Review: Bridgerton’s third season has arrived, and it’s more romantic than ever

The first line of Bridgerton’s third season is uttered by Lady Whistledown herself (voiced by the incomparable Julie Andrews), as she greets: “Dearest gentle reader, we have been apart for far too long”. And, of course, she’s not wrong.

Since its debut in late 2020, Bridgerton has been one of Netflix’s biggest flagship shows. Production on season three wrapped in the early months of last year, and ever since then, fans have been desperate to see the conclusion to Colin Bridgerton (Luke Newton) and Penelope Featherington’s (Nicola Coughlan) friends-to-lovers romance. Considering that it has taken two years for season three to arrive, many might question if Netflix’s regency hit continues to hold its power. However, I think it’s safe to say that it still attracts a buzz (bee pun intended). 

Credit: Netflix

Season three picks up several months after we last saw our beloved members of the ton. Penelope is still reeling from her fallout with her best friend Eloise (Claudia Jessie), who has since struck up an unexpected friendship with Penelope’s arch enemy Cressida Cowper (Jessica Madsen). Our young wallflower is also continuing to feel pressures from her family - Penelope is now the only unmarried sister in the Featherington house, and her mother Portia (Polly Walker) has resigned her to being her future caretaker. 

Elsewhere, Colin has returned from another bout of adventures abroad - only this time, he has obtained a new persona, filled with flirtation and swagger. Thankfully, when Penelope informs Colin that she overheard him saying that he would “never dream of courting” her, he quickly snaps out of his cockiness. He vows to get back into her good books by helping her to find a husband - not just one that will release Penelope from her mother’s claws, but will also allow her to carry out her alter ego as Lady Whistledown (not that Colin is aware of this, of course).

Credit: Liam Daniel / Netflix

This first half of the season mainly focuses on Colin secretly tutoring Pen on how to confidently speak to suitors. However, as all good romance dramas go, jealousy soon creeps in as Colin realises that, perhaps, he has blindly overlooked his childhood friend as a potential match for himself. 

Coughlan recently stated in an interview with The Hook that season three is “super romantic”. Her description is a perfect one, and not just because of the show’s now-famous love scenes. In fact, after season two’s release, critics complained that Bridgerton had lost some of its sex appeal, in comparison to its abundance in its first season. Personally, I would argue that Bridgerton’s sex scenes are not necessarily the most important aspect of its romances. 

Credit: Liam Daniel / Netflix

Those moments might be what attract the biggest headlines and attention from viewers, but for me, Bridgerton excels when it is just on the cusp of something great. Stolen glances, jealous stares, the almost-touching of hands, daydreams about the other; these building blocks can be much more powerful than a five-minute sex scene, and the first half of Colin and Penelope’s story has them all in abundance.

In reality, my main concern heading into season three was if Colin and Penelope could naturally progress from a platonic to romantic relationship, without any sense of awkwardness. What if the passion doesn’t shine through? What if their natural chemistry gets lost along the way? Luckily, these concerns soon faded away to a distant memory. Both Newton and Coughlan beautifully succeed in capturing the essence of friends-to-lovers; there are many moments where Colin and Penelope share a heartwarming giggle over the ton’s gossip, before going on to have ridiculous sexual chemistry just seconds later. 

Credit: Liam Daniel / Netflix

Outside of the ‘Polin’ romance, much of season three’s storyline is taken up by the debut of the third Bridgerton sister, Francesca (now played by Hannah Dodd, replacing previous actress Ruby Stokes). Quiet and introverted, Francesca’s safe space is at any piano she can find, and while the Dowager Viscountess Violet (Ruth Gemmell) encourages her daughter to become Queen Charlotte’s newest diamond, Francesca can think of nothing worse than having too many eyes on her. Francesca is a glorious addition to the regular cast, particularly amid the absence of older sister Daphne (Phoebe Dynevor) in this season. 

It’s also a joy to be reunited with Anthony and his new Viscountess Kate, given that season two lacked almost any blissful content between them. Unfortunately, while we are treated to many adorable moments with the newlyweds (including a sweet scene showcasing Kate’s bond with her mother-in-law), Kate and Anthony have so far only appeared in episode 1. Presumably, this is a result of actor Jonathan Bailey’s scheduling conflicts (at the time of Bridgerton’s production, Bailey was also filming both of the upcoming Wicked movies). It has not yet been confirmed if the pair will reappear before the end of season three, but I can only imagine that fans will be insistent that they do.

Credit: Liam Daniel / Netflix

All in all, the first four episodes of this season are just glorious to watch - which only makes it even more frustrating that it has been split into two parts. While producers have yet to give us a glimpse into the last four episodes of season three, one can theorise that Colin’s potential discovery of Lady Whistledown might be on the cards. Following his threats against the author in episode 1  - “I will make sure it is her life that is ruined”, he rages to Eloise - we can only assume that, like all good romance tales, Colin and Penelope’s journey to a happily ever after still has a few bumps ahead… and I, dearest reader, already can’t wait to see it.

Part 1 of Bridgerton season three is available to stream on Netflix now. Part 2 will arrive on June 13.