Bridgerton (2020): Season 1
- Season 1
- Finished watching:
- 2nd February, 2021
Might contain spoilers.
Bridgerton is hard to sum up. It’s certainly compelling and enjoyable, but deeply flawed. I almost gave up on it before the third act of the pilot. Between actors who don’t quite seem comfortable in their characters, dialogue that doesn’t quite sit right with the period, and a surfeit of melodrama in all directions, it sometimes feels more like cosplay than a professional production.
Simon is completely miscast. He lacks grace, polish, and charisma. I was initially uncertain about Daphne, too, but she was well cast and I grew to love her. The rest of the cast is rather good, including Lady Bridgerton, Eloise, the Bridgerton brothers (Anthony, especially, is perfect), the Featheringtons, Lady Danbury (despite her less impressive moments), Marina Thompson, Queen Charlotte (her appearance in the first episode notwithstanding), and the Mondrichs. Freddie Stromae as Prince Friedrich was my favourite: a genuinely decent, polished, and charming person, possibly the only one in the ensemble.
The show’s greatest strength is its ability to occasionally create magnificent, momentous sequences with amazing music to match, such as the ending of the pilot—which is what convinced me to continue watching—and the final episode’s scene in the rain. Before the fourth episode is when it peaks. The remainder of the season is less a story and more a series of manufactured conflicts. (For example, watching Simon brutally beat Burbrook serves no purpose except to create a terrible situation to extricate Daphne from.)
On that note, the plot threads are generally unfocused, like Daphne’s difficulties as Duchess or Marina’s pregnancy: there is hardly anything to those stories, only forced melodrama. As for the central conflict of Simon making sure not to impregnate Daphne and her not understanding… it’s hardly unheard of for two people to have different expectations of their life together, but such a detailed exploration of the mechanics of their conflicts requires vastly more careful treatment to be anything except ridiculous.
The rendering of their wedding night is abysmal, from the dialogue about ‘burn for you’ and the usual ‘male buttocks thrusting between female legs’ to the disregard for consent. Indeed, the sex scenes throughout the show tend to be offputting, looking more like Simon overpowering Daphne than anything else. (As an extremely private person, I’m also mortified on their behalf by the intimate knowledge their staff have of their sex life.)
The resolutions of the assorted storylines are curious. Marina (whose story has parallels and contrasts to Daphne’s but is superfluous overall) is heading for an unhappy marriage. The Featheringtons have had their lives destroyed, including losing their patriarch. Siena has a new arrangement with another man. Simon & Daphne do ostensibly have a happy ending, but only because Lady Bridgerton tells her to make it work—always a solid foundation on which to build a relationship—and, of course, there will always remain the fact that Daphne essentially forced Simon to have children. Penelope is revealed to us to be Lady Whistledown but rather than see the consequences, we skip ahead a year.
Speaking of which, that last point makes no sense. Her being Whistledown seemed like a possibility when the news about Marina’s pregnancy was published, but it doesn’t seem plausible that she’d be able to get away with it for so long.
Finally, when it comes to the appearance of the show, the outdoor sequences are often overly saturated and garishly coloured, though they do sometimes look beautiful. Meanwhile, the indoor sequences are usually well shot and pleasing. I don’t understand why there is such a contrast between the quality of the two.
A second season is on the way, but I can’t say I have any desire to watch it.