Saturday and Sunday, I spent hours watching the new Netflix Series, Bridgerton, based on Julia Quinn’s The Duke & I. There are tons of articles on the Internet that include reviews from mainstream media and entertainment sites. Now I am offering my two cents. I’m assuming you have read Julia Quinn’s Book about Simon and Daphne’s journey, so I won’t go into great plot detail but will give my thoughts on the series itself. Neither will I critique the story itself, which does present some problems among readers and viewers with a particular scene.
Story & Setting – Shonda Rhimes’s Netflix version follows the book’s story. However, as indicated at the beginning credits this is “Shondaland,” a vastly different view of the true reality of who composed the English aristocracy. People of color are central in the cast, explained as a result of mad King George marrying a woman of color. Obviously, there are pros and cons that the show deviates from historical reality. In order to enjoy, you will have to re-imagine a world that lives in “Shondaland” and not in fact. The series was filmed in Bath, showing recognizable locales, even though the story for the most part is set in London for the season.
The episodes give all the characters ample focus, but I found myself bored during some of the subplots as they played out. There are over 25 characters in eight episodes. I thought that far too much time was spent on Marina Thompson’s storyline and her stay in the Featherington household. Other subplots did not keep my interest either. Frankly, I think overall the series could have been tightened down to six episodes making it more interesting.
Casting – The two main characters of Daphne (played by Phoebe Dynevor) and Simon Basset, the Duke of Hastings (played by Rege-Jean Page) are interesting. I’m going out on a limb here and saying that I was not impressed with the casted couple. Phoebe isn’t what I would characterize as a great beauty, but plays the role well of an innocent and pure young lady of impeccable breeding. Rege-Jean, on the other hand, did not float my remote. I’m sorry, but I thought him stiff, making Simon unlikable, unapproachable, arrogant, and unattractive. The way he looks down his nose at you just about kills any amorous feelings you hope to flourish as a viewer. It has nothing to do with his race, but everything to do with making the leading man appealing to audiences — not just with his clothes off. (Fine body, by the way.) If the term a cardboard character can be used on-screen, I would term him as such. I did not feel any longing for him as a man, which is the fantasy women want when reading historical romance. It’s the irresistible rake who you conjure up between the pages of a book that is lost in translation. Although the story is definitely a ruse between Daphne and Simon to begin with, their eventual falling in love didn’t capture my heart in any swoon-worthy manner. I didn’t care about them as a couple or their reconciliation at the end. The remaining cast is acceptable in their roles. I was surprised to see Julian Ovenden. Nicola Coughlan was adorable as Penelope Featherington.
Costumes – I’ve read there were 7,800 outfits worn. Some historically accurate — others a little over the top, including the outrageous wigs. The Featherington family gowns are colorful with bold prints, while the Bridgertons are dressed in more subdued colors with sparkling fabrics. Daphne changes so many times it makes you dizzy. Corsets in Shondaland were a little out of date. If you love men in cravats, you will like their outfits. I’ve never been a real fan of Regency era styles anyway. I’m more of a late Victorian dress-gal myself.
Sex – This needs a category all its own. Had I thought about it, I should have kept a pen and paper handy to count the number of sex scenes. As I strain my brain to remember how many transpired between Simon and Daphne, I think there were eight. No frontal nudity but enough in bed to wonder whether the actor’s modesty pieces kept intact during the rambunctious scenes of sexual intercourse. Lot’s of skin and no under the covers. They did it everywhere imaginable, moaning enough to give the servants a good chuckle. On the stairs, against the wall, against a ladder in the library, in the grass, and in bed. Simon had his head up Daphne’s skirt a few times as well, sending her into ultimate sexual bliss. (On the stairs nonetheless with a camera overview – geesh! I’m thinking where are the servants?) Then there is the “no consent” scene, which is disturbing. However, Simon isn’t exactly intoxicated as indicated in the book. He’s definitely more lucid but is horrified when Daphne gets on top. He repeatedly protests but to no avail. The scene quickly turns upon him and Daphne’s anger regarding his “can’t” and “won’t” have children scenario, but brushes under the rug Daphne’s actions. Anthony Bridgerton has his fair share of scenes in the sack, and the hidden love affair that Henry Granville has with another male touches on the dangers that homosexuals faced in that era but only shows two males embracing.
Season 2 – Of course, everyone is asking will there be a season two? Will Anthony Bridgerton get his love story next? From what I’ve read, it’s one of those, “I’d love to make one,” scenarios but no promises or announcements yet. Will it die as Sanditon did? I cannot imagine all of the book series going on screen, but I never thought Outlander would last as long as well.
As an author myself, I am a distant star in a galaxy of bright-shining stars in the world of historical romance. Julia Quinn is living the dream of seeing her characters come to life on screen. I cannot think of anything more exciting. Even though I’ve had a few tell me that my Legacy Series would be great, I’m an independent author with no publishing house, agent behind me, or huge sales to make it notable. Nevertheless, kudos to Julia who is no doubt enjoying her characters come to life regardless of Shonda tweaking aristocratic reality just a tiny bit.
Feel free to leave your thoughts on whether it floated your remote or not. Reviews have termed it as “sparkly,” “scintillating,” “delightfully horny,” as well as “shallow” and “preposterous and cliche-ridden.” Did you enjoy it, or are you sticking with the book instead? Feel free to comment.