Gossip Girl, but make it regent!
Shonda Rhimes’ first outing in her long discussed deal with Netflix comes in the form of Bridgerton, an 8 episode series telling the story of the titular affluent British family, based on the beloved series of novels by Julia Quinn. Tastefully colorful, the soapy drama is as deliciously bingeable as it sensual. From sting quartette imaginings of Ariana Grande’s “thank u, next” to hand to hand combat, the series remains a compelling watch across its episodes.
The story opens to introduce the fortunate, and less so, families living in Regency London. It is set in high society’s ton in its social season, during which debutantes are presented at court to potential suitors. The two central families of focus are the Bridgertons and the Featheringtons. The former being the titular, more conventionally graced family and the latter the less fortunate frenemies. The story begins as Daphne, the eldest Bridgerton daughter, begins her pursuit of the husband and family she’s prepared for her entire young life. Her widowed mother and eldest brother Anthony inform, and often interfere, with Daphne as she begins the season.
Meanwhile, the Featherington daughters are welcomed by their cousin Marina Thompson. She immediately provides the family with internal conflict, as she is much more conventionally beautiful than the other Featherington girls hoping to find potential suitors. More, she brings with her a complex amount of baggage that will threaten the livelihoods of the Featherington family.
The social season is thrown into disarray upon the arrival of Simon Basset, the Duke of Hastings. A good friend of Anthony Bridgerton, Simon is a highly eligible bachelor with a dark past of his own, preventing him from leaning into the more traditional attitudes of marriage and familial affairs the ton values so highly.
When Simon and Daphne meet each other’s acquaintance, the games begin.
The chemistry between the two is instantly palpable, but instead of seamlessly falling in love, the two plan a ruse to trick the ton into believing Simon is courting Daphne. His status and her need to find a respectable husband mutually benefit each other, until the two begin to develop very real feelings for one another.
A dense story? Perhaps. Yet with the help of Julie Andrews’ spirited narration as Lady Whistledown, the gossip columnist relaying the rumors and facts of the social season, as well as the briskly paced movement through the story, Bridgerton is an easy pill to swallow.
More, the series is one of Netflix’s most bingeable this year. Soapy and predictable, yes, but the series curates a world so fun and nuanced that the more banal story beats hide behind a near flawlessly executed season of television.
The ensemble cast is incredible. Each member of the Bridgerton and Featherington families, as well as their respective social groups, are so well constructed by the players inhabiting each role. The clear standouts are Pheobe Dyvenor & Regé-Jean Page as the lead couple, Daphne & Simon. Their rhythmic conversations, enticing flirtations, and undeniable sexual chemistry are enough of a draw to bring viewers in. What rounds out the series so well is the peripheral cast, moving through their own problems as their lives are weaved together with the duo.
It becomes clear that the series is based on source material, as the world and its inhabitants are so detailed and deliciously complicated. Bridgerton succeeds with through this world building, the commitment to character, to set design, and to story. Stripping away these details will inevitably draw comparisons to shows like Gossip Girl, but isn’t that just another compliment for Netflix’s latest success story?
This author says yes.