Sex, Scandal, and an Anonymous gossip spreader, Bridgerton has it all and more. Based in London during the regency era the story follows the Bridgerton family, in particular, Daphne Bridgerton (played by Phoebe Dynevor) on her entrance to society and the implications this has on her and in turn, her family.
Upon her debut, Daphne is deemed a Diamond by Queen Charlotte (played by Golda Rosheuvel) which should have set her up to have a handful of suitors ready to ask for her hand in marriage. However, her brother Anthony Bridgerton (played by Jonathan Bailey) who through his duty as a protective brother and newly appointed head of the household refutes anyone who walks through the door. That is until an elderly gentleman Nigel Berbrooke, who on the front of it appears to be a stand-up guy within society makes his appearance and wins him over.
Despite Daphne and her mother’s reluctance, her brother pursues the match, leading Miss Bridgerton to take matters into her own hands. Enter the Duke of Hastings (played by Regé-Jean Page) who has come into town following the death of his father. From the moment he sets foot off the carriage, you can hear the mothers of young women across London yearning for his hand in marriage for their daughters. For reasons we establish in later episodes, the poor man has no desire to get married. It is clear that being in London is a traumatic experience for him. As fate would have it the Duke and Daphne’s world collide.
After being courted privately and rather rudely in the garden by Nigel Berbrooke (Played by Jamie Beamish) she punches him in a rather unladylike manner and is mortified of the ramifications of someone seeing them together in private like that. Luckily for her, the person who did see her is Simon Basset aka The Duke of Hastings. Upon seeing the whole event it is clear he was quite taken by Daphne and through their conversation they devise a plan to serve both their purposes. Simon would pretend to court Daphne for marriage, inviting interest in her and in turn invite potential suitors to come and call on her while also keeping the marriage-hungry mothers away from Simon.
While this is happening, the London social scene is being watched by an Anonymous writer Lady Whistledown who narrates the show (Voiced by the brilliant Julie Andrews) Lady Whistledown is essentially a gossip writer sharing the details and scandals of the London elite during the society’s summer season.
The show is as comedic and hilarious (Golda Rosheuvel’s take on the Queen is a corker), as it is emotional (Simon and Anthony both struggle coming to terms with the roles they have to play within society) and combined with the fantastic vibrant world created by Shondaland is a sight to behold.
If you follow Shonda Rhimes and her work, it will be no surprise to learn, this is no traditional period drama. As with everything Shonda Rhimes does she brings colour and multifaceted dimension to an otherwise straight-laced upright genre.
For example, Daphne is not your typical Meg March with her sights simply set on being married. While yes she wishes to marry well and have a good stance within society, you see she is quite capable of living life on her own accord. She has her own opinions and doesn’t shy away from sharing them. Throughout the show, you see she understands the power behind her title within society and uses it to help other women in more vulnerable positions than she is in.
Her younger sister Eloise (played brilliantly by Claudia Jessie) abhors the idea of marriage. She has an air of Elizabeth Bennet or Jo March which I liked. Jessie captures both Eloise’s youthful lust for the real world while showcasing her vulnerability wonderfully. She is in complete awe of Lady Whisteldown and how she has carved a writing career for herself. She makes it her mission to find out the true identity of who this Lady Whistledown is for the simple reason to learn from her and emulate her. In her quest, you find she is not the only one seeking the lady’s identity but for very different reasons.
Nicola Coughlan plays Penelope Featherington and is a rather interesting character. She is Eloise’s best friend and while she enjoys independence, you also see her fall in love for the first time and quite interested in the idea of marriage. She doesn’t have a dislike for it in the same way Eloise seems to have. You see both girls discuss their futures, what it may look like, what they want from life. Their conversations being from a place of naivety but you see the more they learn about society, sex, and the real world it gets peeled away layer by layer.
Something else I also found interesting about Shonaland’s take on a period drama is her creation of the male characters. Shonda gets a lot of credit for creating wandering female characters as she should but in Bridgerton you also see a fresh dimensional take on regency men and how the patriarchal society and the expectations placed on them can impact them.
Anthony Bridgerton for example is forced to become the head of his family, responsible for his family, the moment his father passed away. A young man himself you see him struggle to come to terms with this. He battles with family obligations and living life on his own terms. His relationship with Opera singer Sienna is a testament to this. He clearly loves her and would do anything he could for her but he knows in doing so could have ramifications for him, her, and his family. He spends a lot of the series feeling quite lost (and I imagine grieving for his father in some way) When he finally understands what he needs to do it is too late. In his last scene, you see him become hard, like a part of his soul has disappeared. In a horse-riding scene with Daphne, you see the love he has for her and his other siblings which is why he finds himself conflicted throughout the series. Jonathan Bailey plays the troubled Bridgerton impeccably well.
Ben Miller plays Lord Featherington, father of three daughters and husband to a wife who cares more about society than him. With a wife who wants to keep up with society and the monetary demands this brings, he struggles to keep up with her demands. This leads him to get in debt. You see him try and curb the family spending and keep things afloat. The pressure comes to a boiling point when his wife finds out causing him to make some bad decisions which ultimately leads to his death.
One of my favouite scenes is between Benedict and Eloise Bridgerton, both second in line to Daphne and Anthony within the Bridgerton family. Benedict catches Eloise smoking but rather than chastise her for this (which is what she was expecting) he joins her and they end up having a heartwarming conversation about wanting more than society dictates for them.
From people of colour or showcasing characters with different sexualities and sexual appetites the show is one of the most inclusive I have seen. The way in which all aspects of society were seamlessly folded into the script was wonderful and you would expect no less from Shonda Rhimes.
Bridgerton was raunchy, ridiculous, utterly brilliant, and visually appealing. If you’re looking for a bit of escapism during this lockdown, look no further than this.
(Bridgerton can be found on Netflix and you can find the trailer here)