‘Bridgerton’ Review: “A British Period Drama Bathed in Scandal”
Delightful, delicious, and dazzling, but Bridgerton lacks the steam to hold its splendor throughout its entire first season.
Bridgerton is the newest addition to the ShondaLand portfolio, the television production company founded by Shonda Rhimes. It is an adaptation of the novels of the same name by Julia Quinn. This fits in amongst other products under the ranks of Rhimes. The first season perfectly encompasses a balance between thought-out entertainment and appetizing scandal.
The series follows Daphne Bridgerton (Phoebe Dynevor), a young woman who has entered London’s high society marriage market, bursting at the seams with gossip, wealth, and desire.
Bridgerton employs a male creator and showrunner, Chris Van Dusen, with Rhimes and Betsy Beers executive producing the British period drama. The show thankfully has an exclusively female writers’ room to boost the influence from the novels. It also counts on two female directors for half of eight episodes.
The show is a mixture of Gossip Girl meets Jane Austen. It has the intriguing element of a gossiping all-knowing narrator mixed with the hustle and bustle of high society culture. The set design as well as the costumes contribute greatly to the world. It’s clear why Netflix indulged in producing this show. Bridgerton is also well-provided with a unique score and entrancing language. It can simply be described as beautiful. Every detail makes the show feel almost like a fairytale.
Then there’s the matter of the cast of personalities. Each character has a clear motivation from start to finish that gives way to great moments of heart-stopping tension. Some notable performances were those of Adjoa Andoh as Lady Danbury, Ruby Barker as Marina Thompson, Claudia Jessie as Eloise Bridgerton, Golda Rosheuvel as Queen Charlotte, and Regé-Jean Page as Simon Basset. Still, the series does have major flaws that are hard to overlook, particularly in the nature of sexual violence.
When telling a story about high society in the early 1800s, it’s difficult not to discuss the outdated matters of virtue and all that comes with it. Bridgerton manages to appeal to the customs of the time, but it still looks to add a modern twist. The second half of the show feels entirely different from what was presented to the viewer in the beginning. It takes a tonal shift. This is appropriate for the way the story evolves with the exception of the nature of a particular relationship. It proves to be as problematic as some might have expected from the beginning. Many characters have their secrets, but the ones held by the main couple lead to manipulative acts against one another. Despite this, you can’t help but root for them and their emotional healing.
It is difficult not to indulge yourself in finishing the first season. It is a show made by a majority of female-identifying voices while featuring a diverse cast of players. While most period dramas tend to lose themselves in the notion of historical accuracy, Bridgerton allows itself the liberty to craft its own history. It gives an opportunity to people of color in a setting that often keeps them out. Certainly a step in the right direction. – Josie Meléndez
Bridgerton is now available to stream on Netflix.