'Bridgerton' review: Season 2 of Netflix sizzler cools off
Season two of the streaming smash in many ways mirrors the first season, but with less heat.
In the first season of the splendidly coiffed "Bridgerton" a man and a woman met, didn’t like each other, and then fell passionately in love.
In the new season of the still splendidly coiffed "Bridgerton" a man and woman meet and don’t like one another.
Guess what happens?
It remains to be seen whether this plot line will be repeated in future seasons of “Bridgerton,” the Netflix smash hit about London’s high society in the early 19th century. It also remains to be seen if anyone will care.
Because all the puffery and polite social violence remains. The elaborate balls, the sparkling gowns, the string quartets doing updates on modern pop songs ("Material Girl," "You Oughta Know," etc.). The lush banquets and manicured mansions all endure.
As do the swooning, the throat-clutching and the inevitable romantic cliff-hangers. And, of course, the gossip scribe Lady Whistledown, voiced by Julie Andrews, but now known to be the wallflower Penelope Featherington (Nicola Coughlan), still offers opinions and overviews.
There are some big differences, though. For one, this season is far more chaste than the first, a disappointment because of the contrast between flesh and social ornament. Second, aside from the central romance, not a lot of note happens. Sure there are side stories, but none as breathless as those in the first season.
Also, this season’s just not as plain kooky as the first. No naivete about how babies are made, no boxing, no unwed mothers-to-be. Just frills and tea.
But the most important/ problematic difference is the central romance itself. The first season centered on the trials of Daphne Bridgerton (Phoebe Dynevor) and the rakish Simon Basse (Rege-Jean Page) and the erotic chemistry therein was absolutely electric. Daphne shows up here and there this season but Simon’s off smoldering somewhere.
Instead we have Daphne’s older brother, Lord Anthony (Jonathan Bailey), who must reluctantly marry to keep the social order intact. Luckily two sisters from India arrive, with the elder Kate (Simone Ashley) intent on wedding her sister Edwina (Charitha Chandran) to royalty.
Lord Anthony and Kate take an immediate dislike to one another and complications that are neither that complicated or unpredictable ensue. Both Bailey and Ashley are hyper-attractive and fine in their roles, but the TV screen is in no danger of melting from the heat.
Still, there are pleasures. Polly Walker is wonderfully awful as the matriarch of the endangered Featheringtons, looking to a remote cousin to save them from ruin. And Claudia Jessie remains fun as the proto-feminist rebel Eloise Bridgerton, as does Golda Rosheuvel as the commanding Queen Charlotte.
This “Bridgerton,” though, while still elaborate, feels a bit slight, tepid and drawn-out compared to the first season. For many it won’t matter — look at those gowns! But let’s be frank: Next season, turn up the heat.
Tom Long is a longtime contributor to The Detroit News.