We're finally getting a second season of Bridgerton, Netflix's costume drama / soap opera / historical fiction that became the hottest thing in streaming thanks in no small part to its steamy, sexy central romance and its star, as one half of that romance, Rege-Jean Page. Page became an immediate sex symbol and instant celebrity, one whose gig hosting Saturday Night Live was so beset by screaming fans that it was hard at times to pay attention to the sketches. Which is why many found it tremendously curious when it was announced that Page wouldn't be back for season two.
While we've never gotten a full accounting from Page or the show's producers, speculation has settled on the fact that Bridgerton is based on a series of books, with each novel focusing on the love life and marriage prospects of a different Bridgerton sibling. Season one told the story of Daphne Bridgerton (Phoebe Dynevor) and her eventual marriage to the Duke of Hastings (Page), and season two was always going to shift focus to the next marriage-able Bridgerton, eldest son Anthony (Jonathan Bailey). Whether it was the show or Page himself who concluded that a reduced role for the now quite in-demand actor wasn't worth it, the upshot is that Page won't be appearing in the new season.
This is bad news for people who made Being Hot for Rege-Jean Page their personality back in 2021, but it does mean there's an opportunity for someone else in the Bridgerton cast to be the breakout star of season two. The field is wide open; this isn't just about who's the hottest guy on the show now (ahem, Jonathan Bailey), but about which character will step up to be the one everybody is talking about this year. We've got some prime contenders, including established characters from season one and a few newcomers.
The eldest Bridgerton doesn't have a ton of ground to make up if he wants to emerge at the head of the pack for season two. Anthony spent the first season pining for the opera singer he couldn't have and then resolved to find an eligible wife without concern for love. That's the energy he's bringing into season two as he becomes quite the hot prospect for the single women in London who'd kill to marry a viscount (also have you looked at him??). While his mother, Violet (Ruth Gemmell) worries about her son lackong love in his life, Anthony finds himself vexed by a new woman in town, Kate Sharma (Simone Ashley), and from their very first meeting, you'd have to be awfully thick not to sense what's in store for the two of them this season.
Kate makes quite the first impression, on both Anthony and viewers in general. When we first see her, she's riding her horse, wild and free across the great green pastures, clad in a lush hooded cape that makes her look like she's in some combination of The French Lieutenant's Woman and Seabiscuit. Outspoken and independent, Kate is a new arrival in London with her mother and sister, years after her mother had left town in a bit of a scandal, marrying an Indian man of common blood who'd already had a daughter (that'd be Kate). She doesn't love it in London (she can't stand English tea!), but she's here to help her sister find a husband and earn security. Kate herself is all of 26 years old and single, so society is already casting a wary eye at her and calling her a spinster, but she's not concerned with finding love for herself.
Edwina (Charithra Chandran) is Kate's younger sister, of marriageable age, and quite the catch for the men of London. Edwina finds favor with Queen Charlotte (Golda Rosheuvel), which is good for her standing in society but also puts a ton of pressure and scrutiny on her. In the Schuyler Sisters dynamic that Kate and Edwina have going on, Edwina is definitely Eliza, the younger one who Kate looks out for to her own detriment. Edwina doesn't have the personality that her older sister has, so if one of them is going to break out, it is probably going to be Kate, but don't underestimate the appeal of the sweet ingenue.
Eloise (Claudia Jessie) is the exact opposite of the sweet ingenue. She's the rebellious iconoclast of the Bridgerton family, and if last season she was unsettled by the idea of making her society debut and subjecting herself to outdated courtship rituals,you can imagine how she'll be bristling this season when that debut is finally here. Eloise still has no time for it, of course, and would much rather spend her time resuming her quest to learn the secret identity of scandal-sheet pseudonym Lady Whistledown. While Eloise could become the breakout character of season two, we suspect that won't happen until she gets her own spotlight season a la her older siblings Daphne and Anthony.
Speaking of Eloise trying to figure out who Lady Whistledown is, it speaks terribly of her detective skills that the true identity of Regency London's own Gossip Girl has been her best friend Penelope (Nicola Coughlan) all along, and she's none the wiser. The Bridgerton audience was made privy to this bombshell at the end of this season, so now we get to follow Penelope as she sets about the stressful task of reporting on everybody's business while not getting found out. Which should be a challenge since Queen Charlotte is bound and determined to unmask her once and for all.
Penelope's family has fallen on hard times since the death of her father in season one. They are now in a very precarious financial position and in need of a savior. In steps Lord Jack Featherington (Rupert Young), a cousin to the family, who moves into the mansion, makes himself right at home, and starts telling everybody what to do. While this sets up a rather fascinating game of social chess between Jack and Lady Portia (Polly Walker), it won't likely set Jack up to be the character everybody loves this year.
A dark horse in this year's race for breakout character is Newton, the Sharma family's adorable corgi, who, along with sisters Kate and Edwina and their mother, Lady Mary (Shelley Conn), moves in with Lady Danbury (Adjoa Andoh), who takes it upon herself to sponsor Edwina's search for a husband. She is not, however, a fan of dogs, so look for a battle of wills between her and Newton.
Bridgerton returns for its second season on Netflix this Friday, March 25, 2022.
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Joe Reid is the senior writer at Primetimer and co-host of the This Had Oscar Buzz podcast. His work has appeared in Decider, NPR, HuffPost, The Atlantic, Slate, Polygon, Vanity Fair, Vulture, The A.V. Club and more.
TOPICS: Bridgerton, Charithra Chandran, Claudia Jessie, Jonathan Bailey, Nicola Coughlan, Phoebe Dynevor, Polly Walker, Regé-Jean Page, Rupert Young, Ruth Gemmell, Simone Ashley