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.
(Netflix)

‘Bridgerton’ Season 3 Suffers from One Overwhelming Issue

Bridgerton season 3 has finally graced us with its presence—well, the first half of the season, anyway—and while the romantic moments between Colin (Luke Newton) and Penelope (Nicola Coughlan) have undoubtedly swept us off our feet, something has felt a little off about this season, too.

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With only four episodes released so far, it’s been a little hard to pinpoint exactly what the problem is, but, as it turns out, that’s part of the problem. Don’t get me wrong—I’ve watched it twice (I’m trying to save my next rewatch for when the second half of the season drops) and loved every minute of it. There’s so much to enjoy and analyze and swoon over, but that’s just it. I’d argue that there is too much to enjoy, analyze, and swoon over.

Bridgerton, unlike the source material it is based on, has always been an ensemble show. It is about the Bridgerton name, after all, and those who carry it. While each season focuses on a different love story, the personal lives of the other Bridgerton family members are always considered and expanded upon as well. In the books, it’s a different story. The central love story is the focus, and other Bridgerton family members make what can only be described as a series of cameos. In Colin and Penelope’s novel, for instance, Colin reaches out to his sister Daphne for some advice, but other than that, his family members pop up at the occasional ball, and nothing more.

I believe that turning Bridgerton into an ensemble show has made the series better. The siblings’ character development doesn’t just randomly start once they meet the loves of their lives. Anthony needed to embrace his responsibility in Bridgerton season 1 before he was ready to fall in love in season 2. Colin needed to travel across Europe so he could finally recognize his feelings for Penelope in Bridgerton season 3. Eloise and Benedict have been learning more about themselves all this time, too.

The other Bridgerton siblings aren’t the only major side characters this season, however, and it’s becoming an issue.

Spoilers ahead for Bridgerton season 3, part 1.

Bridgerton season 3 is trying to do too much, too soon

Nicola Coughlan as Penelope Featherington and Luke Newton as Colin Bridgerton in Bridgerton season 3
(Netflix)

Francesca has been given a prominent, romantically-themed storyline. Violet Bridgerton’s garden may be in bloom soon. The Queen, as ever, has made her presence known. The Featherington sisters are desperately trying to get pregnant. The Mondrich family is moving up in the world. Resident bully Cressida Cowper is navigating an unlikely friendship with Eloise while Cressida’s chances of meeting a husband this season become slimmer. Benedict has found yet another gorgeous and interesting woman to distract him from his own worries. In summary, a lot is happening.

There is nothing wrong with any of these storylines on an individual basis. The Mondrichs are a gorgeous couple who deserve the world. Francesca’s romance with John Stirling is an important part of her character arc, and Eloise’s choices in the wake of her fallout with Penelope are incredibly compelling. The problem is that most side characters in previous seasons were connected to the main love story in some way, however minor. Those secondary storylines used to teach us something about the leading characters, but that no longer seems to be the case.

The Mondrichs were initially introduced in Bridgerton season 1 because they were the Duke’s closest friends. They deserve everything, but their story has nothing to do with Penelope or Colin this season, despite Colin’s cordial friendship with Mr. Mondrich. They’ve hardly interacted so far, if at all. Why not have Colin help them navigate their new positions in the Ton rather than Benedict?

Violet has struck up a flirtation with Lady Danbury’s brother. Though this is an understandable continuation of Violet’s story in Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story, it is completely disconnected from Penelope and Colin’s romance. The Featheringtons’ storyline is thinly connected to Penelope in that if one of the sisters produces a male heir, the estate will go to them, but Penelope has already decided to get married to avoid that fate, and we already know she is going to succeed. It doesn’t affect her much further than that.

Benedict’s latest affair is utterly unrelated, too. While in Bridgerton season 2, Benedict’s time at the Royal Academy of Art—and his subsequent fling with one of the models there—was wrapped up in Anthony’s need to please everyone by buying his brother’s place at the institute, that isn’t the case here. It is utterly unrelated to anything else going on, and on top of that, it doesn’t really add anything to Benedict’s character arc.

Francesca’s story, too, is completely unrelated. While Colin’s affection for Marina in Bridgerton season 1 affected the entire Bridgerton family, and Daphne soon became involved so that she could try to contact the father of Marina’s baby, Francesca’s story is completely removed from either lead character. She and Penelope interacted once and bonded briefly, and Colin and Francesca have hardly said a word to one another.

The result is a compelling season that simultaneously feels too overwhelming. Colin and Penelope’s story is almost lost in the chaos, and while much of their “courting” happened in previous seasons, they deserved more screen time in this first batch of episodes. Releasing season 3 in two installments hasn’t helped matters, either. It’s difficult to see how everything fits together, and with the upcoming Lady Whistledown reveal to contend with, it’s hard to imagine that the show will be able to bring every storyline to a satisfactory conclusion or reveal how they’ll serve as a jumping-off point for future seasons.

Sure, Bridgerton can and should look toward the future—season 4 has already been announced, after all, and I can’t imagine it won’t at least get a fifth season—but it still needs to strike a balance between the main couple and the rest of the Ton. I’m not sure it’s managed that balance this time around. Hopefully, part 2 proves me wrong.


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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.