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Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Bridgerton’ Season 3 Gleams in its Spotlight on Female Companionship

The true revelation within the last quartet of episodes in the Netflix series isn’t the transition from friends to lovers romance.

“In the initial moments of the second half of ‘Bridgerton’ Season 3, Lady Danbury wittily remarks, ‘Who needs fresh air when there is fresh gossip?’ It’s a sentiment that resonates with both the ton, the high society depicted in ‘Bridgerton,’ and avid fans of the show, particularly those eagerly awaiting Penelope’s response to Colin’s heartfelt proposal, lingering in anticipation for four weeks.

To disclose that Penelope (played by Nicola Coughlan) accepts Colin’s proposal or that she divulges this news through her column, Lady Whistledown’s Society Papers, does not spoil the plot. She pens, ‘Dearest Reader, while most seasons of our fair marriage mart follow a predictable pattern, this author likes it most when there is a surprise.’

Nicola Coughlan as Penelope Featherington and Polly Walker as Lady Portia Featherington in Season 3 of “Bridgerton.”
LIAM DANIEL/NETFLIX

While their engagement may stun the ton, the journey of Colin (Luke Newton) and Penelope from friendship to romance doesn’t shock the audience. The tension of Colin being unaware of Penelope’s true identity, the jeopardy her secret scribbling poses, and the implied societal risks of its revelation are foreseeable.

The genuine surprise in the final episodes of this season isn’t the transition from friends to lovers, but rather how ‘Bridgerton’ shines a spotlight on friendships, particularly among women, and delves into the essence of marriage, echoing the themes explored in the spinoff ‘Queen Charlotte.’

While the preceding seasons primarily scrutinize the motivations behind marriage—be it love, duty, or stability—this season, akin to ‘Queen Charlotte,’ probes deeper into what marriage signifies for a woman. How does it confer agency? How does it curtail it? What does it entail for someone like Penelope, who has tasted independence and now confronts the prospect of relinquishing it?

In the season’s latter half, external threats from Queen Charlotte and Eloise, coupled with Penelope’s internal turmoil, are juxtaposed. Lady Featherington’s admonition, ‘Ladies do not have dreams. They have husbands,’ underscores the dilemma Penelope faces post-engagement, torn between her aspirations and societal expectations.

Luke Thompson as Benedict Bridgerton, Hannah New as Lady Tilley Arnold, Luke Newton as Colin Bridgerton and Nicola Coughlan as Penelope Featherington in episode 5 of the new season of “Bridgerton.” LIAM DANIEL/NETFLIX

In this context, Penelope’s desire for both a pen and a ring symbolizes the timeless query: Can a woman truly have it all?

To navigate this question amidst the perils of her clandestine identity, Penelope leans on the women in her life. While the romantic subplot between Penelope and Colin propels the narrative, it’s these female-centric friendships and the broader themes they explore that elevate the latter half of the season, validating the character development the show has meticulously crafted. The focus on Penelope’s interactions resonates, extending to Eloise’s bond with Francesca and the dynamics within the Featherington household. Penelope reconciles with her mother, repairs her fractured relationship with Eloise, and extends grace to her sisters, fostering mutual understanding.

The season’s richness is also evident in the camaraderie among the ton’s elder stateswomen, particularly Lady Danbury, Violet Bridgerton, and Queen Charlotte, each grappling with their pasts to forge ahead. The intergenerational exchanges, particularly between mothers and daughters and Lady Danbury and Penelope, are poignant highlights.

While the depth of these female relationships is captivating, it inadvertently accentuates the shallowness of Colin and Penelope’s storyline. Colin yearns to be Penelope’s knight in shining armor, but she resists being rescued. His struggle to redefine masculinity and support Penelope as Lady Whistledown remains underexplored, rendering their relationship and the show imbalanced. Unlike Simon and Anthony, Colin’s character lacks the depth afforded to fully delve into his emotional world, leaving his growth stunted. This disparity turns pivotal moments into echoes of contemporary masculinity crises, undermining the narrative’s equilibrium. Colin’s journey to redefine husbandry pales in comparison to Penelope’s quest to redefine wifehood, leaving their dynamic unbalanced and the series somewhat incomplete.”

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