Slow Burn Or Burned Out? A Double Hot Take On Bridgerton Season 2

Photo: Courtesy of Netflix.
This post contains spoilers for Bridgerton Season 2 and is based on the Netflix series alone, not the books. 
Almost two years after setting hearts (and loins) around the world ablaze with the first chapter of its steamy Regency era love story, Bridgerton has finally returned to Netflix with a brand new tale of yearning and passion. Having happily married off last season’s diamond Daphne (Phoebe Dynevor) to sexy duke Simon (Regé-Jean Page), the latest instalment of the Bridgerton family saga focuses on the complicated affair between dutiful oldest son Anthony (Jonathan Bailey) and the reluctant object of his affections, Kate Sharma (Sex Education’s Simone Ashley). The relationship that unfolds in the new season is the enemies-to-lovers trope at its peak, marked by constant bickering that slowly but surely gives way to longing gazes and almost-kisses. It’s the stuff of Romancelandia dreams — or is it?
With certain S1 scenes seared into our memory — you know exactly which ones — many Bridgerton fans were curious about how the followup could play out on screen. Loyal readers of the Julia Quinn novels were especially excited (and anxious) to see what Shondaland would do with Anthony and Kate’s epic romance; The Viscount Who Loved Me is widely considered one of the best stories in the Bridgerton book franchise. However, reactions to the new release have been…mixed, to say the least. Showrunner Chris Van Dusen and his writing team took certain liberties with the script for the new season, and those updates have the Bridgerton fandom divided. Unlike Simon and Daphne’s torrid love affair, the story of Kathony is a bit more measured, taking its time to build up the stakes of their relationship. And the stakes are high indeed; one of the controversial changes in the plot includes making Kate’s baby sister a viable rival in their love triangle. That and other changes to Quinn’s original work have the timeline applauding and rage-tweeting all at the same time, us included. Shonda Rhimes, you’ve done it again, girl!
The group chats are going off, and we’ve been yelling at each other about this show all week. Now that you’ve had ample time to catch up, we’re back in our romance bag to argue discuss whether season 2 of Bridgerton was a successful slow burn or a total snoozefest, examining the leads’ chemistry, the plot, and the foundation that the writer’s room is laying for the rest of the Bridgerton Cinematic Universe.
What was your overall reaction to Bridgerton season 2? 
Ineye Komonibo: I would give it a cool 45% on Rotten Tomatoes. It’s giving “gowns, beautiful gowns,” as always. I trust Bridgerton to at least give me that. Everyone looked amazing, but the writing was very busy and there was too much going on. And I just feel like Anthony and Kate, the lead couple, weren't giving me what they needed to give. I fast forwarded through a lot of it, and not even just through the ensemble’s scenes.
Kathleen Newman-Bremang: We’re about to fight because I completely, wholeheartedly disagree. I am on my fourth watch of the season. Specifically, I keep rewatching the Kate and Anthony scenes. I am a Kathony stan. No shame. They got me. I’m all in. My original reaction was just wow, this is so much better than season 1. It is just a really good season of television especially if you, like me, love watching an epic romance unfold slowly, methodically, and with a whole lot of yearning and CHEMISTRY. I had those expectations for season 1 and it did not meet them, so  I went into season 2 with lower expectations and I was pleasantly surprised. I’m giving it an A with a 85% Rotten Tomatoes score (it’s currently sitting at 78%) only because there were very clear pacing problems that took away from the romance that I loved so much. Also, I couldn’t care less about the Featheringtons, so they lost me with that whole storyline. 
The show hinges on Anthony and Kate’s relationship and their chemistry. Did you believe it? 
KNB: Whew, DID I! This romance is my whole shit. First of all, I just love the enemies-to-lovers trope. I love this idea of two people who, against their better judgement, just can't help but fall in love with each other and they're fighting like hell not to. We’ve written about this before but I think there is a thin line between love and hate and each emotion can flip the other way so easily. It’s about passion, baby. And I think they executed that perfectly, mainly because of the stellar performances by Jonathan Bailey and Simone Ashley.
Jonathan Bailey is a STAR, the leading man we deserve. He is a revelation. He nailed every look, every sniff, every monologue. The man can deliver a longing look unlike anyone else in the game right now. He IS the moment. In the beginning, I think the Simone Ashley performance was a little shaky, but the more I watch it the more I find nuances in it and I actually really enjoy her performance as well. They have this electric chemistry. Any time they're in a room you can tell that they're trying not to look at each other but also they’re obsessed with looking at each other. I loved the slow burn, I loved the build up, I loved every dramatic, climactic moment between them. I bought into it 100%. Also, Simone Ashley is just this beautiful dark-skinned Indian woman who we get to watch being loved on for 8 episodes and you know that watching dark girls being loved on is my kink. So I just loved that for her, and for all of us. 
