Sunday, December 27, 2020

REVIEW: 'Bridgerton' - Daphne and Simon Finally Confront Each Other About Their Future Together in 'After the Rain'

Netflix's Bridgerton - Episode 1.08 "After the Rain"

The duke and duchess' season-ending ball signals a turning point for their marriage - and ushers in changes of fortune and fate to those around them.

In 2019, the television industry aired 532 scripted shows across numerous outlets. The way people consume content now is different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, it's less necessary to provide ample coverage of each episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site provides shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the season finale of Netflix's Bridgerton.

"After the Rain" was written by Chris Van Dusen and directed by Alrick Riley

Love is a choice. It's a choice that the people in a relationship have to make every single day. That's the lesson Lady Bridgerton hopes to pass along to Daphne at this precise moment. She is grateful that she and her late husband always chose each other no matter what problems they encountered. She misses that dynamic now. She yearns for him every single day. That's how powerful their love was. It's an example for their children. However, they had problems as well. They had to work hard to overcome them and continue to be what their family needed. They never allowed those issues to infect their children and how they perceived love. Daphne resents that to a certain extent because she has only seen the bliss. She thinks love shouldn't be as hard as it has currently been with Simon. Meanwhile, he grew up believing that he needed to be perfect in order to be worthy of love. Of course, the show does a much better job at explaining his motives through Daphne's monologue in the rain than any previous moment with him. The narrative is always fundamentally centered around Daphne. That's fitting considering she comes from the Bridgerton family. That gives the show its name. However, Simon's perspective can offer something unique and different. By the finale though, he is mostly asked to change. He has to evolve beyond his vow to never have children out of spite for the hatred his father always passed along to him. In holding firm to that pride, he essentially became just like his father. Lady Danbury can see that. She can call him out on it as well. And yet, the show barely makes that correlation. He has become what he has always hatred. He has pushed Daphne away and alienated her in the life that was once so fulfilling to her. He has to admit his faults in order to welcome in the beauty that a child can bring. And yes, that's exactly where this story is heading. He doesn't change his position because he sees how much it pains Daphne to have this desire denied to her. Instead, it's completely about her passionately delivering an argument in the rain about how imperfect the world is. That's just what it is. It's tragic that Simon grew up the way he did. He had to overcome so much adversity. He is now stronger though. He has a life where he can fully accept love. He can embrace what he has with Daphne. He just has to choose it and not hold onto the pain of the past. It's just that easy. That seems a little reductive. And yet, that has been the overall scope of the story this season. This was the core conflict. It only took one passionate speech to seemingly overcome it. People can see the love and passion between Daphne and Simon whenever they look at each other. In fact, that is the overall sentiment of the show. Love is so powerful that catching the sight of the other compels each person into action. Love can conquer all if one simply gives in to it. That is exciting and passionate for a moment. However, it's not truthful for all that a life together entails. Daphne and Simon find their peace. They welcome a son. However, Anthony is left feeling betrayed because Siena refuses to step into a life that doesn't fit her. She doesn't want to be judged by people who deem her unbecoming of wealth and stature. She has a life that is completely her own. She shouldn't have to change herself in order to fit into someone's narrow definition of what she should be. Anthony is willing to write off romance completely in the aftermath. He is open to marriage but has a cynical view of what he can hope to achieve because of his position in life. Daphne and Simon have the clarity that that isn't true. It simply comes after a season in which their struggle is reduced down to her persuading him to accept her vision of what the future can be. The show clashes with itself in that regard.

Of course, not every romance is the same. Not everything can be expected to end happily. Marina and her baby survive. She also embraces a proposal from George's brother after learning that he died in battle. Meanwhile, Lord Featherington is killed after fixing a bet to ensure that he wins a massive payout. That could also bring doom to Will and his family who are simply trying to build a better life for themselves instead of struggling moment to moment. Again, the show could explore the racial politics of all of this in more depth. It is choosing not to which remains an odd decision. The same goes to Benedict exploring gay culture in the city while also directly showcasing that he is not gay himself. And finally, Lady Whistledown is revealed to be Penelope. The intensity of Eloise's investigation suggested that the audience would gain some clarity as to the writer's identity this season. It was never guaranteed though. The premiere opened with the narration teasing that Whistledown would always be an unknown figure. With this reveal, it will force the audience to go back and see how Penelope acts in each given situation. Plus, it makes Whistledown's writings more of a reaction to everything going on in the Featherington household than in London at large. That places that particular drama front and center. It's full of scandal with Penelope always being seen as different than the rest of her family. And yet, her prominence as this writer also clashes with her own tentativeness in the world. She struggles to tell Colin about her crush on him. Plus, she is more than comfortable teasing her supposed best friend Eloise in her pursuit of learning the identity of this incredible woman. That impulse preserves the secret. She may reveal herself at some point. She may have her identity revealed by someone needing to expose her. It makes that mystery more personal and complicated because it's the fate of one of the core characters. It's not some anonymous observer to all of this. It's someone who has a personal interest in what happens next. That will provide more prominence. But again, it may offer more shortcomings because Penelope and the other people of this society rarely acknowledge just how life-changing their personal actions can be. They cannot control those ramifications. Everything works out for so many here. That makes it a fairytale ending in some aspects. However, it was quite a struggle throughout the journey getting to this point.