Nila is a freelance journalist and Clinical Psychology Doctoral student…
Netflix’s adaptation of Julia Quinn’s “Bridgerton” novel became an instantaneous binge-watching favorite when it was released in 2020. It wasn’t a life-altering moving piece, but a simple form of escapism in the form of a Jane Austen-esque universe filled with steamy romance and a surprising amount of diversity. In season one the steamy on-screen chemistry between the leads Daphne Bridgerton and Duke Simon, played by Phoebe Dynevor and Regé-Jean Page, burned off the screen. As a viewer, you could feel the slow burn of their passion in the pit of your stomach but sadly, season two lacked the same heat. Though there were some highlights, this season felt flat and predictable.
Here’s the story…
Like its predecessor, season two also had a slow start and focused on building up the friction in the relationship between the lead characters but season two takes entirely too long to get exciting. Season two revolves around the love story of the Viscount, Anthony Bridgerton, the eldest of the Bridgerton siblings. The viscount has decided to finally settle down with a bride this season and his requirements include everything but love. Instead, he wishes to marry practically to an intelligent woman who would be able to run his house and provide a good upbringing for his children. But with the reputation of being a “Captial R-Rake” is he able to find one woman who captivates him?
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Enter the stunning Edwina Sharma (Charitra Chandan), her elder half-sister Kate Sharma (Simone Ashley), and their mother Mary Sheffield Sharma (Shelley Conn) who have all been sponsored by the sassy Lady Danbury to come across by boat to London from Mumbai. The Sharma women have come to find young Edwina a husband, but the elder sister, Kate acts as a gatekeeper. At the age of 26, Kate is labeled a “spinster” but she does not worry about herself and is instead adamant about finding her sister a good man who will marry for love. However, Kate has ulterior motives for getting her sister married which are revealed as the show progresses; the Sharmas have quite a few dark secrets.
Once Queen Charlotte names Edwina her “diamond of the season” the viscount wastes no time using his charm to woo the younger Sharma sister but Kate intervenes to keep them apart. Anthony and Kate are constantly competing against each other, often coming off like spoiled children throwing tantrums. In season one, Daphne and the Duke had an easy banter and sexual chemistry which quite literally, lights up the screen in the build-up to and after their sexual union. However, the friction between Anthony and Kate did not feel believable, it felt forced, and lacked passion. Kate and Anthony devoted their lives to caring for their respective families, so there is some character development as they overcome their own struggles to find and be willing to accept love.
Aside from the viscount, Eloise Bridgerton made her debut this season, and this fiery feminist is definitely full of main-character energy. Eloise is a badass who is constantly letting her curiosity gain the best of her. She is lovable, exciting, and manages to surprise you throughout the season. In her adventures looking for the real Lady Whistledown, she manages to find a little romance on the wrong side of the tracks, her privilege hits her in the face, and when things get too real (with the Queen out to get her) she shows maturity in taking the route to protect those she cares for.
Her best friend, and the real Lady Whistledown, Penelope Featherington faces a lot of heartbreak this season as she anxiously waits for Colin to return and with a heart full of hope pines for him from afar. Labeled an “insipid wallflower” Penelope is able to remain invisible and soak in the gossip around her but she has moments of self-doubt wondering if what she is doing is worth it. Meanwhile her mother and “cousin Jack” the new Lord Featherington are up to some sneaky money-making schemes. The other Bridgerton siblings are seen in the periphery dealing with their own concerns. Benedict doubts his abilities as an artist even when he gains a spot in a prestigious art school and Colin tries to overcome his feelings for the lovely Marina Thompson who duped him in season one. The many subplots of the show seem to fall flat, they’re one-dimensional, cliche, and predictable.
The final word:
The elaborate balls, over-done hairdos, and color-coordinated outfits by the family are reminiscent of glamorous Sanjay Leela Bhansali Bollywood flicks. However, no matter how much you dress up for a show, if there’s no substance it will fall flat. The writer’s tried their best to create this passionate enemies-to-lovers romance that did not sizzle. The subplots were one-dimensional and cliche. What did work was the easy relationship between all the Bridgerton siblings. Their love for each other and teasing was engaging and believable as a family. The flashbacks depicting the death of the father of the Bridgerton children were beautifully depicted moments of depth that explained the difficulties of a young Anthony being thrust into a role of authority and having to care for 7 siblings as his mother battled depression in the aftermath of her loss.
The show included some South Asian touches to enhance the representation of Edwina and Kate’s heritage on the show. There were some subtle touches such as the traditional Indian embroidery on their gowns, simple Indian jewelry, the inclusion of a Haldi ceremony, and who could forget the beautiful instrumental recreation of the “Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham” title track. Let’s not forget that not only were South Asian women cast to play the roles of the Sharma women but gorgeous dark-skinned Indian women were cast. They were graceful in their respective roles, especially the soft-spoken Charitra Chandan who was effortless. Though we could get picky and point out how “Sharma” was mispronounced the entire film, but we will take what we can get at this time.
Review: 3/5 stars
Nila is a freelance journalist and Clinical Psychology Doctoral student who was born and raised in New York City. There is very little she loves more than Harry Potter marathons, pizza, 90s Bollywood, bagels, falooda, and her family. She hopes to use her powers for good by spreading mental health awareness and positivity in the South Asian community through her love of writing.