curious dramatic irony, leaving audiences on edge as to how Penelope Featherington may shield her anonymity and overcome the continual hurdles that come her way.
Overall, the many subtle beauties in this season of Bridgerton make it impossible not to recommend. The intimacy, love and conflict of the episodes ultimately engross the audience, and as well as indulging oneself in the courtships and customs of Regency England, we can appreciate the representation of people of colour in a contemporary period drama. While Kate Sharma’s character is not as admirable as I would have hoped, and the Featherington subplot does not leave the audience especially fascinated, there is yet much to love throughout the season, and I anticipate the coming seasons to be markedly promising.
Featured image courtesy of Alex Watkin. Permission to use granted to Impact. No changes were made to this image.
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