RECAP: “Bridgerton” Season 3, Part 1

May 20, 2024

BY Eric Rezsnyak

Dearest gentle reader, we finally return to our wonderful ‘Ton after far too long an absence (more than two years, to be specific). Based on Part 1 (Episodes 1-4), Shondaland’s frothy Regency Era-set romance feels closer to its irresistible, bodice-ripping first season than its somehow tense yet dull sophomore season. While I’m a poor substitute for Lady Whistledown — although I do know how to blow — I will offer my thoughts on the first clutch of Season 3 episodes, ranking each storyline from least important to most. I invite you to leave your thoughts in the comments below!

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Lord Anthony Bridgerton & Lady Kate Sharma Bridgerton: Last season’s leads are written off by the end of Episode 1, as the extremely horny couple decides to extend its honeymoon and allow Anthony’s mother to continue to run the family and estate. It gives her purpose and pleasure, and allows the newlyweds more time to bang each other out all over the English countryside. I will say that I appreciated Jonathan Bailey — whose star absolutely exploding right now — actually fulfilling his contractual obligations, giving the viewers closure for his character. Obviously I have no idea what happened with the Rege-Jean Page that led to him declining to come back for the S2 write-off, but I do think that it’s noticeable that he hasn’t had a single new project release in over a year. A reminder to fulfill your obligations instead of buying into your hype, kids.

Will & Alice Mondrich: The “Poochie” of this season, these tertiary-or-less characters keep getting pushed to the forefront, and for the life of me I have no idea why. I feel like at every ball scene someone has to go out of their way to have a conversation with one of them, and it all feels so forced for the sake of…something. Will went from a boxer to a bar owner, and now magically their kid has inherited some random title from some long-lost relation of Alice. What is happening with who now? And why do I care? I assume the point of these characters is to show the working class interacting with the absurdity of the gentry social scene, but this storyline is a total dud.

Lady Violet Bridgerton & Lord Danbury: An unexpected treat, Violet appears to be getting her own suitor this season, as Lady Danbury’s apparently rakish brother makes his return to the ‘Ton, and seemingly immediately sets his sights on Violet. I’m curious to learn more about Lord Danbury and why specifically his sister appears to hate his guts, and I’m glad for Violet to get a little lovin’ after spending seasons preoccupied with the romantic entanglements of her children.

Francesca Bridgerton/Lord Kilmartin/Lord Samadani: The Bridgerton actually coming out this season is a refreshing change of pace, as Francesca — now recast with the stunning Hannah Dodd — eschews attention and prefers to live a quiet, solitary life preoccupied with her true love, music. Lady Danbury still conspires to ignite Queen Charlotte’s interest in the newest Bridgerton ingenue, and Her Majesty brings in the generically charming (but less-than-attractive) Lord Samadani to take her hand. Francesca initially seemed content to do whatever the queen asked of her…until she makes the acquaintance of Lord Kilmartin, who shares her love of music and stillness. I’m engaged with this arc, even if I’m not exactly wowed by either suitor. The idea of a Bridgerton who is herself an outsider is interesting. I do wonder when Queen Charlotte will learn to stop giving the Bridgertons ANY attention, because this family is a mess.

Eloise Bridgerton & Cressida Cowper: I am fascinated by where this is going. Previously mortal enemies, tomboy Eloise and human viper Cressida have become friends over the break, connecting in the countryside now that Eloise and Penelope are on the outs. I thoroughly enjoyed watching these two navigate their new friendship, and wondered if perhaps this was all leading to an unexpected lesbian love match (no, I have not read the books, nor do I want spoilers). Good work has been done with Cressida this season, helping to flesh out why she’s all sharp edges and delightfully cracked-out clothing. Meanwhile, Eloise — formerly a favorite — is a mess this season, torn between empathy for her former best friend, fury at said friend’s role in muckraking (specifically about Eloise and her family), and her allegiance to her brother and his happiness. It’s all well done, and the drama is both understandable and weirdly relatable.

