The wait for Bridgerton's second season – 15 whole months! – was an endurance test, but we can all agree that it was well worth the wait.

Viewers were instantly catapulted back into the pandemonium of the marriage market, with Anthony Bridgerton's hunt for a wife taking centre stage following Daphne's marriage to the Duke of Hastings, with his predicament proving to be every bit as complicated as his sister's was.

Fortunately, fan favourite Eloise, the witty Bridgerton sister, was once again on hand to provide some much-needed comedic relief from the intensity bubbling elsewhere. She's also totally (and refreshingly) uninterested in the trappings of the ton, instead focused on broadening her intellect and unmasking Lady Whistledown – she admires the gossip monger's enterprising spirit and laments the fact that she's forced to remain hidden in the shadows due to her status as a woman.

With Daphne and then Anthony stealing most of the limelight across the two seasons, it's all too easy to dismiss her as the rebellious younger sister or a distraction from the love story at the heart of the narrative, and nothing more. But in season 2, her unruly streak plays an important role.

Eloise's musings on what it truly means to be a woman during the 1810-1820s, such as the lack of opportunities available to her compared with her brothers, gain greater momentum.

She receives a pamphlet from Theo Sharpe which leads her to a gathering of like-minded people who are passionate about dismantling the patriarchy, with Eloise continuing to pursue what she believes in, despite her restrictive position.

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She also makes it clear that her rebellion is not just a phase or "some party dress" she dons to "play a part" – a nod to how feminist activism can fall short, saying a little but doing very little.

Eloise adds a much-needed feminist lens to the world of Bridgerton, which is by and large wrapped up in marriage and propriety, allowing the series to remain entertaining while also tackling the social struggles of the time.

Nicola Coughlan as Penelope Featherington and Claudia Jessie as Eloise Bridgerton in Bridgerton season 2.
Nicola Coughlan as Penelope and Claudia Jessie as Eloise in Bridgerton. Liam Daniel/Netflix © 2022 Liam Daniel/Netflix © 2022

The Eloise we all enjoyed in Bridgerton's debut season is still present, but her sense of adventure – her finest attribute – is expanded further, placing increased focus on important aspects of regency culture that were only briefly acknowledged in season 1.

Alongside the convention, she visits the printing house multiple times to converse with Theo and continue her investigation into Lady Whistledown. Through her wanderings of London, away from the gold-enamelled, shimmering world of the ton, we get a glimpse into the less gaudy, grittier part of town that was the more common reality.

It's there that we see the social polarisation and are reminded that not all were frequenting Madame Delacroix's emporium to sample this season's must-haves.

Eloise's friendship-cum-relationship with Theo also extends beyond what we typically get from the other romances explored in the series.

Claudia Jessie as Eloise and Calam Lynch as Theo sat down while holding hands and looking passionately into one another's eyes in Bridgerton
Claudia Jessie as Eloise and Calam Lynch as Theo in Bridgerton. Liam Daniel/Netflix © 2022 LIAM DANIEL/NETFLIX

With most of the action taking place within the wealthy, aristocratic ranks, this subplot emphasises that there is a world beyond balls and viscounts. In the first season, issues of class are touched upon during Daphne's interactions with her dukedom, Anthony's relationship with Siena, and Simon's exchanges with boxer Will Mondrich and his partner Alice. But through Eloise in particular in the show's latest outing, we witness the full extent of the struggle to surmount social barriers.

On meeting, Eloise and Theo strike up a rapport immediately, quickly becoming friends – possibly more – and begin furiously working together to reveal Lady Whistledown's true identity.

When Penelope learns of their scheme, she shares her "concerns" with her best friend – which stem from her desire to protect herself from being exposed – highlighting the class divide between Eloise and Theo by playing on the fears that her friend has about the gulf between them and what it forbids outright, threatening all-out ruin for those who dare try to surmount it. In the end, Eloise is so alarmed that she feels she has no choice but to cut ties with Theo.

It's disappointing to see a character who is usually so strong-willed succumb to the constrictions dictated by class, but it's also entirely unsurprising given the iron grip that social norms hold over all civilians.

Even Eloise, who knows her own mind more than most and questions everything that so many of her peers readily accept, is hamstrung by the environment in which she was born into, which speaks volumes about the social divisions at the time and the power they exude.

While Eloise is a revelation is so many ways, even she cannot fully untether herself from those bonds. If she can't, who on earth can?

Bridgerton is streaming now on Netflix. You can buy the original Julia Quinn books including The Viscount Who Loved Me on Amazon. Looking for something else to watch? Check out our guide to the best series on Netflix and best movies on Netflix, or visit our TV Guide.

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