Spoilers ahead for the Bridgerton books.
Marissa Martinelli: It’s official: Bridgerton, Netflix’s massively popular drama based on the series of romance novels by Julia Quinn, has been renewed for a second season. The first season was loosely based on the first book in the series, The Duke and I. You’d figure that the second season would stick to the second book in the series, The Viscount Who Loved Me, which follows the eldest Bridgerton, Anthony, and his love interest, Kate Sheffield.
But it’s not quite that simple, is it? The first season has already made some major changes to the books that could have quite a ripple effect in future seasons.
Rebecca Onion: 1) What will they do about the fact that everybody is in love with Daphne and Simon, the couple that starred in the first book/first season, and who barely figure at all in the second book?
2) In the first season, Anthony is in love with an opera singer. In the second book, Anthony is a “notorious rake” who has never been in love; his big thing is that he can’t do it.
It seems like both these things will mean that the second season is totally different from the book.
Marissa Martinelli: Excuse me, Rebecca. Anthony’s big thing is that HE’S AFRAID OF BEES.
Rebecca Onion: The bees are related to his Inability to Love.
Rachelle Hampton: Okay but the very first and last shots of this season are of a bee!!! Based on that, I think they will work his fear of bees into the Season 2 plotline.
Rebecca Onion: But how can they? It is the most preposterous character motivation ever committed to paper.
Marissa Martinelli: How DARE you. This is the only good character motivation in all of literature.
Rachelle Hampton: You say that and yet the main tension of the first season is that Daphne doesn’t understand how sperm works.
Rebecca Onion: It has the advantage of being crystal clear. “My dad died of a bee sting. I am scared of bees and of dying.” Aren’t we all scared of dying? I guess it’s the suddenness of his dad’s death that really scarred him.
Rachelle Hampton: Well isn’t his actually character motivation that he can’t fall in love because he assumes he’s going to die young like his dad?
Rebecca Onion: Yeah yeah yeah. He’s going to die young because BEES.
Rachelle Hampton: Well it’s not like they had EpiPens back then! Honestly, I really thought this plotline was ridiculous when I read The Viscount Who Loved Me.
Marissa Martinelli: I made Rachelle read The Viscount Who Loved Me a couple years ago and then we were talking about a different romance and I said, “I hate when the main obstacle between the two leads is that they just won’t communicate” and Rachelle was like “Sorry they can’t all be about bees.” I’ve never recovered.
Rebecca Onion: Let me get it straight. Anthony has to get married in the book because he’s so afraid of a bee sting that when Kate gets stung by a bee he tries to suck out the poison in full view of the ton. And the bee sting is on, like, her décolletage.
Rachelle Hampton: Yeah, he’s just sucking at her chest out in the open. As one does.
Marissa Martinelli: Listen, we can argue all day about whether sucking the bee poison out of a lady’s chest is a good reason for two people to have to get married, which it is and you’re both wrong.
Rachelle Hampton: Marissa, I am agreeing with you!!! Somewhat. Being afraid of bees in Regency England when your father died of a bee sting is a reasonable fear.
Marissa Martinelli: But it seems clear to me that we can probably expect Season 2 to be faithful to Anthony’s plotline in The Viscount Who Loved Me, given that Anthony finishes Season 1 single and ready to find someone—anyone. One of the challenges of adapting the Bridgerton books as a TV series rather than, for example, eight different movies, is that there’s a lot of new plot that needs to pad out each episode! The real question is: What will that plot be in the new season?
One of those added plots in Season 1 involved a minor character from the books, Marina Thompson, who they really put through the wringer: She winds up pregnant out of wedlock and her lover, the baby’s father, turns out to have died. In the books, we only know about Marina because she dies after lifelong depression and her death leaves her widower free to marry Eloise. But I can’t see that working now that we’ve met the character!
Rebecca Onion: You think season 2 will keep on following Marina? And Daphne and Simon? As, like, B and C plots?
Rachelle Hampton: It has to, right? There’s no way for them to shuffle these characters that everyone’s invested in off to the side.
Marissa Martinelli: I don’t want more Daphne and Simon. They got their happily ever after. Now it’s time to let them be. That’s pretty much the only requirement of a romance novel.
Rebecca Onion: Marissa, I feel like you’re the only person on the internet to have this opinion. Everybody wants more D + S.
Marissa Martinelli: But then what is the plot for them???
Rebecca Onion: There is none, in the books. They simply have many children.
Marissa Martinelli: They overcame their issues, they had a baby, let’s move along. They can show up to play a game of Pall Mall, but that’s it. I don’t want to see any more angst for that couple.
Rachelle Hampton: Maybe his child will develop a stutter!
Rebecca Onion: Could they actually maybe do something with the race issue? Instead of doing like two lines on it like in the last season? Maybe develop it a little. Or would nobody want Simon to have to do that?
Rachelle Hampton: I mean the show’s already gotten in trouble with race storylines, hasn’t it? I doubt they’ll want to lean into that. But who knows, maybe Shonda herself will be more involved with the second season and that’ll come up. The Regency era was kind of right before things were heating up in America around slavery.
This is the central issue with adapting romance novels into television shows, isn’t it? Individual books in romance series are usually worlds unto their own. You might see a character from Book 1 pop up in Book 4, but it’s pretty minor.
Rebecca Onion: Totally. There are a bunch of ones that do this conceit where it’s all the men from a family and how they find their women, or whatever. And for the first 20 pages of the next book you are annoyed and want the last couple and then you figure out how to like the next couple.
