It’s not often that a series finds itself spun off within three years of its creation. Then again, Bridgerton took the world by storm like few other shows. While some grew frustrated by Season 2, the world continued to grow with vibrant new characters. One character that received important development was Queen Charlotte (Golda Rosheuvel). While exploring a monarch’s mind certainly added to the intrigue, Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story digs far more profound. Combining characters from the original series with a new cast, Queen Charlotte delivers a sensual, intelligent, and intriguing new side to the franchise.
Set in the 1760s, Princess Charlotte (India Amarteifio) travels across Europe to marry King George of England (Corey Mylchreest). Their wedding upsets the balance of power in London, leading to a new integrated society. Lady Danbury (Arsema Thomas) emerges as the new Queen’s favorite among the ton. At first, Charlotte and George struggle to stand each other. With Danbury’s help, their relationship quickly evolves. As they work to lead a changing nation, they must deal with internal conflict, external pressures, and medical scares at every turn.
The problem with prequels often lies in our knowledge of the future of these characters. The writing team at Shondaland approaches the series with two storylines moving forward simultaneously. In the past, Queen Charlotte addresses the civil rights breakthroughs that lead to a more progressive and inclusive world. Yet the future still clings to some of these issues, putting undue pressure on a Queen because her fifteen (!!!) children have yet to produce an heir. Each season within the Bridgerton franchise takes on these challenges. Yet Queen Charlotte deals with these issues in blunt language and powerful moments.
The material allows the performers to stand out, and the ensemble takes full advantage. Rosheuvel absolutely soars with a stronger focus. She must reflect on a lifetime of struggle and still move her story forward as she faces impending tragedy. She may only be overshadowed by the star-making performance from Amarteifio. The young actress steps into the role with impeccable grace. It’s a demanding role to play the same intensity and drive as a woman who lived her entire life. Yet Amarteifio delivers the breadcrumbs that will lead to Rosheuvel’s performance while carving her nuance into the role.
Another star-making turn comes from Thomas. The actress taking on the role of Lady Danbury has some of the more difficult moments on screen. Unlike Amarteifio, who gets to play the Queen and thus assert her will, Thomas must play more subdued. Yet she continually reaches out for every opportunity. She even stares down the brilliant Michelle Fairly and goes toe-to-toe numerous times. She brings unbridled joy to some scenes and unspeakable devastation to others. She brings a new edge to Lady Danberry but fits into her decades-long arc to follow.
The series uses its two young leads to highlight women striving for equality. They become critical players in changing the world for the future characters of Bridgerton, but that takes effort and perseverance. This becomes a story about standing up for one’s beliefs and the power it takes to hold up our partners. The ways the characters find their agency, and lend it to each other over time, make Queen Charlotte a unique storytelling tool. It serves to build the world for the title and show but also tells its story on its own terms.
Queen Charlotte would be among the very best shows of the year if not for a single episode that replays most of the episodes that precede it. That choice not only gunks up the series’s momentum but does little to add nuance or care to the story. Instead, we watch borderline torture and come to understand a well-known fact about historical figures. While this might help some audiences understand more about King George and the monarchy, this does little to advance the story in significant ways forward. Moreover, with only six episodes, it feels odd to feature a “redux” to complete part of the story.
Director Tom Verica proves his value over and over again throughout the season. He directs all six episodes and adds visual flares to help differentiate Queen Charlotte from its sister series. The use of color, or even bold monochrome, often pops far beyond Bridgerton’s best episodes. Additionally, he allows the series to vacillate between the more sensual underpinnings of this story and the hollowness of a loveless marriage. The handling of this dynamic, both for dramatic and comedic purposes, pushes Queen Charlotte to explore surprising emotional depths.
Queen Charlotte proves more than up for the namesake cast upon and makes for a wonderful new entry in the Bridgerton story. With incredible performances from the entire cast, especially Rosheuvel and Amarteifio, this foray shows the power that Bridgerton can have on its viewers. While there does not seem to be any further exploration with these actors in the cards, one would imagine it would be a welcomed return if they choose to reprise the roles in the future.