Bridgerton: Season 3 REVIEW – Polin Magic

Friends to lovers trope done right.

Bridgerton Season 3
Bridgerton Season 3

Listen, I love Bridgerton. I love the escapism of it all, and that it caters to the female gaze. The series has given us great romantic leads, and Season 3 is no different. However, I do think the long wait for each season does mean that expectations are sky-high, so some sense of disappointment is bound to ensue. Season 3 is still overall pretty good, but it’s starting to feel that the show doesn’t know how to handle its characters when they aren’t in the big romantic arc of the season.

An example would be Kate (Simone Ashley) and Anthony (Jonathan Bailey). These characters had such wonderful character development last season, but this season they are given nothing much to do besides be in love and work hard at making babies. I’m happy that they’re all loved up and in bliss, but they barely have space in the season. It’s the same for Benedict, who’s thrown into some random romance that isn’t appealing nor serve any purpose. Besides the magic of Polin, everything else that surrounds the main romance isn’t as good. Do I need to have multiple conversations about the Featheringtons’ baby-making endeavours? I know it’s supposed to be campy, but it’s not very funny and really shouldn’t be taking up so much space in the season.

The Mondrich family arc is supposed to be a commentary on social mobility, and I guess the costs that come with it, but the entire arc feels too stretched out and not at all relatable. Are we supposed to care about their plight of separate bedrooms and ugly dresses? Once again I stress that it feels like the show doesn’t know what to do with its side characters, and the drop in quality is noticeable this season. Previously, Marina’s arc was poignant and well done, and it was woven well into the narrative. Even Benedict was given more development with all his artistic endeavours. After the series Queen Charlotte, it became apparent that they were preparing to give Lady Violet a romance of her own, but I didn’t expect it to be so contrived and uninteresting.

The only other decent storyline besides Polin is Francesca’s quiet romance with John. I do like that Francesca’s characterisation is contrasting to the usual Lizzy Bennet model of romantic lead. She’s a bit more introverted, and likes the quiet and being alone, maybe because her family home is always so loud and bustling. Her romance with John is cute, even if it’s a bit too insta-love, but I can understand why they’ve shaped their relationship as such – book readers will know what I’m talking about.

Which brings us to Polin, our main couple of the season. Colin Bridgerton (Luke Newton) returns home, looking sturdy and chiseled, changed by the foreign sun. He’s drawing the attention of young ladies in the ton, and he’s fluttering about like a butterfly, enjoying all the female attention. However, despite the bevy of women that he’s been with overseas, Colin yearns for true intimacy. He despairs of ever finding it, until he and Penelope (Nicola Coughlan) get reacquainted again. As we know, Penelope has been hurting since she heard Colin tell his male friends that he would never court her. Having been in love with him most her life, this revelation squashes all her hopes, and Penelope decides to find a husband with earnest this season.

She enlists Colin for help, kind of like a Pygmalion type of situation, and he’s game to help a friend. This gives the pair many opportunities to interact, and Colin finds himself looking at Penelope in a different light. I know that many might feel like Newton isn’t quite pulling his weight compared to the romantic leads of previous seasons. I did think this at first, especially since Regé-Jean Page and Bailey’s charms are more overt and intense. But Colin is a different type of romantic lead: he’s softer, more sensitive, and Newton manages to really sell Colin’s deep passion and yearning for Penelope. There’s the constant intense staring, the meaningful pauses as they breathe heavily at each other. It’s sexy in a more subtle way – not all male leads need to inhale aggressively around their significant others.

But of course it is Coughlan who is the MVP of the season. Penelope is a great character because her flaws are highlighted as much as her strengths. She’s impulsive, and hurts the people she loves because of it at times, but she’s also incredibly hard on herself. It’s clear that she’s never received much love in her life, and this is why she yearns for it so much. It’s heartbreaking to see her set herself up for a practical match instead of a relationship based on love, and Coughlan makes her conflict feel so affecting and relatable. I think some of us have been there at some point in our lives, where we think that maybe we should get our head out of the clouds and just accept whatever we can because we feel we are not worthy of more. As a former wallflower – and there’s probably many of us out there – Penelope’s arc is both heartbreaking and satisfying.

The romantic set pieces are of course the highlight of this season, it wouldn’t be Bridgerton otherwise. As an avid lover of the Bridgerton books, the show does justice to the iconic set pieces in Romancing Mr. Bridgerton. It’s hot, it’s sexy, it’s peak Bridgerton. Every romantic set piece is also unique to each couple, so it doesn’t feel all been-there-done-that. I didn’t expect Pitbull’s ‘Give Me Everything’ to play a part in the proceedings, but it was honestly pretty fitting.

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Bridgerton Season 3
Nicola Coughlan and Luke Newton steam up our TV screens with their effervescent chemistry. But besides the Polin magic, the rest of the subplots are middling at best.