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The Diamond, The Wallflower, and Big Fights in ‘Bridgerton’ Season 2

Edwina Sharma and Penelope Featherington in Bridgerton Season 2
©Netflix

When the trailer for Season 2 of Bridgerton was released, the inclusion of so many moments from the book — Anthony’s dunk into the water, Kate’s bee sting, Pall Mall, shots of the Aubrey Hall library — made many fans giddy that everything we loved most about the book would have a place in the show. That didn’t end up being the case as literally as some fans hoped because while those moments are still represented, some are in vastly different forms than expected or anticipated. Quite a few of the predictions I made proved to be very, very incorrect. (We all need to be humbled every now and then, I suppose.) Some of the changes were delightful surprises, some of them were relatively innocuous and precisely the kind of thing you’d expect from an adaptation, and some of them left me scratching my head in confusion. To borrow and slightly modify the beauty world adage about eyebrows, The Viscount Who Loved Me and Bridgerton Season 2 are more like cousins, not sisters, and one of the most significant departures from the source material was the characterization and story arc for Edwina. 

When we meet the televised version of her, Edwina Sharma is the diamond of the season, not just because she’s beautiful, but because she’s been taught to shine so brightly by her older sister Kate Sharma. And as Anthony pursues her, she does, in a way, fall in love with him, but only with the crafted ideal he presents to her. There are clues early on in Bridgerton Season 2 that the two may only be a good match on paper. Edwina is confused to the point of discomfort at the whole of the Bridgerton family, while in Kate’s competitiveness over Pall Mall and their delight in trying to crush each other, you can see the doubt on her face when Daphne openly laughs at the idea that Anthony is even-tempered. But while Kate’s tutelage to prepare her sister for the social season is done with love and the absolute best of intentions, it nevertheless resulted in Edwina not trusting herself well enough to listen to her instincts. This change is very much unlike her book counterpart, who can tell almost right away that she and Viscount Bridgerton are not at all well-suited and that it’s he and Kate who are meant to be. Instead, this Edwina keeps pushing it all down, and it’s only at the most inconvenient moment possible that everything finally becomes clear to her and her life comes crashing down in explosive fashion.

Charithra Chandran as Edwina Sharma in Bridgerton Season 2 Episode 6 "The Choice"
©Netflix

Whether the starker changes in Bridgerton worked for you personally or not, the way the show tells this story makes Edwina’s anger at Kate and their resulting fight in Episode 6 one of the most important moments in the season for each of them. Initially, I was shocked by how different the relationship between these two sisters strayed from the book. Still, upon rewatches, I’ve been more struck by how much all the alterations to that storyline, which manifest themselves the most in Episode 6, “The Choice,” make me think of Edwina in relation to another character — one that she otherwise has little to do with: Penelope Featherington.

Their journeys are an interesting inversion throughout the season, and especially so in the last few episodes. Edwina is named the season’s diamond, while Penelope remains a wallflower. Privately, Pen confidently pulls all the levers and greases all the wheels that make the Lady Whistledown machine run. At the same time, Edwina struggles to find her footing and see with clarity what’s right in front of her when it comes to her inevitably doomed relationship with Lord Bridgerton. When the facade finally shatters for each of them in the second half of the season, that opposing dynamic continues.

For both Edwina and Penelope, their most pivotal moments revolve around a painful fight, but the resulting fallout has vastly different consequences for each by the time the season closes. Edwina’s life implodes publicly, in front of the entire ton and the Queen of bloody England, and she says some very gut-wrenching things to Kate. There are some tricky emotions at play during that disastrous wedding day, and it doesn’t make those rough scenes any less hard to watch just because they may be understandable. Edwina cuttingly telling Kate that she’s only her “half-sister” is truly awful to witness, but it’s an ugly truth that people can lash out when they’re hurt, especially when that hurt was caused in large part by someone they trust so implicitly and love so deeply. If it’s not pretty, it’s at least honest.

I’ve seen some criticism of Edwina’s reaction to finding out about Kate and Anthony’s feelings and holding onto that sense of betrayal until Kate’s accident makes her immature and petulant, and while I do understand that interpretation, it also makes me want to come to Edwina’s defense. Everything she believed about her life just blew up in her face, no one is the greatest version of themselves when they’re in pain, and she does emerge from the experience as a different young woman. However unpleasant and, let’s be honest, unnecessary the Kate/Anthony/Edwina drama was, the youngest Sharma is at least able to use it to come into herself. Bridgerton Season 2 really put that trio through a lot (again, and needlessly so), but we leave Edwina at the season’s close in a strong place. Even though they’re still in the Bambi legs stage of forgiveness and reconciliation, she and Kate have at least begun the process of repairing their relationship, and Edwina now feels confident enough to be the one doling out sisterly advice at the Featherington Ball.

