The second season of Bridgerton does what Bridgerton does best: romance. Fireworks over garden parties, empire-line gowns and public kisses that demand the suspension of disbelief — the second season delivers on everything fans loved about the first. Nobody will praise the show for its plot; rather, Bridgerton is the ultimate comfort show with a romance that is palatable, fun and entirely contrived.
Bridgerton returned to Netflix for its second season on March 25, and the familiar pressure and scandal of the marriage season framed by classical renditions of pop songs make the show feel like itself. However, the new season is even less plot-driven than the first, and many of the storylines feel overdone.
The second season centers around Anthony Bridgerton, the eldest Bridgerton brother, as he searches for a wife in order to fulfill his duty to his family. While Anthony is courting Edwina Sharma, he falls for Kate Sharma, the older, supposedly “undesirable” sister. While Kate’s maturity is a breath of fresh air from the purity and naïveté of Daphne, the last season’s main female character, the trope of two sisters being pitted against one another in their desire for one man nevertheless feels stale. Kate’s iron will can only achieve so much in the name of strong female characters while she continues to be a source of character development for a man.
The love triangle develops excruciatingly slowly across a number of painful-to-watch scenes that force the audience to suspend their disbelief — no way could Anthony and Kate stare at each other so openly without creating a scandal. High society seems to be observant only until it stops suiting the plot — and how does the couple always just happen to end up in the woods alone together? The central tensions of the season are also overdone repeats of the last: Anthony experiences the exact same character conflict of love versus duty as he did in the first season, and the audience has also already seen characters’ daddy issues before.
Other elements take me out of the show, too: why is the Queen so involved with discovering the identity of Lady Whistledown, the town’s scandal writer? She is supposed to be the formidable Queen of England, yet the second season portrays her as another gossip-obsessed woman, which only adds to how tired and grating I found the Whistledown plotline. And every time a character uses the word “ton” to refer to London — for example, “the scandal of the ton” or “the best ball the ton will ever see” — I wanted to shut my computer.
However, despite the season’s shortcomings, the romance is ultimately what makes the show worth watching. Nobody expects Bridgerton to be strong in its plot; as an avid consumer of historical dramas, I went into the second season expecting nothing more than familiar characters, outfits and feel-good romance. From the second Kate is introduced on horseback with her unkempt hair flying behind her, the audience knows she and Anthony must end up together, making the show all the more enjoyable.
“You are the bane of my existence and the object of all my desires,” Anthony deliciously tells Kate. Bridgerton specializes in the romantic female gaze of soft touches, sensual hands, hungry looks and strained breaths. Anthony and Kate’s relationship is at the heart of the season, and their love grows from loathing over a series of “almost” moments with light touches and near-kisses interrupted by rustling, thunder or a sister. The show has gained true mastery over the art of suspense.
When the couple finally drops the pretenses and makes love, the show does an excellent job of portraying Kate as an enthusiastic participant of sex rather than a naïve girl whose lover performs sex unto her. The camera focuses on Kate’s face experiencing pleasure, and she claims agency by repeatedly telling Anthony, “Do not stop.”
The thread that connects the second season to the first, and the area where the show fully shines, is its humanity. The flashbacks to Anthony’s father’s death humanizes him by letting us peek into Anthony’s headspace, motives and pressures. Later, Anthony shares a tender scene with his mother where she speaks about the power and value of “real, true love” that makes all the pain worthwhile. As Anthony cries, the show ascends beyond just goofy dialogue and predictable plots. The emotion, here, is what makes Bridgerton more than just easy to watch, but also ultimately moving.
Kiki Plowe is a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at [email protected]