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Bridgerton Season 3 Part 1 (Netflix) Review

Part 1 of the long-awaited Bridgerton season 3 is as steamy and captivating as always, if only a little repetitive in its storytelling.

“Dearest gentle reader,” we hear at the beginning of part 1 of the very much-awaited Bridgerton season 3. The familiar and now iconic words of our favourite gossipmonger take us back to another – hopefully scandalous – season in the London marriage mart amongst hopeful debutants and their desperate mamas. For those of us who have kept up with Bridgerton since December 2020 when it first came out, it feels like we have been waiting for season 3 for such a long time. And now finally, after months of anxious waiting and some exciting promotional material, we can enjoy the third season of the Regency-era show – or at least its first part.

With part 1 of season 3, Bridgerton focuses on none other than Lady Whistledown herself, Penelope Featherington (Nicola Coughlan, of Seize Them!). Once a wallflower, Penelope is now ready to take centre stage and find herself a match. Now on her third marriage season, she captures the interest of one Lord Debling (Sam Phillips, of The Crown), but will she let go of her childhood friend and crush?

Colin Bridgerton (Luke Newton) has just returned from his travels and things at Bridgerton house are anything but calm as Violet (Ruth Gemmell) presents her daughter Francesca (Hannah Dodd, of Enola Holmes 2) as a new debutant. This season also sees Eloise (Claudia Jesse) find an unlikely friend, Anthony (Jonathan Bailey) and Kate (Simone Ashley) as the new viscount and viscountess Bridgerton and Benedict (Luke Thompson) form a new attachment.

One of my favourite Bridgerton characters has always been Penelope, so I was understandably very much looking forward to seeing more of her in season 3. From the very beginning of this season, Penelope is established as the main character now. This is particularly exciting as Penelope is a different female lead than all of the ones we have seen before. Due to her double identity as Lady Whistledown, a big part of the conflict for her character comes from the external factors and characters outside the love triangle, rather than just having her plotline centred on the love story. As the writer of the society papers everyone reads and loves, Penelope also has a considerable amount of power compared to the other female characters in the show.

Colin and Penelope in the Bridgerton Season 3 Part 1
Colin and Penelope in the Bridgerton Season 3 Part 1 (Netflix)

The chemistry between Penelope and Colin is undeniable from the very first scene they share in season 3 part 1. While we have seen them interact in the other seasons, it is immediately clear that this is nothing like before. Penelope and Colin have both been key to Bridgerton so far each in their own way, so it is incredibly satisfying to see them take on the leading couple role this season as the audience finally gets to witness their character growth both as individuals and, eventually, as a couple. Speaking of romance, the chemistry between Penelope and Lord Debling is also fascinating: while he may not be the leading man of the season, I surprisingly found myself somewhat rooting for him and Penelope as they share their first dance and have a conversation.

The first four episodes of Bridgerton season 3 are paced particularly well, with each episode ending at the perfect moment to keep us on the edge of our seats wanting to see more of the story – that is, if you managed to avoid the pressing need to binge all of part one in one go. I was also pleasantly surprised to see how quickly the plot moves forward in part 1, especially compared to earlier seasons of the show. Now that the show is in its third season, this choice makes a lot of sense, especially now that the main couple is made up of characters that the audience is already familiar with from the previous two seasons. 

In terms of themes, I really like how Bridgerton season 3 chooses to focus on the role of marriage in a woman’s life. In a show where the character’s happy ending is so often tied to them finding a love match, I enjoyed seeing this season’s plot steer in the direction of what a marriage out of convenience and mutual understanding, if not necessarily love, may look like. As the characters themselves reflect on this, particularly Penelope and Francesca, the series does a good job of reminding us of the importance of marriage for women at the time and the possibilities and freedoms it may afford. 

If you have read the books Bridgerton is based on, it will become increasingly clear that the show is laying the foundation for Francesca’s season in the near future. While this may be an exciting prospect, Francesca’s plotline overshadows everyone else’s at times. I would have loved to see more of her friendship with Penelope, as the two seem to share certain similarities, which would have helped to integrate her storyline with the main narrative of this season. Her sudden introduction and key role in the story feels a little bit abrupt, as her character has been barely present in the past two seasons to the point that some of the audience may have even forgotten about her entirely before her debut in season 3.

Overall, it seems that Bridgerton is trying to do a little bit too much in part 1. In only four episodes, the show introduces significant plotlines for the majority of its characters, so much so that neither Penelope nor Colin seem like the protagonists of season 3 anymore. This is particularly disappointing for those of us who have been waiting for Penelope to lead her own season for such a long time as this is something that also features heavily in the entire marketing for this season. While the series has often featured side plotlines alongside the main story, in this season the ensemble cast and supporting characters are taking a predominantly main role and a large amount of screen time compared to previous seasons of the show.

Bridgerton season 3: New Looks (Netflix)

While most of them are fascinating stories, there are too many plots thrown together in season 3 so far, some of which seem to add very little to the characters or overall narrative of the show. This is particularly true of Benedict’s plotline this season, which continuously failed to grab my attention or interest. To its credit, Bridgerton does a good job at developing all these storylines equally and in-depth, but by doing so, it seems to lose the focus on who is meant to be leading the show. I also feel like the plotlines of season 3 are far too disconnected from each other, which only makes it harder to constantly jump from one to the other.

Bridgerton seems to play it safe with the part 1 of season 3, repeating the structure and general outline we have seen in previous seasons so far. It may be predictable at times but admittedly, it is a formula that works and ends up creating a promising and fascinating first four episodes of the season. And yet, I still felt like something was missing. Will the second part of the season finally surprise us and sweep us off our feet? This author surely hopes so. 

Bridgerton Season 3: What to Expect – Loud And Clear Reviews
Season 3 of Bridgerton is coming out in May, but what can you expect from the new season of the show? Here’s what we think will happen!

Part 1 (episodes 1-4) Bridgerton Season 3 is now available to stream on Netflix. Part 2 (episodes 5-8) will launch on June 13.

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