Shonda Rhimes’ Netflix debut offers viewers a delicious mixture of romance, drama, and escapism, reminding us that we should tempt scandal more often.
Dearest readers, as we count down the days until Netflix finally releases this long awaited romance saga, it is my absolute pleasure to share with you this not-at-all reserved review on this upcoming series that is guaranteed to capture your attention.
Bridgerton is not like any historical drama you may have seen before, and this modern take on a timeless genre will have something for everyone this Christmas. Fans of the Regency romance may hesitate at the thought of a contemporary twist, just as much as longtime admirers of Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal will wonder if a period piece is their cup of tea. But Shonda Rhimes does not disappoint and delivers something fresh and unique that will satisfy viewers across all genres.
The Bridgerton series is based off of a sequence of romance novels by Julia Quinn, with the first book serving as the blueprint for season one. This story follows Daphne Bridgerton, eldest daughter of the Bridgerton family who is entering London society for her very first season. Played by Phoebe Dynevor, this debutante is searching for a match that will not only satisfy her own desire for love but also the expectations of her highly respected and slightly overprotective family. Along the way, her path inevitably becomes intertwined with the Duke of Hastings, Simon Basset: the season’s most mysterious and most eligible bachelor. Or, is he? While Simon, played by Regé-Jean Page, has everything a prospective match and her marriage-obsessed mother could dream of (wealth, land, a prestigious title, and handsome), unlike our heroine Daphne the Duke desires everything life has to offer except marriage.
Through circumstances that are as humorous as they are out of their hands, Daphne and Simon inevitably join forces in order to achieve their goals, which ignites this dazzling show with just the right spark.
While the theme of two people working together and inevitably falling in love is a story that we are all familiar with, there is something about Shonda Rhimes’ take that puts a refreshing spin on this new series. The mood of the show is consistently one of promise and high spirits, reminding viewers that anything is possible in this world of Rhimes’ making.
This is undoubtedly a Regency romance, but there are certain details and adjustments that make this story more modern, giving it a look and feel that is unique from its predecessors. As a longtime fan of the Regency genre, one of the first things that I noticed was that the language and speech of the characters was not as stiff or restricted. People are more familiar with one another in a way that makes it easier for viewers to feel closer and more involved with what people are saying and what they mean when they say it. While many period pieces leave it up to those watching to decipher the hidden meaning behind every structured sentence that might be muttered, Bridgerton invites its fans to be up front and center with not only the day to day life of these characters, but also their deepest and most personal thoughts and emotions.
In addition to this refreshing transparency, this show also diverges from the Regency norm of avoiding the taboo subject of desire and sex. This is a reflection of the actual time period that the various television shows and movies will embody, and many of these do their best to be honest in their interpretations in relation to the rules of society at that time. But this is not just any period piece. Aside from the occasional scene with brief glimpses of characters caught in a scandalous embrace or two, we see some of Shonda’s signature steam and heat become more and more prevalent as the series progresses.There are just as many endearing moments of closeness and intimacy that will touch one’s heart as there are scenes that will have you saying, “Oh, Shonda!”
For those who might not be used to more explicit sexual content or maybe have no desire to have that as part of their viewing experience, let it be known that Bridgerton certainly does not shy away from the topic of sex. For others who are more accustomed to pacing found in Scandal and Grey’s Anatomy, this may come as a welcome addition to a genre that is infamous for couple’s whose romance must bloom while remaining six feet apart or more lest they invite shame amongst themselves and their families.
Adding something that is so taboo to the historical fiction genre actually does not disrupt the overall pacing of the show too much. That’s not to say that viewers will not find themselves blushing, but they won’t be too overwhelmed when scenes with a bit more raunch than ruffles come across their screens. The subject itself when appearing in conversation actually adds more depth to the story itself, as either the knowledge of sex and sexuality or the lack thereof will prompt certain actions and reactions from characters that are honest and relatable.
No character gets left behind in this fresh series as we get more than a generous glimpse into the lives of even the most background of characters. Though it is clear that the main subjects are Daphne and Simon, the plot is thickened by the machinations of the rest of the Bridgerton family, their less refined neighbors the Featheringtons, and other members of the ton who each have their own secrets and ambitions. With varying degrees of success and not a lack of any failures or shortcomings when it comes to going after what they want, we see a very truthful depiction of people from all walks of life and circumstances come together to weave a story that is enchanting and just what we all need to end the year on a good note.
Bridgerton may be a welcome addition to anyone’s Netflix watch list, but the series is not without its faults. While there is a clear effort that has been made to diversify the Regency romance genre with the casting of this series, there’s still something lacking when it comes to representation. It does a much better job than others (looking at you Emma), but it still has some pitfalls that are difficult to overlook. There are plenty of people of color that walk on the streets of London and exist in the background in a variety of scenes and locations. However, those with speaking roles are still limited to the select few, a majority of which are lighter skinned Black characters. The case for representation is not helped when a dark-skinned person depicts one of the crueler, actively malicious people in the whole series.
Other tropes that should really be put to rest that have still made their way into the series is the character of the fat, happy “sidekick” whose negative actions and feelings are prompted out of jealousy for a more slim, prettier character. There is also the question of whether or not this series could be immediately defined as feminist, considering that Daphne and other female characters do in fact conform to societal norms at the time. And while there is a dash of plot involving a character who does not identify as straight, representation for members of the LGBTQIA community still feels very much absent.
However, even with these shortcomings, it is still a worthwhile watch that gives hope that any future seasons could learn from these faults and improve. The Regency romance is one that is a classic, and this series has finally managed to bring the genre up to speed with a more modern audience. Not only does it finally dare venture into topics that have traditionally been left out of historical fiction from this era, but also it does so in a way that doesn’t make it feel out of place in this genre.
Full of wit and surprising honesty, Bridgerton is a diamond that will put a smile on anyone’s face as well as the occasional blush. While the urge to binge this show when it releases on Christmas Day will be tempting, we would say that this series is best enjoyed at your own pace. So savor it, share it with others, and be sure to let yourself become fully immersed in this story that has been crafted with care.
And remember: Lady Whistledown sees everything!