Bridgerton is back, with all the pomp and circumstance of a quadrille at Almack’s† But while the show’s Regency romance family tree is still on full display, much like it was during its controversial first season, this season’s tone is much more subdued, far from the intoxicating, hypersexual chaos that nearly overwhelmed the show’s debut season.
Instead of, Bridgerton season two has gone in the opposite direction. The result is a season that is likely to delight returning and new Bridgerton viewers, but may disappoint fans of the source material.
Season two turns away from the scorching passions described in the original Bridgerton romantic series by author Julia Quinn, and throws herself into the arms of the slow-burn, UST-filled, well-trodden Jane Austen cinematic milieu. For the first half of the eight-episode season, which airs on Netflix on March 25, this chaste change means mostly good things: richer, more interesting character development, more time with our ensemble Bridgertons, and plenty of opportunities for our main couple – eldest son Anthony Bridgerton. (Jonathan Bailey) and his fiery nemesis Kate Sharma (Simone Ashley) – to indulge in all the smoldering desire any romantic fan could wish for.
There really is a lot to love about this season, which is just as opulent and beautiful to look at as its predecessor. Our main characters exchange a lot of sultry touches. The characters you loved from season one become more lovable – and so do characters you hated. The Bridgertons can spend more time together as a family, which is always the best the show has to offer. Eloise discovers proto-feminism! Pen’s dresses are getting a little less citrus-colored! Lady Danbury gets some good cane taps! A lot of good things happen in season two, and luckily the plot will cause a lot less controversy than last season.
Ultimately, however, despite the best efforts of a strong ensemble cast, the season begins to lag considerably behind both in tempo and ingenuity, as the plot, like the first season, gets weirder and more impractical. Despite starting off with a host of interesting concepts, it had a huge budget (season one reportedly clocked in at $7 million per episode), and an extremely talented ensemble to go on with, season two is spinning its wheels in the final few episodes.
The point at which Bridgerton starts to wobble is also the point where it differs drastically from the novel it is based on. That devolution has made die-hard fans of the Bridgerton novels – because Kate and Anthony are not just a Bridgerton couple; for many fans they are the Bridgerton couple. their book, The Viscount Who Loved Me, is widely regarded as the best and most beloved book in Quinn’s series, in which each one is devoted to all eight Bridgerton children. And while there’s one big reason for some big plot change had To happen, season two’s execution has wildly divided “Kathony” shippers over the results.
I won’t spoil the plot too much, but if you’re yearning to know what works and what doesn’t on season two, get your petticoats and polish your Hessians, because Bridgerton season two has more twists than Beau Brummell’s tie.
The biggest change to the second Bridgerton novel is of course the introduction of multiple color characters. This includes swapping Kate’s origin story. Where she used to be your standard white girl from the shire, now, along with her half-sister Edwina (Charithra Chandra) and her stepmother Mary (Shelley Conno), she is from India. Bridgerton‘s raceblind-esque casting approach remains receive critisism Due to the lack of depth and historical accuracy, just like in the first season, Kate’s Indian culture barely penetrates the story, except to provide fodder for her status as an unconventional heroine™. (She rides horses and hunts, for something something India.)
When Kate arrives in London in search of a suitable lover for her sister, she doesn’t have long to wait: Anthony, a capital “R” Rake who takes his duties as the eldest Bridgerton very seriously, has randomly decided that now is the time. for him to get married. He sets his sights on Edwina because she has won the favor of the Queen. The problem: He’s already met and started falling for Kate, who in turn overhears him talking about his plans to marry out of opportunity rather than love and immediately decides she hates him – if hating means flirting and eye-fucking at every occasion.
Unlike season one, which had a lot of steam on screen, season two spends most of its time restraining its loved ones from doing more than just touching hungrily. The show, for all its sexual disinhibition in season one, is tying itself tightly for round two; it even comes dangerously close to suggesting that premarital sex is a death sentence. It may sound like a general description, because of all its puritan hand-wringing, to this season of Bridgerton Austenian, but actually it’s quite specific. After a point, the show borrows many of its romantic beats straight from Austen’s cinematic adaptations—everything from Darcy’s infamous wet shirt moment to the other Darcy’s infamous hand-flex against stubborn, rambunctious virgins muddy their petticoats or going out in the rain and met with great setbacks.
Spanning eight Netflix episodes, all these Austen riffs become a tell-tale for the gusty creativity of the Bridgerton writers room. These are incredibly worn-out Regency tropes, and there’s room for so much more imaginative uses of this time period and these juicy characters – you could steal plot ideas straight from Georgette Heyer, for example.