IK: I mean, I can agree with some of the points that you just made. Jonathan Bailey is an incredible actor. I hated him in season 1; he was a dickhead, and I felt legitimately irritated every time he came on screen. But in season 2, he did such a good job. You could tell that Anthony really hated himself for being attracted to Kate. It was giving tortured soul. And when he did decide to give in, he was exactly the type of guy that I like: a bird. I'm happy, I love it here! For me, Jonathan Bailey held up his part of the deal. He did what he had to do. 
Simone Ashley, on the other hand — and this is going to hurt me to say — beautiful gowns. It's the season 1 effect where you had Regé-Jean Page and Phoebe Dynevor, who were an unmatched couple when it came to their acting. Somebody in the dynamic is always doing most of the heavy lifting , and this time it was Jonathan Bailey. (The first time, it was my man Regé-Jean, of course.) I think there’s something about Simone Ashley's acting that wasn’t translating as well as it was supposed to for me, personally, like she was trying too hard to be so stiff. I'm like “OK girl, do it but don't overdo it.” Something was a bit wooden about her acting in my opinion.

Jonathan Bailey is a STAR, the leading man we deserve. He is a revelation. He nailed every look, every sniff, every monologue. The man can deliver a longing look unlike anyone else in the game right now. He IS the moment.

kathleen newman-bremang
KNB: The girls are going to hate you for that. They love Simone. For the record, Ineye said it! I didn’t! 
IK: OK, I can definitely give Simone Ashley a little more credit. When Jonathan Bailey was doing his horny whispers into her ear, those were the moments when he was at his best, and that's when I could tell that she couldn’t help but swoon. You know when somebody’s so steamy that you feel like you have no choice but to melt? I think those torrid moments provided the most natural acting from her, because it was giving Oh, I can't help but melt because of this man. It was like how Regé-Jean Page could have talked to a tree, and the tree would have caught on fire. It’s that effect.
The main reason Anthony and Kate can’t be together is because he is engaged to her sister, Edwina. What did we think of the love triangle?
IK: Trash. Trash, trifling, messy, and mean. Listen, y’all know I hate the enemies-to-lovers trope, so the storyline was already going to piss me off. But I feel like the way that you become lovers, and the way that you can convince me that you love each other is through some transformative connection…I didn't feel that connection. I didn't believe that the kisses at the end were earned. I loved the way that they look together because they are both very attractive, but I didn't feel the chemistry. So I wasn’t rooting for them enough to excuse what they did to her little sister. It's messy, and it's just not okay.
KNB: You’re right. It’s messy and not okay but that’s exactly why it’s so great. Maybe I am the drama, but I was living for it. One of my biggest problems with season 1 was that the stakes weren’t high enough. What was the conflict? That a man didn’t want to come inside his wife? It’s weird, it’s fake, it’s not real drama. This is a love triangle that involves two sisters. The stakes cannot be higher than that! I was sweating during certain scenes because I was so stressed Edwina was going to find out. I loved her; baby girl is such a good actress. Charithra Chandran, remember that name. 
I loved that the writers didn’t turn Edwina into a one-dimensional shrew, so we weren’t fully rooting against her. I thought they did a really exquisite job writing Edwina and actually making us root for both of the sisters. That's why it was so good. I like these stakes. The messier the drama, the better. Everyone keeps talking about how this season isn't any fun, but I'm sorry — this is basically a Jerry Springer episode in regency-era England. The drama and the mess was so ridiculous that it was fun. It's not that serious.
IK: Yeah, you’re definitely the drama. The relationship that Kate and Anthony had simply wasn’t worth what they did to Edwina. I kept thinking that Kathony’s bond was nowhere near deep enough for her to disgrace her sister in that way. And on her wedding day at that! I wasn’t invested enough in this couple to say, “Baby sis is just going to have to understand. She's gonna have to take that L.” 
KNB: The fact that it elicited those emotions in you makes it good television!
IK: But I didn't even want to watch anymore. I was actually skipping parts because it was getting gross. I didn’t like it. I just feel like you never go against the family, especially for a man. It's a no for me.
KNB: OK, we’re really fighting now, but this is the last thing I’ll say on this. What you just said is what makes Kate such an interesting character because she was absolutely wrong. She is flawed. She did a bad thing to the person she was supposed to love the most in the world, and that makes her a dynamic lead to me. 
