Review

International Netflix Series of the Month – Bridgerton

Netflix Series – Bridgerton
Image courtesy of Netflix

You may have heard about the series Bridgerton – according to Netflix, Bridgerton is its most popular series yet – which is no surprise for those who have seen it. Full of scandal, suspense, and a lot of sex, viewers can expect a diverse cast dressed to the nines in Regency England – with a modern twist, of course.

Bridgerton is an American Netflix series which takes place in London in the early 1800s. It was released on December 25th, 2020 and has been renewed for another season. It centers around the wealthy Bridgerton family during the (social) season when debutantes were presented at court.

Unlike other historical dramas, Bridgerton includes none other than Julie Andrews narrating as Lady Whistledown – basically, Regency London’s Gossip Girl someone who writes and distributes a newspaper containing the juiciest information about anyone worth talking about in High Society. She remains a character of mystery and intrigue as her identity is kept secret from both the characters and the audience throughout the season.

It follows the eldest Bridgerton daughter Daphne (played by Phoebe Dynevor) as she enters her first season, and Simon Bassett, the Duke of Hastings (played by Regé-Jean Page), who is determined never to marry. In order to gain attention from suitors after Daphne’s elder brother sabotages her chances at getting a proposal, Daphne and Simon “pretend” to be courting in an attempt to attract suitors for Daphne and give Simon some respite from constantly being pestered about marriage.

Now, if you think you know what happens next – you’re probably right. In what can’t be any more predictable, Daphne and Simon begin to have affections for each other, despite Simon maintaining his stance against marriage. Meanwhile, the series follows a slew of other characters, from Daphne’s brothers to the Featheringtons – another high-class family intertwined with the Bridgertons.

Bridgerton Netflix series

Image: Netflix

It is worth mentioning that the series takes place in a universe (or alternate history) where King George III marries a woman of colour, which thereby contributes to what seems to be almost complete racial equality in Britain, at least amongst members of the ton. However, wealth inequality is certainly never eliminated. What I appreciate about this series is that it does shed some light on the difference in living conditions between the rich and poor – and how the working class is, as it always has been (and most likely always will be) paying for the excesses and unnecessary luxuries of the nearly completely idle rich. I heartily chuckled at the scene where two of the Bridgerton siblings didn’t even know how to turn on a stove to heat a cup of milk – if only their servants knew how utterly useless their masters would be if they simply decided to stop working for them?

Minor quips and references to modern life are, in my opinion, what add tremendously to the flavour of this show. Most characters seem, at least subconsciously, aware that their upper-class matchmaking ritual is farcical, or unnatural at best. The eldest Bridgerton brother is enamored by an Opera singer well below his station, but despite his best efforts to conform to society, he seems unable to tear himself away from her nor suppress his own instincts to pursue her.

The second eldest Bridgerton daughter Eloise is the series’ strong female character – the one who wishes to abandon the upper-class status-quo of meaningless dress shopping, courting and lounging. She would rather attend university and make her own way in the world than entertain the thought of marriage. Eloise spends nearly the entirety of the season trying to deduce who Lady Whistledown is and even attempts, out of admiration, to protect her. She spends most of her time with her friend Penelope – daughter of the Featherington family and considered by them as an ugly duckling. Together the friends make an endearing pair, and honestly, I enjoyed watching them more than the main couple. I found their friendship more believable than the leading pair, as it felt far more natural. In fact, there were many scenes where I wish more time had been devoted to the characters, Eloise and Penelope. Despite Daphne and Simon being the main attraction in the series, I find their feelings for each other to have been developed too quickly. The show only runs for eight episodes, and it’s clear that the writers tried to fit an entire plot into it in case Bridgerton wasn’t renewed for another season. This led to the very hasty romantic development of our main characters.

Bridgerton Netflix series

Bridgerton, a Netflix Series here showing Penelope Featherington (Nicola Coughlan) and Eloise Bridgerton (Claudia Jessie). Available on Netflix

While I can somewhat believe that Daphne could develop romantic feelings for Simon in the allotted time, I can’t help but feel like Simon is acting the entire time. His feelings somehow just don’t feel genuine, and in my mind, I can’t seem to forget that they’re just actors playing a part. How they finally get together feels even more awkward – both characters spend a lot of time thinking they forced each other into a marriage when they are actually mad about each other (well, supposedly). Many, many sex scenes ensue.

To be sure, this is definitely not a show to watch with your parents or children. A sex scene sprinkled here and there in any series or movie can be steamy, sexy, and appealing – Bridgerton, however, goes so far beyond that at times I wondered if I was watching soft-core porn. Let’s just say, it’s graphic and leaves little to the imagination.

Despite the pace of the show being too fast, all of this could have been redeemed in the following seasons had they not made one very crucial mistake – namely, they reveal the identity of Lady Whistledown in the last episode of the first season. Of course, I had my suspicions (which turned out to be right), however, leaving the identity of Lady Whistledown unknown would have kept the mystery in the series alive a little longer. In fact, Bridgerton leaves basically nothing up to the viewer’s imagination – so much happened in the course of a few short episodes that I wonder what fantastical storylines the writers will have to come up with in the following seasons – given that they’ve already revealed everything we wanted to know.

That being said, I can’t say I didn’t completely devour the series – because I did. For all my criticisms, I enjoyed the various storylines and am looking forward to finding out, in the upcoming seasons, what hasn’t already been revealed.

Overall, I do recommend watching this series. At worst, it’ll be a good topic of discussion, and at best, you’ll have seen something you might really enjoy.

 

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