Dearest gentle reader,

Generally this author tries to only share mostly positive and generous thoughts… *clears throat and loses the Julie Andrews impression*…but that’s not what is happening here today. Today, you are getting a grade-A, long-form-essay-style rant. Because the second half of Season Three of Bridgerton has been out for a week and I am still mad. 

Grab a drink of your choosing and get comfortable because this is going to take a while. 

Oh, and there be spoilers ahead. Major, detailed plot spoilers both for the TV show and two of the Julia Quinn books, specifically Romancing Mr Bridgerton (Book Four) and When He Was Wicked (Book Seven). Consider yourself forewarned.

First let me share with you the things I liked about Bridgerton Season Three: the costume and make up departments were freaking heroes, the settings were as delightful as previous, and the music was on point

(The orchestral arrangement of NeYo’s Give Me Everything Tonight was the musical accompaniment I did not know I needed for Penelope and Colin’s carriage scene. One of the few shining high points of this season.)

I’d also like to give a shout out to the quality of the actors’ performances. They remain unparalleled in a romance show, which is normally completely over-acted and frequently lacks even a ghost of nuance. Almost every actor’s performance in season three was great, despite the suspect material a lot of them were handed. 

I think that’s a large part of why I’m so angry.

The failure of season three is almost entirely a failure of writing. 

I say almost entirely because the editing and cinematography do have a bit to answer for. Some of the shot changes were choppy enough to make me seasick and, even to my inexpert eye, the color balance was way off in some scenes. But camera angles and color saturation are minor sins compared to the way the brand new show runner Jess Brownell butchered the spirit of Julia Quinn’s source material.

As a romance writer watching a romance show based on the beloved books of my favorite romance author, this hits me particularly hard.

Now, let’s wade into the details. Buckle up, buttercups, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

How the Colin & Penelope Romance Failed

The ultimate sadness for me was Penelope and Colin’s season wasn’t a disaster from the word go. The first four episodes of season three showed us a delightful—if slightly rushed and at times implausible—beginning to their romance. I loved Penelope glowing up and telling Colin off, the gradual revelation of his feelings for her, and let us not forget *the carriage scene* ending with “For God’s sake, Penelope Featherington, are you going to marry me or not?” 

Though that balloon scene…*sigh.* Pen being menaced by that hot air balloon felt about as dangerous as being threatened with a balloon sword.

There was so much potential in the first four episodes. It was the back half of the season where the wheels came off the carriage.

The first serious oh, shit moment for me was when Pen failed to tell Colin about Lady Whistledown before they slept together.

It got worse when Colin discovered Pen was Lady Whistledown and pouted through the wedding and slept on the couch for the next two episodes like a petulant man-child unwilling to talk through his feelings. Taking his reaction in that directions was…a choice. Nothing says sexy romantic hero like sulking and refusing to communicate. 

By contrast, Book Colin reacted like this: Maybe this, then, was the definition of love. When you wanted someone, needed her, adored her still, even when you were utterly furious and quite ready to tie her to the bed just to keep her from going out and making more trouble. Hello, swoon! It’s almost like Julia Quinn knows what she’s doing.

Having Penelope marry Colin without resolving his feelings about her continuing as Lady Whistledown was a huge problem. In the book, he knew she was Lady W before they steamed up a carriage, before he uttered the heart-fluttering “For God’s sake, Penelope Featherington, are you going to marry me or not?” and most especially before she walked down the aisle and they were locked into a lifetime-binding religious and legal contract from which neither of them could escape.

Reversing that order basically ends up with Penelope sex-trapping an honorable man into marriage. 

Also, after the Lady W revelation, there is no major declaration of love from Colin. Not beyond the tepid, I guess you were the same person all along nonsense and some meaningful nods. No public statement of how proud he is of his beautiful, intelligent wife (like in the book). No confession of how he is struggling with his jealousy of her talent and all she has accomplished (like in the book).  No “I love you with everything I am, everything I’ve been, and everything I hope to be. I love you with my past, and I love you for my future. I love you for the children we’ll have and for the years we’ll have together. I love you for every one of my smiles and even more, for every one of your smiles.” 

Thank you, Book Colin, I wish the show could have known you.

The way Pen spent the last three episodes of the season continually begging Colin to either love or forgive her was infuriating. 

