Steamy costume drama returns for more frivolous fun

The first series of Bridgerton (Netflix) launched at a time when we had lost our collective spirit. During this dark Covid Christmas of 2020, we fell on this time with tearful relief. After almost a year trapped in the house with only ourselves for company, we of course went crazy for Bridgerton. Swollen breasts! Bare buttocks! Grand balls punctuated by the songs of Taylor Swift!

Never mind that (whisper it) part of the game was a bit ropey and there was only a trace of sexual chemistry between the protagonists. It offered lightness and joy. The casting of black actors in major roles, including the Duke of Hastings (Regé-Jean Page) and the Queen herself (Golda Rosheuvel), may have seemed to some, before the show aired, like a gadget. But it made perfect sense when we were immersed in Bridgerton’s fantasy world. It wasn’t poetic history, but a Regency theme park, and it made other period dramas look moribund by comparison.

Now that we are all a little less delirious, we can judge the arrival of season 2 on its dramatic merits. And it’s still fun, even if the novelty has worn off.

The bad news for fans of the flat Duke is that he’s gone. Page walked out after the first series, dogged by James Bond casting rumors. He wasn’t killed off in the script, but his wife, Daphne (Phoebe Dynevor, the star of the first series, now a relatively minor plot figure), simply calls him “home.”

Instead, Anthony Bridgerton (Jonathan Bailey), eldest son of the Top Aristocratic Dogs, has been promoted to leader. He finds himself in a love triangle involving two sisters, Edwina and Kate Sharma (Charithra Chandran and Simone Ashley), recently arrived from India. Everyone would like him to marry Edwina, who is sweet, but he has a crush on Kate – a feisty “bachelor” at the age of 26. Anthony and Kate argue verbally throughout the episodes, essentially recreating the dynamic between Daphne and the Duke in series one.