Bridgeton has reached a tipping point in casting a spell on viewers. Not only the music, but the visuals, the costumes, dialogues, and acting are all wonderful. No wonder we fell in love with Shonda Rhimes’ American period drama based on Julia Quinn novels.
There were several factors that aided and abetted this love at first sight. The entire human race was stuck at home, akin to caged birds, because of the pandemic. Living literally in our pajamas, our lives were as drab as our masked faces, stripped of fashion and glitz.
When the elegant lords and ladies of the “Ton” promenaded on our TV screens, we swooned. We thoroughly enjoyed the passionate romance between the beautiful debutante Daphne Bridgerton (Phoebe Dynevor), and the dark Duke Simon Basset (Rege Jean-Page). In December 2020, this was the best Christmas present the doctor could have ordered.
The affairs of the “Ton” became our household obsession. We were hooked on line and sinker. Our hopes were dashed a bit when we learned the handsome Duke of Hastings was not returning to Season 2. Nevertheless, most Bridgerton fans were excited about the second season.
I binge-watched the entire season. It was nice to see that Bridgerton had diversified into Brownerton. The two Sharma sisters: Kate (Simone Ashley/Simone Ashwini Pillai), and Edwina Sharma (Charithra Chandran) steal the show with their perfect postures, high cheekbones, angular jawlines, and smoldering dark eyes.
Edwina is the perfect debutante (deemed “diamond” by the Queen) with the most amicable finishing school etiquette. She appears to be what the most eligible bachelorette of the season, Anthony Bridgerton (Jonathan Bailey) ordered.
Viscount Anthony has lost a bit of his rakish demeanor by trimming his sideburns and high-handed ways. He wants to make a match with an agreeable lady whose hips are fit to carry his heirs. He is quite charmed with Edwina because, to his surprise, she has more than half a brain and can carry on an intelligent conversation.
But there is a big fly in the ointment. Kate, Edwina’s older half-sister, and a proclaimed spinster at 26, is determined to dissuade Anthony from popping the question. Kate is living vicariously through her sister. Having lost her mother at a young age, she takes on the role of protecting Edwina, and as her “didi,” wants her to make a “love match.”
Edwina, in her soft flowy gowns and delicate pearl chokers, is infatuated with the idea of becoming the Viscountess of Bridgerton. She notices the unexpected animosity between her suitor and sister and tries to placate Kate into liking Anthony. After that, the season pretty much is arranged like a big flower arrangement with Kate and Anthony as the centerpieces. They are thrown together in almost every frame. Riding horses at daybreak. Falling in mud while playing pall mall (a game similar to croquet), being stung by bees, hunting, midnight rendezvous in the library, sitting cheek to cheek at the races, or dancing.
Kate Sharma is standoffish, like a prickly cactus, and makes no attempt to succumb to Anthony’s high society charms. She stands aloof in her structured, thick-taffeta high-waisted silk gowns in jewel tones, blues, emerald greens, and, of course, every shade of lilac and lavender, to nudge the hero of the tale into making her an offer.
I was glad to see Indian actors given decent roles, and that their characters were not caricatured by the director Tom Verica. They were treated as equals by the Queen, not immune to the usual scandal and gossip.
The season was steeped in romantic magnetism, fueled by forbidden desire. But I felt that the plot was a bit stretched. I fell asleep between the rigmarole of “filial duty” and “self-denial” right in the middle of the steamy kissing scene in church. I woke up and rewound to the wedding ceremony and watched the final episodes again to make sure that the season did not end in unrequited love.
The Sharma sisters’ devotion for each other appeared true to their Indian heritage, but it did not keep Edwina from cutting her older sister down to size in a rather generic way when she discovered that her beau was stolen from under her pretty nose. The onscreen chemistry between the romantic leads speaks volumes about their offscreen friendship. They work very well together as a unit.
The conflicted love story is a well-hashed romantic recipe in Bollywood movies, with the audience lapping up the flying sparks and the “enemies to lovers” trope. There is also a scene, lifted straight from Pride and Prejudice, where Anthony falls into the water and emerges like a shirtless Mr. Darcy to warm Kate’s cold heart.
My daughter noticed instrumental music from Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham at Edwina’s haldi ceremony. She also commented on the increasing diversity of actors, directors, and producers in Hollywood, thanks to Netflix.
I wonder why it was so difficult for the period elite to express their true feelings. Was it because the roles of men and women were very different from what they are in the modern era? For men of means, marriage was and is still a convenience. Whereas for women of no means, not being married at that time was a great inconvenience. But Indian girls are not all sugar and spice… True men do like the challenge of courting a beauty with brains.
Monita Soni grew up in Mumbai, India, and works as a pathologist in Alabama. She is well known for her creative nonfiction and poetry pieces inspired by family, faith, food, home, and art. She has written two books: My Light Reflections and Flow through my Heart. She is a regular contributor to NPR’s Sundial Writers Corner.