Thank You Bridgerton, I Was Getting Thirsty (Season 3 Part 1)

Bridgerton Season 3 Part 1. (L to R) Luke Newton as Colin Bridgerton, Nicola Coughlan as Penelope Featherington in episode 302 of Bridgerton. Cr. Liam Daniel/Netflix © 2024
Cr. Liam Daniel/Netflix © 2024

The following review contains some spoilers for Bridgerton Season 3 Part 1

Polin’s season is finally here! At least the first bit… Bridgerton Season 3 Part 1 is finally here!

I am one of the many who fled to Julia Quinn’s novels after binging the first Netflix season of Bridgerton about Daphne and Simon. I flew through them. Like many others, Romancing Mr. Bridgerton was my favourite, as it tells the decade-long love story of Penelope Featherington and Colin Bridgerton.

However, outside of the whirlwind of speedreading these pulpy romance novels, I realize how problematic the story of Penelope and Colin is. In the book, Penelope’s glow-up, which catches Colin’s eye, is spearheaded by her losing weight. Their relationship develops, showing how controlling and dismissive Colin is of Penelope’s writing career as Lady Wistledown. Instead of becoming a Jane Austen, Penelope is shafted into the role of editor for Colin’s adventure stories that eventually publish.

Luke Newton as Colin Bridgerton in Bridgerton Season 3 Part 1
Cr. Liam Daniel/Netflix © 2023

The foundation of Polin’s connection is sweet, with the long, unrequited love finally coming to fruition. It’s a beautiful idea that the wallflower finally blooms and catches the attention of an eligible bachelor.

Colin Bridgerton (Luke Newton) makes a splash on the scene in Netflix’s adaptation. He dazzles the town as this year’s most eligible bachelor, with his tanned skin from travelling all year and toned body. I bow to whoever decided Colin change in the carriage ride to the castle, giving us a brief but impressionable view of his tanned, sculpted, hair-dusted chest.

As for Penelope Featherington (Nicola Coughlan), when she dazzles in a deep emerald dress at Lady Danbury’s season opening ball, she makes a remarkable debut and proudly takes the stairs to the dancefloor. Here, she is finally seen by the entire assembly as the beautiful girl she has always been—Nicola Coughlan is an absolute beauty. For the past two seasons, the makeup and wardrobe department has had their work cut out to make Nicola look anything but. I am happy to see the plus-size actress stun with her glowing skin, sparkling eyes and bountiful body.

In Bridgerton Season 3 Part 1, Polin’s story differs significantly from the novel, with just a few scenes directly adapted from page to screen. Particularly the “friendly” agreement that Colin will help Penelope capture the attention of a suitor so she may finally leave from under her mother’s, Lady Portia Featherington’s (Polly Walker), roof.

Bridgerton Season 3 Part 1. (L to R) Nicola Coughlan as Penelope Featherington, Luke Newton as Colin Bridgerton
Cr. Liam Daniel/Netflix © 2023

Although this contract between friends stands on shaky ground, not only is Eloise Bridgerton (Claudia Jessie) curious, but soon, the town is scandalized by how ‘sad’ the whole ordeal is, as Penelope is forced to report on the agreement in Lady Whistledown. Which is sad but necessary: Forcing Penelope to shove herself lower on the eligibility spectrum is painful to watch as her newfound confidence dims. However, it is opportunistic for the writers’ room, who make Penelope’s dark and lonely request of Colin.

A kiss.

A kiss that ignites a desire in Colin he had never known before—that dream was certainly something! This complicates the agreement from all sides, with the town breathing down their necks, Penelope’s devastation and Colin’s boner.

Colin, of course, then spirals into jealousy over Lord Alfred Debling (Sam Phillips), a complicated man of the era, an environmentalist and a vegan—quite an outcast from London society—who chooses to find a partner in marriage rather than a lover in marriage, with his eyes set on Penelope… and Cressida. In all fairness, Debling and Cowper do seem better suited.

