Yes, it’s true: the second season of “Bridgerton” has fewer sex scenes than the first season. However, when it comes to romance and chemistry, the passionate stares, sharp banter, and sheer lust between Anthony Bridgerton and Kate Sharma more than make up for it. Explicit sexy moments or not, a satisfying and believable romance only works when the anticipation is built just right. While “Bridgerton” first garnered attention for its unapologetic approach to romance, it really worked well because it prioritized chemistry. We sincerely thought, devouring the first season, that Simon Basset and Daphne Bridgerton wanted to blow their bones. Now, with season two, we’re completely buying that Kate and Anthony share a magnetic attraction — one that they can’t pull back even when they know they should. The fact that season two only had two explicit sex scenes didn’t make it any less sexy. In fact, Anthony and Kate’s intense chemistry has led some fans to call this season the sexiest — and the rest of Hollywood should understand why.
Really, there are few things as awkward as watching supposedly romantic scenes featuring people who seem to barely want to be in the same room. Since the decline of the rom-com genre, screen stories often expect us to believe the chemistry is there simply because they tell us. In reality, however, these romances rarely live up to expectations. Take the much-hyped (but meh) “Marry Me,” which missed the mark the same way so many Hollywood rom-coms have over the past decade: throwing the biggest names possible and giving a shrug. shoulders to the most important chemistry test. Or consider the emotional void that is the most “romantic” of subplots in major brand franchises (hello and goodbye, Marvel’s “first sex scene” in “Eternals”). Hot people breathing in each other’s general direction or rolling around don’t make a romance – no matter how nifty the camera angles.
There’s an argument to be made that anticipation is, in fact, the hottest part of a romantic arc — and that only works when a show puts chemistry first. Consider the rise of K-dramas in the United States, for example, which involve minimal explicit sexy moments and lots of slow-burning agonizing desire. It’s not about the literal sexual act, but desire. The chemistry between the characters must ignite the scenes.
It’s what makes “Bridgerton” work, even with controversial departures from the book. As soon as they meet, actors Jonathan Bailey and Simone Ashley make us feel the enemy-lovers shiver between Anthony and Kate. It carries the season, plain and simple – and reminds us that very few other TV shows seem to understand just how powerful chemistry can be.
Chemistry can subvert perceptions and even make complicated, sometimes unlikable characters more compelling. “The Gilded Age” has a surprising lack of romance for a show billed as the new “Downton Abbey” and a distinct lack of sex for a show on HBO. Its magnetic center turns out to be the unshakable marriage between ambitious railroad magnate George Russell (Morgan Spector) and his equally ambitious and socially-upward wife Bertha (Carrie Coon). They are ruthless, determined, and often mean. But there is also a palpable electricity in each of their interactions. When George lowers his voice and asks Bertha if he can “stay” with her one night after discussing their plans, or when he admires her ambition out loud, it’s hotter than a real movie scene. love. The show makes it clear that there is nothing sexier than two people who remain crazy about each other after decades, who look at each other with undisguised admiration and who find the ambition of the other to be the most exciting of all.
Truly excellent chemistry can even be powerful enough to completely change the course of a story. Amazon’s “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” was only aiming for a one-time cameo for Lenny Bruce (Luke Kirby), but his laid-back, smoky charm and the effortless chemistry between him and main character Midge (Rachel Brosnahan) got it. turned into a recurring guest star and, eventually, a love interest in her own right. Over the years, friendly banter and deep – you guessed it – mutual respect and admiration have turned into long-time stares. Rather than force it, the show let their chemistry naturally develop into one of TV’s most delicious slow burns. And when the two friends finally take it to the next level in season four, the resulting scene is white-hot without being rated R. Fleeing a raid, waiting for a blizzard in Lenny’s hotel and joking about the “show corset ” by Midge turns into subtle romantic statements and what can only be described as a serious fucking look. It takes a few minutes before they finally kiss (and for Lenny to gently unzip Midge’s dress without missing a beat), and we only see a few sheet-covered moments of the pair in bed. But it’s satisfying to scream at the TV, because the buildup made things sexier and more intimate than a rushed, reckless sex scene ever could have been.
The second season of “Bridgerton” seems to understand this. It helps that “Bridgerton” is based on a series of romance novels, which inspire readers to engage precisely by centering great chemistry. The world of romance novels covers many “degrees” of sexy moments, from “open door” romances that explicitly depict sex on the page to “fade to black” stories that cut sex – and even romances that don’t. don’t. t involve sex at all.
The key is emotional intimacy, which the second season of “Bridgerton” has in spades. Take the bee sting scene – the first moment of vulnerability between Anthony and Kate. They (apparently) don’t even have to like each other at this point, but Anthony’s trauma-based panic and Kate’s tender response, letting him feel his heart beating and breathing with him forehead to forehead, is shockingly intimate for two closed characters. From there, we move on to close, tense dance scenes and heated arguments. This chemistry evolves into a wonderfully maddening, breathless slow-burn, full of passionate gazes; quasi-kissing; and seductive, tortured whispers. When we finally get to actual sex — seven full episodes into an eight-episode season — it’s so explosive and hot we have to fan ourselves like a Featherington.
Maybe it’s because “Bridgerton” and the other aforementioned shows embrace romance rather than act almost embarrassed by it. Watching a lot of TV shows and movies these days, it feels like screenwriters have little use for romance unless it’s to create angst or tick a box. . He often feels nailed, half-hearted and lukewarm – as if they are ashamed or unable to fully lean into it. This approach raises questions about whether romance (both genre and plot element) is seen – like so many other things typically favored by women and other marginalized groups – as inherently ” less than”.
But let’s look at the examples we just talked about. “The Gilded Age” was HBO Max’s best series. “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” has racked up 20 Emmys and counting. “Bridgerton” is a worldwide phenomenon, and romance is the second most popular literary genre. So maybe it’s high time Hollywood stopped despising romantic storytelling and realized just how far great chemistry (and the writing that showcases it) can get us.