The Unicorn Scale: Bridgerton

By Jennie Roberson

June 25, 2024



Photo credit: Image/Netflix

Hello there, my dear and lovely Unicorns new and returning! May I interest any of you in a refreshing glass of lemonade? It does seem to be the preferred drink choice of the “ton”, after all.

Now some may ask what in the world I’m talking about here. But you see, it has to do with the Regency era — an era in England during the late 18th/early 19th Century made famous in the world of literature by famous author, Jane Austen.

I’ve always adored Austen — Pride and Prejudice (1813) is still my favorite book of all time — and it seems I’m not alone. There is much to admire and marvel at in this specific moment in society — the manners, the verbal flair, the societal rules, including the politics and comedy of manners, just to name a few. This romantic era did not escape the notice of Julia Quinn, author of the Bridgerton (2000-2006) historical romance series. And it clearly enchanted renowned television writer and powerhouse producer Shonda Rhimes, who has elected to adapt the novels into the smash hit Bridgerton (2020-) series on Netflix. But what does all of that have to do with the Unicorn Scale? Read on, my dear gentle readers, read on.

Before we set off on our carriages towards this particular ball, I should go over a few quick disclaimers. First and foremost, there will be SPOILERS for the series. Regarding content and trigger warnings, there are a few that should be noted throughout the series, and this link from DoestheDogDie does a good summary — though at first glance the worst offenses are not really in the season which we will be focusing on (season three). Finally, if this is your first time reading this column (and a hearty welcome to YOU!) or you just need a refresher on the metric that we use, you can do it here, or check our our Media Entry here.

All set? Splendid. Then let’s head to Mayfair.

Bridgerton is a Netflix historical romance-drama that focuses on the large eponymous family, a wealthy, respected, and loving family that often makes splashes during “the season” (a time in London when high society returns from the country), both at the many social events as well as with their unconventional marriages of love. Each season focuses primarily on the love and possible marriage of each of the Bridgerton children; season one focuses on the eldest daughter Daphne (Phoebe Dynevor), season two on the eldest son, the Viscount Anthony (Jonathan Bailey), and the third on the sensitive writer and third son, Colin (Luke Newton).

But while he is not the focus of his own season yet, there is much to be discussed in season three, part two about the second eldest son, Benedict Bridgerton (Luke Thompson), and his self-discovery.


What I Liked:

I know everyone has their favorite Bridgerton sibling or romance for one reason or another, and I have to say that my choice in this TV series has always been Benedict. Free from the burden of continuing the family line, Benedict's openness, good humor, and kindness have shone through as the series progresses. I always looked forward to when he came on screen because I knew he’d always have a good-hearted joke or commentary to make on whatever situation or social event was happening. The fact that he even bucked some conventions of the time to pursue work as an artist (landed gentry, especially gentlemen, were not always seen in art schools at this time) tickled me. And while many of the Bridgerton men have shown some rakish tendencies, Benedict in his carnal pursuits has always seemed to have a gentleness in how he goes about his sex life.


So when Lady Tilley Arnold (Hannah New) entered the scene and went toe-to-toe with Benedict both in flirtation and playing games, I was excited to see what she would bring out of him.

And boy, did she bring something out of him!

In episode six of part two, Tilley introduces her friend, theatre benefactor Paul Suarez (Lucas Aurelio). Paul clearly takes a liking to Benedict, which Benedict notices even before Paul and Tilley ask him to join them upstairs. After Benedict declines, he later mentions that, while he has known men like Mr. Suarez, he himself has never been tempted by men before. However, after further discussion with Tilley, Benedict decides to explore his attraction to Paul, and the three engage in multiple ménage-à-trois. I love that, in such a repressed era and in a light historical fantasy series, Benedict is willing to explore his attractions, even if they don’t fit society’s preferred molds.

I find this quite brave. I also find it brave for him, at the end of the season, to turn down Tilley when she wants to go exclusive, recognizing that “what happened between the three of us, what happened between me and you has made me realize how good it feels to be free. You have opened my world, and I’m not ready just yet to close it again now”.


What I Didn’t Like:

Honestly? With Benedict, everything seems to be above board for now. I’m intrigued to see how they handle his newly discovered queerness in the fourth season. I have to admit, I likely have a blind spot, as this character is my perfect cinnamon roll of the series, and he hasn’t been deliberately unkind to anyone (as far as I recall — though I'm sure some fans can correct me if I missed something, and I welcome them to do so!).

The Rating:

One of my favorite scenes with Benedict this season doesn’t include Tilley or Paul, but it showcases his queer epiphany and helps his sister, Eloise, realize that things aren't always black and white. When she laments losing another friend to marriage, he simply states, "Love is not finite, Eloise." While he might be referring to her friendship with Penelope (Nicola Coughlan) and their brother, it’s clear he’s also realizing his own romantic and sexual love doesn’t have to be finite. It’s a beautiful moment that sums up his journey so far.

Bridgerton is a mille-feuille of a show — light, sweet, beautifully structured but delicate, but also with plenty of layers if one is ready to see and savor them. And Benedict’s bi arc is certainly one of those flavors.

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