Review: ‘Bridgerton’ Season Three

Nicola Coughlan And Luke Newton Lead The Netflix Hit To Its Best Season Yet

This author was provided the first six episodes of the season.

Is it presumptuous to call Bridgerton’s third season its most anticipated? After a hot and steamy debut and a divisive sophomore run, the hit Netflix show has finally returned to our screens after a two-year hiatus. Longtime Shondaland collaborator Jess Brownell steps into previous showrunner Chris Van Dusen’s showrunner shoes to tell Colin Bridgerton’s love story, one that its previous installments have been hinting at for years. 

As the fourth child and third son of Violet and the late Edmund Bridgerton, Colin (Luke Newton) ended season 2 declaring he would never court his neighbor and friend Penelope Featherington (Nicola Coughlan). Devastated by this and that his sister and her best friend Eloise (Claudia Jessie) discovered her secret identity as gossip columnist Lady Whistledown (the always impeccable Julie Andrews) and ended their friendship, Penelope swore off the siblings as she went to the country to regroup for the fall. 

When we meet them again, the youngest Featherington is resolved to find a match, one that would afford her enough freedom to keep writing. She thinks she finds it in Lord Debling (Sam Phillips), a vegetarian animal enthusiast determined to find a wife before a three-year expedition. 

But old feelings come creeping back as Colin returns from a 17-city tour of Europe. While he hops off the boat with the swagger of a smug Ewan McGregor in Emma (which gets a shout-out in an early episode), he finds that his newfound popularity is lost on his old friend and he starts to question Penelope’s place in his life. 

Having two seasons to build chemistry only helped this season’s main couple. As an audience, we know what these characters are thinking with just one passing glance. With introductions well out of the way, Newton and Coughlan play with each other and the characters to great effect. You not only buy the lengthy journey their relationship is on in the first four episodes but savor it. If season 1 showed us a passionate love and season 2 exemplified romantic longing, season 3 is a sweet romance. Sure, there are moments of comedy and welcomed nakedness, but Colin and Penelope’s discovery of themselves and each other creates the basis for a beautiful love story. 

Newton gives a subtle and more nuanced take on his character than we’ve seen from him in the past two seasons. Colin’s journey in the first half of the season is more inward and introspective than with past Bridgerton heroes. Every emotion he’s feeling is written across Newton’s face. There’s obviously trust between him and the writers as so much of Colin’s is told literally through his eyes. 

Coughlan has many storylines to keep track of this season and plays each one with relatable charm. Gone is the girl with poodle curls and poor posture, but underneath is someone still aching to grow. Watching her performance change as Penelope does is one of the best parts of season 3. While her transformation this year is partially credited to the craft,production teams, and composer Kris Bower’s brilliant score, Coughlan’s understanding of her character is what drives such a captivating performance. 

As each season famously features a romantic interest with some sort of diversity from the straight, white, cis, thin norm we are used to seeing in traditional love stories, this season is no different, highlighting body diversity. Kat Herandez proudly declared in season 1 of Euphoria that there’s nothing more powerful than a fat girl who doesn’t give a fuck. While there’s been plenty of debate about whether Coughlan falls into that category, Penelope is definitely harnessing that energy going into this season. To see a woman with a round face and a plush belly, a Rubenesque figure if you will, experience pleasure and be desired is empowering. People often forget that larger bodies were the ideal in the Regency period, even if the castings of Keira Knightly and Anya Taylor Joy in Austen adaptations would tell us differently. 

While the season belongs to Nicola Coughlan and Luke Newton, other standouts include Polly Walker as the ignorant and scheming Portia Featherington. She steals every scene she is in with a glint of mischief in her eye and an emotionally unhinged undercurrent to her voice. 

Bridgerton season 3 is as much a love story between Penelope and Eloise than it is between Penelope and Colin. The former friends ended the previous season with angry words and declarations after Eloise discovered that her best friend was Lady Whistledown. Even though she starts the season parading about with mean girl Cressida Cowper (Jessica Madsen), Eloise’s loyalty to Pen simmers under Jessie’s performance. She goes from empathetic to vicious at the blink of an eye, and, in her comedic moments, channels Emma Stone from Easy A.  Her talents only amplify a storyline that is layered, relatable and exemplifies the complexities of female friendship.

Like every other Bridgerton season, this third installment is packed with cumbersome supporting storylines to keep characters relevant for future seasons. Benedict (Luke Thompson), the second Bridgerton brother, is constantly a victim of this as his arc each season feels detached from the next. This time, he enters into a relationship with a widow with no intentions to marry, similar to his art school muse of last year, his artistic pursuits all but forgotten. If he is to take up the mantle next season, here’s hoping the remaining two season 3 episodes will provide enough momentum for a meaningful storyline to stick. 

Adding to season 3’s busyness,  former boxer and current club proprietor Will Mondrich (Martins Imhangbe) and his family join the Ton titled after a distant relative dies. While their acclimation is endearing, one has to wonder if these characters are established enough for audiences to care about them through such a thin storyline. 

Similarly, many of the matriarchal characters don’t have much material to work with this season. Bridgerton mama Violet Bridgerton is busy finding a match for daughter Francesca (Hannah Dodd) and is intrigued by Lord Marcus Anderson (Daniel Francis), whose presence annoys society staple Agatha Danbury (Adjoa Andoh). Queen Charlotte (Golda Rosheuvel) is still after Lady Whistledown’s identity.  I don’t know if the monarch-centered spinoff that premiered last May, hurt their storylines this go round, but each of their arcs feels inconsequential and less commanding than in past seasons. 

The worst thing about this season is how Netflix handled marketing, promos, and press. From the split season to no official news for two years to over-posting to numerous and egregious leaks, the streaming platform has essentially edged fans for the last six months. If there are any sour feelings about this season, it’s completely due to how this season was handled. 

Though overstuffed, Jess Brownell and her team of writers clearly understand the “Polin” dynamic to a tee. They are two flawed characters who just want to be seen and loved for who they are. This iteration of Bridgerton is a nuanced and well-thought-out season that would make even the toughest heart swoon.

Bridgerton Season 3’s first four episodes are available today. Part 2 will be released June 13.

Watch the trailer below.

Bridgerton Season 3
Cortland Jacoby
A D.C area native, Cortland has been interested in media since birth. Taking film classes in high school and watching the classics with family instilled a love of film in Cortland’s formative years. Before graduating with a degree in English and minoring in Film Study from Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania, Cortland ran the college’s radio station, where she frequently reviewed films on air. She then wrote for another D.C area publication before landing at Punch Drunk Critics. Aside from writing and interviewing, she enjoys podcasts, knitting, and talking about representation in media.
review-bridgerton-season-threeThe sweet romance between Nicola Coughlan and Luke Newton overpower a very packed season.