What can I say? I’m a sucker for Shonda Rhimes.
When I first saw the promotion for Bridgerton, my mind immediately thought of Still Star-Crossed. The real ones know what I’m talking about. All I’m going to say is that Benvolio deserved a second season. I never thought I’d see another Shondaland adaptation of a dramatic period piece, but if 2020 taught us anything it’s that the unexpected is always possible. However, Bridgerton is in no way Still-Star Crossed.
Bridgerton provides audiences with the intrigue of Gossip Girl, social commentary of a Jane Austen novel, and the intense sensuality of Outlander. Centered around the fiery romance between the jewel of the season, Daphne Bridgerton and The Duke of Hastings, Simon Basset, the all-knowing omnipresent Lady Whistledown keeps the audience intrigued in her telling of the scandals of high society.
Daphne Bridgerton is this story’s heroine. After receiving high praise from her majesty, the Queen, she gains the attention of all in society including Lady Whistledown, our narrator and resident source of news, real or otherwise. Society’s most eligible and emotionally unavailable bachelor, Simon, Duke of Hastings has also caught the eye of Lady Whistledown.
The two devise a plan similar in nature to that of Peter Kavinsky and Lara Jean from To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, another Netflix favorite. The pair decide to partake in a fake courtship, their reasons being to (1) ensure Daphne gets a proper suitor since her overbearing and overprotective brother Anthony has pushed all potential husbands away and (2) stop the swarm of desperate debutants along with their even more desperate mothers from vying for the Duke’s attention. If you are a fan of To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, you can tell where this story is going but what makes Bridgerton worth a watch is the unmatched chemistry between the two characters. Their journey to decipher their repressed feelings and emotions towards each other creates a distinct tension that cannot be ignored.
But it’s not just about the sexual tension, along the way there are a number of characters and storylines that pulls at the audience’s curiosity. Whether we watch Anthony Bridgerton, the eldest son attempt to navigate his role as head of the family while trying to follow his heart or Eloise Bridgerton who plays detective to uncover the identity of Lady Whistledown, rejecting the role of the perfect daughter. Not to mention her best friend, Penelope Featherington, kind and caring but viewed as a child in the eyes of many, but she is so much more than meets the eye. Her affection for Colin Bridgerton is apparent to all but him and becomes an issue when his eyes wander to her cousin Marina Thompson. The storyline of Marina Thompson and the Featherington family becomes a cautionary tale, something we are looking forward to seeing develop in season 2.
Bridgerton depicts the complicated relationships between honor, obligation, love, and self-identity. Specific themes ring true throughout the episodes. First, there is an emphasis on strong women. These women may be behind, beside, or at the forefront of certain issues. These women have power despite, and because of the situation, they find themselves. You see it with Mrs. Bridgerton, Daphne Bridgerton, Lady Danbury, Marina Thompson, and Sienna Rosso. We quickly ascertain it’s how they choose to yield their power is what sets them apart. Secondly, it is apparent that there is power in words, words written, and words spoken. Words are essential: whether it is the writings of Lady Whistledown or the lack of communication between Daphne and Simon leaving the characters and audience frustrated beyond words. Lastly, because Bridgerton is a coming-of-age story, the characters go through a sort of awakening: an awakening of the mind, body, and soul.
One must note the show’s aesthetics accurately portray the Regency period in London while also giving the audience a glimpse of modernity. The breathtaking landscapes, extravagant balls, and decadent fashion fulfill every Jane Austen or Gossip Girl fan’s dream. In your viewing of the Netflix show pay close attention to not only what is seen but also what is heard. You may hear renditions of familiar artists such as Ariana Grande, Billie Eilish, and Shawn Mendes to name a few. The fantastical atmosphere Bridgerton creates does not do a disservice to issues of race or class. The vision of a diverse cast is welcomed and appreciated. Representing Black characters like the Queen and Lady Danbury in such high social regard, allows for a representation we do not see too often. Lady Danbury is fierce, confident and a motherly figure that dominates and embraces her presence. I sure know that I need to see more black women as strong, resilient, and downright magical forces in society.
Bridgerton is a love story to oneself and one’s partner. The question is does love truly conquer all? or does love change at the whims of desire? That cannot be decided in one season and we definitely look forward to whether Bridgerton gives us an answer.
The social season may have come to a close and the identity of Lady Whistledown remains a mystery to all characters except one. What I do know is, the complexities of this Netflix production are a must see. Shonda has done it again and given us another binge-worthy hit, not that anyone is surprised. Be sure to add Bridgerton to your queue and give the show the numbers it deserves; I’m not trying to have my heartbroken by another unfinished Shondaland masterpiece (yes, I’m still recovering from Still Star-Crossed.)