The promotional poster for Netflix period drama created and executive produced by Chris Van Dusen and executive produced by Shonda Rhimes and Betsy Beers. (Photo Netflix)
The promotional poster for Netflix period drama created and executive produced by Chris Van Dusen and executive produced by Shonda Rhimes and Betsy Beers.

Photo Netflix

Review: Bridgerton gives us a sweet taste of high-society drama

This new period drama series is worth the hype

January 8, 2021

Recently over the holidays, Netflix released their new series, Bridgerton, a period drama that is set in regency times. Just by the promotional poster, I could tell that this would be one of those “spins” on period pieces, based on the diversity of the main cast.  These types of shows are typically hit or miss for me. The addition of modernity to period films is only good when it is executed well and I’m happy to say that Bridgerton did not disappoint.

Period pieces are often enjoyable solely because of the aesthetic. Take Pride and Prejudice (2005) for example. A period piece based on the preexisting novel memorable for the lavish balls, beautiful dresses, classical music as well as the enemies to lovers trope. Bridgerton got me more into regency fashion and I suddenly have the urge to buy a corset despite how uncomfortable it is to wear.

Screencap of Daphne Bridgerton, portrayed by Phoebe Dynevor, in the first episode of the series. (Photo Refinery29)

The series is based on Julia Quinn’s eight-book series of the same name and follows Daphne Bridgerton, the eldest daughter of a rich and powerful family in Regency London high society’s ton 1813. Daphne is on the search for love in the marriage market and is expected to find a wealthy husband being the diamond of the season.

The style of the series felt like combining Downton Abbey and Gossip Girl. The courting season that ran through the entirety of the season was tenser due to the outside commentary from Lady Whistledown (voiced by Julie Andrews), an anonymous writer publishing her critique of high-society functions and members. Her identity remains anonymous for the majority of the series, but each episode dropped several hints toward her identity. The search for Lady Whistledown was by far my favorite plotline in the entire series and was exceedingly more interesting than Daphne’s search for love in marriage.

Unsurprisingly, my favorite character in the show was not the main protagonist. Instead, it was Daphne’s younger sister, Eloise. Eloise Bridgerton has been granted an extra year before presenting herself as a debutante like her sister. Eloise is more focused on finding out the secret identity of Lady Whistledown rather than preparing herself for marriage, as she doesn’t value a union as much as society wants her to. I found that Eloise typically had more enjoyable scenes and I really related to her character.

The series does an excellent job of building the relationships between each character not just in the first episode, but throughout the first season. It established almost every Bridgerton sibling’s own story (except minor characters such as little Gregory and Hyacinth and the missing sister, Francesca) and took the story beyond Daphne’s problems.

However, I was a little skeptical of the show when I saw the blind casting as seen in the trailer. Black people in the 19th century were rarely, if ever, seen holding a position in high society, but the series seemed to ignore that and cast several Black actors for the main roles. Blind casting doesn’t necessarily affect the acting, but more so the execution of the story and its loyalty to the time period. After watching it, however, I didn’t really care since the show already took its own artistic liberties with historical inaccuracies in several other aspects of the series, including the costumes and music.

Queen Charlotte, portrayed by Golda Rosheuvel, the veritable tastemaker of London society. (Photo Liam Daniel/ Netlfix)

In no history book would you see a Black person ruling over a European country. However, the series cast Golda Rosheuvel to play the fictional Queen Charlotte. Despite this, Quinn has supported the show’s casting choice, saying in an interview with The Times “many historians believe she had some African background. It’s a highly debated point and we can’t DNA test her so I don’t think there’ll ever be a definitive answer.”

Another Black man apart of the main cast was Simon Basset (Regé-Jean Page), the Duke of Hastings and one of Daphne’s potential suitors. Simon, despite being severely attractive, was one of my least favorite characters. He had a traumatic childhood and this poses a problem for the entire series when it came time for him to uphold his relationships with others. It grew quite annoying by the fifth episode and I couldn’t push past my frustration.

I do believe that regardless of race, the casting was remarkable with talented actors and a lot of the characters who were meant to be related even looked related.

The series has one of the best soundtracks I’ve seen from a Netflix show. It was hilarious hearing the classical rendition of Taylor Swift’s “Wildest Dreams” during one of the many intimate scenes in the show. The addition of classical covers of modern pop music was a great way to get viewers immersed in the show. I know that balls in regency times did not play “Girls Like You” by Maroon 5, but I cannot get the violin cover out of my head.

My obsession with 19th-century fashion and lifestyle has only grown after watching Bridgerton and I’m really hoping there’ll be a second season. The mystery of Lady Whistledown and the drama and luxury of high-society is so captivating that there is definitely potential for a second season. Bridgerton has one of the most gorgeous scenes and emotional story arcs and can be well enjoyed by lovers of Gossip Girl and Pride and Prejudice (2005).

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