Bridgerton, Season Three, Episodes 1-4: A Discussion

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Dearest Reader,

It’s been ages since we last saw the Bridgertons, but who could forget the passionate loves of Anthony, Viscount Bridgerton and Miss Kate Sharma, or The Honourable Daphne Bridgerton and His Grace, Simon Basset, the Duke of Hastings? This season sees The Honourable Colin Bridgerton returning to London from his grand tour of the continent, and now much sought after but resistant to true love. Could it be that he will be struck with cupid’s arrow next? Will he recognize the girl who holds his heart? This author is on tenterhooks to find out.


Lady Whistledown (Not)

Janine: Seriously, though, and before I start fangirling all over Julie Andrews’s narration as scandal sheet author Lady Whistledown, I should tell you that Sirius and I decided to review season three of Bridgerton together. I’ve been very eager for the show and the conversation. Here we cover the first four episodes of season three.

Sirius: I want to note something. I enjoy Bridgerton quite a bit and I happily agreed to review with Janine because I love reviewing with Janine and would have agreed to review almost anything with her, but I do not consider myself a passionate fan of the show and more importantly my experience in reviewing movies and/or TV shows is almost not existent. To be precise I reviewed one movie and no shows at DA so far. This is basically an uncharted territory for me.

Janine: That’s so flattering, thank you!

Colin and Penelope
Janine: I’m going to start with Penelope, who is one of my favorite characters on the show. I have loved her almost since the beginning and I think a lot of that is due to Nicola Coughlan’s performance. In it we see a full range of emotions—she can be a true friend (to Eloise), a girl who pines (for Colin), an eye-rolling daughter and sister (and hasn’t her family earned it?), a gossipmonger who is slightly catty in public and can be cattier in print (as Lady W.).

One of my favorite aspects of Penelope is this duality—a girl trapped in a terrible household, with little hope of escape, and a woman who holds power over the entire ton. The stroke of her pen is where she exercises her power.

Colin in contrast has never been as interesting to me and that hasn’t changed yet. He comes back from the continent looking more attractive – the new clothes and hairstyle do so much for him – but I’m not convinced he deserves Penelope.

Part of the problem for me is in Luke Newton’s performance. He’s just not that persuasive to me. There’s a scene where his mother, Violet (Ruth Gemmell), says to him that he’s one of her most sensitive children and feels too much (or something like that) and I just wasn’t sold. For me the actor doesn’t show his vulnerability that well.

Sirius: Penelope is actually one of the favorite characters in the show as well, if not the favorite, but I think I love Eloise just as much and Lady Danbury?

Janine: I love them too. So many of the actors and characters on the show are excellent but these three, Penelope, Eloise and Lady Danbury are some of the best.

Sirius: You talked about the duality in Penelope and I do agree that it is Penelope as herself v as her Lady Whistledown’s persona. The strange thing though? While that actress does an excellent job portraying all the emotions that you described, I could never quite believe that Penelope could write nearly as much in as much detail as what Julie Andrews narrates (and I once again agree that her narration is fantastic).

I know that we are supposed to believe that while she is hiding on the background she can hear that much gossip, but to me it was too much to be believable. I for example did not buy at all that Penelope could hear what Queen was thinking about the picking her new favorite this season. I guess to me – Julie Andrews is the lady Whistledown rather than Penelope. She feels like more omniscient narrator than Penelope if that makes sense?

Janine: It does. I remember feeling that way when, at the end of season one, Penelope’s dual identity was revealed. Penelope was so innocent and sweet that I just could not see Lady Whistledown in her. However, in season two the connection became clearer to me. I think we saw more of what her writing meant to Penelope then and how she used it to exercise her agency, which is otherwise very limited. So now I do see the connection better. But I do agree with you that there is an omniscient aspect to Lady Whistledown’s narration. I look the other way for that.

Sirius:Right, I don’t have much of the problem imagining that Penelope can write like that now. I mean we are not privy to her thoughts in the show that she does not say out loud obviously, so if thats her writing style, thats her writing style. I was surprised initially but not for too long. I am just raising an eye brow purely at the extent of her knowledge about everyone. I think if we learned that she had at least one helper to supply her with additional gossip I would have an easier time believing it. As it stands I look the other way for it too.

By the way I have read Penelope’s and Collin’s book. That’s the only Bridgerton’s book I have read a couple of years ago and I have not reread it before the review, so don’t remember much, but I believe that the book did a great job showing Penelope’s love of writing and that the book did much much better job showing Colin’s being a sensitive man than the show.

