Diamond Of The First Water
Grosvenor Square 1813 is where our whimsical tale begins as episode 1 of Bridgerton starts with a fair amount of exposition. The upcoming social scene is about to kick off and the two main players for the season ahead are divided into two households. Lady Whistledown is our Gossip Girl-esque narrator for this tale, a woman responsible for writing the local gossip rag our women cling to like the Bible.
The two families we follow are divided into the Featherington and the Bridgerton households and all the women prepare for a momentous occasion; meeting Queen Charlotte herself. At the centre of this hustle and bustle is one girl whom Lady Whistledown refers to as a “diamond in the first water”..
Daphne Bridgerton immediately catches the Queen’s eye as she stands and calls Daphne flawless; the first to receive such an accolade out of 200 or so girls. she steps up and calls her flawless – the first out of 200 or so ladies she meets that day.
All is not what they seem though as Lady Featherington’s cousin, Marina Thompson, arrives on the scene. Lady Danbury is hosting the annual Danbury Opening Ball that evening but the arrival of the Duke Of Hastings certainly looks like it could turn more than a few heads.
This is the night our ladies have been working toward all this time and now they’re determined to find a suitable bachelor without winding up with the dreaded title of “Spinster” – a title Penelope Featherington worries she may receive.
Daphne meanwhile, finds herself fighting off prospective bachelors as her brother bats for her, fending off a man named Ambrose as an alleged cheat. As they go around the room, Anthony warns Daphne against numerous different men, which leaves her to despair.
Daphne isn’t the only one turning heads though. The elegant Marina Thompson is also turning heads but it’s clear the Featherington sisters are struggling to stand out and feel jealous. Thankfully, the Duke of Hastings (Simon Basset) arrives on hand and they seize their opportunity to surround him.
As fate would have it, it’s Daphne who runs into him. As they talk, Simon reveals that he went to Oxford with her brother Anthony. It’s a brief conversation but one that immediately sees the two crackle and show some real chemistry together.
The one girl to turn heads though happens to be Marina who brings in all the prospect bachelors ahead of Daphne who remains alone. Lady Featherington, despite garnering all this attention, isn’t happy with the attention being on Marina rather than her own daughters. Penelope does seem to be getting along quite well with Colin Bridgerton though!
However there is one prospective man for Daphne… the creepy Lord Berbrooke. Lady Bridgerton clears the room as he begins talking to her but it’s immediately clear this isn’t going to work out. Daphne’s real issues stem from her brother pushing away all the men in her life and Lady Whistledown’s gossip papers certainly aren’t helping.
With the wedding match-ups underway, prospective bachelor Simon remains determined to pick his wife wisely. For now, he’s determined to stay “on the market” if you will. He quickly deflects Anthony’s questions, especially when Simon mentions his mistress, Siena, that he’s been sleeping with.
That evening, Lady Bridgerton joins Danbury in her box at the theatre. Only, the Queen shows up too and mentions that Daphne’s impression was “fleeting” which immediately causes her confidence to take a battering. However, Danbury and Lady Bridgerton discuss the Duke (Simon) and try to work out how Daphne could woo him.
Daphne is sat next to Simon at dinner that night and the two verbally spar together. She calls him a rake and it seems marriage is completely off the table – despite what Lady Bridgerton wishes to happen. Despite Anthony’s objections, Lady Bridgerton brings up her own son’s affair and implores him to do what’s best for Daphne. This inevitably sees him leave.
The next day, scandalous news breaks as the night’s festivities get underway. Penelope meets Colin and despite her sisters doing their best to dissuade and bully the poor girl, Colin decides to take her off to the dancefloor instead.
Back home, Lady Featherington realizes that Marina is pregnant. When she confronts her about this, Marina receives a swift slap across the face.
Back at the ball, Anthony approaches Daphne and tells her he’s made a decision. She’s going to marry Lord Berbrooke. Daphne is outraged and refuses to do so. She even tells Lord Berbrooke to his face that she’s not going to wed him. As he approaches and grabs her arm outside, Daphne smacks him across the face and knocks him out.
Simon happens to be watching and confronts her about Lady Whistledown’s gossip rags and the changing fortunes she seems to be experiencing. Given they both have issues with Whistledown, they concoct a plan together to suit both their issues.
They’re going to pretend to form an attachment. That way, everyone will leave Simon alone while every bachelor will instantly be drawn to that which they can’t have- Daphne.
With the plan in place and Marina’s future still unknown, Lady Whistledown closes out the episode with a suitable signature on a piece of paper (but tellingly no XOXO in sight)
The Episode Review
Bridgerton bows out its opening episode with a taste of what we can come to expect from this series. The melodrama and romance take centre stage here though with the chemistry between Simon and Daphne absolutely electric. Their scenes together crackle to life and if they keep that up, could be the best part of this show.
The idea of interweaving Gossip Girl with Downtown Abbey into one series feels like a stroke of genius and here it works beautifully – like strawberries dipped in chocolate. The costume design is some of the best work done this year too and the entire show is dripping in an aesthetic splendor that’s very easy to sink in and enjoy.
Whether Bridgerton can back that up with an engaging story and a sustained romance that doesn’t peter out before the end however, remains to be seen. On this showing though, the series gets off to a decent start.