Key art for Bridgerton season 3 on Netflix, with Colin Bridgerton, Peneope Featherington, Queen Charlotte, Anthony and Kate Bridgerton, and more all featured. Colin and Penelope stand in front of a mirror.

‘Bridgerton’ Season 3 Is Missing One Crucial Element in an Otherwise Great Adaptation

On the whole, Bridgerton season 3 is a rousing success. Though I’ve previously found fault with it, especially during the first half of the season, there’s no denying that as far as book adaptations go, Bridgerton’s third outing is actually a great one.

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Adapting a book for the small or the big screen is notoriously difficult. It’s almost impossible to transfer all the nuance, emotion, and narrative impact from one medium to another. Cuts will inevitably be made, leaving some lovers of the source material (understandably) furious or genuinely heartbroken, while others will be jubilant about the chosen changes, impressed with how they’ve elevated the characters or the story for the better. When it comes to Bridgerton season 3, I am firmly part of the latter grouping.

Colin (Luke Newton) and Penelope’s (Nicola Coughlan) love story is based on the fourth novel of Julia Quinn’s Regency-era romance series, Romancing Mister Bridgerton. While I enjoyed the book for what it was, I couldn’t help but feel disappointed in Colin’s characterization, especially—in fact, in the Bridgerton books that I’ve read, and admittedly, it isn’t all of them, I was surprised by how gruff, domineering, and even rough the male leads were (Benedict’s book, especially, was a bit of a let down after watching Luke Thompson’s performance on the show). This is probably, in part, simply a by-product of the time in which these books were first written, but it’s certainly easy to appreciate how the series took the best parts of these characters and elevated them into the romantic heroes we now know and love.

Bridgerton season 3 isn’t just a solid adaptation because of how it handled its main male love interest, however. Given all the changes the show has already made to the source material—the shift in the timeline, the largely developed backstories, the additional minor characters, and so on—the series still managed to include almost every major and minor part of Penelope and Colin’s romance in one way or another.

Penelope and Colin discussing their first meeting at the market was such a clever way of referencing their first encounter in the book. Their first kiss, though spurred on by different events, was just as gentle and romantic as it was in their original love story. The carriage ride, the way Colin found out about Whistledown’s true identity, his struggles with envy and a lack of purpose, all of that was there, perfectly woven into this version of the continuity. The story may not be exactly the same, but all the important parts of it are certainly present and accounted for.

There’s only one thing I truly missed from Romancing Mister Bridgerton, and, in fact, it has nothing to do with Penelope and Colin’s grand romance. It concerns another character entirely.

Honestly, we needed more Lady Danbury

Lady Danbury on Netflix's Bridgerton.

Adjoa Andoh’s performance as Lady Danbury has been a highlight of Bridgerton since season 1. Steadfast, strong, and scheming, Lady Danbury’s relationships with the Queen (Golda Rosheuvel), Violet Bridgerton (Ruth Gemmell), and the rest of the Bridgerton family have provided the show with a fun, fresh, and emotional perspective. Finding out more about her backstory in both Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story and Bridgerton season 3 has been a highlight for me. Andoh strikes that balance between independent and eminently vulnerable perfectly. I wanted to see more of her.

Actually, I wanted to see more of her in relation to one person in particular. In Romancing Mister Bridgerton, Lady Danbury strikes up an unlikely friendship with none other than Penelope Featherington. In the novel, it is Lady Danbury who tells the Ton that they may win a cash prize for unmasking the real Lady Whistledown. At the same time, she and Penelope become close at various society events, as Lady Danbury begins to see that Penelope is much cleverer and kinder than the Ton gives her credit for. Penelope returns Lady Danbury’s respect in kind, and together, they become society’s most formidable ladies.

Now, I won’t say that Bridgerton season 3 ignored this dynamic entirely—in the final minutes of the final episode, Penelope and Lady Danbury do exchange a few choice words. Lady Danbury reveals that she suspected Lady Whistledown was Penelope all along, and they share a secret smile and a hint of a friendship to come. That wasn’t enough for me, though. Imagine how much fun these two could have had together! While Lady Danbury’s story with her estranged brother and her lovely friendship with Violet Bridgerton was an important plot point this season (understandably so, after what happened in Queen Charlotte), I still wanted more.

If, during their falling out, Eloise (Claudia Jessie) was given the chance to become friends with Cressida Cowper (Jessica Madsen) and the rest of the Ton’s young ladies, why couldn’t Penelope have been given another friend and ally, too? Her romance with Colin was the focal point, of course, and Penelope and Eloise’s shattered friendship was an undeniably important part of both their stories, but Penelope deserved to have someone else she could confide in, too. I wish that could have been Lady Danbury, at least to some extent—though I will admit that I am very glad this season included a few scenes of Penelope together with Madame Delacroix (Kathryn Drysdale), another formidable woman and perhaps the only one who understands Penelope’s true talent for business as well as gossip.

Platonic friendships are just as important as romantic ones, and while Bridgerton has, in the past, done a decent job of showcasing that (Penelope and Eloise have often been the heart of the show, even during their estrangement), I wish that they could have just done a bit more of that in this season, too.

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El Kuiper
El (she/her) is The Mary Sue's U.K. editor and has been working as a freelance entertainment journalist for over two years, ever since she completed her Ph.D. in Creative Writing. El's primary focus is television and movie coverage for The Mary Sue, including British TV (she's seen every episode of Midsomer Murders ever made) and franchises like Marvel and Pokémon. As much as she enjoys analyzing other people's stories, her biggest dream is to one day publish an original fantasy novel of her own.