Bridgerton Season 3.(L to R) Nicola Coughlan as Penelope Featherington, Jessica Madsen as Cressida Cowper
Cr. Laurence Cendrowicz/Netflix © 2024

Watching Jessica Madsen play Cressida Cowper in Bridgerton Season 3 Part 1 is much different than her previous characterizations. Madsen is challenged to win back the audience after two seasons of being hated. In Julia Quinn’s novels, Cressida is a bully and a social climber with no ethics. However, the Netflix writers’ room has also challenged the audience to peek behind the curtain at Cressida’s life; why she is the way she is. Unsurprisingly, the character would spawn from an unhappy household and be desperate to marry to escape.

I understand the desire to justify Cressida’s actions, but I am not entirely pleased with how the character’s redemption detracts from Penelope’s growth. What would really charm the audience in this scenario is if Penelope (the hero) were to be the bigger person and overcome Cressida’s (the villain) rudeness with kindness. Still, we already know that is not the case, with Penelope’s rebuttal always landing on the pages of Lady Whistledown. Therefore, the deep dive into Cressida makes it even more difficult to root for Penelope, who has made problematic decisions in the past two seasons. If we’re keeping tally, Penelope has wronged Marina Thompson, Colin Bridgerton, Eloise Bridgerton, THE QUEEN and then Colin again! Among countless others who remain nameless or unimportant to the story in front of us.

How do they intend to redeem Penelope from all of that?

Bridgerton Season 3 Part 1. (L to R) Hannah Dodd as Francesca Bridgerton, Nicola Coughlan as Penelope Featherington
Cr. Laurence Cendrowicz/Netflix © 2024

It is comforting to watch Francesca Bridgerton (Hannah Dodd) and Penelope find kinship in their struggles. However, that does not replace my missing the bond between Eloise Bridgerton (Claudia Jessie) and Penelope. I understand how the two’s separation led to an opening for Colin to crawl in and become a “friend” to Penelope. I just—I miss them.

I understand it is far more realistic that Eloise continues to be mortified by her friend’s unkindness to the town and riddled with envy over Penelope’s success as an anonymous writer. I also admire how Claudia Jessie plays into the nuances of loving Penelope as a sister, wanting no harm to come to her, while still disagreeing with Pen’s choices and holding back her companionship out of principle. If Netflix adapted Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton page-for-page, I don’t think the audience would buy how naively novel Eloise was excited Penelope was Whistledown and, hilariously, the last to know. Yet, I still miss their banter and lively commentary.

I also miss Francesca’s previous actress, Ruby Stokes, with her rounded face and cunning eyes. Yet Hannah Dodd delivers the shyness expected of Francesca in this adaptation. I hope that Hannah Dodd can break through that shell when it comes to the adaptation of When He Was Wicked by Julia Quinn.

Bridgerton Season 3. (L to R) Emma Naomi as Alice Mondrich, Martins Imhangbe as Will Mondrich
Cr. Liam Daniel/Netflix © 2024

For a season supposedly about Penelope and Colin, there are certainly many other storylines running through each episode. This is not to say that I don’t enjoy seeing the kindling of Anthony (Jonathan Bailey) and Kate (Simone Ashley) with their attention set on making the Bridgerton heir, Francesca’s first love story, Benedict’s affair, the Featherington’s desire for an heir or the Mondrich’s rise in society, even Cressida’s redemption. I think it’s great that Emma Naomi and Martins Imhangbe are getting rewarded for their dues with this storyline. Their talents and chemistry were undoubtedly underutilized. The squabbling between Prudence Featherington (Bessie Carter) and Phillipa Featherington (Harriet Cains) was hilarious. However, I can’t help feeling like I’m missing pieces of Penelope and Colin’s blossom when the camera is elsewhere.

With all of that aside, I LOVE THEM. Penelope and Colin are so cute!

In Episode 3, when Penelope beckons Colin to the bake sale, he’s so clearly OBSESSED with her! The two are tethered to one another. The connection between their eyes alone is so exciting!

When the two finally come together in Episode 4, I suppose we have Cressida and Debling to thank, as it was so clever to delay Penelope’s heartbreak to just the right time. Even though I was well aware of where the episode was going, I was on the edge of my seat waiting for the CARRIAGE SCENE! Taken directly from the book, Colin professes his love and desire for Penelope. Everything lined up so perfectly that I almost forgave every qualm I had with Bridgerton Season 3 Part 1! I am desperate for Part 2!

Written by Isobel Grieve

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