Review by Tatiana Miranda
In the hiatus between seasons of Bridgerton comes the limited Netflix series Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story. Similar to its source material, Queen Charlotte is centered around the romantic exploits of the people of the ton, only the story is set about 40 years earlier. As the title suggests, the series recounts the fan-favorite Queen Charlotte's romance with King George III. Much of the series also depicts the evolution of the ton in terms of the integration of different races, which had been mentioned in Season 1 of Bridgerton, yet never properly developed.
Loosely inspired by the real-life king and queen of the UK, Queen Charlotte and King George III are not necessarily the focus of Bridgerton. In the popular Netflix series, Queen Charlotte is the bossy but loveable leader of the ton. Meanwhile, her husband is only mentioned in passing or shown infrequently. His absence is attributed to his mental illness, which is inspired by rumors of the real king. In this spin-off, fans get to see the beginning of their relationship and understand more of Charlotte's personality and motives.
As mentioned briefly in Season 1, the marriage between Charlotte and George signaled the introduction of titles — such as Lord and Lady — for people of color in the ton and, therefore, a sense of integration. While it makes sense to establish the fact that the world wasn't always as progressive, it puts Queen Charlotte into a narrative box that it doesn't excel at developing. Because the series jumps straight into the marriage between George and Charlotte, it doesn't give a lot of time to establish the ton's layout before what George's mother refers to as "The Great Experiment."
Although the topic of racial prejudice is discussed in relation to Charlotte's interracial marriage and Lady Danbury's entry into polite society, a lot of factors, such as Charlotte's heritage and Lord and Lady Danbury's wealth, are contrary to the mistreatment they face from the ton. Since it is meant to be a big deal for the ton and a major driving factor in Lady Danbury's backstory, its lack of development is distracting.
King George's "madness" is another predominant part of the series that lacks proper development. While the real King's mental health issues are undiagnosed, many professionals suggest that he may have had manic episodes as a result of bipolar disorder or porphyria. Queen Charlotte takes more creative liberties, instead giving him episodes more closely resembling schizophrenia or dissociative identity disorder.
This change was likely made to add more narrative hardship to Charlotte and George's love story, similar to Simon's and Antony's parental issues and trauma from Seasons 1 and 2 of Bridgerton. Because of its heavily narrative use, the depiction of George's mental state comes across as an unrealistic and poor representation of mental illnesses.
When it comes to Bridgerton, Queen Charlotte feels more like an intermission rather than a part of the narrative, as its development of secondary characters will likely have no impact on the plot of the upcoming third season. Many flash-forward scenes to the present day of Bridgerton fall flat in comparison to the romance between Charlotte and George. Overall, Queen Charlotte excels in developing the background of several key characters from the main series, yet it fails to properly develop the world and the future of these same characters.
Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story premiers on Netflix May 1. All six episodes reviewed.