Dearest gentle reader, now that the second season of Bridgerton has been released, those who love this show either with a burning passion, or even a just a few embers, have no doubt, consumed each and every episode, that focuses this time around on the eldest Bridgerton son, Anthony, and his pursuit of a wife, with the Sharma family arriving in London to much drama and excitement.
As someone who enjoyed the first season, but didn’t quite love it as much as some, I was not sure how I would feel about the second season. But I was absolutely enthralled by the beauty and captivating nature of the stories this season. From the love story between Anthony and Kate, the sisterly devotion, tension, and reconciliation of the Sharma sisters, Eloise’s determination and focus to discover the identity of Lady Whistledown, instead of her first season out in society, along with Penelope struggling to keep her secret safe, Benedict’s artistic pursuits, and The Featherington family’s financial struggles.
Well paced and plotted, this season was beautifully balanced between characters and stories without any real issues, floundering or sluggishness which I found brought down some of Season 1. On the contrary, the season which was based on the book The Viscount Who Loved Me, was lovely, utterly romantic, and often poignant. Colorful and dazzling, from the exquisite costumes to the clever and lovely ways pop music becomes stunning waltzes from Madonna’s “Material Girl,” to Alanis Morisette’s “You Outta Know,” to Miley Cyrus’s “Wrecking Ball,” this season was nothing but a sheer wonder to behold. Here is my definitive ranking of every episode of Season 2.
8. Episode 5 “An Unthinkable Fate”
While this is ranked last, and the one episode where I felt the pacing and plots screech not to a halt but to a much slower pace, I cannot call the episode boring or poor. It simply does not match up to the rest of the season, which is unfortunate because it is right in the center. But this often happens with episodes that fall in the middle of seasons whether they be short seasons like Bridgerton’s modest 8 episodes or the long-form serialized seasons that can run to 22 to 24 episodes per season. This episode centers on the aftermath of a near kiss between Kate and Anthony, and the, shall we say hasty and ill-conceived marriage proposal from Anthony to Edwina.
Additionally, we see Benedict begin to embrace his artistic side in a new school, meeting a captivating model that shares his passions, Eloise finding an ally of sorts at a women’s rights rally, Kate trying her best to push down her feelings by humoring the attentions of a Mr. Dorset, and the arrival of Kate and Edwina’s grandparents who offer no warmth or love but instead judgment and ridicule. The episode is a bit slower with a lot going on but it’s still quite enjoyable. And fans of Pride and Prejudice with Colin Firth, will no doubt be delighted by the homage to the famous swim and wet shirt scene from the mini-series when Anthony falls into a lake and disembarks in a similar, and very attractive state. And the end of the episode where Kate begs Anthony to forget anything he feels for her is as intense and dramatic as it gets.
7. Episode 1 “Capital R in Rake”
The beginning of Season 2 may be ranked second to last overall, but that does not mean the episode is not worthwhile. Setting up all of the storylines for the season to come, we see Eloise begrudgingly embarking on her first season out in society looking for any excuse to avoid or flee, Anthony creating a list of potential wives, with only practical requirements, falling in love not being one of them, and Penelope, after a time of putting down her quill, but rather “sharpening her knives” as it were, returning as Lady Whistledown, as we see the ins and outs of how she has been maintaining her secret, posing as an Irish maid who supposedly brings the writings to the printer on her behalf.
And of course, it is the time for the Queen to bestow the coveted title of the season’s “Diamond” on one fortunate young lady. The tone of this episode is light and engaging, and the introduction to each story as well as the new characters of the Sharma family, who returned to England and are staying with Lady Danbury, is truly wonderful. In particular, the montage of Anthony going through his list of potential mates juxtaposed against nights with prostitutes, or the stresses of bills and household duties showcases a man coming apart at the seams, with no real solace, happiness, or moments that inspire anything other than going through the motions of life. Contrast that with the next scene, where Anthony first meets the divine Kate Sharma when they engage in a bit of an early morning horse race, which is exhilarating and beautifully filmed. It’s a thrill and the first moment Anthony truly felt alive, even if he wasn’t aware of it yet.
Combine this with the glittering first ball of the season, the relatable insecurities of Eloise feeling constantly compared to her sister Daphne and Penelope feeling invisible, the sweet movements between Kate and her sister Edwina, with Kate’s kindness and utter devotion becoming clear as day, as well as moments that rivals Elizabeth overhearing Darcy insult her between Anthony and Kate and we get a tremendous start to the season with the promise of so much to come.
6. Episode 6 “The Choice”
Although this is not the penultimate episode of the season, story-wise it acts as such as the day of Anthony and Edwina’s wedding arrives and the pull between duty and desire and love reach its breaking point for Anthony and Kate. Additionally, this episode brings Eloise’s investigations to a head as suspicions arise about her frequent trips to the printer to talk with her new friend Theo, and Penelope fears her secret is about to be exposed. What makes this episode shine is that it ups the dramatic tension, showcases the depths Kate is willing to go to ensure her sister’s happiness, denying her own heart in the process, until those feelings between her and Anthony are on full display with the simple act of a fallen bracelet from her wrist at the altar.
