If season one of Bridgerton taught us anything about Regency-era Britain, it’s that one should never go unchapered into a rose garden and back in the day, they bloody loved a good romp. So when the long-awaited second series landed on Netflix mere weeks ago, fans were expecting more unadulterated action – even if Regé-Jean Page’s character Simon Basset was now out of the equation.
Much to everyone’s surprise, however, there was little in the way of sex to be found (unless, of course, you count the intimacy between Anthony Bridgerton’s wet shirt and his impeccably sculpted torso). Instead of the rampant shagging we had all grown accustomed to in the earlier episodes, this new facility offered us competitive sports and intense gazes aplenty, and – *gasps* – a hand to the bosom.
In fact, beyond Anthony (Jonathan Bailey) and Kate (Simone Ashley) incessantly blowing warm air on each other, we only see them get down and dirty in the aptly-named episode seven, “Harmony”.
The beautiful, candlelit scene begins with the viscount saying how Kate “consumes [his] very being”, before she concedes that he has spun her “world off its axis” – words many of us could only dream of hearing. Then, after more panting and chest-heaving, they passionately kiss, peel off their many layers (how stunning is that lilac underwear though?) and Anthony goes down on Kate on the floor of a wisteria-draped gazebo.
But, dear gentle reader, I would argue that it is precisely the lack of physicality that makes this season (of the show and of courtship) so… well, sexy.
Never before had I been so enamored by old-timey rich people activities like shooting deer, playing croquet or fancy balls full of whimsical little dances and incredibly impractical dresses. But thanks to Anthony Bridgerton and Ms Sharma, I was ready to buy a corset and tiara, and join high society immediately. I mean, if this is what courtship was like back then (because, you know, Bridgerton is nothing if not historically accurate), then I will need a time machine, posthaste.
Don’t get me wrong, I, like many others, enjoyed seeing Simon and Daphne (Phoebe Dynevor) christen every inch of their marital home in season one. It was refreshing to see a woman pleasing herself on-screen and to watch the power dynamics shift between the two throughout the course of the show. But little was left to the imagination.
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Season two is just so different in that regard. And, actually, the absence of a tactile relationship in the earlier episodes makes the moment Kate and the viscount do come together all the more special. That’s not to say it is without passion – it is just more emotional, tender and titillating. Almost like six episodes of foreplay.
Equally, it is the barriers along the way – be they Kate’s younger sister Edwina (Charithra Chandran), her deal with the Sheffields, or general social properties – that intensify their love for one another. A brief look at literature will tell you that all-consuming love is often the product of barriers and obstacles; desde romeo and julietall Madame Bovary and Wuthering Heights – nothing worth having ever came easy. No, it is the threat of having that flame extinguished, the defiance of going against what is expected, that is the stuff of legend.
Interestingly, all these examples ended in tragedy, but here’s hoping Anthony and Kate last for the long haul. I would like to think that instead of burning out too quickly, they will continue to challenge one another and keep each other on their toes – after all, isn’t that how we avoid complacency?
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.