I think that the show mentioned very briefly so far that Colin became a poet. I hope it will develop more in the next episodes, because in the book that was a very important part of who he became and to me shows his sensitivity.

Janine: You are making me want to give the book a shot. But I think I will wait on that since I don’t want to be spoiled for the second half of this season.

Sirius: I agree that the actor playing him did not show it quite well yet, but at the same time I do not think the show gave him much to work with. I am not talking about his scenes with Penelope necessarily, just in general the character’s vibe. I do think he has a nice chemistry with her.
Eloise and Cressida
Janine: I found the Eloise and Cressida storyline kind of interesting but I missed Eloise’s friendship with Penelope a lot, and I wonder what will happen to Cressida when Eloise and Penelope become friends again (I’m assuming they will). I’m guessing she’ll sail off into the sunset or else do something that will cause Eloise to drop her, because I don’t really see the two of them meshing that well.

I am not a Cressida fan—even this season, there’s something very chilly about her—but I find myself hoping she escapes her oppressive family anyway. And regardless of how I feel about her, I am glad to see the writers developing her character.

When it comes to Eloise, I really miss the younger and bolder Eloise of earlier seasons. I kind of wish she hadn’t slunk off when her Theo read her the riot act last season. He was right, she was slumming it, but part of me would have liked to see her get more involved with the politics she favored, not less. But maybe we’ll see that in future seasons. In any case actress Claudia Jesse still lights up the screen whenever she is on it. She brings so much to the show.

Sirius: I do appreciate attempts to humanize Cressida for sure, but I miss Eloise with Penelope too. I adore her. I do not know if I will read her book, but I am kind of tempted.
Francesca’s Storyline
Janine: I am loving the new Francesca (Hannah Dodd) and the attention the show has given her. I am not usually a fan of recasting but in this case it works IMO. Ruby Stokes (Francesca 1.0) didn’t do much for me, although that might be because the writers gave her almost no material. In any case I think Dodd does a marvelous job—she communicates so much with just a look. In just one moment she can go from shy to happy, or from excited to disappointed, and it’s all so subtle. It also doesn’t hurt that Dodd is so pretty and that Francesca and the Earl of Kilmartin, John Stirling (Victor Alli) are so cute together.

I don’t know if you’ve read the books, Sirius. I’ve only read a couple but I remember Francesca’s book, When He was Wicked, as being good. For the sake of those who haven’t read the books and don’t want spoilers, I’ll just say that Francesca’s storyline is barely starting and I can hardly wait. You?

Sirius: I have not read Francesca’s book, no, so far only Penelope, am debating about Eloise and just bought Hyacinth’s book. Am I a better fan of the show than I thought? I guess a selective one, because while I do think that the actress is very good and as you said can do subtle very well, so far I am indifferent to her storyline. It is good to know though that her story just begins.

Janine: Gah, there is so much I’m dying to say on this topic! Basically whenever someone that hasn’t read Francesca’s book says something about her courtship with Lord Kilmartin, I struggle to keep my mouth shut. But I guess for those who want the spoiler, just read the book blurb for When He Was Wicked.

Sirius: Of course I went and looked lol, not saying anything.
The Matriarchs
Janine: I feel like every Bridgerton season I say how great the older actresses on the show and their characters are –Golda Roushevel (Queen Charlotte), Adjoa Andoh (Lady Danbury), Ruth Gemmell (Violet Bridgerton), and Polly Walker (Portia Featherington) all do an amazing job IMO. I am happy that Adjoa Andoh is getting better material this year than she did last year and super excited for Violet’s possible romance with the distinguished Lord Marcus Anderson (another good actor). I’m curious to learn more about Lord Marcus.

Sirius: Once again I agree that the matriarchs are all doing a great job. Lady Danbury is probably my favorite, but I also very excited for Violet having her own romance. So far she was mostly playing matchmaker and supporter for her kids, which makes sense obviously but I do want to see her get some happiness too.

Janine: Yes, last season I was disappointed that Lady Danbury’s part was so much lesser than it had been in season one, but right now with Lord Marcus (her cousin?) coming on, it feels like she will get a chance to shine again.

