Bridgerton Season 3

Posted on May 27, 2024 by Richard Goulter

Finished watching Bridgerton Season 3.

I don’t know why it’s 4 episodes. Season 1 and 2 had 8 each.
I guess they’re moving away from 1 season = 1 book.

This time, we see the romance primarily between Colin Bridgerton and Penelope.
It also features, to a lesser degree, romance between Francesca Bridgerton & Lord Kilmartin.

What It Did Well

The sweet parts are so sweet!

I think the romantic plot between Francesca and Kilmartin is very well done.
It’s cheesey.
It’s very adorable.
I think it’s a very ideal depiction of two utter nerds flirting. Most of the time nerds in media are depicted as just spewing a bunch of technical jargon.. but with Francesca & Kilmartin, we get people who are just somewhat socially awkward.

My favourite part of this season, Francesca sees Kilmartin walking through the streets and excitedly goes up to greet him; when she flirts with him, he responds obtusely with an overly literal response, and the air deflates. It’s awkward; there’s tension; and both of them are thinking “did I do something wrong?”. Or, rather, this part is so good because later, Kilmartin redeems the awkwardness by giving a very geeky gift; and it’s such a sweet resolution to the tension that was built up.

The romance between Colin and Penelope is solid.
I think it’d be enough to carry the season on its own.
I’m a simple man with simple tastes. I like a sweet story, well executed.

I don’t recall if it was done the same in S1 or S2, but in this one at least, Lady Bridgerton got to fulfil that Dumbledore-eque “knows things, nudges in the right direction” kind of role.
It’s a good archetype, and cliches are cliche for a reason.

I was pleasantly surprised by the friendship between Eloise and Cressida.
Cressida’s character always seemed like a shallow bitch rival.
In this season, she’s portrayed with more sympathy. She’s lonely as a consequence of her cruel actions.
Eloise’s character is more rounded and balanced than it was in earlier seasons: here, she mostly retains the character of “eww, I’m not interested in feminine things like sewing”. (Which is nice; means you’re avoiding every female character being the same character).

It was also good to see that the suitor Penelope was chasing was a fairly charming and pleasant man.

What It Did Poorly

The show’s already made its bed, I guess, but the sex scenes are superfluous and don’t really add much to the show. Worse, it makes it a “don’t want to watch this with my family”.
I get that the sex scenes are important in the novels, in defiance of prudishness, and in favour of female sexual empowerment, or as a tangible plot point demonstrating the intensity of the love interest. But as depicted in the Bridgerton S3, it comes closer to “our show has sex scenes, just like other cool shows have sex scenes”.
At the, uh, climax of the season, we have a classical arrangement of some pop song triumphantly blasting as Colin pleasures Penelope.. it felt more “amusing” than “hot”.
– Instead: I think it’d be better to just skip the sex scenes altogether.

Generally, though.. I think the show suffers in the same way that I reckon Columbo does:
In Columbo, every episode I want to see Columbo annoy the villain, ask innocuous questions, and ask “just one more thing”, before eventually catching the villain in the villain’s web of lies. I reckon the problem was, they never quite landed on what to do with the rest of the runtime, so you’d get weird gimmicky plotlines that fell flat more than they landed. – The core, good part of what people like about the show needs padding to support it, otherwise it’d just be 15 minutes long.
Here, the sweet romance stuff is great. I wanna see the hero & heroine flirt, bicker, dance, and get together. But what to do with the rest of the runtime?

There’s the old adage “both original and good; but the good parts aren’t original, and the original parts aren’t good”.
I don’t think an adaptation needs to be all that original; especially not for the first time it’s being adapted.

And a lot of the original stuff in Netflix’s Bridgerton is just … not good.

A major subplot throughout the whole season is that Penelope’s newlywed sisters need to get pregnant.
And the sisters are naive about how to make babies; and their husbands are terrible lovers.
The whole thing is an awkward joke, but it’s not particularly funny.
(It’s easy to see Penelope’s sisters as the butt of a joke in a laughing-at-them kind of way. I think it detracts more than it adds).

I think it’s no different than other seasons, but I recall really enjoying Lady Danbury’s character in the books as a fierce character with almost fourth-wall-breaking frankness. And in this show, she’s a silly gossip who’s a lacky to the Queen character. Zzzz.

Though, speaking of fourth-wall-breaking frankness: the boxer/club owner Mondrich and his wife continue to feature in this season. I recall in S1, Mondrich’s wife came across as talking like someone with a smartphone in her pocket. (Bridgerton (books or otherwise) strives for fun over historical fidelity; but, at some point, why not just have a story set in the present?).
I think the show was not really short of strong-independent-female characters. But in this season, Mondrich’s wife is written differently, and shows a vanity by way of concern for what others in society will think of her if she doesn’t appear as her social class expects her to. I reckon the change was jarring.

And while it’s more a problem with the genre than the show itself.. but I still don’t like seeing “the hero is cool, the other men are losers” nor “the heroine is cool, the other women are losers”.
In Bridgerton S3, we see that a marquess tries to court Francesca; but, he’s shown to be crass or otherwise undesirable. Ehhh. I don’t think the story benefits from this.
Penelope’s story is nicer, and more romantic: her primary concern being the security that’d come from a marriage, and she manages to catch the interests of a smart and friendly vegetarian. He’s not a loser, she could live happily with him. (On the other hand, Colin is shown frequenting a brothel several times. It doesn’t endear him to me. I think I’d prefer the trope where he otherwise chases after some girl, without realising his feelings are truly for Penelope).

The show still also suffers from light (or otherwise) touches of progressivism.
There’s a joke in The Simpsons where Lisa Simpson boldly walks up to the football team and bravely says “I want to join! That’s right, a girl!”. (Lisa is then deflated to find that the team already has girls).
I was reminded of that by one part in Bridgerton S3, when a group of men are laughing/mocking an inventor for his hot air balloon, and a woman interrupts saying “I came hear to learn things”; Benedict Bridgerton thanks her, then remarks “oh, you’re a woman”, and she gives the same kind of “that’s right, I’m a woman who can read” kind of reply.
Do people enjoy story beats like that? I enjoy the geeky characters being well written. Maybe someone enjoys these “I was brave! and everybody clapped” type stuff.
– It’s kindof bizarre that someone would want to have fun by proselytizing progressivism, but also set a story in a setting wherein “woman needs to get married to secure her future” is a key driver of plots in the story.

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