“Quite amiable indeed!”, was my very first reaction to the phenomenon that is Netflix’s “diamond of the season”, Bridgerton. As a lifelong Janeite (someone enamored by the writings of Jane Austen), I was immediately transported to Regency England with a surprising and rather pleasing modern feel; Pride & Prejudice meets Gossip Girl. Shondaland seems to have plucked a tulip right from Queen Charlotte’s (Golda Rosheuvel) gardens with this adaptation of Julia Quinn’s The Duke and I. Lady Bridgerton (Ruth Gemmell) would say, “tulips, they symbolize passion”, and passion is certainly what you will find in this most diverting of new shows.
Whether you are a fan of romance, period dramas, or just plain gossip, the introduction of Bridgerton to the already abundant Netflix catalog is a more than welcome addition. As far as titillating television goes, the platform has cornered the market on television and cinema, especially after a long 2020 in quarantine. It’s farewell to 2020 with Bridgerton, a show that adapts the first of Quinn’s Regency Era romance novels, offers audiences a pleasing and welcome escape after a not so pleasing year in the doldrums. Now touted as the platforms most watched and popular show to date, with it’s visually stunning sets, and costumes, to a very handsome leading man, it’s quite hard to not be sucked in.
Centered around the Bridgerton household and it’s 8 siblings (all named in alphabetical order), from the eldest Anthony (Jonathan Bailey) to the youngest Hyacinth, the 1st season of the since renewed drama, follows most closely the 4th sibling, Daphne’s (Phoebe Dynevor) introduction into society and the marriage market of Regency London. The viewer is brought along on the ride by the narrator, a disembodied gossip writer by the pen name of Lady Whistledown. Voiced by the iconic Julie Andrews, Lady Whistledown is the Regency version of Gossip Girl’s infamous blogger, commenting on all the ins and outs of the competition to make the perfect match. Whistledown’s readers are given a glimpse into the life of Regency speed dating, with what appears front seats to every scandal and intrigue the season has to offer.
Peppered with frequent vignettes of more junior characters, such as the Featherington family, and some of Daphne’s siblings, Bridgerton offers a well rounded set of plot lines and twists that keep you engaged and begging for more. From Anthony’s not so secret love affair, to Eloise’s (Claudia Jessie) pursuit of Lady Whistledown’s identity, to gambling and pregnancy at the Featheringtons, there is hardly a dull moment.
The meat of the story lies, however, with Daphne’s pursuits for a husband. With gaining the Queen’s favor early on, Daphne becomes the prize of the season. As Lady Whistledown’s publication starts to impede on her prospects, along with her brother, Anthony’s meddling, Daphne comes up with a plan involving Simon , the new Duke of Hastings (Regé-Jean Page). Having just arrived back in town the Duke wants nothing more than to conclude his business and be on his way, but his unabashed mother figure, Lady Danbury (Adjoa Andoh) insists on him staying awhile. As he is bombarded by ambitious mamas and their attempts to wed their girls to a Duke, he’s looking for a way to get them off his scent. A pairing as unlikely at Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy takes hold as they attempt to con those around them into thinking the Duke is taken and Daphne is as much ow a prize as she as thought at the onset. Through their personal fights with their own pride and prejudices, they form a bond stronger than any amongst them.
With obvious hiccups along the way for all parties involved, the entire show is full of menace, jealousy, passion, hope, intrigue and most importantly love! If you haven’t been taken along on this ride yet, I highly recommend jumping on the bandwagon that is Bridgerton, and letting it sweep you away.
Now, for me, coming from my Literature background, and my endless hours pining over Mr. Darcy, and the pages of Pride & Prejudice, Bridgerton lit a spark in a long since dulled imagination. For in all honesty, how many times can a classic be remade before people tire? From the first 10 minutes in I was floating. The style of language, the sensibilities of the age all so beautifully portrayed. This show injected new life into an era that has nearly been touched since the words of Austen were published and adapted a dozen times over. The charm of the Regency Era, the hidden passion of an age where impropriety could be the biggest sin of all, is what swept me up and reeled me in, as I’m sure it can for you as well.
In short, take the ride. Invite the sounds, the colors, the passion into your imagination and relish in an age, thankfully not forgotten, but revitalized by the phenomenon that is Bridgerton.