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Bridgerton Season 2 Review: For better or worse?

Warning: This review contains spoilers

My first impression of the second season of Bridgerton was “That house is in Bath!” and “Thank God Jonathan Bailey got rid of those sideburns!”. Rather superficial, but ‘superficial’ is probably the best term to describe the quality of this season. Either that or it’s confusing, because I can’t quite tell if it is better or worse than its predecessor. 

For the first 4 episodes, I was impressed. Anthony’s romance was far more compelling than Daphne and Simon’s. A series of almost kisses and looks fraught with tension had me clutching at my hair, praying for the viscount to finally realise his true feelings. The family dynamics studied, particularly those that went beyond siblings, were truly spectacular and better thought-out than season 1. Not only did the show join the elite ranks of stories with stepmothers that are not evil, but discussions of what grief does to a family were the most touching moments. To further make me fall in love with the show, it seemed as though the feminist and labour movements of the Regency era would finally be highlighted, adding more nuance to an otherwise very isolated elitist storyline. To seal the deal, I was even treated to a gorgeous instrumental cover of Madonna’s Material Girl and a very accurate, scathing review of the watery nonsense called English Tea.

Essentially, the first 4 episodes made grand promises about what kind of show this was and how good it was going to be. These were promises Bridgerton could not keep. 

While the familial dynamics of parent and child continued to be well explored, even in some cases humanising characters I never thought I’d like, the focus was far more centred on siblings. Though this is to be expected of a storyline that follows the love lives of a set of siblings, this quickly became boring and annoying. This was because it seemed the only purpose of the Bridgerton siblings, particularly elder brothers, Benedict and Colin, was to be spoiled and whiny. It was hard to feel much beyond apathy at brotherly arguments when, for the most part, they were based on if the eldest talks of duty too much, or if one brother has not found his grand purpose yet. Having shown us in both seasons the appreciably harder lives of the lower classes, this did not build any affection for these characters as they appeared completely unaware of the privileged lives they lead. 

If you want me to tell you if you should watch it, I’m afraid I can’t do that.

Yasmin Vince

Though the assessment of spoilt and self-unaware cannot apply to Bridgerton sister, Eloise, there are major let downs here as well. Last season, Eloise was the champion of feminism. This season, it appeared as though this would be continued in greater depth. After all, this was the era of Clara Reeve, Maria Edgeworth and Jane Austen! All these women were authors Eloise could have easily read that write on the position of women and the dangers of poverty. Yet all I got was a throw away comment on Mary Wollstonecraft and a very brief encounter with a feminist speaker in the background of a scene. After this, Eloise soon became yet another insipid debutante, too caught up in her own drama to discuss any issues of importance. Questions of women’s rights, or the rights of the working class were overshadowed by the mystery of Lady Whistledown. This is definitely further than the previous season went, but it leaves me wondering how many seasons it will take before any politics is discussed with the time and effort it deserves. 

Even the technical elements of the show took a turn for the worse. In a bizarre move, a big romantic moment sparking the resolution for our characters was underscored by a cover of Miley Cyrus’ Wrecking Ball, not only a bad song but completely the wrong tone for the scene. Hair and makeup continued to make odd choices – Nicola Coughlan’s wig was far too obvious. Even costumes, the highlight of the show, seemed off when they decided to start dressing Eloise in absurd little beret style hats.

The only good thing to survive was the romance between Anthony and Kate. Jonathan Bailey and Simone Ashley played it beautifully. All the way to the end, I could feel sparks coming off my TV whenever they had a scene together. There were tense hand touches that could rival Pride and Prejudice. I wasn’t bored of it by the end, like I was in season 1. I was ridiculously happy when the two finally got together. ‘Unnervingly invested’ is probably the best term to describe my feelings about Anthony and Kate’s relationship. 

It is precisely this that leaves me so confused. The first half of the season was easily better than season 1 and the romance continued to be so throughout the second half. But there were so many let downs, particularly from the missed opportunities to engage with the exciting politics of the era. I enjoyed the season, but I don’t know if I enjoyed it more or less than season 1, the book or any other period drama. I know I’ll watch any other season that is made, but I don’t know if it’s because I like the show or because I just like romance. So, if you want me to tell you if you should watch it, I’m afraid I can’t do that. For all its good, there is bad. For everything better than the first season, there is something worse. My opinion is just as confused as you are.

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