‘Bridgerton’ (Season 3) Review: The Year of the Wallflowers

Nuha Hassan
8 min readMay 17, 2024

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Nicola Coughlan as Penelope Featherington. Image courtesy of Netflix.

Dearest Gentle Reader, it’s been two years since we last saw Bridgerton on screen. It’s been way too long but don’t worry, the new season of Netflix’s aristocratic period drama set in an alternative universe returns with the fan-favourite Penelope Featherington (Nicola Coughlan). Unlike the previous candidates of Queen Charlotte’s (Golda Rosheuvel) dazzling ‘Diamond of the Season’ selection, Bridgerton’s season three is made for the wallflowers.

Bridgerton fans are all too familiar with Penelope, a shy wallflower who secretly writes for the gossip column as Lady Whistledown, shaking up the ton every week with her observations and secrets. She has always been the beating heart of the series and a fan favourite. This is her time to shine.

For three seasons, we have seen her pine for Colin Bridgerton (Luke Newton), the third eldest Bridgerton sibling, who is utterly oblivious to her affection. We have seen Penelope and Colin’s friendship blossom. Their friends-to-lovers story is what every fan has been waiting for, and we are emotionally invested in this slow slow-burn romance!

The new season is split into two parts — the second part will drop in June — a decision made by Netflix for whatever stupid reason. Bridgerton has always been known for its binge-ability, and splitting the season into two parts will likely annoy fans.

Nicola Coughlan and Luke Newton as Penelope Featherington and Colin Bridgerton. Image courtesy of Netflix.

In Penelope’s third season on the marriage mart, she knows that the challenge will be difficult but she is not willing to wait for Colin Bridgerton to reciprocate his feelings to her anymore. Penelope heads over to the modiste and overhauls her entire wardrobe by throwing away her flowery, childish gowns to stunning blue and green silks, new hairstyles and dazzling jewellery. Even with her nervous demeanour, Penelope steps out of her comfort zone only to be ridiculed by Cressida Cowper (Jessica Madsen) and the gentlemen in the ton.

Meanwhile, Colin returns home after gallivanting across Europe with a swagger and a sturdy new look. His travels around Europe have given him confidence and charms to swoon the other young ladies in the ton. Colin regales about his stories of meeting new women on the continent. When Colin learns that Penelope overheard his comments about how unlikely it will be for him to court her, he is determined to make it up to her by helping her find a husband. After all, they are friends, aren’t they? He offers her advice to flirt with gentlemen but when Penelope catches Lord Debling’s (Sam Phillips) attention, Colin realises he has feelings for her.

Nicola Coughlan and Sam Phillips as Penelope Featherington and Lord Debling. Image courtesy of Netflix.

Throughout the years, Bridgerton and the spin-off series, Queen Charlotte, have been known for their undeniable chemistry between the lead characters. In the first season, Simon Hastings (Regé Jean-Page) and Daphne Bridgerton (Phoebe Dynevor) followed the fake romance or courtship trope with electrifying and steamy scenes; Anthony Bridgerton (Jonathan Bailey) and Kate Sharma (Simone Ashley) followed the all-time favourite enemies-to-lovers trope full of burning desire and intense moments waiting to be unleashed; and Young Queen Charlotte (India Amarteifio) and Young King George’s (Corey Mylchreest) very tragic enemies-to-lovers story with the controversial topic of race.

Unlike these characters, who developed their romantic feelings in the respective seasons, Penelope and Colin, or “Polin” as the fans have named them, have spent significant time together.

From the very first season, it’s clear that Penelope has feelings for Colin. He stood up for her when others made rude remarks and for a second, for Penelope at least, he validated her feelings. But Colin’s continuous disregard for her feelings and his comments at the end of season two has many alarm bells ringing. While it is a joy watching the long-awaited romance being played out on screen, will Colin’s efforts to win Penelope’s heart make it worthwhile? At the same time, it is hilarious watching Colin whine and pine and feel jealous over Penelope’s new relationship with Lord Debling.

After years of strutting around his obliviousness, his fixation and attraction towards Penelope rocks him to his entire core. He cannot even function without her! But all of this chemistry and awkwardness between Penelope and Colin, whose affections are so clear, they don’t want to admit to it because of their friendship. Coughlan and Newton are incredible together. It’s fascinating to watch how much they have repressed this undeniable chemistry with each other for this long, and it’s finally let loose. Their journey transforms from a platonic friendship to a passionate romance beautifully.

Nicola Coughlan as Penelope Featherington. Image courtesy of Netflix.

Penelope is just perfect. She’s like a breath of fresh air. She is the best part of this series — a wallflower finally getting her chance to shine. After two years of an unsuccessful run on the marriage mart, she is finally in her right mind to move on from Colin. Her sisters have married and she is stuck in her home with her mother, who is convinced that her youngest daughter will never be able to find a suitable match for herself. This realisation pushes Penelope to be more realistic about her prospects. She also deals with the fractured friendship with Eloise Bridgerton (Claudia Jesse) after she finds out about Lady Whistledown’s true identity.

