Bridgerton Review


Photo by Netflix

Daphne and the Duke converse at a ball.

Rachel Johns, Managing Editor of News

Salacious scandals, peacockish pageantry, and affairs of ardour? What else could it be other than Shonda Rhimes’ Regency era TV series Bridgerton.

Bridgerton, based on the hit book series by Julia Quinn, follows the eight siblings of the upper class Bridgerton family as they navigate the ups and downs of London’s high society. In addition to the series’ namesakes, the show tells the stories of the ostentatious Featheringtons, the respectable Lady Danbury, the roguish Duke of Hastings, the formidable Queen Charlotte and her royal court.

The first season focuses on the eldest daughter Daphne’s debut season and her on-and-off romance with the Duke of Hastings. At the beginning of the season, a mysterious tabloid detailing the tawdry affairs of socialites’ secrets is circulated under the nom de plume of Lady Whistledown— a Jane Austen-esque Gossip Girl if you will.

Within the first few minutes of viewing the series, the sugary candy color palette of the fashion will strike you. While the sweet, dulcet tones of the Bridgerton family’s wardrobe will endear you, the gaudy, almost neon colors that the Featheringtons sport give viewers the sickness of a visual sugar rush, tipping you off as to what the character of each family is. This masterful use of color theory to advance the story is just one of the ways clothing plays an integral role in Bridgerton

The characters of Bridgerton wear Regency era clothing stylized with modern fabrics, colors, and silhouettes in a way reminiscent of Marie Antoinette (2006). Viewers with a penchant for fashion history will recognize Lady Featherington’s adaptation of Dior’s New Look. Little details in character styling enrich the world and its stories, such as Marina Thompson’s lover’s eye pendant.

The fashion of Bridgerton has started to influence modern fashion trends, with dresses with empire waistlines, puffy sleeves, and “corset” style tops becoming popular (Regency women did not often wear corsets, instead they sported coton stays as undergarments).

In addition to melding modern and historical fashion, the series features six string quartet covers of pop songs. Some of the songs bend seamlessly with the wide, sweeping shots of opulent balls. The covers of “Wildest Dreams” and “thank u, next” fit perfectly into the scenes’ stories, feelings, and themes. On the other hand, some pop song covers feel incongruous to the story and era, throwing you right out of the world. “bad guy” was one song that felt particularly jarring in both story and theme. Despite a few moments that don’t fit into the overall story, Bridgerton successfully blends the zeitgeist of the 21st century with the early 1800s.

One major update Bridgerton gives to the realm of mainstream period dramas is the much needed addition of people of color in lead roles. The Duke of Hastings, Lady Danbury, Queen Charlotte, and Marina Thompson are all played by black actors. Historically, period pieces have been dominated by white actors, with POC rarely being featured (typically only as servants or slaves). To see a period drama on a major streaming platform feature POC in prominent roles is a major step forward for representation in the entertainment industry.

Vernā Myers, Netflix’s vice-president of inclusion strategy, stated “We help out all of our creative folks in content and marketing with what we call, an ‘inclusion lens’, when they’re casting and when they’re green lighting: see who’s there, see who isn’t.”

The story of Bridgerton starts off strong, with strong chemistry among castmates and the intrigue of Lady Whistledown’s identity. However, the general excitement fizzles out halfway through the season once a particular couple gets together. Contributing to the lull of the second half of the season, the identity of Lady Whistledown is prematurely revealed in a lackluster and predictable manner. The reveal leaves us with the question of how Lady Whistledown will continue to hold the audience’s attention with the series’ biggest mystery revealed. 

Nonetheless, I found Bridgerton to be one of the more entertaining shows of the year, a diamond of the television season if you will. That’s not to say that the show is flawless. If anything, its ability to improve excites me. The series has already been renewed for a second season, which will feature the eldest Bridgerton child Anthony. Hopefully, the next season will explore the stories of the many colorful side characters. I have no doubt that the next season of Bridgerton will prove to be just as entertaining if not more than the first season.