‘Bridgerton’ Season 3 Loses Steam Before Rallying to a Satisfying Finish

[Editor’s note: This story contains spoilers for all of Season 3 of Netflix’s “Bridgerton,” including the ending.]

When speaking to IndieWire ahead of “Bridgerton” Season 3 Part 1, new showrunner Jess Brownell teased that the word of Part 2 would be “heightened.” “‘Crescendo’ would be another one,” Brownell said. “I think things really ramp up in the back half. If the first half is pure rom-com, the back half still has elements of that, but I would say it’s very thrilling. The back half … intense.”

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Indeed, gentle readers.

Part 2 of the Netflix smash found Colin (Luke Newton) and Penelope (Nicola Coughlan) immediately having premarital sex (it helps when your moral code isn’t quite as rigid as Anthony’s); Cressida (Jessica Madsen) attempting her very first blackmail; Violet (Ruth Gemmell) exploring romance with Lord Anderson (Daniel Francis); and — we’re stunned — the reveal to the entire ton, including the Queen (Golda Rosheuvel), that Penelope is gossip columnist Lady Whistledown herself.

It’s a lot of process in just four hours, so below, IndieWire’s Proma Khosla and Erin Strecker break it all down: What worked (more threesomes) and didn’t (finale pacing). All that, plus: THREE babies in the final moments! The gasp we gasped.

Benedict Explores

Proma Khosla: Happy Pride, Benny B. I have to say I was laughing for a lot of this because as much as it makes sense for the character, it made sense to viewers THREE-AND-A-HALF YEARS AGO. It is totally fair that in the Regency Era (and even now!) it would take lots of explanation and exploration, and that Benedict (Luke Thompson) is on a Journey of Meaning — but it’s also fair for me to scream through every minute of the lead up because I’ve known this in my bones for years.

Erin Strecker: It’s very funny that fans have screamed “Let Benedict Be Gay” for essentially the entire run of “Bridgerton.” I’m so pleased that the show (this plotline is nowhere to be found in Benedict’s book) leaned in, letting the artist be shocked by and then become wildly aroused by threesomes and sex with men. Perhaps my favorite part of the back half of the season is all this drama is going down around him, and the show just kept cutting back to Benedict and the Never-Ending Threesome. It was sexy, fun, and made sense for the character.

(CUT TO: Benedict, Tillie, and Paul still having a threesome.)

Lady Whistledown Is Revealed

TFW you did something bad (but it was feminist!?)
TFW you did something bad (but it was feminist!?)

Proma: First we must acknowledge the false Lady Whistledown, Miss Cressida Cowper, whom I do admire for her showmanship and ambition — even if she failed. Watching the wheels turn in Cressida’s head at the end of 305 was so much fun, juxtaposed with Penelope’s spiraling anxiety and those melodramatic clock shots. Same goes for her tattling to Portia (Polly Walker) in 308 — Cressida loves an audience! Also she finally called Violet out for conflating love and lust, because somebody had to…

It looks like Cressida may be gone for good, though! Erin, will you miss the ton’s resident mean girl?

Erin: I would not have thought so prior to this season, but the show did a nice job fleshing out her and her mean family’s backstory. I can’t say I need to see a great deal more of her now that she’s departed via carriage with her mean aunt, but it’ll be fun to have her pop into the S4 finale with a good man (or woman!) on her arm and the wildest hairdo you’ve ever seen. Good for her!

What did you think of Part 2 overall?

Proma: This was admittedly an uneven crop of episodes. I do think 305 (“Tick Tock”) was one of my favorites ever, and that’s because it was bursting with plot, suspense, and romance without pushing the limits of runtime. However, the later episodes, particularly 8 (“Into the Light”), really struggled in that regard, with what felt like too much back-and-forth about where Colin stood on Penelope being Whistledown and how it would affect their marriage.

Erin: Yes. Unfortunately, I thought the finale really struggled with keeping all the balls in the air and even in remembering all that had happened prior and why and when it mattered. For example, Lady Featherington and the solicitor. I had moved on from that plotline! The biggest issue, as you note Proma, is that while I get that it’s a character choice for Colin to be indecisive about how he feels about Penelope and Lady Whistledown it was a bit confusing moment-to-moment how mad he was at her. The show may have been hampered by the fact that viewers knew they would ultimately work it out so every moment they weren’t making out and living happily ever after just felt like tension-free treading water, especially toward the end.

Proma: And I was not remotely stressed about Queen Charlotte’s reaction to all this, because for all her intimidation and power, the woman loves mess. She was never going to give Penelope more than a slap on the wrist if not an O.B.E. for her efforts, so it kind of killed the stakes for me on that front.

Erin: Queen Charlotte does love mess, but the culmination of the reveal didn’t pack a big punch: Penelope, Eloise and Colin have been so concerned about this, and then Queen Charlotte is like “Great, you’re humbled. Gossip is fun!” O…K? I agree it was in character, but what a letdown for Cressida’s very first blackmail scheme.

TFW when one friend is blackmailing your other friend
TFW when one friend is blackmailing your other friend

Francesca (Hannah Dodd) Lives Happily Ever After … Maybe?

Proma: I haven’t read the books, but I’ve heard where her story goes, so I am Stressed. The arrival of her husband’s cousin is clearly set up as a Big Moment, and at first I screamed because I thought she’d be a love interest for Eloise (Claudia Jessie) — but then the next shot is tight on Francesca absolutely freaking out internally, so I’m very confused! I am happy for and in favor of all gay Bridgertons, but I very much enjoyed demisexual queen Fran while we had her.

Erin: OK, here’s where I break with you. Francesca’s storyline was snoozeville for me the whole season, and I was hoping (though she seems very nice, etc., etc.) that shipping her and John (Victor Alli) off to Scotland was a way to get them mostly off the show — as it likely is for Kate (Simone Ashley) and Anthony (Jonathan Bailey) heading off to India. I do not care about their wedding, and I do not care about their quiet love when there are big loud gossip-y mysteries to solve, like…did that publishing assistant ever get to meet Penelope???

BUT THEN. I was all set to enjoy a spinoff show about Eloise ultimately meeting Outlander, but it seems like this mysterious cousin of John’s is going to throw Francesca for a loop instead — do we think there’s any chance the duo already know each other? You’ve done it again, Team “Bridgerton.”

Color me intrigued.

Fine. These two can stay.
Fine. These two can stay.

What’s Next:

Erin: Book readers will know that the “masquerade” line between Eloise and Benedict in the final moments is a giant clue that Benedict’s storyline (outlined in Julia Quinn’s book “An Offer From a Gentleman”) will dominate next season. Proma, what else do you want to see in Season 4 and beyond?

Proma: As I understand it, the show is taking bold and satisfying departures from the source material, so I hope that continues. It’s getting more rewarding as the seasons go on to watch characters find their path because we’ve spent more time with them, and that’s been an enjoyable emotional journey as a viewer. Mostly I look forward to screaming at you in all-caps texts about this show for years to come. RELEASE THE BUGS.

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