Many viewers swore they would boycott “Bridgerton” after the departure of Regé-Jean Page. But the second season, loosely following the books by Julia Quinn, shifts to focus on the eldest sibling: Viscount Anthony Bridgerton, played by Jonathan Bailey. While Phoebe Dynevor has her fair share of reappearances as Daphne, the storyline doesn’t exactly require Page’s presence.
Produced by Shonda Rhimes, the hit Netflix show quickly made headlines upon its release last year. Some griped about the historical inaccuracies of the period piece, while others obsessed over the shockingly steamy love story.
Regardless, the fanbase very quickly grew, and musicians Abigail Barlow and Emily Bear created the “Unofficial Bridgerton Musical” after going viral on TikTok. Creating catchy show tunes inspired by the events of Season 1, the duo managed to secure a Grammy nomination for Best Musical Theater Album. One can only hope for a second album because Season 2 is just as worthy of musical status.
Daphne and Simon’s relationship progressed quickly, stemming from the use of the fake dating trope. In contrast, Season 2 offers the slow burn of enemies to lovers. It’s not nearly as steamy, but that makes room for the exploration of more serious topics.
The season follows Viscount Anthony Bridgerton’s search for a suitable match — one he soon finds with the arrival of the Sharma family, whom Lady Danbury sponsors this season.
Departing from the books, in which the Sharmas are actually the Sheffields, the show aimed to increase representation with its inclusion of a South Asian family. Yet, very little is mentioned about cultural influences, with the new characters largely conforming to British society. One large cultural reference, however, was the inclusion of a “Khabhi Kushi Khabhie Gham” cover, sprinkling in a taste of Bollywood.
Anthony sets his sights upon Edwina Sharma, played by Charithra Chandran, but her older sister Kate, played by Simone Ashley, gets in his way immediately, balking at the viscount’s idea of a loveless marriage. Wanting the best for her sister, Kate is determined to steer Anthony away. This leads to simmering tension between the two, under the guise of hate. Of course, this will blossom into a love story, though it takes its sweet time to do so.
All this extra time is skillfully devoted to furthering character development and depth. We see Penelope struggle to keep her identity a secret as Eloise’s investigation finally makes some headway. We see her begin to explore the idea of tackling more serious topics like feminism in her pamphlet.
With the reason for his father’s death finally revealed, viewers get a better picture of the immense pressure on Anthony to fulfill the role of viscount. The rest of the Bridgertons have their share of worries too; Benedict hopes to get into an esteemed art school, Colin is unsure what to make of Penelope’s attitude and Eloise very reluctantly takes on her role as a debutante. The Featherington girls find themselves challenged by their cousin Jack, who takes over as head of the household, holding their fates in his hand.
All of this makes for a very entertaining, and much more meaningful season. So for fans of Page, don’t worry, “Bridgerton” Season 2 is still worth the watch.
Rating: 4.5/5 stars