Warning: Contains SPOILERS for Netflix's Bridgerton.
Netflix's Bridgerton tells two distinct love stories in season 1 and 2, respectively, but which is better? First released on December 25th, 2020, Bridgerton's two seasons to date have garnered widespread critical acclaim, with audiences citing Bridgerton's blend of risque romance and high society drama as compelling, binge-worthy TV. The Netflix series also continues to break streaming records, with Bridgerton season 1 the most-watched series on Netflix when it premiered in 2020 and Bridgerton season 2 being the most viewed English-language Netflix series in its first three days to date.
Despite Chris Van Dusen's Bridgerton taking creative license with many characters and locales, the bulk of the series' narrative remains true to Julia Quinn's original Bridgerton novels, in which each Bridgerton sibling finds love on their own terms. Bridgerton season 1 closely follows the events of The Duke and I as Daphne Bridgerton (Phoebe Dynevor) becomes entangled with Simon Bassett, Duke of Hastings (Regé-Jean Page), while Bridgerton season 2 focuses on The Viscount Who Loved Me's story as Anthony Bridgerton (Jonathan Bailey) becomes smitten with Kate Sharma (Simone Ashley).
While Bridgerton season 1 has a slightly higher audience polling score (per ratings aggregator Rotten Tomatoes), both Bridgerton seasons are tonally different. Bridgerton season 1 doubles down on sexual scenes and shock factor, while Bridgerton season 2 tells a more measured tale of romance anchored by an outstanding supporting cast. Here's whether or not Bridgerton season 2 is better than season 1, as well as an analysis of each season's key components.
Anthony & Kate vs. Daphne & Simon
The majority of Bridgerton season 2 sees Anthony Bridgerton fighting his feelings for the alluring Kate Sharma, whose sister he is engaged to. While scandalous in its own right until Anthony's arranged marriage to Edwina (Charithra Chandran) collapses during "The Choice," Bridgerton season 2 otherwise reads like a far more traditional, Pride and Prejudice style romance, with Anthony and Kate initially stealing moments with one another until the midpoint of the season. This is not to say Anthony and Kate are not a compelling watch as a couple, however, with their often equally stubborn mannerisms and power dynamic marking them as perfectly suited for one another. Despite Kate's accident near the end of the season, Bridgerton season 2 never feels as if Kate and Anthony will do anything other than end up together, making their narrative (which is meant to be the focal point of the series) feel a pedestrian affair past episode 6.
In contrast, Daphne Bridgerton and Simon Bassett's relationship is the salacious anchor around which the rest of Bridgerton season 1 is built, as well as the driving force behind the first Bridgerton season's rampant streaming success. The key to the couple's engrossing nature is their volatility, with both Daphne and Simon acting impulsively and irrationally in ways that carry the potential to irrevocably damage their relationship - even before the pair admit they are in love. In this way, Daphne and Simon's journey feels harder-earned, particularly given their ruse at the start of season 1, which translates into a more satisfying ending for Bridgerton season 1 as the two finally conceive a child together.
Is Lady Whistledown Better Knowing Her Identity?
Bridgerton season 1's bombshell finale sees Penelope Featherington (Nicola Coughlan) unmasked as Lady Whistledown. Outside of Penelope and Simon's twisting narrative, Bridgerton season 1's tension is primarily derived from the mysterious Whistledown, who is able to mercurially and presciently unveil the London Ton's darkest secrets at will. The Lady Whistledown mystery adds another layer of unpredictability to Bridgerton season 1, with the revelations surrounding Marina Thompson's (Ruby Barkers) lifestyle a shocking, well-timed moment.
In contrast, Bridgerton season 2 loses much of its initial intrigue by virtue of audiences knowing Whistledown's identity. While the dramatic irony afforded by Bridgerton season 2 is substantial as Penelope toys with fellow Ton folk, it is hard not to feel Netflix let the cat out of the bag far too early and wasted season 1's mystery, given Penelope is not unveiled as Whisteldown until the fourth Bridgerton book. It must also be said that Dame Julie Andrews' narration as Whistledown elevates the entire Netflix series, but the luster of her narration wears thinner in contrast with the immature Penelope audiences see throughout Bridgerton season 2.
Bridgerton Season 2's Supporting Storylines vs. Season 1
One area in which Bridgerton season 2 undeniably trumps its predecessor is its supporting storylines, whose respective characters have all been elevated by the unmasking of Lady Whistledown and the death of Lord Featherington (Ben Miller). Penelope's burgeoning romance with Colin Bridgerton (Luke Newton) feels a more tangible plot point now that audiences see her confidence as Whistledown, while the long-heralded return of the Featherington heir Lord Jack (Rupert Young), is a genuinely dark thread that will surely lead to more drama as Bridgerton season 3 unfolds. These tense, depth-filled supporting narratives heavily contrast with Bridgerton season 1, whose other character arcs felt tertiary and hollow compared to Daphne and Simon's riveting love story. This is best represented by Anthony's tryst with Siena Rosso (Sabrina Bartlett) in season 1, which translates as little more than a precursor to his Kate storyline in hindsight.
Why Bridgerton Season 1 Is Better Than Season 2
While both seasons undoubtedly have their merits, Bridgerton season 1 is a far superior proposition. Bridgerton season 1's risque sex scenes and fearless narrative hooked Netflix viewers and allowed Bridgerton season 2 the platform to blossom with its own storyline. However, had Bridgerton season 1 not been such a polished, sumptuous faux-period piece, it is hard to see Bridgerton season 2 garnering the record-breaking viewing numbers it eventually achieved. Add to this the powerhouse performances from Phoebe Dynevor and Regé-Jean Page, which have come to redefine the desired effect of characters in modern romance productions, and it becomes clear that Bridgerton season 1 is a rare gem unmatched even by other entries into the Bridgerton series canon. Put simply, Bridgerton season 2 is a fine addition to Chris Van Dusen's Regency-era universe, but it is the magic of Bridgerton season 1 that made its existence possible.