In Season Two, ‘Bridgerton’ isn’t as fresh but still gratifies

The ball is in Anthony’s court as the lovely, steamy Netflix show returns.

SHARE In Season Two, ‘Bridgerton’ isn’t as fresh but still gratifies
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Season Two of “Bridgerton” focuses on eldest son Anthony (Jonathan Bailey), whose engagement to new arrival Edwina (Charithra Chandran, right) seems inevitable—as long as her sister Kate (Simone Ashley) approves.

NETFLIX

When you think about it, the Netflix original sensation that was “Bridgerton” is essentially a fictional, period-piece version of “The Bachelor,” what with all these impossibly good-looking, mostly shallow, gossip-mongering people—most of them never inconvenienced by a daily work schedule—gathering for another season of orchestrated romance, with staged events and shocking reveals and emotional confrontations and the occasional shirtless dalliance before two people who were complete strangers just a few weeks earlier find themselves declaring their undying devotion to one another.

Phew! And there we are on the sidelines, soaking it all up—and while I wouldn’t call it “hate-watching,” there’s a certain level of Disdain Viewing taking place here, as we hoot and holler and shake our heads at the petty antics of these self-absorbed ninnies in their costumed finery, even while marveling at the glossy spectacle of it all and somehow finding ourselves actually invested in the lives of these wonderfully silly people. It’s escapism TV at its best, and while Season Two of “Bridgerton” doesn’t feel quite as captivating or fresh as the original, we couldn’t help but gobble up every single episode in a single viewing, and we bet you will as well, Dear Viewer. (To paraphrase Lady Whistledown.)

If you enjoyed Season One of this Shondaland production, with Chris Van Dusen spearheading the adaptation of Julia Quinn’s romance novel series, I shan’t (did they say shan’t back then?) imagine you’ll be disappointed by the next chapter, which features the return of most of the major players—with one famous exception—while introducing a half-dozen new and intriguing characters.

‘Bridgerton’ Season Two

Untitled

Available Friday on Netflix

The show sticks to the formula of “I Hate You/I Love You/I Hate You/No Wait I Love You” romance, set against the backdrop of upper-crust British society in the early 1800s, with string quartets and orchestras delivering fantastically anachronistic takes on pop tunes such as “Material Girl,” “You Oughta Know” and my personal favorite from this season: “Wrecking Ball.” I’ll be damned if I wasn’t genuinely moved by the events that transpire during the playing of “Wrecking Ball.”

At times it’s difficult to keep track of all the players without a dance card, so here’s your reminder of just SOME the returning characters, as well as some new and vitally important participants.

  • Eldest Bridgerton son Anthony (Jonathan Bailey), aka the Viscount, takes center stage this time around, as he decides in businesslike fashion it’s time for him to take a bride. Anthony bristles at the mere suggestion of love; for him, it’s all about finding an intelligent, like-minded, practically inclined life partner who will give him children.
  • Benedict Bridgerton (Luke Thompson) has enrolled in art school and is having quite the hedonistic time, while Colin (Luke Newton) has returned from traveling abroad and won’t shut up about it. Their sister Eloise (Claudia Jessie), meanwhile, grows ever more rebellious—and ever more determined to uncover the true identity of Lady Whistledown.
  • Phoebe Dynevor’s Daphne, now the mother of a 1-year-old, returns as well, but only in a minor role and mainly to comment on the adventures of her siblings. (Phoebe’s husband, Regé-Jean Page’s Duke of Hastings, never makes an appearance and is rarely mentioned. I guess he’s just over … THERE, offscreen.)

Also returning are Ruth Gemmell as Lady Violet, Polly Walker as Lady Featherington, Nicola Coughlan as Penelope Featherington (whose cover as Lady Whistledown is in danger of being blown), Adjoa Andoh as the powerful noblewoman Lady Danbury and Golda Rosheuvel as the narcissistic and manipulative Queen Charlotte, who also manages to strike a few sympathetic notes along the way.

Each of these terrific actors gets more than a few moments to shine—as do the fresh faces, including Charitha Chandran as Edwina, a new arrival from India who is anointed “The Diamond,” i.e., the Bachelorette, by the Queen; Simone Ashley as Kate Sharma, the fiercely independent “old maid” (she’s 26) who is Edwina’s half-sister, and Shelley Conn as their mother, Mary Sharma. And then there’s Rupert Young’s Jack, a Featherington cousin of considerable means who has just returned from the States with tales of lucrative mining deals. Who can we trust? Maybe no one!

Almost from the outset of this social season, it’s clear Anthony and Edwina are this year’s sensational match, and their engagement will be a mere formality—but there’s a hitch, as Anthony and Kate all but hiss at one another every time they’re in the room (or in the lush countryside) together, and Edwina won’t commit to Anthony without her older sister’s approval, but that’s not going to happen because those two despise each other …

Or do they? Could it be that for the first time in dramatic history, two people who express utter loathing for one another might actually be falling in love? What do you think, Dear Viewer? It could be that Lady Whistledown isn’t the only one who sees where all of this is going — but what a lovely, colorful, steamy and gorgeous ride we’re all taking.

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