Season two of “Bridgerton” is reminiscent of a French macaron: light, airy, and aesthetically pleasing, but ultimately unsatisfactory and lacking substance.
Historically inaccurate and frustratingly predictable, Netflix’s hit period-drama “Bridgerton” still provides an escape from the mundanity of 21st-century-life, if you can prepare yourself for the series’ silliness and mindlessness.
With oldest Bridgerton daughter Daphne’s love match secured in season one, the second season focuses on Lord Anthony Bridgerton, the oldest Bridgerton son. Anthony is largely unlikeable in the first season: he flaunts his mistresses, domineers over his family, and taunts Daphne with disagreeable yet advantageous suitors.
This is the marriage season when Anthony must fulfill his duty and find a wife. His only problem? The queen has yet to declare the season’s “Diamond:” the most beautiful, accomplished, desired bride-to-be. Anthony must have the “Diamond” because he deserves the best; he is, after all, a Bridgerton. And love? Unimportant to Lord Bridgerton. No, all he requires is an accomplished young woman of superior social standing and family background who is intelligent, dutiful, and able to give him heirs to secure his estate.
“I’m looking for perfection, Mother,” Anthony tells Lady Violet at a ball. To Anthony, marriage is a duty that he must fulfill, and he’ll be content if he gets a young woman who can have an intelligent conversation and properly fulfill the role of Viscountess Bridgerton.
Throughout the season, however, Lady Violet and Duchess Daphne remind Anthony that a marriage should be something more: it should be the combining of two lives into one, the synchronization of two hearts into one shared heartbeat.
This advice is touching yet contradictory to the show’s overall message, given that the show’s narrator, Lady Whistledown, later downplays marriage as “little more than a human ritual.” With this and other characters remarking that one should be free to “choose the love you want, [and] choose the family you want,” the producers seem to be making a jab at the fundamentally religious nature of marriage and awkwardly introducing today’s P.C. language into the 19th-century British peerage.
When Anthony finally meets his “Diamond,” he wastes no time in claiming her as his own. Miss Edwina Sharma is everything the title implies and more: she is well-educated, bright, and sweetly naive. But, as expected, Anthony cannot keep his eyes off of Edwina’s older sister, Kate. Similar to Anthony, Kate is protective and cynical and is his match in intelligence and stubbornness. At first, Kate and Anthony take an almost instant dislike to each other, sparked out of their similar competitive natures and fierce individuality, but it soon becomes evident that it is Kate, and not Edwina, who has secured Anthony’s affections.
This enemies-to-lovers trope is painfully predictable and obvious from Kate and Anthony’s first scene together. Before the audience knows it, Kate and Anthony are spending every spare moment alone together, which historically would have been most improper and forbidden.
Even though we know Kate and Anthony are going to end up together in the end, this whirlwind romance leaves us without much character development for Kate and a love story that feels stunted and shallow.
What is most dangerous about “Bridgerton” season two is its definition of love. True love doesn’t equate to passion or exasperation as Kate and Anthony’s story would make us think. It’s more like what Edwina wants: equality in mind and united in vision and values, for the betterment of them both.
Edwina is actually the most intriguing character of season two, and it’s a shame that she’s deceived and treated with condescension by Kate and Anthony. She experiences the most character development, transforming from a naive, starry-eyed girl to a mature, confident woman who knows what she wants and refuses to settle for less.
“Bridgerton” would have us believe, contrary to the adage, that opposites do not in fact always attract. The series provides very little evidence for us to base this argument on and presents it in a less than persuasive manner, but it’s a nice idea. The success of “Bridgerton” has little to do with the historical accuracy and more with the culture’s longing for a love that is more refined, more intentional, and filled with chivalry and honor (hence the new Bridgerton-inspired Bachelorette reality TV show “The Courtship”). “Bridgerton” certainly doesn’t give us that, but it does give us a peek into the flaws and strengths of both the 19th and 21st centuries.
Ultimately, I liked season two; in some ways, more so than season one. There’s little language, it’s cleaner than the first season, the costumes and scenery are gorgeous, and if you can stomach a soundtrack of modern pop songs disguised as classical waltzes — sure Netflix, we totally didn’t notice you using “Dancing on my Own” for Anthony and Kate’s dance — you might enjoy it. Just don’t expect either season of “Bridgerton” to be a historically accurate, family-friendly, heartwarming Regency period drama.