Luke Newton as Colin Bridgerton and Nicola Coughlan as Penelope Featherington embracing in front of a mirror in the Bridgerton season 3, part 2 trailer

I Finally Understand Why Netflix Has Split ‘Bridgerton’ Season 3 Into Two Parts

When I first heard the news that Netflix was splitting Bridgerton season 3 up into two separate parts, I let out a long, defeated sigh. We’d already been waiting for the third season for over two years, and now they wanted us to wait another month in between for another four episodes.

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It was preposterous. Scandalous. Especially since Netflix’s previous trials with this two-part release strategy, which have included shows like The Witcher, The Crown, and Stranger Things, weren’t all that well received. So why now? What was the point?

Of course, I know that Netflix will do anything to prolong and increase its subscriber numbers. A month between episodes keeps the show in the cultural zeitgeist for longer—Bridgerton has been in Netflix’s coveted Top 10 list since season 3 came out three weeks earlier—and our anticipation is building to extraordinary levels. From a business and marketing standpoint, I have always understood why Netflix made this decision. It wasn’t until they released the official trailer for Bridgerton season 3, part 2, however, that I finally understood there may be a narrative reason, as well.

This is brand-new territory

When you watch the trailer for Bridgerton season 3’s second half, it’s clear that there is a real shift in tone. Rather than this being a romantic comedy, as the first four episodes of the new season were clearly intended to be, the next four episodes promise a different genre altogether. Gone are the friends-to-lovers arc, the “teaching someone to date” trope, the stolen, longing glances, and the hesitant touches. By the end of Bridgerton season 3, episode 4, Penelope and Colin are no longer just friends. They’re finally on the same page. The dramatic tension in the coming episodes won’t stem from Penelope and Colin’s shy and hesitant love. No, this time around, Lady Whistledown is calling the shots.

Of course, Lady Whistledown was always going to be part of Colin and Penelope’s story. In the show, however, it will be a much bigger obstacle for them to overcome than it was in the book. In Julia Quinn’s novel Romancing Mister Bridgerton, Colin actually discovers Penelope’s secondary identity before their legendary carriage ride. Colin follows Penelope to a less “polite” part of town, where he finds her leaving her next column in a church pew, ready to be picked up by her printer. They argue, things get heated in a carriage, and much like in the show, Colin asks Penelope to marry him. Since he’s already aware of her alter ego, however, their relationship and subsequent marriage aren’t necessarily burdened by the secret. The rest of the Ton may not know the truth (including Eloise), but Colin does, and that’s all that matters. He knew all of her and still chose to love her.

In the show, their story is flipped. Colin is still understandably furious with Lady Whistledown for all the gossip written about his family over the years—even if, most of the time, Penelope writing about the Bridgerton family actually made sense—and Eloise is the only one who knows the truth. This creates an entirely different kind of tension—though the trailer clearly proves that there will be plenty of sexual tension to contend with, as well—one that morphs Bridgerton from a romantic, semi-historical period drama into what might best be described as an erotic thriller; or Shonda Rhimes’ version of one, anyway.

Penelope and Colin’s love will be tangled in an intricate web of lies, deceit, and fear. Unlike in the novel, their marriage will be burdened by the weight of Penelope’s thriving gossip business. Will it destroy their happiness? Who will be the first to confess? Every second of the next four episodes will be influenced by Lady Whistledown’s grip on society. The Ton, and Cressida Cowper, especially, will be hellbent on uncovering Lady Whistledown’s identity. Bridgerton season 3, part 2 is a mystery wrapped up in a romantic package. Will Penelope and Colin even get married? Though we obviously expect this season to end as happily as the previous two did, we can’t know for sure—not as long as Colin doesn’t know the truth about his fiancé.

This dramatic shift in tone is what, for once, makes Netflix’s split release strategy worthwhile. It gives the first half of the season, the comedic, light-hearted part of the season, room to breathe. Fans can bask in the afterglow of Penelope and Colin’s love, the giddiness of Colin finally realizing that they belong together. We can enjoy their romance before societal expectations, family ties, and Penelope’s clever deception threaten to unravel it all. Even the music in the trailer is more dramatic and intense than usual. There’s a ticking clock. The lighting is darker and moodier. This is Bridgerton as we’ve never seen it before.

That’s not to say that there won’t still be plenty of swoon-worthy romance and passion in the second half of this season. There’s just much more at stake this time, and I, for one, can’t wait to watch it unfold.

Bridgerton season 3, part 2 will be available on June 13, only on Netflix.

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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.