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Netflix’s hit historical romance drama Bridgerton is back for a second season and this time Anthony Bridgerton (Jonathan Bailey) is looking for a wife. Where most eligible bachelors are looking for love and a whirlwind romance, the eldest Bridgerton son is looking for something a little more practical. Though his plans start to evolve once he meets Kate Sharma (Simone Ashley) and her younger sister Edwina (Charithra Chandran) who have come to London to find the younger Sharma a husband.
Unfortunately, the romance that does ensue lives in the shadow of the critical acclaim of Daphne Bridgerton (Phoebe Dynevor) and Simon Basset’s (Regé-Jean Page) steamy relationship. Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton series has been making readers swoon for over twenty years, but the second season of Netflix’s adaptation doesn’t necessarily stay the course laid out in The Viscount Who Loved Me.
One of the biggest issues with Bridgerton’s sophomore season is that it takes a much more leisurely approach to its romance plot, leaving its characters to flounder amidst the drawn-out storyline. It often trades the potential for deeper more nuanced character development for overwrought conflict and low-hanging fruit for the sake of drama. This pacing issue hinders not only Kate and Anthony’s romantic development, but it also impacts the groundwork being laid for Colin Bridgerton (Luke Newton) and Penelope Featherington’s (Nicola Coughlan) eventual romance. When you have a book that crafts such a beautiful and compelling romance it seems rather ill-conceived to tamper with it, especially after the critical success of the series debut.
The realm of romance is filled with tropes, some of which may not be everyone’s cup of tea. Bridgerton’s second season gallops headfirst into an unconventional love triangle that may not sit well with its audience. While Anthony and Kate’s interest in one another is evident from the start—there are longing looks, near kisses, and lingering touches—he does actively pursue Edwina as his match, which undercuts the unrequited sexual tension a fair bit. When Bailey and Ashley are given the opportunity to explore their character’s chemistry it can be quite sizzling and fun, but oftentimes the script stops just short of really giving them the love story they deserve.
While Anthony attempts to make head-or-tails of what it means to be the eldest child, burdened with responsibility and grappling with his emotions, his sister Eloise (Claudia Jessie) has her first season out attending balls and begrudgingly looking for her own romantic match. Of course, Eloise is far more intrigued by what Lady Whistledown is up to than any of the men vying for attention, at least for most of the season. The second eldest Bridgerton brother Benedict (Luke Thompson) finds himself embracing his artistic nature and setting up the plot of his own upcoming romance in the already announced third season and Colin’s return from his travels abroad set the stage for his own romance in the fourth season.
The blame for Bridgerton’s shortcomings this season lay with the script, directorial choices, and are in no way a reflection of the cast who give spectacular performances. Ashley and Chandran are such wonderful newcomers to the cast, along with Shelley Conn who plays their mother Mary Sharma. Their storyline had the potential to be so much richer, but they brilliantly worked with the material they were given, making moments that much more poignant with subtle looks and innate familial chemistry. Sometimes the script plays too far into the half-sister storyline, but Ashley and Chandran do well with balancing their performances so it never tips to the scales too far.
Bailey gives an understated performance, really showcasing where Anthony’s headspace is, despite the script not really giving added weight or depth to the way he struggles with the circumstances of his father’s death, his fears about love, and his hesitation to pursue something that benefits himself and not his family. Some of his best scenes this season are between him and his immediate family, whether it’s his mother (Ruth Gemmell) trying to sway him to make a love match for himself or Daphne calling him on his nonsense.
Bridgerton’s second season is confounding because they deviated from a formula that worked so well for them with Daphne and Simon’s romance. While the romance is consistently teased throughout the first four episodes, the heat and intimacy isn’t really delivered until the conclusion and by that point, it’s time to abandon this chapter of the Bridgerton siblings’ romantic ventures. Hopefully, the upcoming seasons will course correct and deliver on the sumptuous seduction that one expects from a romance novel like Bridgerton because this could have been aired on PBS at 8 PM on Sundays with very little editing required.
In a world where far too many drama series thrive on tragic romances, at least Netflix knows how to deliver on beautiful people wearing beautiful costuming who are looking for beautiful happily ever afters.
The second season of Bridgerton premieres on March 25 exclusively on Netflix.
This post was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.
Image Credit: Netflix.