Kate tells her sister that with true love “it’s not eyes that meet, but souls that dance.” And sadly for Edwina, her heart breaks when she sees this right before her eyes with her sister and Anthony, and it’s a pivotal and captivating moment. Moreover, what makes this episode is that supporting characters are given wonderful moments that were very poignant: the depth of Queen Charlotte’s pain at her husband the King’s dementia, him thinking it was their wedding day, Edwina’s compassion for the Queen despite her shattered heart, and my favorite, Lady Bridgerton and Lady Danbury sharing a hearty and infectious laugh together after the wedding is put on hold.
Sometimes when life goes so awry, all you can do is laugh and this was a superb moment that not only exemplifies that, but shows that when it comes down to it, the pressures and expectations of society don’t mean nearly as much as the true relationships you form with your friends and loved ones. One must not forget to also mention that this episode also features the first and much anticipated first kiss between Anthony and Kate, which is completely swoon-worthy.
5. Episode 2 “Off to the Races”
After Edwina Sharma is bestowed the title of this season’s “Diamond” she is met with a great deal of suitors at her doorstep, all of which must be met with the approval of her older sister Kate. While at the setting for this episode, the Royal Races, she is met with the one she finds most vexing, Anthony Bridgerton, who hastily sets his sights on wedding Edwina, and is determined to ingratiate himself with the young woman, but engages much more with Kate.
With rising tension between them, first rather playful if biting during another exuberant horse race, this time on the sidelines, with bickering and cheering clearly inspired by the likes of not only Pride and Prejudice’s Darcy and Elizabeth, but also My Fair Lady and Pretty Woman. These tensions soon turn cold when a small bit of subterfuge is discovered by Kate.
Meanwhile, the secondary plots of Eloise using her deductive skills to find Lady Whistledown’s printer, which led her to a young man named Theo, displaying her sharp tongue and desire to express her mind, had me inadvertently low key shipping her coachman with her, whose helpfulness, and clear amusement at her wit is ever apparent. That no doubt was a mere moment that will lead nowhere, but overall along with the races, Anthony and Kate’s rising tension, as well as Benedict Bridgerton starting his journey in the artistic realm and his gorgeous description and understanding of love, and a soiree where all the men attempt to impress Miss Edwina with their talents, makes the episode light-hearted and a fine follow up to the season opener.
4. Episode 7 “Harmony”
The fallout of the wedding or lack thereof is the focus of this fine episode which lives up to its title. Not only must the Bridgertons and the Sharmas must find harmony in their own families and with each other, but in society itself again, as we see when both families take a promenade outside and must deal with scathing looks and significant slights at every turn. Additionally, the Queen mistakenly thinks that she had discovered the true identity of Lady Whistledown in the form of Eloise, who is distraught and frightened about what to do.
Likewise, Penelope is overcome with fear about how to help her friend, consulting with Lady Delacroix for guidance. Of course, in the end, the result is that harmony comes at the expense of many things, all things that emphasize additional penultimate plot points: Penelope must write things as Lady Whistledown that hurts Eloise but protects her from further suspicions from the Queen, while the Bridgertons and the Sharmas throw a ball which no one else ends up attending.
The harmony they seek with their neighbors will take time to achieve it seems, but they can at least find it together, and in one scene we see this highlighted in one of the season’s best moments. The families enjoy a lively and fun dance together, even letting the youngest Bridgerton siblings join in, and it is joyous and sweet, and a beautiful depiction of what harmony truly is: a collection of varying entities to create a pleasing unified one. It is truly joyous to see these characters enjoy a moment of pure happiness.
Alas this movement is fleeting, because as stated this is the penultimate episode of the season, and so the drama reaches its pinnacle when Anthony and Kate finally give into these desires in quite the steamy scene, and the two are overcome with feelings of guilt and uncertainty that they once again engage in a horse race, only this time it is not a sunny day and a playful jaunt. Like the emotions stirring within them, it’s during a thunderstorm and a tragic accident that befalls Kate as she falls violently from her horse, ending the episode in traditional dramatic cliffhanger form.
3. Episode 4 “Victory”
There is quite a lot going on in this episode: the Bridgertons are hosting their annual soirée which includes a garden and hunting party as well as a grand and glittering ball, Colin visits the woman whom almost ensnared him into marriage, Marina Crane, who is now married and a happy mother, Penelope forms an arrangement with Lady Delacroix to help gets her papers to the printer, and Lady Featherington schemes to find a way for her daughter Prudence to marry their new heir Jack Featherington. Despite the many different storylines going on at once, the episode manages to remain engaging and provides a good bridge for the development of the character’s journeys for the season.
The highlights are truly once again Anthony and Kate as they are battling with their hearts and desires, giving the audience plenty to swoon over including a magnetic scene whether they are hunting a stag, a lovely bonding moment with a whispered conversation set against the haunting glow of candlelight and sounds of a rainstorm, the beauty of dance perfectly in sync, and a heated argument where feelings are not only present but absolutely ready to burst.