Sirius: I believe Lord Marcus is her brother? I am very curious about their story too.
Janine: Bridgerton has amazing production values, with great use of its sets, costumes and music. I never tire of the queen’s wildly over the top hairdos, or of how well Golda Roushevel pulls them off.

But in this case, I want to say more about the main characters’ costumes, because they both got makeovers this season. Colin returns from the continent looking rakish and exciting, while Penelope sheds the gaudy dresses her mother forced on her for a new and beautiful wardrobe. So much can be done with just a change of clothing, hair and makeup and we see that with both of them. I also want to give a nod to Cressida’s dresses. Her big, pointy sleeves keep others away from her and that underscores the character’s chilliness and prickliness as well as her isolation.

Sirius: I feel like I am mostly agreeing with you and I do agree with you that all the costumes are fantastic, but it is good that you brought up Penelope’s dresses.

I know a big deal was made out of her wearing citrusy colors and those colors presumably made her look worse. I do not recall maybe that is what was happening in the last seasons, but I thought that the dress that she was wearing prior to getting that gorgeous dark green gown looked amazing on her too, full of deep saturated red colors too. I loved dark green on her, but I did not see the big deal that was made about it. I think that was a theme in the books too.

Janine: I liked the red dress too. In general, the show’s costume designer and dressers have made her look better than her sister or mother even in the gaudy fabrics of earlier seasons but I like what she is wearing this season better. It fits with the theme of Penelope discovering who she is and learning to be true to herself.
Janine: Okay, so is it just me or did Penelope have more chemistry with Lord Debling, a man who almost proposed to her, then with Colin? I loved the two of them together. The subplot about how Penelope had to learn to be herself instead of someone she’s not (which is echoed in Colin’s storyline) was lovely and I wanted to see her with a man who already knew who he was, rather than one who was still struggling to figure it out. Also Sam Phillips (Debling) was very attractive.

A storyline about Debling and Penelope making a practical marriage but then falling in love slowly would have been so satisfying to me. I think on some level I feel that Colin doesn’t deserve Penelope. He has never had to work to get her love. He just strikes as a bit spoiled.

I would be remiss if I didn’t say that the absence of chemistry between Coughlan and Newton was palpable at times. The carriage sex scene at the end of episode four felt forced to me. The look on Coughlan’s face was more “I don’t want this man to touch me” than “I’m lost in everything I feel for him.”

Lastly on this topic, I want to add that I loved the love scene between Anthony and Kate (Jonathan Bailey and Simone Ashley). It was cute, playful and hot, and I loved Anthony’s line (“We have to start somewhere,” I think) when Kate told him that going down on her would not beget an heir. I also LOVED that he refused to be rushed out the door. Such a contrast to season one, where he was checking his watch in the middle of sex with his mistress, Siena. Oh, Anthony, how much you’ve blossomed!

Sirius: I don’t agree. I love her chemistry with Colin even if as I said I think actor should show us more about who he is. I thought her chemistry with Lord Debling was lovely till it was not. Practical marriage turning into love would have been nice, but it just felt to me that these two people could not have been well suited.

And yes, love scene between Anthony and Kate was smoking hot, totally agree.
Will and Alice Mondrich
Janine: Martins Imhangbe is an excellent actor and I like Emma Naomi as well, but I was bored by their storyline because it got into a holding pattern pretty quickly. We heard over and over about how a member of the ton shouldn’t own a club. Once or twice would have been enough for me. I got the point, now move their story forward.
Lady Whistledown
Janine: I have nothing to say about Julie Andrews that I haven’t said before. I feel that between the cynical tone of her narration and Golda Roushevel’s half-disdainful and half-charming looks that are almost winks at the camera, Lady Whistledown and Queen Charlotte elevate the show so much. Bridgerton has an arch, sly humor. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, and that’s a big part of its appeal to me.
Looking Forward to in Episodes 5-8
Janine:I have never read An Offer from a Gentleman so I don’t know everything that comes next, but here’s what I’m looking forward to or hoping for in the second half of this season.

Colin learning (and reacting to the information) that Penelope is Lady Whistledown.

Eloise finally understanding why Penelope had to trash her in the Whistledown scandal sheets.

Lord Debling getting a happy ending – seriously, he deserves one so much!

Violet and Lord Marcus starting to fall hard for each other, please! I just love them.

Much more Francesca.

What about you, Sirius?

Sirius: Just to everything that will happen, but I really do think that not knowing that Penelope was Lady Whistledown and revealing it in this season would have worked much better.

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