Bridgerton 1×01 “Diamond of the First Water” Review

LIAM DANIEL/NETFLIX © 2020


Well well, dear readers–here we are. Bridgerton has finally premiered and its first episode is a grand escapade full of some riveting introductions. The social season is among us and Queen Charlotte’s (Golda Rosheuvel) opinion of debutantes is held at exquisitely high regards. But no start of any season ever runs smoothly and that’s the appropriate case with Bridgerton. Shall we begin?

The ever-so perfect, Dame Julie Andrews kicks off the show narrating as Lady Whistledown and that alone is an exquisite beginning–imagine thinking this series is comparable to anything else when we’ve got Julie Andrews on our side.

We start off with the Featheringtons and Polly Walker’s Portia is just about as overzealous as we would’ve hoped and thus, fascinating in every way. We love to hate her even as she insists Prudence’s corset is tied tighter and tighter. We might constantly roll our eyes with this character, but the performance is, without question, top-notch.

And then come the prolific Bridgertons kicking off with Eloise complaining about the outfits they are to wear and screaming for Daphne to make haste. We’ve all seen the clip, we know the one, and it’s one heck of an introduction. (No but seriously, show of hands if Eloise was already your favorite Bridgerton girl and it’s been heightened now because of Claudia Jessie’s superb performance.) That said, while Daphne prepares to make her grand entrance to the queen, a certain viscount is missing and instead, he’s busy tending to his needs against a tree. Shocking.

Queen Charlotte says nay to the Featheringtons, but deems our Daphne flawless–which let’s be real, Phoebe Dynevor really is. But what gets me about this scene is the innocence in Daphne’s expression, the disbelief that somehow she’d be the one to win over the Queen. And the score. Goodness that score is magic.

Then finally, Simon Basset–Duke of Hastings comes riding on horseback and it’s one hell of a subtly fine entrance. But no better than Lady Danbury’s if we’re being frank, and if these characters aren’t to the t of how we were imagining them, we’ll never write again. Because seriously, the woman is a force to be reckoned with–already, through and through.

But characters aside, you’ve seen them, you’ve met them. We know. It’s finally time for Lady Danbury’s ball and while we could have certainly used more of her scolding ABC Bridgertons, the little bit with them noticing her then turning away was delightful. We also pity Daphne especially with Anthony scowling at every man who tried to approach her, but we get it. Let’s go.

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Anthony Bridgerton’s overbearing persona isn’t shocking to book readers, but it can be jarring to those going into the series completely unfamiliar with him. That said however, the belief that he genuinely thinks he’s doing the right thing is fascinating to note where his character growth in the future is concerned. And ultimately, it’s just a great ode to the fact that Viscount Bridgerton is a ridiculously dramatic man–an attractive buffoon at times.

The introduction with Anthony and his opera singer mistress, Siena is a steamy one, but it’s their second scene on screen that sets things in motion and not necessarily in a positive way. As book readers, we have the advantage of knowing what’s ahead with characters, but if that weren’t the case, this scene would tell me that these two aren’t it. I was particularly struck by the conversation involving the late Edmund Bridgerton’s pocket watch, which Anthony’s seen looking at multiple times throughout an episode. But in this moment where it could have potentially served as a significant moment to perhaps showcase something more than just a physical relationship, we’re given the chance to see that substance between the two is severely lacking.

Siena is a fascinating character; we’re not going to dismiss a woman who’s making her way in a world where it’s incredibly difficult for women, but the reality is, her feelings towards Anthony are more selfish than anything else. We’ll touch on this idea in later episodes as well, but the choice to dismiss his fragmented moment of vulnerability by pressing her needs as opposed to listening, is going to be a running theme with the couple that’ll reiterate why they could never be together. These aren’t two people who bring out the best in each other, but rather two damaged people who have no clue how or no real desire to heal the other. And isn’t that what love is supposed do? Bring out the best in people?

