As the new lead, Jonathan Bailey "isn’t entirely to blame here; the writing was never the show’s strong suit in the first place," says Kaleena Rivera. "Once deprived of Regé-Jean Page’s intoxicating charisma and smolder, the plodding insistence to explain even the most easily accessible motivations is far more obvious here. But the weighty declarations of love found in the romance genre, especially those typically found in period settings, need to not only be spoken with conviction, but with a certain gravitas that eludes Bailey. He delivers lines like, 'It is maddening how much you consume my very being,' with a wide-eyed tremulousness that fails at providing the sweeping sense of romance that put the series on the map. Some would argue that romance isn’t what distinguished Bridgerton from other shows in the genre as much as it was the titillating number of graphic sex scenes. This latest season takes a far tamer route in that sex is almost entirely absent. It isn’t a sticking point, per se, but the complete lack of heat over the season proves to be a disappointment. Where’s the heaving bosoms, the slow, sensual licking of silverware? There’s nary a single sleeve rolled up. Where’s the thirst?! The show’s unapologetic horniness was easily its greatest strength, and its absence is keenly felt. The sole saving grace is Simone Ashley, who must have been exhausted trying to carry this entire production on her shoulders. I hope her efforts to summon up heat from those tiny sparks are recognized by casting agents."
Bridgerton fans of Indian descent have qualms with Season 2: "I’ve had mixed feelings about Bridgerton breaking the period drama mould to present a reimagined version of Regency England with a racially integrated society, right from the first season," says Dhvani Solani. "I wrestled with how the absolute legend Shonda Rhimes’ seductive and escapist drama, with its inclusive approach to casting, ignored the many evils of racism, colonialism, and poverty. I’ve had mixed feelings about Bridgerton breaking the period drama mould to present a reimagined version of Regency England with a racially integrated society, right from the first season. I wrestled with how the absolute legend Shonda Rhimes’ seductive and escapist drama, with its inclusive approach to casting, ignored the many evils of racism, colonialism, and poverty. This season, though, hits differently. Particularly, the show’s complete glossing over of our very charged colonial past, its homogenous representation of what it means to be Indian, and then some exoticised Indian rituals that even Indians have never heard of."
Bridgerton begins to wobble in Season 2 as it departs its source material: "There’s truly a lot to enjoy about this season, which is every bit as opulent and beautiful to look at as its predecessor," says Aja Romano. "Our main characters exchange lots of sultry touches. The characters you loved from the first season get more lovable — and so do characters you hated. The Bridgertons get to spend more time together as a family, which is always the best thing the show has going for it. Eloise discovers proto-feminism! Pen’s dresses get marginally less citrus-colored! Lady Danbury gets in a few good cane taps! There’s lots of good stuff happening in season two, and thankfully the plot will cause far less controversy than last season’s. Eventually, however, despite the best efforts of a strong ensemble cast, the season begins to lag considerably, both in pacing and ingenuity, as its plot, much like the first season, gets weirder and more unwieldy. Despite beginning with a host of interesting concepts, a huge budget (season one reportedly clocked in at $7 million per episode), and an utterly talented ensemble to venture forth with, season two winds up spinning its wheels in its final few episodes. The point at which Bridgerton starts to wobble is also the point at which it departs drastically from the novel it’s based on."
Bridgerton Season 2 understands that romance is hotter than sex: "There are reasons beyond propriety that romance typically trades in such delayed gratification, a rule Bridgerton was once an exception to and now follows to the letter," says Alison Herman. "The truth is that it’s rarely as hot to witness a relationship’s consummation as it is to anticipate it. That’s why romance has thrived as literature with no visual component to speak of, allowing viewers to use their imaginations and actively participate in the illusion. In my review of Season 1, I described the adaptation of Quinn’s novels as 'sexy without quite being erotic.' If anything, Season 2 is the reverse. There’s not a lot of sex, but in the crackling chemistry and relentless self-denial that defines Anthony and Kate’s dynamic, there’s plenty of eroticism."
It's time for Bridgerton to say gay: "With its second season, Bridgerton gave audiences another rich and ravishing journey of scandal and love," says Kristy Puchko. "Yet for all these pretty pleasures, there was one resounding disappointment: an utter lack of queer romance. Other critically celebrated historical fiction series have proudly and powerfully centered on queer romance. Just look to the lesbian love at the core of Dickinson or the gay relationship between the pirate captains in Our Flag Means Death. So why couldn't Bridgerton be next?"