You’ll notice that I’m not suggesting that the authors just faithfully adapt Quinn’s book. That is because The Viscount Who Loves Me contains one wrinkle that romance readers readily accept, but would absolutely stun Netflix viewers: the main plot is essentially the same as that of the first book. If you recall, in the first season, Anthony sees his sister Daphne and her mischievous duke Simon alone in a compromising position, after which the two get married. Though they are in love, Simon’s desire to never father children creates a huge conflict for them after their marriage, which the series tries to unravel in the second half of season one.
In The Viscount Who Loves Methe exactly the same Happens to Anthony and Kate: Before Anthony’s attempt to court a disinterested Edwina gets far underway, he and Kate find themselves entangled in a rather extraordinary compromising position with a bee sting. (It’s actually super scary, albeit ridiculous.) They immediately get engaged and married, spending the rest of the book ironing out their deeper conflicts, misunderstandings, and insecurity.
While romance readers are used to seeing this “caught in a compromising position” trope happen over and over in novels — it even repeats itself as a discarded side plot in season two — it’s easy to see Netflix viewers looking into a season two. doubt that it does exactly the same as season one, just with different characters. So it makes perfect sense that after the crucial “bee sting” scene, Bridgerton departs from the book in a major way: Anthony continues his courtship and eventual engagement to Edwina, as he tries to resist his attraction to Kate. The stakes for Edwina to make a great marriage are much higher in this adaptation, so theoretically there is more pressure on Kate to resist her own attraction to Anthony. It should all make for a delicious tidbit of sexual tension.
But after this plot divergence, Bridgerton‘s second season suffers from a strange dual problem of compression and emptiness. Around the main storyline, the season works in numerous plot points that were later taken over Bridgerton novels. It’s an obvious attempt to consolidate the series’ eight novels into a much shorter timeline. That approach seems to be preferable, as the Bridgertons are always more fun as a unit than broken up into individuals.
Still, this compression means more distraction from the main plot. It means Kate and Anthony should sizzle so much more when they’re on screen together. But they don’t. Despite the best efforts of Simone Ashley and Jonathan Bailey (and they’re both fantastic!), their moments of intimacy feel obligated rather than impulsive, as if the writers added physical touches when they were bored to develop their relationship. The irresistible chemistry that Kate and Anthony must have just isn’t quite there.
The significant age difference between Edwina and Anthony – he’s about 13 or 14 years older – never causes any explicit concern, but it looms uncomfortably over the back half of the show as Edwina gradually begins to care for Anthony and remains ignorant of the feelings of Anthony. her sister until everything implodes. Meanwhile, everyone in their lives is urging Kate and Anthony to just act on their feelings and get married now, and this “follow your heart!” monologue goes from character to character until it gets monotonous. Despite the fact that more was at stake for Edwina’s marriage, giving the Sharmas a more interesting cross-cultural background, and causing Kate an intriguing conflict over her dual roles as a surrogate parent figure and stepdaughter – the Kate/Anthony/Edwina storyline ultimately feels more like filler than the side storylines it competes with. The production of the season was also shut down twice due to Covid† yet the delays don’t fully explain why this season, at just eight episodes, feels unnecessarily long.
Fortunately, there are plenty of other compelling reasons to keep watching — the most important of which is the evolving storyline starring Eloise Bridgerton (Claudia Jessie), her search for the mysterious scandal writer Lady Whistledown, and her best friend Penelope “‘Pen’ is for ‘pseudonym'” Featherington (Nicola Coughlan† Eloise and Pen, one fed up with society, the other yearning to actually participate in it, deliver the show’s most intriguing conflict—and its most subtextually evocative. Although all Bridgerton books feature heterosexual romances, including those for Eloise, Pen, and Bridgerton’s artistic brother, Benedict, and these characters’ arcs in particular lend themselves to queer reading. Of course, the plot that sends these characters into heterosexual romances doesn’t preclude being read as bisexual or pansexual; but the text seems to be actively resisting such interpretations, and hasn’t really earned them, at least not yet.
That, in turn, makes me excited for the show’s third season, and the potential further development of Eloise’s many awakenings, Pen’s growing confidence, and Benedict’s fledgling creative life. Around and among the faint main novels, Bridgerton teeming with vibrancy and fun, and a wider story of family, friendships and self-discovery. That’s the Bridgerton that really came to life in season two, and ultimately that’s the version of Bridgerton which most viewers will enjoy. It may not be the version book fans were hoping for, but it’s the one that touches the heart of the show the most, and the one that keeps Bridgerton fresh.
And if it can only learn to treat its romances with as much care and affection as its friendships, who knows? Bridgerton could still crystallize into a diamond of the purest water.