top of page

Bridgerton, Season 3, Part One: My Thoughts, Feelings, and Complaints

As usual with Bridgerton, I find myself torn between delight at seeing a historical romance dramatized for the big-budget screen and consternation at the choices made in that process. And Season 3 has the problems that have been with the series from the beginning, including its approach to race and colonialism (the brilliant Shavi recapped these issues this week on her Instagram @purely.romantic; you can read her amazing analysis here) and its choice to willfully ignore the conventions of the romance genre from which its source material springs.
That said, when I first finished Part One, I thought it was pretty solid! I was relieved that, unlike Season 2, the writers didn't leave amazing pieces of priceless IP (specifically, Anthony trying to suck bee venom from Kate's cleavage) on the cutting room floor. I loved seeing Nicola Coughlan as the romantic lead; I think she is perfectly cast as Penelope. And I had to admire the narrative tension that they sewed up by the end of Part One. We are left with Penelope and Colin in love and engaged, but with one giant problem between them: Colin hates Lady Whistledown and Penelope, of course, IS Lady Whistledown.
However, as I continued to reflect, I felt less sanguine. Whereas I had problems with the writing in Season 2, the romance felt more palpable. Simone Ashley and Jonathan Bailey have amazing chemistry, yes, but they were also given a tauter emotional dynamic within which to work. They were in forced proximity because of his pursuit of her younger, more eligible sister, and their scenes together (the lust! the hatred!) just popped off the screen. As a viewer, their conflict was palpable: they're not supposed to want each other, they don't even particularly like each other, and yet they want to tear each other's clothes off.
This first part of Season 3, however, felt a bit more...aimless. Colin and Penelope are a friends to lovers story, but I missed why their relationship pivots. How does Colin come to see Penelope differently and why? I don't feel that I can really tell you. She gets a makeover and announces she wants to find a husband, I guess!! I will admit that personal preferences comes in here, too. Luke Newton is a less able actor IMO than Jonathan Bailey or Regé-Jean Page and he wasn't fully selling Colin to me as the romantic lead. He still felt like the love interest from the B-plot romance whereas Nicola was very much the leading lady.
Lastly, I am having major issues with how they are handling Pen as Lady Whistledown and her character generally. First, in the books, Penelope is almost thirty and LW is full of wry, Jane Austen-esque observations about her social milieu. Additionally, Pen has gained a lot of maturity since she first met Colin and, while she still has a crush on him, she has also found a sense of self-actualization as an unmarried woman with a certain measure of freedom. In the show, though, Penelope is presented as far more abject socially and it feels like she is being constantly humiliated! She isn't just a wallflower; it feels like we are constantly being told that everyone thinks she is unattractive, not charming, and just generally embarrassing. I can understand if Penelope FEELS this way, and she does in many ways in the books, too, but there you understand that this perception isn't necessarily reality. In the book, it felt totally believable that observant, intelligent Pen could be LW. In the show, it feels impossible that the bon mots proffered by the older woman voiceover could come from the young lady very much actively living and learning (and often crying!!) and struggling to keep her head above water in this world. The cool calm of LW is diametrically opposed to Pen's emotional volatility. Furthermore, the idea that the Pen we see on screen could talk about herself with the detachment that LW uses in regard to's just not believable. In the books, you get the sense that Pen is largely not talking about herself as LW, because she isn't a major player in the marriage mart. But in the show, LW is constantly talking about Penelope, which makes Penelope seem kind of unhinged? It makes Colin's coming anger with Pen over her identity as LW feel justified whereas, in the books, Pen was just a badass and you just want Colin to get with the program. But, mostly, Pen as LW felt baffling to me here and a dynamic that they just weren't pulling off.
I am hoping my enjoyment increases as I continue watching, though. And, despite my complaints, I will be glued to the screen the moment Part Two is out.


bottom of page