Even With Fewer Butts, Jonathan Bailey Makes ‘Bridgerton’ Season 2 Worth Watching
The Daily Beast’s Obsessed
There’s been a lot of talk about how much less sex there is in the new season of “Bridgerton.” First, I was appalled. Then I saw Jonathan Bailey’s performance.
In the first episode of the new season of Bridgerton, you see star Jonathan Bailey’s butt. It is a pleasant experience. This isn’t particularly shocking. This is Bridgerton after all; Bailey’s character was introduced derriere-first in the series pilot. No, the shocking thing is that you don’t see it again.
That is unwelcome news for anyone who appreciated everything the first season of Bridgerton had to offer on its way to becoming one of the most popular Netflix series of all time, which is to say: butts, boobies. Butts and boobies in the context of sexy times. Season 1 of Bridgerton was a horny show.
I remember it clearly. It was Regé-Jean Page’s butt.
The time: Christmas week 2020. The mood: nihilistic. Everything about our pandemic existence was frustrating, terrifying, mournful, and quite literally isolating. We were so grateful for his butt. It was maybe not constant, but frequent enough to make the whole “DEAR GOD, what is our lives right now???” of it all more palatable. Bridgerton was a fun, frothy, and carefully crafted swoon of a period soap opera, and it was also gloriously frisky. Those things were inextricable from each other.
Much has been written in the lead-up to Bridgerton Season 2, which is finally available for streaming, about how remarkably sexless it is in comparison to the first season. In a manifesto that must be screamed from the rooftops, my colleague Laura Bradley raised the pointed question: “Who asked for a less horny Bridgerton?” She writes, “Sex scenes are few and far between, and even the hot-and-heavy interludes feel somehow… chaste. At the risk of sounding crass, I must ask: Where did all the butt shots go?”
I read this news before I screened the new season. I can’t remember the last time a piece of writing pierced me with such tragedy, disappointment, and dread. And, while I am, to quote my dear late grandmother Ruthmary when she had reached her maximum boiling point of anger, “pretty peeved right now” over this, I am also surprised and humbled to learn that after watching the season… and I can’t believe I’m going to say this… I almost didn’t care.
Thanks to Jonathan Bailey’s exquisite lead performance and expert ability to be almost unbearably hot even while clothed—not to mention, you know, things like the show’s writing being as sharp as ever and the grandness of its aesthetic even more wondrous—I quite enjoyed the new season anyway. Who am I?!
Not even the Deuxmoi of Regency England, Lady Whistledown herself, could’ve scripted this twist.
Here are things I enjoyed about the new season, beginning, like a broken record, with Bailey.
Yes, I, as did the world, loved Page’s breakout performance. But, like the books it is based on, this series couldn’t be better suited to a rotational structure, in which each season centers on a different character, thus minimizing—or, in his case, excising—other ones.
Bailey’s Anthony Bridgerton is both a familiar type—the brooding gentleman torn between duty and desire—and one with more depth than you might expect from a character that could easily be written off as Generic Handsome British Man as Romantic Lead in Period Piece. He has an exceptional ability to carry his angst, pain, and guilt with him without bogging down things into a somber drag. There’s a refreshing levity to him, in spite of the over-the-top seriousness that a soap opera like this requires.
Anthony was thrust into the position of caring for his family at too young an age, when his father suddenly died. Now that it is time to marry, he feels a responsibility to choose a practical spouse who would help maintain the family’s status rather than open himself up to the idea of love, passion or romance. When the Sharma sisters, Kate (Simone Ashley) and Edwina (Charithra Chandran), arrive, he eyes Edwina as a partner because she checks every logical box. Things are only complicated when, after a combative start, he and Kate, who are more like each other than either care to admit, ignite an undeniable romantic spark.
While, yes, egregiously light on sex scenes, the beats of this plot are incredibly gratifying. They are also incredibly obvious. Anyone with any familiarity with romantic dramas and comedies could spot each development coming a mile away. Thank God! What is a series like Bridgerton if not indulgent?
We are watching it for a very specific experience, and that experience is to watch people fall in love the way they do in romantic dramas and comedies. That the series thwacks each beat with the force of a mallet on a croquet ball is wonderful. Give us what we want! And, better yet, do it with the immense scale, lavish production design, and sweeping cinematography that Bridgerton has the budget to serve up.
This is a series that, in the new season, stages a love connection amidst a massive set piece that includes a choreographed dance number set to an all-strings version of Robyn’s “Dancing On My Own.” In what universe am I not eating every second of this up? And, by the way: After you see it, come back to me and let’s talk. The way Bailey smolders at Ashley and then whispers in her ear is perhaps the most pornographic thing I’ve seen on TV. How many prizes can we give Bailey for that gaze alone?
Yes, it is more basic bitch of me than I care to admit to be drooling this aggressively over Bailey’s performance. Not sorry!
He is also openly gay, which I’d like to mention because it’s so cool and casual that the sexy romantic lead on the biggest romantic TV series in the world just happens to be a gay man and no one cares. I mean, I care, because I enjoy the fact that I get to spend hours a day fantasizing about our life together as husbands. (His butt features more prominently in these fantasies than it does in Bridgerton.)
But the way that this isn’t some seismic event is the kind of progress that is so welcome, I almost feel gross acknowledging it because it makes it into the very “thing” that it’s so nice it isn’t. It’s just that, as the future Mr. Kevin Fallon-Bailey, I’m proud of my man.