Episode 1 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 2 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 3 – | Review Score – 3/5
Episode 4 – | Review Score – 3/5
Episode 5 – | Review Score – 3/5
Episode 6 – | Review Score – 2.5/5
Episode 7 – | Review Score – 3/5
Episode 8 – | Review Score – 3/5
Bridgerton is a lavishly produced period drama with some of the best costume design work of the year. The sets are extravagant, lavishly dressed and chock full of wondrous characters waiting to be explored in more detail. And yet under this vast ocean of potential is a show with the depth of a puddle.
As part of Shonda Rhimes’ exclusive new deal with Netflix, Bridgerton is her first foray into historical drama intending to follow in Downton Abbey’s footsteps and deliver the next guilty pleasure binge. While Bridgerton will undoubtedly gain a large following for its familiar tone and much-welcome diverse cast, it really doesn’t do enough with them to warrant this 8+ hour run-time.
In its simplest form, Bridgerton blends elements of Gossip Girl and Downtown Abbey across its story which takes place in 1800’s England. Queen Charlotte is on the throne and the society here is predominantly divided between two upper-class families – the Featheringtons and the Bridgertons. The centrepiece for this tale is Daphne Bridgerton who gains the Queen’s favour during the upcoming season of societal balls and wedding proposals. Everything seems to be going peachy until two wildcards arrive on the scene for the season ahead.
Lady Featherington’s niece Marina Thompson rocks up to stay but holds a dark secret that threatens to destroy their family’s credibility. On the other side of the fence is the Duke Of Hastings Simon Basset who remains determined to stay a bachelor for as long as possible.
Predictably, Daphne and Simon immediately hit it off but decide to fake their relationship as a way of making Daphne more desirable. After all, the heart wants what it can’t have, right? Will it work? Will Daphne find true love or will she and Simon realize they may be staring at true love all this time?
This is typical rom-com territory and Bridgerton unashamedly hits all the usual tropes you’d expect from this genre. Intending to spice things up however, the show injects narration from local gossip girl Lady Whistledown. Whoever this person is, they seem to know everything and about everyone and they aren’t afraid to write these up in the local paper. This helps keep the series moving but also adds an element of fantasy to an otherwise grounded series. After all, why would one paper bring the entire society – including the Queen – to their knees?
Now, given the screener letter received alongside this full season we’re not able to go into specifics or really talk about many of the specifics across the season. Suffice to say there’s a lot going on here that we’re not actually able to share. The recaps accompanying this will reveal more but to be honest, outside of Simon and Daphne there’s not a lot worth getting excited about.
While the main plot line is serviceable, the supporting characters suffer from half-baked, under-developed storylines that never really go anywhere. Even worse, most of them actually end on pretty unsatisfying notes. There’s a sort-of love triangle here that never really materializes, an affair that ends unceremoniously and a certain character suffering from financial woes that comes and goes as the plot pleases.
Despite a strong opening, Bridgerton fizzles out long before the end of its 8 episode run and never looks like recovering. All the usual hallmarks of the rom-com genre are here and avid fans will easily predict what’s going to happen long before the end. The identity of Lady Whistledown will definitely turn heads (it’s easily this reviewer’s highlight of an otherwise average show) but beyond this there just isn’t enough to warrant the amount of money spent on this one.
Bridgerton could have boldly shone a light on diversity and produced a unique slice of period history to close the year out with. Instead, that bright spark extinguishes into mediocrity with its cookie cutter story and under-developed sub-plots. Bridgerton will undoubtedly draw plaudits for its simplicity, and fans will love how easy this is to jump in and out of, but it’s for this exact reason that the show will struggle to be remembered as fondly as other period dramas of its time.