Benedict Bridgerton & Lady Tilley Arnold: Chronologically we should actually be following Benedict this season, but 1) they had to pull the trigger on Penelope/Colin or risk losing Nicola Coughlan and 2) they’ve done a poor job setting up Benedict’s arc up to this point. Previously we saw Benedict seemingly veer toward homosexuality via his stint with an art group, but this season he is explicitly butching it up as he pursues ravishing widow Lady Tilley Arnold. And who could blame him? Lady Tilley is stunerella, and the kind of no-nonsense gal that would make any man take notice. Even the gay ones! I can confirm. Interested to see where this situationship goes.

The Ladies Featherington: In the past, Lady Portia and her two elder daughters, Prudence and Phillipa, have been minor villains and comic relief, impotently scheming for ways to save their house after beings screwed over by multiple men (ladies, we have all been there). This season is even more of the same, but I’m living for it like never before. Portia quizzing her now-married daughters on their sex habits — hilarious. The newly married women guiding their utterly clueless husbands on doing the deed — amazing. The one-upmanship regarding possible pregnancy — delightful. It’s not all fun and fucking though, as I’ve actually found Portia’s interactions with Penelope to be so interesting to watch. You can tell Portia does want Penelope to be happy, even if she has absolutely no idea how to not be a monster. Great season for the Featheringtons.

Colin Bridgerton: Hoo boy. OK. I have been a Colin fan since Season 1. I thought the show did a good job establishing him and his dynamic with Penelope in the previous two seasons. You could obviously see where this was going, specifically the complicating factor of Lady Whistledown, which could potentially blow up the fairy-tale nature of their relationship. But something has happened with actor Luke Newton in the off season, both in terms of his acting as well as, I’m just going to say it, his appearance. Is it possible he’s just aged and his face has changed? Or he’s leaned out so much (he is clearly ripped) that his face has lost some of its natural fullness? Regardless, something is different, and I cannot stop thinking about it whenever he’s on screen. The acting is also…not great. There’s a woodenness to his delivery, and the chemistry with Penelope especially is off. Colin’s personal arc — whoring around Europe and discovering that the life of a bon vivant bachelor actually brings him very little happiness — works, and I think Newton is able to sell those scenes with his fellow lads and cads. But specifically the romance with Penelope lacks the sparks that we previously saw with our main couples. The make-out session in the carriage at the end of Part 1 was beyond awkward. Never in my life have I been so relieved to watch a woman get fingered on television — I really mean that, because it meant the terrible kissing stopped. Maybe they are deliberately playing it as awkward, exploring the weird segues of friends to lovers? I don’t know, but it is not great. And I expected it to be great.

Penelope Featherington/Lord Debling: This is really Penelope’s season, and Nicola Coughlan is owning it. She has always been a standout of the cast, playing a dual role as a kind of Cinderella character, but also the Machiavellian narrative engine keeping the plot moving. It’s been wonderful to see Penelope attempt to own her own love life, struggle, and bounce back — highly relatable content, Pen. I think where things got dicey in this arc is that Lord Debling, played by the very sexy Sam Phillips, came in and almost instantly had better chemistry with Penelope than the man the show wants us to want her with, Colin. By the end of Part 1, it wasn’t even a question in my mind. There was an ease and a mutual respect and admiration between Penelope and Debling that simply is not there with Colin, and it made Debling’s E4 dropping of Penelope frankly devastating. I understand that Colin and Penelope together will lead to a reckoning for Whistledown, and I’m excited to watch that unfold in Act II (especially Eloise’s role in it). But this show has trained me to want for Penelope to be happy, and I honestly would prefer her with Debling — even with him traveling for months/years at a time — to the awkward scenes we got with her and Colin.

What do you think? Were you happy with Part 1 of Season 3? What do you hope to see in Part 2? Drop your thoughts in the comments.

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