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Shondaland’s Bridgerton rips the bodice right off – The A.V. Club

Illustration for article titled Shondaland’s iBridgerton/i rips the bodice right off

Photo: Liam Daniel/Netflix

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My dears, what do you think? In the lavishly picturesque world of Regency-era England here in Bridgerton, the new social season is about to begin in earnest. As I, Lady Whistledown, will faithfully be depicting in my popular scandal sheet, all of London’s eligible young lovelies are about to be presented to the court to hopefully extract the favor of the queen before being set forth to swim among a sea of hopeful suitors. Of course, the diamond of this year’s season is the porcelain-skinned and auburn-haired Daphne Bridgerton (Phoebe Dynevor), the first of her family’s four daughters to come forward and whose romantic exploits will undoubtedly take up much of my reports this season. (Also, I hear the queen’s husband is, shall we say, under considerable strain as of late, so perturbed is he after the loss of the colonies several seasons ago.)

What’s this then? A commanding missive from the House Of Netflix with a seemingly endless list of narrative elements that I am forbidden to pass along to you, my dear readers? This seems unjust. Without these character developments, I am at a loss at what I am then supposed to describe: The elaborate period dress? The cascading floral arrangements? The steamy in flagrante scenes that would make Jane Austen herself turn scarlet from head to slipper?

It appears safe to reveal that Daphne’s main paramour this season will be the dashing Simon, Duke Of Hastings (Regé-Jean Page). After an unfortunate altercation with a loathsome would-be suitor, Daphne realizes that she can use the Duke to garner the favor of other young men by making herself appear even more desirable. For the Duke, courting Daphne (upright and otherwise) will eliminate the near-constant pestering he receives from other young London ladies and their mercenary mothers. You see, my dears, the Duke has pledged never to marry. Why, I am not at liberty to tell you. But you needn’t have extensive knowledge of the common novel, the kind replete with bodice-ripping contents, to predict that Daphne and Simon will gradually become closer via their complementary ruse, and that this marital roadblock will only add all sorts of relationship obstacles for the pair.

Fortunately, Daphne comes from a large family: The Bridgerton children are all cunningly named alphabetically, so our young maid has three older brothers with romantic travails of their own. Alas, I am not able to tell you about them either, only that the Viscount, Anthony (Jonathan Bailey), has high relationship standards he longs to achieve. Second-born Benedict (Luke Thompson) is then able to explore more hedonistic pursuits at parties that Lady Whistledown herself would never darken the doorway of, I assure you—no, not even to gather you all the heart-stopping gossip! Colin (Luke Newton), the third in line, is a bit more idealistic but—blast this list! Daphne’s sister Eloise (Claudia Jessie) is more concerned with uncovering my true identity than the fact that next season she will be the one presented to the court—but although she is very clever, never fear, I will maintain my secretive lead away from her prying exercises.

Golda Rosheuvel as Queen Charlotte

Golda Rosheuvel as Queen Charlotte
Photo: Liam Daniel/Netflix

The Bridgertons’ less savory counterparts are their neighbors, the Featheringtons, whose three daughters I regret to inform you are outshone by Daphne as a diamond of the first water. But that will hardly stop Mrs. Featherington (Polly Walker) from pushing to get the best possible matches for her girls; she strongly recalls a certain overbearing matriarch from some previous noteworthy historical volume. But things take a turn when—oh dear, I fear I can’t go on about that either.

My darlings, I believe the real mystery here—even more so than my real identity—is what does this House Of Netflix really have to hide with this long list of verboten plot points? Do they not realize that this series of events follows stories already told put forth in the form of paperbacks by the author Julia Quinn so that these “spoilers,” as they refer to them, are available to anyone with a new-fangled Google contraption? Do they believe that a nation starved for new entertainment, especially such that comes from the so-called Shondaland in her first effort in her new producing home, will be that less likely to watch Bridgerton if they know about one of Daphne’s other suitors, for example? I have seen much at the other end of this scandal sheet, faithful readers, but here I must say I am uncharacteristically at a loss for words.

Illustration for article titled Shondaland’s iBridgerton/i rips the bodice right off

Photo: Nick Briggs/Netflix

Let us then return eagerly to the bodice-ripping—and the breeches, the petticoats, the vestments, etc. Whereas the put-upon medical personnel in Shondaland’s previous exploits were cruelly at the mercy of network guardians of virtue, here, with no such restraints, the lovers of Bridgerton are able to carry on whenever and wherever they see fit: at a boxing match, in the rain in a gazebo, right on a spiral staircase. I don’t mind telling you, dear readers, that these near-naked pursuits sent my hand flying up to my pearls on more than one occasion… and then speeding ahead to the next chapter.

Like my own scandal sheet, Bridgerton has a soapy, compelling way about it. Although I think highly of myself (for obvious reasons), I would never deign to consider my writings great literature, and I doubt that the keepers of Bridgerton view their stories that way either. Nevertheless, people run toward my creative outputs, and I suspect that viewers of Bridgerton will likely do the same. Then all the secrets will be revealed anyway, leaving the rest of us to wonder just what the overabundance of caution about plot developments was about in the first place—isn’t that so, darlings?

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