We might not see it with these two, but it’s certainly going to be the case with Daphne and Simon. An arrangement you say, you mean, falling in love will be inevitable? But the road to happy endings isn’t easy with overbearing brothers and persistent suitors who need to be locked away instead.

Bridgerton’s first episode preludes the season, and perhaps the entire series remarkably by boldly exhibiting what it’s like to be a woman in the 19th century. Women on Bridgerton run the show, the queen calls the shots, Lady Whistledown is heard, and no one dares to cross Lady Danbury, but to be a gently bred woman was taxing, and the series will showcase this running theme throughout. There’s a particular moment even, where there are scabs on Daphne’s back because of the corsets and it’s fascinating to see the reality behind a piece of clothing none of us would ever want to wear today. It was anything but easy and the lives of these women often came down to single moments. (Which we’ve got to note, Anthony might not exactly know today, but when Daphne says: “To have one’s entire life reduced to a single moment,” it’s a prelude to the fact that a single moment does change his life forever. And it’s all credit to a bee.)

That said, professing these difficulties out loud, and constantly reiterating what it’s like is making the series feel that much richer. Though some women like Daphne want this life for themselves, it doesn’t change the fact that the trials can be frustrating when her opinions are overshadowed by a man’s. To be deemed flawless by the queen, then to lose that touch when every suitor is chased away isn’t easy. Thus both her confidence and heart are now on the line.

Since women run the show, we need to talk about Viscountess Violet Bridgerton scolding Anthony and putting him in his place. So much of what he does is all talk. We’re doing a character deep dive on him as we speak, but the reality is that Anthony’s so out of touch with everything it’s heartbreaking. “Are you merely an older brother or are you the man of this house?” Ruth Gemmell’s embodiment of Violet might just be our favorite thing–to be both so warm and so fierce is an accomplishment all on its own, and each time she’s on screen, we’re preparing ourself for something incredible.

Someone needs to call him out on it and we’re glad Simon is the one to do so. “Where is your wife?” Excellent question, there–somewhere in Somerset we’re sure. But the reality of that conversation is yet another intricate showcase of how out of touch both men are with their own feelings, and naturally each other’s. Granted it’s been a while since they’ve seen each other, but it’s an interesting to note how terrible men are when it comes sharing their emotions, and especially these men. If they’d just openly talk to each other … well we wouldn’t be on the first episode at that point. Thus, we’ll get there, and it’s an excellent start to noting however, how much they see regardless of how little they talk. 

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Then there’s Bridgerton number three and the start of adventures. Colin was about to go Greece before Featherington cousin Marina Thompson got his attention on the dance floor, but while she’ll be his season pursuit, Penelope is the heart of it all. Now while we all know Colin and Penelope’s romance doesn’t take flight until book four, Romancing Mister Bridgerton, we can already tell that a lot of angst might be surrounding these two, and to be frank, we’re here for it. A little angst, when done well, always makes for a better union in our book. The series giving these two some moments of familiarity are both comforting and heartbreaking. But we see Colin dance with Penelope after mean girl Cressida Cowper purposely spills her drink on her. We’re here to talk about the fact that people should be hyped because the chemistry that’s already so palpable between Nicola Coughlan and Luke Newton is only the beginning.

Colin calling Penelope “Pen” in private is already a fantastic little detail to allude to the fact that she’s someone who’s close to him. Societal rules aside, he doesn’t need to call her Miss Featherington when it’s just the two of them. And though he approaches her looking for a certain Miss Thompson, we know that no one’s a threat to the endgame that’s set up for these two. It’s not always going to be pretty or fun watching the angst build up between the two of them, but Penelope’s always been special to Colin, whether he knows it or not. And calling her Pen so early on is a little delight for fans to hold on to. Additionally, there’s the little moment where suitors leave the Featherington’s house, and while no one stops to say goodbye to the girls, Colin makes sure to say goodbye to Penelope. Be still our hearts.

