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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!” or “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. 

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, breathing heavily and yelling at my housemates for interrupting the show. The family dynamics explored, particularly those that went beyond siblings, were better thought-out than season 1. Not only did the show join the elite ranks of stories with non-evil stepmothers, but discussions of what grief does to a family were the most touching moments. As another lovely touch, 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. But like all regency rakes, 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. This is to be expected of a tv program who’s USP relies on this dynamic. However, it could’ve tried to be less boring and annoying. It was hard to feel much beyond apathy at brotherly arguments when largely they were based on the eldest Bridgerton’s use of money to make the lives of more junior members easier. Having shown us in both seasons the appreciably harder lives of the lower classes, the lack of self-awareness did not build any affection for these characters. 

Though the assessment of spoilt and self-unaware cannot apply to Eloise, a Bridgerton sister, 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! 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, adorned in absurd miniature berets and too caught up in her own drama to discuss any issues of importance. Questions of women’s rights, or the plight of the working class were overshadowed by the mystery of Lady Whistledown. Season 2 definitely went further than the last, but it leaves me wondering how many seasons it will take before any politics is discussed with the time and effort it deserves. 

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 all of season 1. But there were so many disappointments. I enjoyed watching the show, but I don’t know if I enjoyed it more or less than 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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