Bridgerton Season 3: Part 1 review: Penelope and the wallflowers shine, but still wither

Bridgerton Season 3: Part 1 review: Penelope and the wallflowers shine, but still wither

Netflix’s regency drama has plenty of wallflowers and season 3 has ensured that these characters shine and continue to stay in the centrestage going forward
Bridgerton season 3: Part 1(3 / 5)

The Google meaning for wallflowers reads, “A southern European plant with fragrant yellow, orange-red, dark red, or brown flowers that bloom in early spring.” But a wallflower is also used to refer to someone who tries to be social, yet distance themselves from the crowd and actively avoid being the centre of attention. While we all know many such wallflowers, Netflix’s regency drama has plenty of them and season 3 has ensured that these flowers shine and continue to stay in the centre stage going forward.

Showrunner: Jess Brownell

Cast: Nicola Coughlan, Luke Newton, Claudia Jessie, Golda Rosheuvel, Hannah Dodd, Adjoa Andoh, Jessica Madsen

For starters, there is Penelope Featherington (Nicola Coughlan) herself, who has thrown out her citrus-coloured outfits and wants to dress like the girls from Paris. Following a bitter fallout with Eloise (Claudia Jessie) in season two on Pen’s secret identity as Lady Whistledown, and receiving another whammy when she heard from Colin Bridgerton (Luke Newton) that he would never court her, she is determined to find a husband. Reel and real-life debutant Francesca Bridgerton (Hannah Dodd) finds herself in a classic game of head vs heart, just like her older siblings. We hear both Francesca and Penelope say, “It is difficult to get off the wall once you are on it.” This is a common theme that runs across the season.

It is refreshing to see that the duo have their moments only after they worked for it, instead of immediately being branded the diamond of the season like Daphne Bridgerton. In fact, Queen Charlotte (Golda Rosheuvel) herself is tired of naming diamonds year after year. Pen has her classic Cinderella moment after she refreshes her wardrobe and glosses her lips, but the moment fizzles away, just like Francesca’s debut. Moments of sparks flying and love at first sight have clearly taken a back seat. All of this makes the audience root for the series and its characters every season—Even in a person like Cressida Cowper (Jessica Madsen) who has presented herself in the previous seasons as a formidable enemy of the lead cast. Behind her slightly sinister self, lies a heart that is vulnerable and is yearning to make friends. And it is for the same reason, she doesn’t want to lose Eloise’s friendship. Just like how Eloise is grappling with hard feelings for Pen and guards her from things within her reach. It is heartwarming to see the show, just like the characters, place female friendships a bar above romance.

For each of the lead female characters, the prospect of marriage holds a greater meaning than just finding a life partner. For Pen, it is about leaving the Featherington residence, her mother and sisters, who are intellectually far distant from her. For Cressida, it is about removing herself from the shackles of her father's rules. Francesca too, who views marriage as an escape to find peace, is someone who puts herself first, and wants to find herself first before looking for a partner. The feisty Eloise, who has always viewed marriage as immaterial to her life, is also asserting herself at parties and gatherings, telling how women can do better things when marriage is not always on their minds.

On the other hand, Colin, our dashing hero who has returned to the town after travelling abroad, has been getting all the attention from the ladies. Despite being the object of desire who rescues damsels in distress, he values the amicable relationship that he and Pen had. After they resolve their conflict, and after being tasked with helping her find a suitor, Colin develops feelings for her on a particularly romantic night. However, when the show brews the classic friends-to-lovers trope, it steeps too lightly, too easily. Somehow, it feels very convenient for the makers to take this forward without exploring their dynamics more deeply. Colin’s perplexed feelings and his expressive dialogues shatter like glass but they don’t pierce. There is a throwaway line where he mentions his heart being lonely. Sadly, even this doesn’t resonate well.

But there are some unlikely heroes too—Like characters opening their hearts to people who have lost loved ones. Bridgerton continues to normalise finding a partner well past an individual's prime years, even while sticking to patriarchal norms and normalising women's complete lack of basic sex education. A few others though, require a little polishing in their character. Like how former working-class individuals Mr Mondrich (Martins Imhangbe) and Lady Mondrich (Emma Naomi) navigate nobility while being conflicted about losing their identity.

Hiccups apart, the show still has a strong tap on what the audience wants and caters to it, even when it steers away sometimes. Beyond the Queen's extravagant wigs and Whistledown's scandalous words, a lot is left to explore in the upcoming four episodes. Yet, part one has left gentle readers yearning for stories like season 3's predecessors, like the ones where love burns and lovers are the bane of each other's existence.

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