Bridgerton: Season 1 Review (The Duke and I)

I must confess that I have been waiting for the Bridgerton series to come to Netflix ever since author Julia Quinn announced that her book franchise had been picked up for an adaptation on the streaming platform. I was even more psyched when it was confirmed that Shondaland’s Shonda Rhimes and series creator Chris van Dusen would take charge of helming the adaptation. I would like to report, gentle readers by the end of the first season, I was already clamoring for more scandals to come in the upcoming London seasons.

Synopsis: Bridgerton Season 1 centers on the events of the first book The Duke and I and chronicles the romance of Simon Basset, the Duke of Hastings, with Daphne Bridgerton, the eldest Bridgerton daughter who happens to be the sister of his best friend Anthony Bridgerton. With one party seeking to rid himself of meddling mamas set on marrying their daughters to London’s most eligible bachelor, and one party seeking to widen her options for her life partner, the two form an “attachment” to accomplish both their goals, all while courting scandal with their uncanny courtship.

I loved Netflix’s adaptation of the Bridgerton books although I admit I would have liked for series to be more compact at six episodes or so. The Duke and I was a rather short book at 300 + pages to fill eight full episodes of scandal and intrigue. As such, it had to borrow some scenes from its sequels. I have no complaints in that part because it managed to flesh out the stories and the characters even more. My only concern was that some of the insertions overshadowed the story of the duke and his duchess a tiny bit.

Shonda Rhimes made sure that all the characters of the Bridgerton brood was established, shining a light on their different personalities. The artistic Benedict, the charming Colin, the almost always absent Francesca, the outspoken Eloise, the mischievous Gregory and the canonball that is Hyacinth.

While the first season also highlighted the character of Anthony as an overprotective brother, which is basically the same nature as his book character, there was a marked difference in the small screen version. The Viscount Bridgerton in the books was a devoted brother who cherished his sister’s opinion in her marriage options but in the series, he was more of an overbearing tyrant who obviously did not care for her sister’s happy union. He came around towards the end but it was an annoying deviation.

We are also introduced to the Featheringtons and Nigel Berbrooke who took on a semi-villain role in the series. In the books, the Featherington matriarch Portia was merely a tactless, tasteless woman obsessed with her position in society and her daughters’ marriages but in the series, she unblinkingly sabotages her ward Marina Thompson’s chances at a good match by forging a letter that breaks her heart. Of course, Marina is a character that is mentioned in the fourth book of the series To Sir Phillip with Love, but she is given a bigger role in the first season of Bridgerton for a filler arc. Nigel Berbrooke was merely a bumbling idiot in the books but in the series, he goes so far as blackmail to force the Bridgertons’ hand at marriage. Poor Nigel.

We also get to know Cressida Cowper (later Twombley), a nemesis of Penelope Featherington in the books but she is introduced in the series as Daphne’s rival. No doubt that she will re-emerge in future installments to come to fruition as the witch she was destined to be.

Lady Whistledown also comes up against a formidable foe in the Queen herself. The latter seeks to reveal who she is to make her pay for her perceived transgressions. (What is happening to me? I am beginning to sound like Whistledown).

I liked the presentation of Daphne and Simon’s story and they truly make a gorgeous looking pair. Its just that I was scandalized with so much intimate scenes between Phoebe Dveynor and Rege Jean Page in the sixth and seventh episodes. I was a tad disappointed that the brunt of the resolution to their problems was limited to the last fiftteen minutes of the series, instead of the gradual unfolding that happened in the books.

I also wish that Simon’s struggles with his speech was even more highlighted. With his lengthy dialogues, it seemed like he never had any issues at all. Book Simon was more quiet and reserved because he took time to figure out what he wanted to say to avoid any accidents. It would have made more sense this way but the duke in the series was quick to form an acerbic response and minced no words in the face of polite society. I also wished that series Phoebe came across as a stronger character who did not seem like she was in the verge of crying most of the time because of her failing quest for a husband. While the series tried to redeem her towards the end, she still came across as a dreamy eyed debutante.

One sure thing I loved about the series was the set up for the future seasons, with Eloise’s inquisitiveness and natural ambition to unmask Lady Whistledown, Benedict’s budding passion for the arts, Penelope’s infatuation with Colin and the events that led Colin to travel the world. Penelope is one of my favorite characters in the series and as always, her kindness and insecurities broke my heart into a million pieces after Colin fails to realize, time and again what a gem this woman was. Arrggghhhh Colin!

Claudia Jessie was marvelous as Eloise. It was as if Eloise literally stepped out from the books to play herself in the series. Kudos to this casting.

I liked how the series managed to convey the bond that brought the Bridgertons together. The production was exquisite. The set and the costumes were marvelous. It was my first time to see an actual dance card. I read about it and always thought it was a figure of speech but it actually turned out to be actual dance cards. I loved the use of modern music produced in orchestra form. A cameo by the Smythe-Smythes would have been cool. All of the efforts to put this production together worked out and everything was executed perfectly. The script also successfully injected diversity issues without being too preachy about it.

Overall, Bridgerton was everything one can expect from a Shonda Rhimes and Julia Quinn team up and as a fan of the franchise, I give my seal of approval and share my excitement about what more is to come. Check out the eight-episode season of the series on Netflix. Stat.

TRIVIA. If the voice of Lady Whistledown sounds familiar, it is because the character is voiced by no less than Julia Andrews.