There’s been a lot of talk of the lack of sex scenes this season. Showrunner Chris Van Dusen said they just stayed true to Kate and Anthony’s story. Is that a good enough reason? Did the lack of sex take away from the romance? 
KNB: I actually think it added to it. There are scenes this season that are SO HOT, and Kate and Anthony aren’t even touching each other. Case in point: the sniff. At one point, when Anthony’s willpower finally snaps and he gives into his attraction for Kate, he just leans into her and takes a big ol’ whiff of her and says “lilies” with his whole chest. It was hotter than anything in season 1. In a lesser actor’s hands, it’s corny, it’s creepy. But in Jonathan Bailey’s hands, it is just this moment where Anthony is overcome. It encompasses all of the build-up and sexual tension. He’s like “I've been getting whiffs of this woman, and now I can finally really get in there and smell the shit out of her. So I'm going in.” 
IK: It was like an animal instinct for him, so that sniff made perfect sense for me. When you're down bad, you're down bad. But that's Jonathan Bailey. That's what I'm trying to say: he is the gem here. He is the diamond of this whole affair! This man lives in a Jane Austen novel. You can tell that he's read and studied romance, so he knows exactly what he’s doing. It's very off-brand for me to be rooting for a white man above all else when there's so many people of colour in this cast, but I do feel like he carried the whole thing. 
KNB: You know that I try to only root for one white man, and that's the one that I am married to. But I think that, yes, Jonathan Bailey is the standout. He is so much of the reason why I bought into this couple, but I'm also going to give credit to the restraint of Simone Ashley’s performance. She met him on the level of yearning and angst and when she finally let go, it was in the kissing scenes and the sex scene. I actually will have to agree with Chris Van Dusen, the showrunner, and say that it didn’t make sense for the story for them to have sex earlier. It had to be at the last moment because as soon as Anthony got a taste, you knew he was going to propose. That can’t happen in episode 3. Also you don’t get Anthony saying “you are the bane of my existence, and the object of all my desires” — which is the greatest scene in the history of romantic television (don’t @ me) —  without the tension, the buildup, the lack of sex. But in the sex scenes we got, Simone Ashley does let go in those scenes and I thought they were so hot, and so much better than season 1. 
In season 1, there’s a big montage where Daphne and Simon are on their honeymoon, having multiple romps, and those felt so choreographed and so fake. And I was not buying them at all. This one, at least, did feel more real because it was a more intimate and contained moment. It felt more authentic, like both actors were into it more. And so for everybody who's like, "This season is not as horny," I actually think this season is just as horny, just in a different way. This one is just more restrained and it's more of the Jane Austen regency era sexual tension, which is all about heaving bussoms, pent-up raw energy, willpower that’s hanging on by a thread, and elicit affairs. Inject all of that into my veins. I will defend this season against anyone who says there should've been more sex. 
IK: No, I'm sorry — absolutely not. I’m definitely biased because I think that Regé-Jean Page is the sun, the moon, the stars, the solar system. He's everything and more, and I just thought his sex scenes in season 1 were better. I don't think that the sex is done particularly well in season 1 or season 2 of Bridgerton, but at least last season we had Regé-Jean. This season, the way they would gasp and moan in the ONE sex scene they gave us… there was something inauthentic and porny about it. It wasn't turning me on. We waited so long for this and this is all y'all are going to do? I'm sorry to say this, but it was the kind of sex scene that would dry you up. 
KNB: I cannot believe we have such opposing reactions to the same thing. I've watched this scene many-a-times, and it's done a lot of good things for me, ahem. I do think it could have been longer, and it could have been a bit more explicit, but I completely disagree. This is when we finally saw Kate let go. And Simone Ashley did too. There were moments when I was like, "Damn! Simone, baby, you know Jonathan doesn't play for our team in real life, right?” In those scenes, it felt like she was living her best life, and I was happy for her. 

 I loved the way that [Jonathan Bailey and Simone Ashley] look together because they are both very attractive, but I didn't feel the chemistry. So I wasn’t rooting for them enough to excuse what they did to her little sister. It's messy, and it's just not okay.

Ineye Komonibo
Season 1 Bridgerton fans are mad that Simon (Regé-Jean Page) is not in season 2. Should he have come back?
IK: I think Daphne was meant to be a guiding light for her brother, a living, breathing example of “I didn't think I was going to fall in love, but I fell in love with this person, and that’s what’s also happening to you.”  The only reason I would want Simon to be there is for eye candy purposes — y'all see that man — but I don't necessarily think he would've added anything to the story. I mean, maybe he could have helped Kate get to her realisation faster, but I don't think he had a real place in this season. However, if you're going to show Daphne, you might as well also show Simon. 