While it’s not always going to be easy for the two of them before their happy ending, and no one wants to see a sad Penelope when she deserves the world, we’ll be singing 101 praises about the work Nicola Coughlan’s doing and how transcendent each moment she’s on screen will be. Coughlan’s embodiment in that little scene with Colin, her awe-struck expression upon Marina’s entrance, the excitement in saying hi to Eloise, and her sadness as she stood away from the dance floor are so telling of what’s in store. This is a woman who’s so good at showcasing a full range of emotions in a character who holds so much in. Penelope might be a wallflower, but Coughlan is a star, and the myriad emotions she’ll continuously convey, even in silence, will always be a marvel to analyze.

Cue Kris Bower’s “We Could Form An Attachment” and let’s all take a moment to appreciate this score before we get into the explosive scene. (Fireworks and all.) Simon proposing he and Daphne pretend they’re in a relationship in order to keep meddling society mothers away from him and to thus deem her desirable in Whistledown’s column is an excellent start to what’ll be the love story of the season.

The way Regé-Jean Page is already playing Simon’s unavailability is astounding. We’re all lying to ourselves if we say we aren’t in love with him at this point. His voiceover kicking off the music as they’re seen walking to the dance floor was stunning–the perfect way to complete an episode. And the jaw-dropping cinematography in that scene might have given us butterflies or two. Why weren’t we invited to Vauxhall?

But it’s everyone’s reaction to that scene, especially Lady Danbury and Violet Bridgerton’s that were so fulfilling. We’re going to need them to meddle in our lives, too because both women know are too good for this society. And someone needs to check Anthony’s blood pressure in that moment, or rather all throughout the episode actually. But Lady Whistledown’s voiceover says it best: “it’s the most romantic coup of the season…” Concluding the episode with such a gorgeous ending sets up the rest of the season beautifully. If we were coming to this with no knowledge of the books, this would have sold it.

Afternoon Tea and Reflection
Further Thoughts:

  • Daphne clutching Eloise’s hand and Eloise wanting to stay with her as Nigel Berbrooke paid a call to Bridgerton house was both sweet and hilarious. She should’ve stayed. Plus Hyacinth laughing at his idiocy. Remarkable.
  • The entire dinner party was a damn delight but between Idiot 1 (Anthony) nudging Idiot 2&3 (Benedict and Colin) to eavesdrop on Simon and Daphne’s conversation and Eloise’s expression before Violet nudged her was everything we did not know we needed. We’re so glad we got to watch that nonsense unfold. And also, Gregory throwing peas. We’re here for it.
  • Marina’s Pregnant. We know who the father is. But where do babies come from? We’ll discuss that in the next episode. I do however want to know why on earth we’re checking to make sure she’s bled. That’s hella weird.
  • Benedict’s smirk to Eloise as she says Lady Whistledown can’t possibly be man is so telling of their incredible bond. But also, Benedict’s facial expressions deserve a category all on their own. Gold.
  • There’s a moment during the dinner, blink and you’ll miss it, but Page wears Simon’s heartaches so expressively well when he ponders the fact that the children have dinner with the entire family. There’s so much of his backstory we get in the next episode, but if you had no idea what was in store, this moment would tell me his life was never this loud or happy as a child.
  • THE COSTUMES.
  • It’s hard to be too upset with Anthony Bridgerton when he’s such a dramatic buffoon through everything. That whole “you’re in my seat” bit? I rolled my eyes and then I rolled my eyes some more. The man is chaos personified and I’m already worn out.
  • Lady Danbury and Violet conspiring to get Daphne and Simon together is just … *chef’s kiss. Outstanding.

What are your thoughts on Bridgerton’s first episode? Do tell.

2 thoughts on “Bridgerton 1×01 “Diamond of the First Water” Review

Add yours

  1. Great review I’m looking forward to reading more.
    Small nitpick, but Anthony does call Sienna by her name a few times in the series, but I don’t think she uses his name at all.

    1. Oh yeah, that we’ve noticed as well, and we should have clarified this, but she doesn’t use his name. And that’s what matters, the formality there as the viscount, and what it means in the future when he insists Kate call him by his name.

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