By Preethi Mangadu
Web Content Contributor
***WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD***
After the hype and anticipation from season one of Bridgerton, on March 25, 2022, season two, based on “A Viscount who Loved Me” by Julia Quinn, was released on Netflix. With a 78% Tomatometer score and 81% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes, this season was a binge-able eight-episode season with classic romantic tropes and South Asian representation intertwined into the Regency Era.
While there are a couple of subplots that deviate from the main storyline, this season is mostly based around Kathani “Kate” Sharma (Simone Ashley), Edwina Sharma (Charithra Chandran), and Viscount Anthony Bridgerton (Jonathan Bailey).
Kate and Edwina arrived at the ton from India with their mother, Lady Mary Sheffield Sharma (Shelley Conn), to find Edwina a husband. Kate acts as the protective older sister who will make sure Edwina is happy in her marriage, and Anthony becomes the main suitor who tries to court Edwina.
However, due to his arrogance and cockiness that Edwina seemingly can’t see, Kate loathes Anthony and makes it her mission to keep him away from her sister, making Anthony hate her as well.
Nonetheless, the hatred and anger, from both parties, unsurprisingly changes into endearment and desire.
“You are the bane of my existence, and the object of all my desires.” This was the proclamation Anthony made to Kate that basically explains their entire relationship in one sentence.
After watching the steamy and passionate relationship of Daphne Bridgerton (Phoebe Dynevor) and Simon Basset (Regé-Jean Page) in season one, many fans expected that season two to be filled with the same dynamics, but surprisingly, this season cleared some of the steam and created tension-filled and slow-burn romance which was created through both the Enemies to Lovers trope and the Love Triangle trope.
While the Enemies to Lovers trope is classically played out and will obviously cause tension and slow burn, the Love Triangle adds a different form of tension that stems from betrayal and secrets. This is because Anthony was actively courting Edwina while he and Kate knowingly had feelings for one another and almost were teasing each other.
Anthony, Kate, and Edwina have a similar dynamic to that of Alexander Hamilton, Angelica Schuyler, and Eliza Schuyler in the musical “Hamilton,” but this time Kate ends up with Anthony in the end, unlike Hamilton and Angelica. While this love triangle dynamic is a bit predictable throughout this season, it still adds necessary drama to Anthony and Kates’s love story.
Nonetheless, the representation through having two South Indian women play leads is admirable and remarkable. Period romances and dramas usually do not have brown girls playing leads, so this was almost a revolutionary step in the television and film industry.
More than that, both Simone and Charithra have darker skin tones; having them as leads combats colorism–a prejudice that lighter skin is good while darker skin is bad—that is deeply rooted in many South Asian communities.
Throughout the show, there are many references to the characters’ Indian culture, as well. For instance, when Edwina was upset, Kate was oiling Edwina’s hair, and before the wedding, Kate, Edwina, and Lady Mary had a Haldi ceremony. Even through their dialog, we can see their heritage, especially when Edwina refers to Kate as “Didi.”
The show referenced Indian culture subtly throughout the costuming too. Sophie Canale, the costume designer, was able to represent the characters’ Indian heritage through the British Regency Era’s style with jewel-toned silks, embroidery, and patterns. The costuming department also had the actors wear some Indian jewelry. The biggest example of this is right before the wedding when Kate gives Edwina emerald green bangles to wear.
The characters are seen almost assimilating into British society, and having these references to their culture, brings a new kind of representation for South Asians in the American TV and Film Industry; often when a South Asian character is showcased in a show or movie, they often only follow American culture or get lost in the stereotypes that they are written in. This show offers showcases the Sharmas’ Indian heritage with pride and respect.
In the end, was season two of Bridgerton as good as the first? Romance and passion-wise, season one offered more awe and spectacle, but the representation that many South Asians received pushed it to be a great season.
Featured Image by Preethi Mangadu