KNB: Exactly. We've finally agreed on something! I would even go so far as to say I don't think neither Daphne nor Simon should have been there. Every scene with Anthony and Daphne could have been with his brother, Benedict. Regé-Jean Page is so, so extremely attractive that I understand wanting to stare at his face more, but Simon and Daphne already rode off into the sunset. They're living their happily ever after. We do not need to see them.
Last season, we talked about how the show handled race. How did it do this time around? 
KNB: One of the big things about last season was that they included a scene where they talked about race, and what they did with that one scene was tell us this is a world in which racial dynamics exist.  Then they did nothing further with that. What I like about this season is that there are no scenes like that. They talk about India, and they talk about cultural differences, but there's never a scene where race is acknowledged in the same way. I think because they omitted that we were able to just suspend our disbelief and be like, “Okay, this is a world in which those dynamics don't exist.” I appreciated that. Edwina and Kate talk about cultural things that define them as people, as South Asian women in that era, but it’s never written in that, “This is a utopia where we fought so hard to be around these white people,” which is what was basically said in that scene in the first season.
IK: I think that it was nice to see Anthony, and everyone around him, just embrace these brown people and not other them. They're othered because they come from somewhere else and were involved in a scandal, not because of the colour of their skin. Kate acts differently from everyone else, and that's why she's othered — not because she has an accent or because she dresses in a certain way.  It's just her. She is a different type of person who has an effect on Anthony, and I did enjoy that approach. As for the interracialness of it all…I mean, it would be nice to see two leads of colour falling in love, but the Bridgertons are white, so we’re always going to see that dynamic in this show. 
KNB:  One of our big criticisms of season 1 was that everybody was light skinned. In this season, the Sharma sisters, the two leads, are both dark-skinned brown women. I appreciated that. 
IK: I think it's credit to smart casting. It's would have been very easy to find a lighter skin brown woman in Hollywood, but they didn’t do that. Let me say this because I've been playing with Simone Ashley this whole time: she has a god-tier face. She is one of the most beautiful people on Netflix. To put her in this position of being adored and loved — whether or not I think the chemistry was realistic is another story  — was really beautiful to watch. Kate's sister was also a little bit lighter than her, and certain people of colour might recognise the nuance of the positioning. Edwina is the gem, the diamond, and her older, darker-skinned sister has to create the circumstances for her to succeed while she herself hasn’t been allowed to go after what she wants. I think that's a poignant, important story to tell. So shout out to the casting agent and director, because that aspect of the season was really good.
Let’s check in on how the Black women of Bridgerton are doing. Lady Danbury and Queen Charlotte, did they get their due? 
KNB: I said this last season, but I wish that we get to see them have love interests or have a moment of somebody loving on them. We did get to see how much Queen Charlotte’s husband loves her, which was really nice, and I liked the scene at the wedding with Queen Charlotte and Edwina. But I want that for Lady Danbury, and I want these older Black women on the show to also get some nice romantic moments.
IK: I don’t think they are ever going to give the Aunties their due on this show. It was interesting to see Queen Charlotte beefing with Lady Whistledown this season, but her backstory might be one of the more interesting stories of the whole thing, and we only just barely touched on it. Thank God they're giving her a spinoff. And justice for Lady Danbury; they hinted at her backstory, but all she did was help the Sharma girls get into the fold. She was just a channel for them to enter society as opposed to being a whole person.
KNB: There’s one scene where Danbury is sparring with Kate, and she basically says, “I’ve LIVED a life, child.” I want to see that life! 
Will you be watching season 3? 
IK: No. Sorry, I've done enough. I really tried, but I just don't feel like there is anyone in this family that I care about anymore.
KNB: I agree with that a bit, but I do care about Eloise. Although in my mind, Eloise is queer; I think she’s in love with Penelope. Anyway, right now, I don't care about Benedict. If next season is about him, that might be tough for me to get there. But…I also didn’t care about Anthony after last season, and now I want him to sniff me and say, “lilies.” So maybe I'll get there with Benedict. I’ll give it a shot. I don’t think you understand how obsessed I am with the season. 
IK: Beyoncé herself could be playing Benedict’s love interest, and I would not watch it. There's simply no way. Solange Knowles or Keke Palmer could be his leading lady. Any of my faves. I don't care, I'm not watching it. I don't want to do this anymore. I’m tired, man. 
KNB: That’s a WILD thing to say. But mostly, I’m sad this is the last time we’re going to fight about Bridgerton. 

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