Also worthwhile are the moments between Colin and Marina where she gives him a much-needed dose of reality which may feel harsh but will help him mature and realize all that he truly has, Eloise’s poignant speech to her mother about what her rebellion truly is and the pangs of feeling like a disappointment, as well as returning Season 1 lead Daphne who proves to know her brother even better than he knows himself and plants the seeds of what a happy union of love and marriage should be.
2. Episode 3 “A Bee in Your Bonnet”
A glorious, poignant episode, with so much to love, this nearly made the top of the list, and honestly, it basically is tied for first as the best episode of the season for a multitude of reasons. The structure of the episode, along with the emotions evoked are superb as we parallel the past and the present and finally fully grasp what makes Anthony Bridgerton tick. The episode opens to 10 years previous when the Bridgerton family is shattered when their father dies of anaphylactic shock after being stung by a bee. We see for Anthony how in a mere moment his world completely changes as he not only sees his father die in front of him, but how he is not even allowed a moment to grieve as he must instantly assume the role of patriarch of the family. Seeing his mother shattered, we now understand why Anthony views love and marriage as he does. He does not wish to ever welcome the opportunity to feel as utterly heartbroken as his mother was, so his marriage must be one of duty and not love or passion.
This episode beautifully showcases that love often has other plans, brilliantly using the setting of a croquet match between the Bridgertons and the visiting Sharma family, to illuminate feelings brimming under the service. In the lovely Pall Mall game, it not only brings forth delightful scenes of banter disguised as friendly competition but also allows our characters to relax and abandon all forms of pretenses, especially when Kate and Anthony’s bickering leads them to both fall in a puddle of mud where all they can do is laugh and be their true selves. These moments only intensify when Kate begins to understand him and his fears more profoundly when he cannot go near his father’s memorial.
But most especially we see this when he finds himself overcome with absolute terror when a bee lands on Kate as they are strolling through a garden and he fears the same fate as his father is about to befall her. It’s romantic and electric and one of the best moments of the season. Such a colorful, and heartfelt episode, it is only matched by the beauty of the final episode. “A Bee in Your Bonnet” may be an expression to express annoyance, but here the bee acts more as a metaphor for what they provide the world and our characters. We cannot enjoy the sweet nectar of honey without the fear of getting stung. But love is always worth that risk.
1. Episode 8 “The Viscount Who Loved Me”
It is not uncommon to save the best for the last in television, but it is a great delight when that happens to such sheer triumph. The episode that bears the name of the book Season 2 is based on, profoundly demonstrates not only love for this season’s main protagonist, the Viscount Anthony Bridgerton, but indeed this finale also shows us every form of love and all the emotions that can come from it, and with just about every character. And the results are absolutely wonderful. The love between sisters Kate and Edwina, already tested with what Edwina felt was a betrayal, resulting in very harsh words in previous episodes, turns to reconciliation and acknowledgment of what they truly mean to each other.
Sometimes it takes a tragedy to bring out our true feelings, and Kate’s accident makes Edwina realize not only that her sister means more than anything to her, but all that Kate had sacrificed for her. But while Edwina sat by her bedside, terrified for her sister’s fate, Anthony does not allow himself to truly feel anything but numb, convinced everything that has befallen the Sharma family is due to him. When he finally hears that Kate has awoken and is well, the damn breaks, and a swell of emotions overcome him to the point of tears. It is a profound moment between Anthony and his mother who realizes the burden her eldest son has put upon himself, one she wishes to relieve. She tells him what anyone afraid to love must-hear. That the pain she felt in losing her love is worth it because of the happiness she felt with the time they were able to share.
That love a mother has for her children is echoed in the greatest moment for Lady Featherington in the entire series. A very manipulative woman, she often only thinks of herself or of what wealth or scheme can benefit the family. But when Jack’s schemes are discovered and he is about to flee the country, suggesting she leave her daughters behind, she proclaims that her daughters and her status as “mother” is more important than anything. It is a bold and courageous move to say the least, and while she does indeed screw over Jack, this is still a moment of tremendous growth for her character.
While some moments brought a sense of peace and fortitude, for Penelope and Eloise, their love for each other as friends reach a breaking point as an explosive argument takes place when Eloise realizes that Penelope is Lady Whistledown herself. Eloise feels completely betrayed and angry and Penelope tries to explain how difficult it was to keep this secret from her. But things get truly serious as pent-up emotions and insecurities are projected onto each other, and their friendship will never be the same.
Of course, the love story the season centers around comes it its conclusion in beautiful and enthralling ways as we see Kate and Anthony share one last dance before confessing their love for one another with a wish to wed not out of any sense of duty but because they deeply and truly love each other. With a proposal that is one for the ages, one cannot deny that Anthony and Kate’s words will be imprinted on our hearts. And the first moments we see of them as husband and wife, once again partaking in the family Bridgerton pall mall game, we truly see how those words exemplify their relationship. They will playfully bicker and may vex each other, but are also hopelessly and desperately in love with each other. Seeing Anthony and Kate embrace and kiss in the sunshine, with smiles so pure, is what made this episode and indeed the entire season a lovely, gentle, swoon-worthy delight.
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This post was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.
Image Credit: Netflix.