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The Hollywood Insider Bridgerton Season 3 Part 1

After keeping loyal readers waiting for two years, Lady Whistledown finally made her return in season three of Netflix’s smash hit regency romance ‘Bridgerton.’ Each season follows the love story of one of the Bridgerton children, based on the eight-book series by Julia Quinn. The title ‘Bridgerton’ has become synonymous with steaminess and scandal, with the first season being labeled as a “bodice ripper” with many passionate love scenes between its leads, Daphne (Phoebe Dynevor) and Simon (Regé-Jean Page). Season two lightened up a bit with the enemies-to-lovers arc between the eldest Bridgerton son, Anthony (Jonathan Bailey) and Kate (Simone Ashley), the sister of his betrothed. So, where does season three lie? It seems to be too soon to say.

Only the first four episodes of ‘Bridgerton’ season three dropped on May 16, with the second half coming almost a month later on June 13. Wallflower Penelope Featherington (Nicola Coughlin) is finally getting her moment in the spotlight, as this season follows her love story with Colin Bridgerton (Luke Newton). It’s a love story that has been quietly unfolding since the first season, when Penelope had an unrequited crush on the third eldest Bridgerton brother — who was also one of her closest friends. Colin was unreliable and painfully unaware of Penelope’s feelings in the earlier seasons, prioritizing his travels to foreign countries and infatuation with Marina, a woman who didn’t return his affections. Marina noticed Penelope’s love for Colin and tried to open his eyes, but his stubbornness repeatedly got in the way. Season three opens with his return from traveling Europe, where he seemed to have discovered a newfound confidence and swagger. This can be attributed to the iconic ‘Bridgerton’ “glow-up” that every lead experiences with their season when they are the center of attention. Penelope experienced one as well, when she decided to take her future into her own hands this season and seek out a marriage suitor.

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A Wallflower in Bloom

While the Bridgerton children all receive praise and attention from the ton each year, the Featheringtons have been the laughing stock for quite some time. But now, Penelope’s two sisters Prudence (Bessie Carter) and Philipa (Harriet Cains) have both married, leaving Penelope to fend for herself at balls and outings. For the majority female audience of ‘Bridgerton,’ Penelope might be the most relatable character of the series. She’s never been considered to be the Queen’s Diamond of the marriage season, never been courted by a suitor or approached for a romantic dance and is starting to lose hope that she will ever find love. Penelope loves to read (perhaps a little too much, as she puts it) and is, of course, quick with the quill as Lady Whistledown. It’s easy to relate to Penelope because she’s far from the perfection of Daphne and the quick wit of Kate. She is also a plus sized woman, a group that has been sorely underrepresented in period romances. Even though this season is technically Colin’s, Penelope is the star of the show. That can be credited to Nicola Coughlin’s incredible performance showcasing the physical and emotional transformation of the character.

In order to find a match for herself, Penelope enlists the help of Colin to teach her the ways of charming a suitor. Coughlin’s portrayal of Penelope shows two warring emotions — her desire to find a match and settle down, but also her love for Colin that her heart is clearly still invested in, even if she thinks it’s impossible for him to feel the same. Enter Lord Debling (Sam Phillips), an outdoorsman seeking a partner to tend to the house while he’s on his explorations. He and Penelope have an endearing and comfortable chemistry, much to the delight of Penelope’s mother, Portia Featherington (Polly Walker). But as Debling and Penelope grow closer, it catches the wandering eye of Colin. 

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‘Polin:’ Slow-burn or Rushed?

Many refer to Colin and Penelope as a slow-burn relationship that spans all three seasons, but that’s simply not the case. Colin showed no reciprocation of Penelope’s feelings and offended her by telling other gentleman of the ton that he’d “never” court Penelope Featherington. While book fans knew romance was in their future, there was no sign on Colin’s end that he felt anything for Penelope — until a shocking kiss at the end of episode two. During a heart-to-heart about her situation, Penelope asks Colin to kiss her since she’s losing hope it will ever happen for her. A switch flips in Colin and he obliges, which is where his role in the season becomes clearer. After this kiss, Colin is completely obsessed with Penelope. He goes after her almost immediately following their stolen moment, to the point of feeling rushed.

There’s no way to sugarcoat it — Colin is the least interesting Bridgerton brother, mostly because he only seems interested in his travels abroad and desire for a “bigger purpose.” He’s never been a truly good friend to Penelope, never cared for his sisters the way Anthony cared about them and is generally disinterested in what London life has to offer. Colin could’ve been better developed in the first part of season three if less time was spent on side plots and more was given to the male lead. However, he redeems himself slightly in the famous “carriage scene” in episode four, where he gives Penelope exactly what she’s dreamed about with him.

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Side Plots Are Ruining the Timeline

While the love story is always at the center of a ‘Bridgerton’ season, the creators also toss in at least one or two side plots with characters that don’t really impact anything outside of their sphere. In season three’s case, there were three major side plots centering around the Mondrich’s (Martins Imhangbe and Emma Naomi), Cressida Cowper’s (Jessica Madsen) newfound friendship with Eloise (Claudia Jessie) and Francesa Bridgerton (Hannah Dodd) coming out into society. While it’s impossible to only center a season around the main couple, these subplots were given entirely too much screen time. The Mondrich family still being a part of the series only reminds viewers of the gaping hole left by Regé-Jean Page’s exit from the show. Cressida’s redemption arc and friendship with Eloise proved that even though Eloise accused Penelope of being exceedingly cruel as the writer behind Whistledown, Eloise herself has a mean girl-esque side this season. 

The lack of Eloise and Penelope’s friendship was certainly felt throughout the four episodes, and whether they make up by the end of the season remains to be seen. Francesca’s budding romance with John Stirling (Victor Alli) was introduced entirely too soon, especially when Benedict’s story was supposed to come before Colin’s and still has yet to be explored. The “Bridgerton” timeline has just gotten messier with the side plots in season three, which will hopefully be ironed out by the end of part two.

Cast: Nicola Coughlin, Luke Newton, Claudia Jessie, Polly Walker

Producers: Holden Chang, Shonda Rhymes, Chris Van Dusen

By Kaitlyn Murphy

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