Bridgerton season two spoilers follow.
A few weeks after Bridgerton has returned to our screens, protagonists Anthony and Kathani ‘Kate’ Sharma have already won over viewers with their enemies-to-lovers romance.
Although arguably through fewer sex scenes, their relationship unfolds slowly but surely in a beautifully frustrating game that keeps the audience on the edge of their seats. (Courtesy of the performances by Jonathan Bailey and Simone Ashley, of course, who must have smashed that chemistry-read during casting.)
In the second season of Shondaland’s Regency romp, the central characters’ bond relies as much on banter as it does on charged moments of intimacy, with the grazing of fingers appearing far more frequently than straight-up raunchy sequences.
Comparisons with the racier first chapter – focused on Daphne’s (Phoebe Dynevor) sexual awakening – feel almost inevitable, but season two isn’t as prudish as it may appear at first. It is perhaps sexier, although Kate and Anthony’s sexual tension isn’t released fully until around the 50-minute mark in episode seven.
Significantly, this long-awaited sequence exceeds expectations with its accurate description of female pleasure.
‘Harmony’ gifts fans with one of the most daring sequences of the entire show, and, crucially, it’s told from Kate’s point of view. This takes place not long after her first, secret kiss with Anthony – and the conclusion of a rather disappointing triangle storyline with her sister Edwina (Charithra Chandran), partly diverging from the novels by Julia Quinn.
A chance encounter in the garden leads to a steamy sequence when Kate and Anthony’s bickering pulls them closer. A self-proclaimed gentleman, the viscount hesitates, but it’s Kate who leads the game and tells him to not stop. Her attitude challenges the misconception that women are delicate creatures who can’t enjoy or want sex as much as (or more than) men, as conduct books for young ladies seemed to suggest at the time.
Once again, the show flips the narrative on conventions when the female lead takes control of her own desire. As a string rendition of ‘How Deep Is Your Love’ plays in the background, she gives Anthony her enthusiastic consent and they get entangled in a scene focused on her pleasure.
Crucially, the scene challenges the supposed centrality of penis-in-vagina (PIV) sex. It is a truth universally acknowledged that women and people with vaginas don’t orgasm through penetration alone, and yet television and film rarely depict clitoral stimulation realistically, particularly time-wise.
Bridgerton makes sure to understand that good things take time and no, Kate isn’t expected to orgasm as soon as she is touched. The montage we get to see implies Kate and Anthony’s encounter lasts longer than it is shown, as opposed to the brevity of the male-centred three-thrust sex scene we’ve seen countless times on screen.
Visually, the camera lingers on Kate’s face brimming with pleasure as Anthony goes down on her, the focus shifting from the giving partner to the one who is receiving.
Interestingly, the most sensual element about this sex scene might be Kate’s recollection of it the next morning. After sneaking out on Anthony as he’s asleep, Kate goes back to her room.
Alone, she is invested by flashbacks of her garden adventure: it’s her female gaze piecing sensual morsels together, culminating in an image of Anthony’s face between her legs.
This scene also offers a different perspective on premarital sex. Kate and Anthony are not married (not even engaged) and outdoors, risking being caught at any moment. An element that adds to the spiciness of it all, but it may also damage their reputation, particularly Kate’s.
Viewers know that in the cut-throat London marriage market where the series is set, few things are more scandalous for a young lady than being seen unchaperoned in the company of a man.
This is what happened with Daphne and the Duke (Regé-Jean Page) in season one when they were forced to marry after being spotted kissing.
At the time, the notions of chastity and abstinence were inevitably connected to status. While higher-class ladies were not expected to engage in sexual activity, or take pleasure from it, men had a series of encounters with mistresses from various walks of life.
Anthony is no exception, not just with his relationship with Siena (Sabrina Bartlett) in the first season, but also with casual encounters with sex workers in season two.
Still taboo in some cultures and religions, premarital sex was, instead, not uncommon for working-class women of the Regency era. Those from lower social classes had sex, sometimes within monogamous relationships out of wedlock.
In light of this, it would make sense for Kate – who is committed to supporting herself as a governess in India — to brush off sex as not that big a deal. Her enjoyment of the moment in spite of societal rules is a testament to her fresh, modern approach to sex as well as her curious, practical personality.
Later on, when Anthony wants to make things right and asks her to marry him, Kate refuses, still set on leaving London. The series has its own happy ending with the pair tying the knot off-screen, but diverges from the book in one crucial way.
In the novels, Kate and Anthony are caught together in a compromising circumstance, much like Daphne and Simon are in season one, and are forced to marry to avoid a scandal.
Repeating that narrative would have not just felt uninspired, but it would have done a disservice to Kate and her rebellious, strong-headed nature. instead, Bridgerton has chosen to pave the way for more progressive storylines, proving it can elevate the source material and teasing exciting things ahead for its female characters.
Bridgerton is now available to watch on Netflix. Secret Cinema with Fever Present Bridgerton is open now at Wembley. To purchase tickets, head here†
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