BRIDGERTON Review - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Matthew Kresal deserves nothing less.
If you've got a Netflix account, you've very likely seen it popping up in recommendations or on the "trending" list. Even if you haven't, you've almost certainly seen discussion of it on social media. This author writes, of course, of Bridgerton. Based on the first book in Julia Quinn's eight-novel series, its eight episodes follow the fortunes of the titular family in the Regency era, the series has become a worldwide hit and Netflix's most-watched series to date. After watching it, it's not difficult to see why that's the case.

For starters, it has all the best things from a costume drama. Drawing on British television's decades of experiences adapting Regency era works from Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters, as well as an eye for cinematic production values, Bridgerton is a gorgeous series to watch. From rich costumes to location filming, along with the odd bit of CGI to cover things, it's clear that Netflix was willing to spend serious money on the series. Indeed, the eight episodes are nothing short of a visual feast at each turn, with every penny well-spent. For suckers for a good historically set drama (and this reviewer confesses to being so), it has a lot going for it.

It's also got the benefit of being an addictive watch. That's perhaps no surprise given the production company behind it, Shondaland, belongs to Shonda Rhimes, who has given us such shows as Grey's Anatomy and Scandal. Using a large ensemble cast with equally as many plot threads at play, not to mention some incredibly steamy scenes of lovemaking, Brigderton compels viewers to stick around for episode after episode with all the tried and true tricks of melodrama. While that may read like a backhanded compliment, it most certainly isn't one, as the series finds variations on themes to draw viewers in as relationships blossom, reputations made or ruined, and fortunes wait to be made or lost. It crafts an alternate history of sorts, one that allows the show to address 21st-century issues of class, race, and toxic relationships in the guise of an otherwise safe costume drama. All the while with a considerable amount of wit to play along the way.

The show's casting is also solid. Focused in this opening season on eldest Bridgerton daughter Daphne (Phoebe Dynevor) and the rakish Simon Bassett, Duke of Hasting (Regé-Jean Page), the pair's chemistry is never in doubt. Indeed, they bring out much in each other both as characters and performers. So much so that they become the heart of the season, the star around which the rest of the series orbits like planets, making it no surprise that Dynevor and Page have become breakout stars in the wake of Bridgerton's release.

Yet Bridgerton is truly an ensemble show, focused both on the titular family but the world of London society, including the Featherington family. There are various siblings such as Jonathan Bailey as eldest brother and defender of family honor Anthony, Claudia Jessie as the independently sassy and bookish Eloise, and Ruth Gemmell as the matriarchal Dowager Viscountess Violet. There's the Featheringtons, a sort of Regency Kardashians, always obsessed with being the big thing, led by Polly Walker as the ambitious Baroness Portia. In their household is Nicola Coughlan as the youngest and most agreeable daughter Penelope, who is also Eloise's best friend, and Ruby Barker as their cousin Marina Thompson who falls into their orbit with a secret. Beyond them, there's Adjoa Andoh as the sharp-minded practically surrogate mother to Simon Lady Danbury, Martins Imhangbe as an up-and-coming boxer who acts as the Duke's confidant, and Golda Rosheuvel steals scenes as the social animal and frequent plotter Queen Charlotte. Of course, with Julie Andrews providing the voice of the society pamphlet writer Lady Whisteldown rounding off the cast, it's a solid collection of players bringing the series to life.

Indeed, the secret of Bridgerton's success lies in how it effortlessly combines both the seemingly old-fashioned costume drama with more modern sensibilities. Gorgeous to look at, compellingly told, and with a solid cast, it's the televisual equivalent of a page-turner. It's not necessarily aiming to be great literature, but to tell a good story. And at that, it succeeds beautifully as an utter joy to watch.

Matthew lives in North Alabama where he's a nerd, doesn't have a southern accent and isn't a Republican. He's a host of both the Big Finish centric Stories From The Vortex podcast and the 20mb Doctor Who Podcast. You can read more of his writing at his blog and at The Terrible Zodin fanzine, amongst other places.

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