Pretty flowers, afternoon tea and marrying your cousin.
Season 2 of “Bridgerton” was the near-perfect testament to English summertime, and as The Spectrum’s resident Brit, I felt I needed to step up to the plate.
In a lovely testament to love and loss, “Bridgerton” adopted a slow-burn approach toward guilt complexes and the inner turmoil of whether we should put our responsibilities to ourselves or not.
Although it sacrificed many of the longing gazes and steamy sex scenes of its first season, “Bridgerton” Season 2 didn’t lose all its heat, thanks to bee-sting-inspired intimacies and inadvertent viscount wet t-shirt contests.
At the same time, the show retained its status as a pioneer for diversity on the small screen, giving the traditionally all-white historical fiction genre a refreshing and much-needed re-representation.
It did so with more than just visible representation, too, as the show included in-depth looks at different cultures and customs, like the Indian wedding tradition of Haldi.
Once again, “Bridgerton” leads the way for all to follow as we enter a new era of representation in the creative industries.
But it isn’t only the range of the cast that elevates the show.
The gorgeous scenery of high society’s London playground, its flamboyant frocks and elegant balls provide the perfect burst of color to this period romance.
This series’ plot trumped its 2020 predecessor, with a much more fleshed-out storyline — giving viewers meaning besides just hot Dukes and far-fetched play-by-plays of fake schemes imbuing real love.
The enemies-to-lovers trope is forever a staple, and for good reason.
But the enemies-to-lovers trope amidst a familial love triangle is even better.
The unsolicited tension and stolen looks were a credit to this season’s angle and gave the near-trauma-bonding of Viscount Anthony Bridgerton and Miss Sharma an intriguing spin.
But Viscount Bridgerton, Miss Sharma and Miss Edwina Sharma’s complicated connections facilitated a sense of one-dimensionality at times in the Sharma sisters’ characters.
Both sisters were so resolute in their opposing stubborn and submissive natures that the main storyline of the viscount’s proposal-turned-secret-love-affair with the sisters didn’t seem realistic enough.
The producers clearly wanted this half-hearted engagement to be a testament to the viscount’s painful past — highlighting his unwillingness to ever make anyone suffer the burden he did when his father passed. But his unwavering oath to duty was overplayed and didn’t have the desired effect.
Though other characters didn’t get a chance to shine, like the diamond of the first water they were, at all.
Lady Sharma’s perspective seemed to be forgotten about, and her character seemed kind-hearted at best from the sheer lack of screentime the actor was given.
The season’s other main shortcoming centers around Lady Whistledown.
Despite Julie Andrews’ honey-dipped vocals, the way Lady Whistledown plays out this season leaves a lot to be desired, to say the least.
The reveal of Penelope Featherington’s involvement as Whistledown was the big gasp moment of last season — ending that chapter of the show with a bang.
But that bang soon turned into a dud.
Penelope’s character was irritating from start to finish and was completely underdeveloped. With no real understanding of Whistledown’s writing process or motivations, bar an offhand Irish accent and angry snips at Eloise Bridgerton’s detective skills, this plot point only served to smear the intrigue behind the clandestine writer and tee-up a lazy narrative device.
In that vein, the new take on Whistledown gave us respite from the niceties of Mayfair, taking us to the streets of Bloomsbury and the “common people.”
People like new love affair Theo Sharpe.
His character introduced a love born out of mutual passions and a wish to better the world around him and Eloise. Not in a cliché or annoying way, but an endearing one that isn’t founded in lust or pre-arranged marriages.
Eloise’s description of her care for Theo was one of the most beautiful scenes in the entire series.
“When I read something new or interesting or provoking, it is you who crosses my mind … you I would like to speak with about those thoughts,” she warmly said.
The Bridgerton daughter provided a constant breath of fresh air this series, with eye-rolls and cutting cynicisms of the polite society around her.
As always, every episode of “Bridgerton” was a joy to watch this season, from Benedict’s tea-infused illegal highs to Lady Bridgerton’s gentle tones, Colin’s heartbreak to Gregory’s questions about what his late father was like.
Despite this, Anthony’s depiction was the most endearing of the Bridgeton clan’s.
He grew from the big-ego brother who can easily down a drink or challenge you to a duel, to someone with much more substance.
Jonathan Bailey really gave depth to this series’ protagonist, allowing him to flourish through his vulnerabilities. With scenes like Miss Sharma’s bee sting inducing his head-spinning panic attack and teary-eyed gaze, to his attempts at gluing the pieces of his grief-stricken mother back together — the acting was raw and made me tear up just as much as the characters themselves.
But much more importantly, this season thankfully saw an end to the Bridgerton brothers’ bushy sideburns.
Even last season’s star made hefty appearances.
Daphne didn’t just show face; she also meaningfully contributed to this season, guiding Anthony toward unreservedly following his heart.
Though the duke was certainly amiss, at least we got to see the couple’s new Oggie.
As always, “Bridgerton” seems to strike the perfect balance between its lighthearted moments of high-class frivolity and its deep-dive into heavier topics. From silly games like pall-mall sequencing right into conversations surrounding sexism, being outcast from society, loved ones’ deaths and the responsibilities older children must shoulder.
The acting was sublime from all, especially from the leading ladies — Simone Ashley and Charithra Chandran — and the ferocious icons — Lady Danbury and the Queen of England herself.
This season had a depth, sincerity and diversity to it that drove it far past the typical trending Netflix romance story.
Sophie McNally is an assistant sports editor and can be reached at email@example.com
Sophie McNally is an assistant sports editor at The Spectrum. She is a history major studying abroad for a year from Newcastle University in the UK. In her spare time, she can be found blasting The 1975 or Taylor Swift and rowing on a random river at 5 a.m.