Even though Penelope and Colin’s romance is the main event of this sparkling season, other subplots take centre stage. Francesca Bridgerton (Hannah Dodd, previously played by Ruby Stokes), the sixth Bridgerton sibling, is also another wallflower. She is engrossed in her piano-forte lessons and prefers a quieter life away from her extroverted family members.

Francesca is making her debut in the marriage mart. There are a lot of expectations set for her because her older sister, Daphne, was the diamond of the season. Her mother, Lady Violet (Ruth Gemmell) wants to make the process easier for her. But Francesca is more interested in her music than conversing with eligible bachelors. No one seems to satisfy her ideas of marriage and romance. Francesca finally meets a gentleman who is quite similar to her and shares her love for music. She is adamant about pursuing this courtship.

While Francesca was taking control of her own story, the same couldn’t be said for Benedict Bridgerton (Luke Thompson). We know very little about Benedict, the second son, even though we were first introduced to him in the first season where he has a romantic affair with the modiste, Genevieve Delacroix (Kathryn Drysdale). In the second season, he spends the second season at art school. He quarrels with his younger siblings and he does nothing of importance.

Ruth Gemmell, Hannah Dodds and Florence Hunt as Lady Violet Bridgerton, Francesca Bridgerton and Hyacinth Bridgerton.

Thompson’s character just seems lost in the pool of Bridgerton characters and their infinite subplots. He does, surprisingly (sarcasm), has another romantic affair with another woman. Whether or not this subplot decides the fate of the lost Bridgerton sibling is highly unknown. The Bridgerton writers don’t know what to do with him. Hopefully, the second part will answer some of these questions and conclude his storyline for good.

Perhaps the problem with the Bridgerton series is that it takes too long for these characters’ stories to be told. Six more Bridgerton siblings’ characters are still left, and only three books have been adapted. Who knows when we will watch Eloise’s love story with Sir Philip (Chris Fulton) unfold? Fulton’s character was first introduced in season one and appeared in some episodes in the following season.

Even if the series has sizzling chemistry and exquisite costume designs, what is worrying about the series is the gaps between each season should be shorter. Why does it take two whole years for a new season to be released? The hype for Bridgerton hasn’t died since the first season and fans are eager for the other books to be adapted. But how long will these stories keep us engaged and excited? Hopefully, the fourth season won’t take too long to be shown on Netflix.

Emma Naomi and Martins Imhangbe as Alice and Will. Image courtesy of Netflix.

Other characters like the Mondrichs, Will (Martins Imhangbe) and Alice (Emma Naomi), have an interesting storyline. After receiving a surprise inheritance, they find themselves thrust into a different social life. We see them adjust to the ton and its many rules to fit in. It’s an entirely new world for them.

As for Lady Bridgerton, who in Queen Charlotte states that she is ready to meet someone new, meets a potential romantic suitor in an unexpected visitor related to Lady Danbury (Adjoa Andoh). Also, Penelope’s bully, Cressida Cowper is looking for a husband in her third year of the marriage mart. Compared to the previous seasons, the writers have decided to humanise her. We see her beyond her snide remarks and her parents constantly badgering her to find a husband. Eloise and Cressida’s newfound friendship is quite a surprising turn, even for Penelope who is heartbroken that her former best friend would ever find companionship with someone who belittles her.

While Bridgerton has many beautiful gowns and great storylines, a few issues with this season must be addressed. For the most part, Penelope and Colin’s storyline is perfect. But it’s Colin’s individual storyline that falters.

Luke Newton as Colin Bridgerton. Image courtesy of Netflix.

In season three, he returns from his travels and wants to write a book, and that’s where it stops. Colin spends most of the time pining over Penelope and we don’t see him deal with other conflicts. He’s just there. It’s great seeing their romance develop but Colin is a one-dimensional character. There’s nothing else going on for him either. He’s a rich Bridgerton travelling the world. Even though we have seen Colin’s character develop for three seasons, certain inconsistencies in his characteristics set an unsettling tone.

Regardless, Bridgerton finally brings the romantic and electrifying story of Penelope and Colin. There are a lot of interesting subplots from various characters setting up the future seasons, especially Francesca, who has one of the best subplots this season, and Benedict’s storylines. But whether or not Benedict can hold onto the same hype as the previous seasons has filled this author’s mind with many doubts.

Perhaps the magic of Bridgerton’s illustrious society is starting to fade away. But dearest gentle reader, don’t be too dismayed by this season’s faulty narrative decisions. The romantic stories are enchanting and swoon-worthy, and it’s one of the best seasons, solely because of Penelope. While the streaming giant has decided to divide the season into two parts, more scandals are yet to be revealed.

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