Shondaland’s debut entry to Netflix, ‘Bridgerton,’ is a delightful and exquisitely styled escapist period drama that focuses on the romantic exploits of London’s beau monde in Regency-era England. A gossip-columnist, secretly publishing under the pseudonym Lady Whistledown, narrates the exciting goings-on in the lives of London’s elite. At the center of the show is the titular Bridgerton family, a shockingly-prolific aristocratic brood whose widowed mama has so many children that she named them all alphabetically (which may seem ridiculous to some, but is orderly to her).
The close-knit siblings – Anthony, Benedict, Colin, Daphne, Eloise, Francesca, Gregory, and Hyacinth – all range between the ages of late 20s to early tweens. Season 1 of ‘Bridgerton’ revolves around Daphne and her quest to find a love match and live a happily married life, much like the one her parents led before her father’s untimely passing. Let’s take a more detailed look at the first episode. SPOILERS AHEAD.
Bridgerton Season 1 Episode 1 Recap
The first episode of the series is titled ‘Diamond of the First Water’, which is a title bestowed on Daphne Bridgerton when she makes her debut into London’s fashionable society and the marriage mart. Other hopeful debutantes of the season are Philippa, Prudence, and Penelope Featherington, a comically unfortunate group of girls whose ambitious mama Portia has unrefined tastes that often result in the Featherington girls looking like cupcakes.
Along with her three daughters, Lady Featherington is also sponsoring a London season for a distant cousin of her husband’s, Miss Marina Thompson, who makes quite the impression on the young Lords and Misters. Daphne’s initially great chances of success on the marriage mart are tanked by her bumbling brother Anthony, Viscount Bridgerton, who thinks none of her suitors is good enough or financially solvent enough to marry her.
Anthony scares away most of the men that show an interest in Daphne. He just generally makes life exhausting for his sister and mother, while carrying on a less-than-respectable affair with an opera singer. Soon, Daphne’s only suitor is Mr. Nigel Berbrooke, widely considered a simpleton. Meanwhile, Miss Thompson has a long line of charmed suitors, Colin Bridgerton among them, much to Penelope’s dismay.
A glimmer of hope for Daphne arrives in the form of Simon, the newly returned Duke of Hastings, and Anthony’s best friend from college. Simon has no plans of marrying ever and comes up with a daring scheme that involves Daphne. To keep matchmaking mamas off his back and make Daphne seem more desirable to the other men, Simon suggests that they pretend to have a marked interest in each other.
Bridgerton Season 1 Episode 1 Review
First off, the production value of ‘Bridgerton’ is clearly hefty, since the sets and costumes are exquisitely luxe. Dreamy ballgowns and striking dresses contribute to the drama in almost every scene. The background score is also super fun – episode 1 features a string quartet rendition of Maroon 5’s “Girls Like You”. The first episode serves more as an introduction to the characters and the setting, familiarizing the audience with the time the show is set in.
The story moves at a fast pace, and the hour-long episode does not feel dull even for a single moment. People who are new to the historical romance genre may get a bit of a cultural shock when they hear Daphne exclaim earnestly that her entire life is reduced to a single moment – finding a decent husband because that is all she is valued for. She has been raised to believe that she is nothing if not married. ‘Bridgerton’ tries to highlight the blatant sexism that was prevalent back in the 19th century.
Women were little more than livestock, and young girls were raised with a single-minded purpose – get married and provide heirs. In one telling scene, Lady Featherington snaps at Penelope to stop reading a book because it will “confuse her thoughts.” Evidently, it was not considered “lady-like” to have intelligent thoughts and opinions. Another significant characteristic of the show is its imagined color-blind world. Sure, society is horrible to women, but the world of ‘Bridgerton’ is refreshingly racism-free.
Several prominent characters, including our protagonist Simon and the toplofty Queen Charlotte, are people of color and are thankfully not discriminated against. However, it does serve to confuse one about the historical aspect of the setting. The actual Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, on which the character is based, was not black in real life. But this aspect of the show is progressive and inclusive and makes it all the more likable.
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