The horny holiday treat of Bridgerton is upon us, and this author has thoughts on that finale.
After a highly eventful debutante season in London, the families of Bridgerton are going back into hibernation (I assume this is what Regency-era socialites do during the winter months), but not without a fresh crop of scandals and secrets to keep them company. Let’s catch up with the show’s central families after that steamy final episode.
Feel free to read this in the voice of Julie Andrews as Lady Whistledown.
Let’s start with the eldest: Anthony Bridgerton (Jonathan Bailey) may have experienced his first inklings of self-awareness now at the age of 30-whatever (I don’t understand how white people age) — and that’s self-awareness, not self-righteousness, because he had plenty of that to be getting on with. The young Lord Bridgerton ends his affair with Siena (Sabrina Bartlett) after way too many ups and downs for an eight-episode season. I find it hard to believe that these two carried on a successful affair for any length of time given their whole Ross-and-Rachel-in-hyperdrive dynamic.
Meanwhile, Colin (Luke Newton) is off on his European travels, likely nursing the remnants of a broken heart from his canceled betrothal… but he’ll bounce back. His departure is devastating for Penelope’s love (Nicole Coughlan), but their friendship remains intact for now. Personally, this author would love to see Penelope end up with someone who likes her the first time instead of proposing to her houseguest, but we’ll get to Penelope later. She’s doing fine.
After her mother tells her to treat the Hastings Ball as a rehearsal, Eloise (Claudia Jessie) is on a terrifying track to her own debutante season and will inevitably create a gorgeous mess of it. She has no desire to marry or so much as engage in pleasantries with suitors, and her season will be a spectacular train wreck we’ll cheer on from the sides. Besides, her business with Whistledown isn’t finished — after warning the author away from the Queen’s trap, Eloise realizes that Whistledown isn’t Madame Delacroix (Kathryn Drysdale) after all and that The Author isn’t keen on enemies.
(Side note: Will Delacroix abandon her silly accent in Season 2 after Marina’s suggestion that it’s fake? Do we even want her to? Something to think about.)
Also Benedict (Luke Thompson) is basically chilling and did not get nearly enough screen time this season, presumably because the writers are saving his great bisexual awakening for Season 2. Please.
Bridgerton‘s first season is uneven, and a significant portion of that is because the show never quite grasped the conflict between Daphne (Phoebe Dynevor) and Simon (Regé-Jean Page). They don’t like each other — and then they do! He refuses the marriage — and then he doesn’t! He won’t have kids — but now he will! The show’s central couple spend large swaths of most episodes unable to reiterate the known fact that they love each other, but we bear with them and their flimsily-written marital troubles because the sex scenes could set even a rain-soaked gazebo aflame and Page does and Simon would probably even have chemistry with that lord who was obsessed with cheese.
After a torturously drawn-out primary conflict, Daphne and Simon manage to compromise with ease. They’re literally ready to spend their entire lives apart, wed only in the eyes of the law, when Simon has a change of heart after one heartfelt conversation. In some ways it’s not a total stretch; yes, this could have been resolved in episode 6 with but a modicum of communication, but the Hastings’ are not known for being loquacious.
The show also takes a pass on interrogating Daphne’s nonconsensual attempt to get pregnant (!), treating it as a classic misunderstanding and not a top-tier example of the potential perils of this relationship. OK!
Congratulations to the Duke and Duchess on the birth of their son, and here’s to spending all of Season 2 fighting over his preschool or something.
We won’t pretend to know the names of the elder two Featherington girls any more than you do (Felicia? Delamere? Corjorie? I think one is Corjorie), but the Featheringtons’ fortunes are in quite a state due to Lord Featherington (Ben Miller), Marina (Ruby Barker), and Penelope (LATER, WE’RE GETTING THERE).
The possibly-late Lord Featherington was caught gambling away his family’s fortune this season, but in episode 8 he managed to win back a large enough sum for his wife to immediately schedule the girls’ fittings for new dresses. That money of course came from ol’ Lordy betting big on Will (Martins Imhangbe) losing a big fight, but the men handling Featherington’s money are smarter than he, uh, gambled for (sorry). They corner him at the Hastings Ball, after which he is pronounced dead and the Featherington fortune is once again depleted.
Given that the last we saw of Lord Featherington was very much alive and dressed in his best at someone else’s house, we’re a little hesitant to believe reports of his alleged demise. The sinister men who handled his money might have murdered him for the fraudulent bet, but we’re more inclined to believe that they blackmailed him. Either the good lord absconded with his own dirty money or he took it to pay the men off and also made himself scarce to protect his family.
Either way, the Featherington estate is now in new hands, and from the looks of it, that should terrify us.
Perhaps a small solace for the grieving Featherington women at this time may be that they finally have some security for Marina, who accepted Philip Crane’s proposal (Chris Fulton) and left to live at his estate. Marina looks thoroughly miserable at the prospect, and we’ll chalk that up to grieving her boyfriend’s death in combat. However, Lord Crane seems perfectly kind and completely uninterested in consummating the marriage or doing anything besides providing for his late brother’s lover and child. As marriages go, it’s certainly civil.
Bridgerton arguably didn’t make the most of Lady Whistledown’s power in its first season, but perhaps they were saving that for after we knew her true identity — dramatic irony certainly is a treat unto itself. For most of the season, Whistledown is a salacious manifestation of the most bored and privileged in London society, but wields little noteworthy influence until dropping the bombshell about Marina. Now that she knows she’s an enemy of the crown, we suspect the author will become a little incendiary, a little reckless, less concerned with titillating the “ton” than with leaving it utterly shattered.
After all, what does she have to lose? For we learn in the final moments of episode 8 that Lady Whistledown is none other than Penelope Featherington, the most underestimated and underrated debutante in the ton, whose acerbic quill can make or break anyone who crosses her path — and indeed it has.
This complicates Pen as a character significantly; on the surface this is one of the only good and pure people in the ton, but rewatch the season knowing Whistledown’s true identity and you’ll find it nothing short of The Count of Monte Cristo, with her presence and observation imbuing every scene with sinister potential throughout. As noted in Mashable’s review: If Season 2 is the Eloise and Penelope show, then we have no choice but to stay glued to the screen.
Bridgerton is now streaming on Netflix.