‘Bridgerton’ Season 3 Review: A Wallflower’s Journey

Anyone who has written off the series as fluff or who considers romance a lesser genre should look again this season.

Luke Newton as Colin Bridgerton and Nicola Coughlan as Penelope Featherington in Bridgerton. LIAM DANIEL/NETFLIX

Bridgerton may be a romantic fantasy, but its third season, which centers on Penelope Featherington (Nicola Coughlan) and Colin Bridgerton (Luke Newton), is also deeply relatable. In the season, which airs its four-episode Part 1 on May 16 before returning in June with an additional four, Penelope is desperate to shed her wallflower persona in order to find a husband. She’s tired of living in the shadow of her boisterous, dim-witted sisters Philipa (Harriet Cains) and Prudence (Bessie Carter) and her money-obsessed mother Portia (Polly Walker). She’s on the outs with Eloise (Claudia Jessie) after her BFF discovered the true identity of Lady Whistledown at the end of season two. She’s in love with Colin, her long-time pal and neighbor, but he’s a cad about town and can’t see the forest for the trees.

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As with each season, the new episodes are based on Romancing Mister Bridgerton, one of the novels in Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton series. Many beloved scenes are drawn directly from the book, including a wistful moment between Penelope and Colin (known to fans as “Polin”) where she bandages a cut on his hand. But new showrunner Jess Brownell also fully embraces the visual spectacle of the series, which is ornately presented with sumptuous costumes and sets that feel even more ostentatious and aspirational this season. The colors are bold, the set pieces impressive, and the balls go over the top in the best way possible—all of which creates a striking backdrop for the will-they-won’t-they storyline.

Golda Rosheuvel as Queen Charlotte, David Mumeni as Lord Samadani, Hannah Dodd as Francesca Bridgerton, Adjoa Andoh as Lady Agatha Danbury in Bridgerton. LIAM DANIEL/NETFLIX

Of course, no romance is complete without a few obstacles. Colin, galivanting with the other society bros, doesn’t recognize his feelings for Penelope, who’s been pining for him for years. Even when she arrives at a party with a transformative makeover, he doesn’t see her clearly. In fact, he offers to help teach her how to land a suitor, an effort that results in them kissing. Still, it works and Penelope finds herself interested in the equally shy Lord Debling (Sam Phillips), a nature-lover who appears to be a catch thanks to his large fortune. Will Colin come to his senses on time? Can Penelope find love with someone else? Readers, of course, know how this ends up, but it’s still a tension-filled ride to get there and it’s impossible not to feel endless empathy for Penelope as she grapples with anxiety in social situations. 

There are other subplots throughout the episodes, including a grown-up Francesca Bridgerton (Hannah Dodd), who becomes a favorite of Queen Charlotte (Golda Rosheuvel) even though she’d rather be alone with her music. In a far less compelling storyline, Will Mondrich (Martins Imhangbe) finds himself in the thralls of high society after his son earns an inheritance and struggles with whether he can keep his gentleman’s club. Other favorites, including the now-married Bridgerton children, appear, but it’s Coughlan who captivates. She has a deep understanding of Penelope—and those like her—and she’s endlessly enjoyable to watch. You can’t help but root for the character, especially once she finally gets everything she’s ever wanted. It’s a dynamic, memorable performance that eclipses Coughlan’s fellow castmates. 

Bridgerton is pleasurable in the way eating an extremely fancy piece of cake is pleasurable. It may not be the pinnacle of heath, but it’s delicious and it makes you feel good. The first season came at a time in the pandemic when people needed connection and hope, and the series has carried on with those ideals. It’s a delight to watch Penelope find her way, and her journey will resonate with a lot of viewers who might also describe themselves as wallflowers. If she can find the strength and confidence to look for love, so can they. Anyone who has written off the series as fluff or who considers romance to be a lesser genre should look again this season. Under the layers of lace and the enormous floral arrangement, there’s real heart. 

‘Bridgerton’ Season 3 is screening now on Netflix.

‘Bridgerton’ Season 3 Review: A Wallflower’s Journey