Creator Chris Van Dusen defends the dearth of sex scenes in Season 2: "Sometimes waiting is just as sexy and just as steamy as, you know, getting there early," he says. "At the end of the day, it's a different story this season, and we're following new characters. But our approach to the intimacy on the show, it remains very much the same, and we've used our intimate scenes to tell a story." He adds that the Bridgerton writers room will "never do a sex scene for the sake of doing a sex scene....I think all the intimate scenes have a purpose. That was true for season one. And it's definitely true for season two. It's told a little differently this season."
Van Dusen met with historical consultants in its depiction of Indians living in Britain at the time: As The New York Times' Desiree Ibekwe explains, "not only were Indian women entering into relationships with English men in 19th-century India, but there were also women of Indian descent living in England during this time. British officials who had children with Indian women sometimes had ambitions for those children to live and receive an education in Europe. The story of Kitty Kirkpatrick is evidence of this desire: The child of a Muslim noblewoman and an administrator of the East Indian Company, she was sent to England as a child, separated from her mother and became a member of English society."
Jonathan Bailey discusses the psychology of Anthony Bridgerton and why there is less sex in Season 2: "I knew that, in the hands of Chris Van Dusen, and I knew from the original source material of reading Anthony’s book, that (the season’s tone) was always totally going to shift, because there was so much about Anthony that was unresolved and unaccounted for in his actions," Bailey says in a wide-ranging interview with The Hollywood Reporter. "Psychologically, I knew that we were going to deal with his trauma, and I was really looking forward to that; knowing that was going to be something we get deep into and introducing Simone Ashley as Kate Sharma, just naturally it was always going to show how, in true romance genre, people come together in completely different ways. To know that it was going to be a psychologically driven season, I think, was always going to be appealing. So, it was good to lean into that. But then everything else, you just put the blinkers on, and you just work and think about ways in which you can really believe what your character is doing, and completely trust in Shonda Rhimes and Netflix to do the rest. So much of the show is in the edit, as well as onset and the design and the choreography and all those things. We are incredibly well-supported. But now, yes, [I feel] incredibly relieved. You just want people to care for your characters as much as you do, and as Simone and I care about Kate and Anthony. To have a sense that people are really understanding them — because they’re confusing at certain points — is thrilling, because it sort of validates your understanding of humans, in a way."
Did Simone Ashley's work on Sex Education prepare her for filming Bridgerton's more intimate scenes?: "On a technical aspect, yes," she says. "Both of those shows are incredibly different, which I think is very obvious, but I think working with an intimacy coordinator on Sex Education and learning what it means to be a professional actor coming to a set, being involved in a scene like this. And it made me exercise a muscle to ensure that my scene partners feel comfortable and safe, that I feel comfortable and safe, and to listen to my instincts and communicate whatever I wanted to communicate. Before, intimacy scenes weren’t handled in that way. But now, we are in an era where they are choreographed and there’s always an intimacy coordinator on set. I think it’s great. I could go to work, bring these scenes to life, and go home and feel comfortable and safe."
Adjoa Andoh says Bridgerton's diversity can truly have an impact: "I love the fact that the show can provoke the conversation that goes, 'What do you mean they were all those people of color there? No there weren’t,'" she says. "To then go, 'Okay, well go and have a look, because you will find that there were.' And I’m sure this is part of Black Lives Matter, as well. But our government is currently assessing our school curriculum in terms of history, and the history that is told and not told. So, I’m not saying that Bridgerton is affecting government thinking on that, although I do know lots of people in government love the show. I just think that’s the zeitgeist. That’s where we’re at in the world now. And I’m really thrilled to be a part of that, and to be in a show that says: It doesn’t matter what your race is, what your religion is, what your sexuality is, whether you want to be a homemaker or be a woman does rocket science — if you just want to watch a lovely stately home, a good frock and a bit of will they-won’t they, all of that is available to you in this show. I get photographs of young girls and boys dressed as Lady Danbury, children of color, just feeling like they can own the story. And I find that very moving because that wasn’t something that was available when I was a kid."