“Be unafraid to follow your heart after doing the exact opposite for far too long. You have spent so much of your time shining your light on me. It is time for you to shine all on your own.”

Growth and maturity are hard-won things, and they both look wonderful on Edwina in Episode 8. Some outlets are reporting that she will be back for Season 3 of Bridgerton, but after tracing their sources, I’m still not convinced. If Edwina Sharma does return, I will love to see where her story goes, armed with her newfound sense of self, but if the audience has said goodbye to her, we do so, having seen her flourish because of all she learned about herself throughout the season. 

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Eloise and Penelope fight in Bridgerton 2x08
©Netflix

Poor Penelope Featherington doesn’t end Bridgerton Season 2 in such a good place after spending the entirety of it trying to thread the eye of an increasingly wonky needle. This year she decides to change the tone of Lady Whistledown’s Society Papers at Eloise’s urging and brings Madame Delacroix into the fold, all the while continuing to use her column to influence society as she evades detection. Unlike Edwina, Penelope sees and knows all, and she uses that skill to make things go her way…until it all gets ripped apart along with her bedroom floorboards.

Even though the complete unraveling of her life happens in private, it ends up being just as crushing a situation as if all of London had borne witness. Covertly purchasing a new letter K for a printing press is no longer going to cut it — Pen let her guard down and blew her cover with Eloise, who is not only Penelope’s best friend but more of a sister to her than either Prudence or Philippa. To not only lose Eloise’s coveted approval and admiration of Lady Whistledown but to be the object of her scorn leads to a confrontation as painful as the Sharma sisters’. However, the contrast between Edwina and Pen is highlighted again here because while Edwina lashing out was due to her feeling blindsided, Penelope cannot claim the same. Even if the damage caused was inadvertent, the actions that led to Pen’s blow-up with Eloise were purposeful.

Her entire life revolves around the effort, precision, forethought, and planning that goes into being Lady Whistledown. She’s incredibly calculating, and while that’s not necessarily always a bad thing (Edwina certainly could have used some of Pen’s perception and bravado early in the season), it is something that’s going to have its repercussions.

That doesn’t mean that Penelope’s plight isn’t a sympathetic one. She’s always overlooked by society, the man she’s in love with sees her only as a friend, and to say her family is dismissive of her is overly generous. It’s only natural that she would seek, and also revel in, the power that being the most notorious person in society affords her. So it makes sense that her alter ego is so precious to her that she would keep it even from Eloise, just as it makes sense that Eloise would feel massively betrayed upon her discovery that the Lady Whistledown she’s been hunting for so long has been right in front of her nose in the form of her best friend. And so, as with Edwina and Kate’s confrontation, some hurtful things are said when Eloise finally puts the pieces together, but because Eloise and Penelope weren’t the focus of Season 2, the low point of their relationship is where we had to leave them.

The last the audience sees of these two is Pen lashing out that Eloise must be jealous and Eloise countering that their friendship is over, with no hint at what shape their rapprochement might take. The only other thing Penelope could have felt good about the night of the Featherington Ball — her time with Colin Bridgerton — also ends in pain. They share a dance, and then Colin redeems himself from his comment earlier in the season when he declared that Penelope didn’t count as a woman by telling her something she could have only dreamed of hearing from him.

“I will always look after you, Penelope. You are special to me.”

And then, when Pen is desperately searching for Eloise after their fight, she hears Colin uttering his infamously terrible line about how he would never in a million years be caught dead courting Penelope Featherington. Big talk from a guy who had to be rescued from having the wool pulled over his eyes and making a catastrophic decision two seasons in a row but OKAY, BUDDY. With the news that Penelope and Colin’s love story will leapfrog the book order (I’m so sorry, Benedict and Sophie fans, sincerely) and will be the main focus of next season, the entire Bridgerton world is about to revolve around the unresolved issues of the ton’s favorite scribe even sooner than originally anticipated.

Maybe it’s because I watched Bridgerton Season 2 just on the other side of a truly hideous time in my own life, still endeavoring to do my best with the resulting mess. Still, I found myself wanting to afford the most amount of grace possible to these characters, especially Edwina, even when, as a book fan, certain story changes made me bristle at first. I’m glad she was given some semblance of closure because the last episode in Bridgerton’s second season may very well be her sendoff. Penelope, on the other hand, is about to play a more prominent role than ever before in this show, so it’s only right that her transformation is ongoing. From Colin’s hurtful cluelessness to her relationship with Eloise being completely shattered, there is, hopefully, nowhere for Penelope to go but up after ending this season completely alone. She deserves to be seen as a diamond too, and Season 3 will be her time to shine brightly.

Bridgerton Season 2 is now streaming on Netflix.

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