Bridgerton is its own 1800s steam room that salivates the viewers with raunchiness and intensifying excitement.
This review of Netflix’s Bridgerton season 1 contains no spoilers. The period drama will be released on the streaming service on December 25th, 2020.
We recapped every episode — check out the archive.
It’s very ironic that on the week Film Twitter decides to open up the “sex in film and TV” discourse, Netflix releases Bridgerton on Christmas Day. Netflix read their minds, and triple folded that discourse by releasing one of the raunchiest TV series this year. It is perhaps not the best Christmas to gather the family around to watch this series; I can only imagine the awkward sidewards glance to your nan.
But Bridgerton is more than sex, though many critics will markedly point at that theme and understandably so; set in the 1800s, the Netflix series focuses on the marriage market in London, and the prying eyes of wealthy families that bestow their children with pressure to engage with the watchful gaze of the Queen passing by. It follows the Bridgerton family, who propel their next-to-marry Daphne, who is quickly claimed to be the market’s jewel. Usual historical tropes follow, with suitors, grand balls and the temptation of dishonouring each other sexually before the question is popped with a chaperone present. This has all the bearings to be the usual period drama, glazing itself in settings and costumes.
And it does deliver on that aspect. Chris Van Dusen can be praised for ensuring it captures the era while also slightly modernising the aesthetics and bringing a more diverse cast. It’s difficult not to smile when the violin music represents a modern-day bopper — Bridgerton wanted to be more than a period drama, and it makes it known to viewers very early on.
From the start, the eye candy is clear. Daphne Bridgerton, played by Phoebe Dynevor and Simon Basset (Duke of Hastings), played by Regé-Jean Page titillate the viewers by tension alone, veering themselves as the most attractive prospects of the show. Their chemistry is magnetising, but it’s merely magnified by the storyline where anticipation feels as consuming as seeing them embrace. The opening premise has both characters pretending to court each other; to make Daphne desirable to a host of suitors, and to fend off mothers from Simon, who is pressured to carry on the family name.
There are many other characters in Bridgerton season 1 with subplots that successfully entwine with the arc; none of them is remotely dull, and the problem for the characters remain the same — they all want to successfully place themselves in a world where men automatically have the hierarchy — marriage is business over love — it’s a social and working necessity to maintain family names and circulate wealth. The series manages to encapsulate old-fashioned beliefs well and does not stagnate the marriage market to something routine — the routine is the drama itself; a vicious circle that is entertaining.
I’d wager a guess that those who do not attract to period dramas will lunge themselves at this; as a person that does not look for period dramas, I was oddly conflicted, but when I find myself sweating with tension and rising to my feet to high-octane scenes, then we can safely assume that Bridgerton has a narrowed a demographic we did not expect.
But let’s talk about the raunchiness and the sex; Bridgerton is its own 1800s 50 Shades of Grey, but with well-measured (and frankly good) writing, it becomes a sensational story. Focusing on the times where sex was taboo and anticipated on the wedding night, it ignites a story where viewers will feel overjoyed at the characters’ satisfaction. The sex is not placed in for the sake of a sex scene; they are brought in to represent the yearning these people felt in a world that was stiff, robotic and formalised. The selling point is obvious — fans will be obsessed over the lead characters. They are there to be obsessed over.
Bridgerton is its own 1800s steam room that salivates the viewers with raunchiness and intensifying excitement. It’s series like this that strengthens Netflix at the top of the streaming world.