Unpopular Opinion: Bridgerton Edition

Bridgerton has really been drawing a lot of attention since it came out on Netflix last month. While I might not seem like I’m squarely in the target demographic, there were a number of things about it that intrigued me. First off, anytime something’s getting that much attention, as a maker of pop art, I want to check it out and try to see what the appeal is. Add to that the fact that I was a big Downton Abbey fan, and I don’t think it’s a huge leap to think I might have liked the show. So I gave it a shot.

As per my policy, I don’t review things I don’t finish. And I’m reviewing Bridgerton now, so obviously I liked the show enough to stick around to see the end. That said, I loved the first two episodes, then grew increasingly frustrated with the plotting and characterization of the show the longer it went on, plus its insistence on just shoehorning sex in whenever possible. I realize that “I didn’t like this steamy soap opera show because it had too many random steam scenes and was too much like a soap opera” is a pretty idiotic criticism to make. (Kind of like saying, “I didn’t like that chocolate ice cream because it tasted too much like chocolate ice cream.”) But hear me out.

Those first two episodes were a lot of fun. They were setting up characters, setting up conflicts, and it all seemed to be going in a nice straight boy meets girl sort of a pattern. It was light and amusing and very different from any of the darkness kicking around current events, and so I appreciated it for that, and I was really excited to see it continue in that vein.

In many ways, this is the same thing that attracted me to Downton Abbey. I always felt that show was at its best when it was just presenting the lives of the characters through a historical lens. Showing what they thought was important and how they dealt with it. I became most frustrated with the show when it chose instead to delve into the soap opera story lines. The murder accusation was the worst offender that I can remember at the moment. In my opinion, the show jettisoned character for plot in those instances. Sure, anyone can have something “shocking” happen at any point in a plot. But throwing in shocks for the sake of shocks is just too much of a blunt instrument at some point.

Four episodes into Bridgerton, things started really going off the rails. I won’t spoil anything in particular here, but I’ll just say that characters stopped behaving like rational beings. They stopped being consistent with the people we got to know the first few episodes, instead choosing to do stupid things that (to me) felt like they were done simply because the writers wanted them to happen. It’s cheap theatrics, and it’s disappointing. For example, one of my personal big pet peeves is when a conflict would be easily solved if only the characters would take five minutes to talk to each other. I understand that sometimes people refuse to talk to each other, and that can make for problems. However, people need reasons not to talk. They can’t just decide not to talk because because. Bridgerton had huge swathes of conflict that relied heavily on this. So in many ways, my disappointment was heightened because I liked the first two episodes so much.

This is all setting aside the sex scenes, which really, really didn’t need to be what they were. If any of you out there are thinking about watching Bridgerton and just fast forwarding through the sex or closing your eyes or whatever, save yourself 8 hours and just don’t watch the show. (Well, maybe you’d only save 7 hours, because you’d be skipping about an hour of the show already.) What did Bridgerton feel like? It felt like Game of Thrones meets Downton Abbey, with more of the flaws of both than the strengths.

All told, I give it a 4/10 for the season. There were still glimmers of things I enjoyed, and those first two episodes were great, but it was a show that made me want to keep checking my phone or do a crossword while I waited for it to finish things that were stupid so that it could get back to the few things I still wanted to find out about. I don’t believe I’ll be punching a ticket for the second season, and unless you’re a big fan of steamy soap operas, I recommend going elsewhere for your diversions. I know it’s gotten a lot of great reviews. I just think they’re wrong. 🙂

(I understand that there’s a fair bit to like in this show. The costuming and set design are both really solid, and there’s plenty of drama to feast on. I think the 4/10 is more a response to my disappointment of what might have been, and that’s okay I suppose. Not all shows out there are made for me. I’ve learned to live with that fact, even if it makes me bitter from time to time.)


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