National Post (National Edition)
Bridgerton is all about the sex, baby
At the end of an awful and exhausting year, let us give thanks for it at least having the good grace to end with Bridgerton.
Based on Julia Quinn's romance novels, this confectionary treat knows exactly what you might want from it and delivers those fantasies on a silver platter with a dashing smile.
It travels to 19th-century England to tell familiar enough narratives of headstrong women and the gruff men who try their damnedest not to love them. A straightforward adaptation would've undoubtedly worked well enough but as Shonda Rhimes's first scripted series for Netflix, Bridgerton instead mixes age-old tropes and distinct Shondaland sensibilities together to make a formidable love match.
The eight episodes of this addictive first season fly by in a flurry of stolen glances and whispered rumours, wounded pride and star-crossed love. As per the demands of its genre, Bridgerton is mostly concerned with the romantic entanglements of society's upper crust. Bridgerton both embraces its roots and happily deviates from them. In an immediately noticeable and welcome departure from the usual period romance tradition, the cast of Bridgerton is deliberately inclusive, featuring several prominent Black characters whose actors would be relegated to the scullery in another adaptation.
This first season kicks into high gear once the queen's nephew Simon (Regé-Jean Page), sweeps into town with a devastatingly handsome glare and a chip on his shoulder. Simon is both a powerful duke and a classic rake resisting every invitation to mature, much to the annoyance of his surrogate mother, Lady Danbury (Adjoa Andoh). He's even sworn never to marry — but his resolve is tested once he quite literally runs into Daphne Bridgerton (Phoebe Dynevor).
Daphne is the archetype of a romance novel heroine: a smart, determined woman with delicate features that please jealous suitors and frustrate her jealous peers to no end. Daphne and Simon circle each other throughout the series with eyes equally wary and full of longing, which is great fun to watch unfold.
But Bridgerton reveals its true strengths once it allows them to explicitly acknowledge what so many period romances of this ilk tend to dodge, namely that these characters don't just want to marry — they want to have sex.
And so Bridgerton doesn't see the need to remain as chaste as its upper-crust characters strive to be at their daily teas. Its men have sex out of wedlock almost as a necessity before marriage, mostly because they can. Not every story needs sex in order to be romantic. But Bridgerton demonstrates a keen and refreshing understanding of all the ways in which sex can complicate and enrich love.