For many, the arrival of Bridgerton on Christmas Day 2020 was a saving grace. Created by Chris Van Dusen and produced by Shonda Rhimes, who’ve worked on How To Get Away With Murder, Scandal and Grey’s Anatomy between them, the show was a much-needed shot of joy in a locked-down festive season that looked so different for so many. Now, the highly anticipated second series is here – and it’s just as engaging as series one, albeit with a few new shake-ups.
Inspired by Julia Quinn’s novels – which follow eight close-knit siblings as they attempt to find love in London’s high society – steamy series one followed the beautiful Daphne (played by breakout star Phoebe Dynevor), the eldest daughter of the influential Bridgerton family as she made her debut on the capital’s cutthroat matchmaking scene. Hoping to follow in her parents’ footsteps and find a match sparked by true love, Daphne’s prospects initially seem to be unrivalled, especially when she’s given the nod by the queen herself. But as her older brother Lord Anthony – taking on fatherly duties following the death of Lord Bridgerton – begins to rule out her potential suitors, a high-society scandal sheet casts aspersions on Daphne, leaving her previous queue of men nowhere to be seen. Thankfully, by the end of the series, she’s happily paired up with the dashing Simon, Duke of Hastings (Regé-Jean Page).
Like Quinn’s novels, the second season follows rakish Anthony (the wonderful Jonathan Bailey), the eldest Bridgerton sibling and viscount, as he sets out to find a suitable wife. Driven by his duty to uphold the family name, Anthony’s search for a debutante who meets his impossible standards seems ill-fated until Kate (Simone Ashley) and her younger sister Edwina (Charithra Chandran) Sharma arrive from India. When Anthony begins to court Edwina, sharp Kate discovers the true nature of his intentions – a genuine love match is not on his priority list – and decides to do everything she can to stop the union. But in doing so, Kate and Anthony’s war of words only brings them closer together, complicating matters on both sides. Then there’s Eloise Bridgerton (Line of Duty’s Claudia Jessie), who still isn’t interested in finding a husband, and would much rather read books and go to university like the older Bridgerton boys.
Across the square from the Bridgerton’s wisteria-covered mansion, the Featheringtons are getting ready to welcome the newest heir to their estate following the death of Lord Featherington in series one. Underpinning the drama is narrator Lady Whistledown, the author of Lady Whistledown’s Society Papers, an anonymous printed newsletter that circulates throughout society, making and breaking characters with her revelations. Voiced by Julie Andrews, at the end of the first series, it was revealed that the Regency-era gossip mag’s author is none other than mousy, quiet Penelope Featherstone (played by the ever-excellent Nicola Coughlan of Derry Girls). Much of the fun of series two focuses on her not getting caught as she writes and delivers her missives to a printing press in the wrong part of town.
One of the first series’ strengths was the casting. It was so refreshing to see a diverse cast in a period drama, especially as characters in positions of power. In this series, Queen Charlotte (played by Luther’s Golda Rosheuvel) and Lady Danbury (played by a scene-stealing Adjoa Andoh) continue to make a formidable duo, ruling over proceedings and making and breaking debutantes’ arrivals on the social scene. But Kate and Edwina are even more interesting. New to London from South India, the Sharmas have replaced the ‘Sheffields’ in the books and bring a fresh level of authenticity and another important conversation about race to the show. Their reasons for arriving in London continue to unravel throughout the series, and Kate’s steely determination and mastery of everything from shooting to playing croquet make a statement throughout the show.
Save for the presence of Regé-Jean Page, all the things we loved in series one are back: the glamourous balls, the opulent costumes, the string arrangements of modern songs (even Nirvana gets a look in this time), the scandals, the gilded interiors, and the familiarity and frivolousness of the whole thing. A quick-witted series that celebrates enduring friendships, families finding their way and falling in love, season two might not have the same captive audience as its debut, but we think it’s well worth skipping an afternoon in the spring sunshine to binge-watch this weekend.
Bridgerton series two lands on Netflix on Friday 25th March.