Rachelle Hampton: But television series require continuity to maintain their audience. The way that Netflix’s other romance novel offering, Virgin River, handled this was just to seemingly expand the main couple’s trials and tribulations.
Marissa Martinelli: This is why I think it was a mistake to give Anthony and Benedict disposable love interests in this first season. I had a lot of difficulty getting invested in Siena or Madame Delacroix knowing they’d probably get the ax to make room for Kate and Sophie Beckett (that’s Benedict’s love interest in the books) later on.
Rebecca Onion: In the book Anthony’s thing is that he’s a rake avoiding love. In Season 1 of the show he’s completely in love, like a puppy dog. Like, he was almost not hot. He was too in love. How they will get that character some of his mojo back? I don’t know.
Rachelle Hampton: But Anthony’s issue in the books isn’t that he doesn’t want to fall in love, it’s that he doesn’t want to fall in love with his wife specifically because he saw how devastated his mom was when his dad died and is convinced he’d die young too.
Rebecca Onion: Honestly romance novelists are heroes. How do they come up with so many different serious, yet surmountable, barriers to intimacy?
Rachelle Hampton: That’s one of the things Alyssa Cole talked to me about! She was like, romance novelists are basically mystery writers. You know how it has to end, but how you’re going to get there is a puzzle.
Marissa Martinelli: It also helps that there are some beloved tropes for them to choose from, which brings me to my pitch for a Marina subplot in Season 2. The last time we saw her she was pregnant and leaving with her dead lover’s brother, Sir Phillip, who gallantly agreed to marry her to save her honor. It would be cruel to write Marina off and then pop back in a couple of seasons later and say, “Oh yeah, she lived a miserable life in an unhappy marriage and then died. Here, Eloise, marry this guy who deeply resents her.” (Here is where I admit that I did not like To Sir Phillip, With Love, which is the book where that happens.)
They’ve made such a big deal about how Eloise feels destined for something more than the ordinary Regency woman life, I think they should just Jo March her and let her do her own thing. Meanwhile, Marina gets a lovely marriage of convenience plot where she and Phillip bond over their shared grief for George and develop feelings and feel guilty but eventually learn to love each other.
Rachelle Hampton: I definitely want Eloise to do something more than ordinary Regency woman life. If the queen can be Black, Eloise can go to university.
I do wonder, since they’re retconning the series to make it more diverse, if they wouldn’t make some of the characters gay. I was talking to someone and she was like, if the looks between Penelope and Eloise are left unexplored, I will riot.
Rebecca Onion: There was a tiny little gesture toward that with Benedict’s travels among the artistic noble set. Benedict seemed … not uninterested. If there is a Season 3 that’s Benedict and a man I will be like WHAT.
Marissa Martinelli: Rachelle, I can’t believe we’ve gone this long without talking about Penelope, who will surely be a major focus in Season 2 now that the audience already knows she’s Lady Whistledown.
Rebecca Onion: In the books I think Penelope + Colin is Book 4?
Marissa Martinelli: Given the accelerated timeline of Season 1 revealing who Whistledown is to the audience already I wonder if Pen and Colin will be Season 2’s other couple along with Anthony and Kate.
Rachelle Hampton: Pen is definitely a fan favorite, for people who love the show and the books. So maybe Pen and Colin will be the A plot while Anthony/bees will actually be the B(ee) plot.
Rebecca Onion: This could be very interesting, especially if the show thinks they might get only one more season.
Marissa Martinelli: The truth is there’s really not enough plot to sustain a prolonged TV series here. And the youngest four Bridgerton kids’ stories are so self-contained compared to the first four, which have the mystery of Lady Whistledown hanging over them.
I’m glad that producers are taking note of romance novels’ adaptability. I just wonder if the genre, with its focus on happy endings, is not fundamentally incompatible with TV’s need for endless renewals.
Rachelle Hampton: I feel like TV shows are getting more comfortable with shows ending (and Netflix certainly isn’t afraid to cancel shows).
Rebecca Onion: A good example of one that goes on and on is Outlander, which manages to do that by a) putting in a TON of other couples and b) dwelling a lot on the historical settting and c) having a very interesting frame in the time travel thing. I’m not sure Bridgerton’s setting or conceit holds up the same way.
Marissa Martinelli: Right, the Outlander books are like that, too, so it’s closer to the source material.
Rachelle Hampton: I’m very much hoping that this show doesn’t follow in Shondaland’s footsteps and continue for 24 seasons.
Marissa Martinelli: There are only eight Bridgerton kids, thank God. I can’t keep track of Anthony to Xylophone.
Rachelle Hampton: Honestly, the way Netflix has dragged out Virgin River (which I love and adore) makes me think that they’re more than willing to pull a Game of Thrones and keep going past where the books leave off. Which, to be fair to Netflix, the adaptation of Virgin River is much better than the books it’s based on.
Rebecca Onion: That’s a good point. Interesting to consider the degree to which that puts whole new expectations on romance genre writing.
Rachelle Hampton: I do wonder how these adaptations will affect actual novels.
Marissa Martinelli: What romance novels do you want to see adapted next? (Cough, cough, The Kiss Quotient.)
Rachelle Hampton: Alyssa Cole’s Reluctant Royals series would be amazing on screen. Any of Beverly Jenkins’ historical romances. I think Jasmine Guillory’s books might work better as movies than as a television series.
Marissa Martinelli: Not enough bees IMO.
Support our independent journalism
Readers like you make our work possible. Help us continue to provide the reporting, commentary, and criticism you won’t find anywhere else.