And truly, that’s the frustration of “Bridgerton” in its second season, which acts as both a celebration of what fans want and a disappointingly rote repetition of what’s come before. So much of the old show is back, with little variation: The endless rounds of repetitive gossip, melodramatic flashbacks to signpost a character’s secret pain, enough classical covers of modern pop songs to keep Vitamin String Quartet in business for years to come (Among this season’s needle drops: “Material Girl,” “Wrecking Ball,” “You Oughta Know.”) It’s all very fussily constructed and pretty to look at, but long stretches just feel like a repeat of season one.
Strangely enough, what changes there are seem to make the show feel more prudish. Gone are most of the acrobatic, taboo sex scenes of season one, replaced with a constipated sense of duty and flummoxed denial of feelings. Save for a few glances of booty here or there, it basically takes till near the end of the season to send Anthony and Kate into one of the show’s signature toe-curling rendezvouses, which is sure to frustrate viewers looking for something a little racier. Sure, the series’ infamous pall-mall scene is here, and it’s a highlight of the season, giving the corseted and frilled characters a welcome chance to let their hair down. Apart from that, though, you’re in for a long eight hours where characters circle around the same arguments and dilemmas again and again, with little progression until a rushed finale that scrambles to tie up loose ends.
There’s something to be said for familiarity, but “Bridgerton” keeps most of the less interesting stuff from last season and jettisons the scandalous intrigue we tuned in for in the first place. It’s more buttoned-up, less irreverent than last time (pall mall escapades aside), and finds even fewer justifications for its punishing runtime. For a show that prides itself on its progressiveness, both in its racial and sexual politics, season two feels like a step towards the conservative. (But at least there’s a cute corgi this time, which helps.)
Entire eight-episode second season screened for review. Season two of “Bridgerton” premieres on Netflix on March 25th.