Slow burn, incredible chemistry, Disney princesses, dating cousins, bees - this season has a pull for everyone.
Okay. OKAY. First things first, Simone Ashley and Charithra Chandran are my new obsessions. Put them in everything. Feed me. Secondly, I personally have few memories of the first season. I remember its plotline being almost entirely sex-driven especially given (I believe) episode six’s sex montage (not a bad thing! just noting!). That’s not often the type of show I go for, but I still had a good time with the costuming, set design, and characters. This season, however...the exact opposite end of the sex count. This was a bop.
We spend most of the eight episodes waiting for Anthony (Jonathan Bailey) and Kate (Simone Ashley) to finally kiss in epic slow burn fashion. In comparison to season one, there was so much more story happening here. The characters are on similar footing having been the eldest siblings shouldering the aftermath of a parent’s death. They almost hate each other at the beginning. We love an enemies to lovers arc (gg Shondaland). I feel like it’s been so long since I’ve seen and was captivated by genuine on-screen chemistry.
(Also they were literally eating dinner in that first kiss good lord???)
There were certainly concerns after the first season about increasing the diversity of the main cast and the background actors and I’m looking forward to how that further improves in season three (certainly better inclusion of Will Mondrich (Martins Imhangbe) as he virtually disappeared). I know that for this season, having two Tamil women be a major part of the main cast - especially a darker skinned South Asian woman - was super exciting for many of my friends. I’ve seen some complaints on Twitter about language choice for the Sharmas as well as how Kate and Edwina (Charithra Chandran) address each other - worth mentioning here, but I can’t speak much on it as I don’t have extensive knowledge. Simone Ashley isn’t someone who can be kept in a minor or side role for very long, especially via the Sex Education to The Little Mermaid to Bridgerton pipeline. Cast her as Rapunzel right now. Like have you seen her eyes? That purple underwear set? With this performance she proves herself as a leading “it girl.”
Speaking of girls...Chandran was acting acting. If you’ve been online at all the past week there’s no avoiding That Clip. It was very Euphoria episode 5 - I couldn’t look away, I forgot where I was, I fell to my knees. She equally deserves to be booked for numerous projects and to marry a prince next season (side note, it also wouldn’t hurt if Bridgerton added a bit more Gay next season).
Shondaland can often veer into slight Wattpad vibes: Anthony sniffing Kate, “the things I could teach you”, a panic attack turning into near makeout via Bee. And this season had me willingly going along with it because the chemistry was so strong and honestly the bee thing feels so niche but the performances for those scenes actually got me kind of emotional. You could see Anthony’s progression as a character moving from the constant 0o0 expressions to something more like Bailey himself. Kate and Anthony legit brought out the best in each other narratively (not to mention the casting being absolutely top tier), and the fact that they are both equally torn between each other and what they feel is their familial duty added constant viable complication.
The mother-son relationship that was explored between Violet (Ruth Gemmell) and Anthony was a strong moment - there was a lot of respect as well as shared trauma, and I enjoyed the way they worked through it. All the pieces were there; ultimately, I was teary watching her apologize for how she handled her husband’s death and encourage him to follow his heart and not his understandable fear.
Briefly, the other part of the narrative - the Featheringtons. Everyone in that house was down bad for Cousin Jack (Rupert Young, who eerily looks like Michael Cera from some angles). Some parts of this subplot were not nearly as strong as Kanthony. Penelope (Nicola Coughlan) in the season one finale was honestly kinda fire, but I’m not too sure it lived up to the hype this season. Her ultimate betrayal of her bestie Eloise Bridgerton (Claudia Jessie) had to be the thing that happened to push her past her limits, but the plot points to get to that point and following it all seemed a bit convenient.
Not totally sure about the Eloise and Theo (Calam Lynch) plotline either, especially the way it ended. Hopefully Penelope and Eloise will go gay next season because there has to be a way to get rid of Colin Bridgerton (Luke Newton) the most annoying character istg. Also, Coughlan using her real Irish accent as a part of her lady’s maid disguise had me dead (shout out season 3 of Derry Girls coming soon!!!). Also, Julie Andrews <3.
All in all, I loved this season. I went in for an easy and fun watch, not necessarily for the most top-notch writing but was pleasantly surprised. This kind of relationship between two leads is something film and tv should consider god-tier - we need more depth in more places, we need more South Asian casting, we need more bees as instruments of death.