Yes, he had a right to be upset and angry about her hiding Lady Whistledown, particularly after she accepted his proposal. But I still wish, after the necessary apologies, she’d stood up for herself and broken off their engagement. An ‘if you can’t love me knowing this, then you don’t love me at all’ moment. Which would have given Colin room to both realize yes, he does love her and then make the grand romantic declaration that we did not get.

It took getting to the end to realize how dirty this season did Show Colin. There were no flashbacks to his past trauma that made him the man he is today. The Duke and the Viscount both got that treatment in their seasons. All we got about Colin was that he liked writing and that subplot only lasted for a couple of minutes for a couple episodes before disappearing into the void of dropped subplots that dominated this season. By the time the credits rolled on his supposed Happily Ever After, I still had no idea who Colin really was or what he wanted or if he had any dreams for the future.

Maybe the male lead has to be a certain level of the peerage before the show considers it worthwhile to invest in his backstory?

Pen and Colin’s love story ended with a sudden jump forward to show they’d had a male baby to inherit the Featherington title. (Hello, recycled Mondrich storyline.) We also find out Colin vanity published his travel diaries with his wife’s pen money. That’s fulfillment, right? 

We didn’t need to see them be happy together, say…traveling? Writing? Enjoying each other’s company and building a fulfilling married life after three episodes of seeing them mostly at odds? They got a male baby and the use of the baby’s title and house until he turns eighteen and really what more could a married couple want?  

How about a genuine HEA, you lazy, condescending hacks? 

Seriously, three seasons, five years, and twenty four viewing hours…for this limp lettuce ending?

Despite all the set up for success, Penelope and Colin’s romance ended with a whimper instead of a bang. And while both characters deserved better, I am particularly furious on Penelope’s behalf. The wallflower’s moment to shine was rushed and pushed aside to accommodate way too many bloated, useless subplots. Art imitating life in all its most irritating, condescending, curvy-girl-being-overlooked-yet-again glory. 

I can’t think why the writers of season three decided to shortchange known fan-favorite Penelope, except maybe they didn’t think she was hot enough to sustain interest as a romantic lead? Which if that’s the case, I say first, “Have you seen Nicola Coughlan?” and second, “Fuck you!”

Now let’s go over the other obvious failures.

How the Lady Whistledown Reveal Failed

In a nutshell, the three season’s worth of tension invested in the Lady Whistledown subplot ends is a sickly sweet tangle of incomprehensible nonsense. 

To recap: at the end of the show, Pen outs herself as Lady Whistledown before the ton in a speech filled with trite platitudes that was criminally underwhelming despite Nicola Coughlan’s excellent delivery. 

“I was captivated by all of you living your lives out in the open.” 

Ahem, *clears throat* actually…the members of the ton Pen wrote about weren’t living their lives out in the open, she was exposing secrets most of them hoped would never see the light of day. And she ends the speech by saying that if the Queen allows her to continue as Lady Whistledown, “I mean to aim my quill more responsibly.” 



Seriously, this suggestion makes my brain hurt. Being the Regency equivalent of Perez Hilton and responsible journalism are mutually exclusive. 

Not to mention, the super power that made Pen such a great gossip columnist—her ability to stand nearby completely unnoticed and listen to said gossip while being readily overlooked—has officially been vaporized. No one is ever going to talk unguardedly near Penelope Bridgerton aka Lady Whistledown ever again.  

A fact that seems to have passed right over the heads of the season three writer’s room. 

And since I’m covering easy to observe consequences, let’s talk about how Pen openly publishing scandals as herself in the regency era would bring tremendous backlash on both her and her husband’s families. Lady Whistledown’s anonymity was her best and only protection against that kind of retribution. Which is why in the book, Romancing Mr Bridgerton, Julia Quinn has Pen decide early in the story that she is done with the whole Whistledown schtick. That means when Lady Whistledown’s identity is revealed at the end of the book, it is officially old news.

I get the show wants to keep the Lady W scandal sheet going so they can keep the Julie Andrews voiceovers but…*massages temples*…couldn’t they have at least tried to make it make sense?

For example, Pen could have requested a private audience with the Queen and confessed to being Lady Whistledown and then they could have gone forward as co-conspirators. Think of future seasons of them smirking at each other across ballrooms and trading inside jokes and double entendres. There was so much potential wasted on a half-baked speech and literally no consequences.

How Lord Debling Disappeared

Lord Debling joined Colin’s backstory in the void of unfulfilled subplots. Lord D’s disappearing act was as unexpected as his entrance. He dumps Penelope after realizing she has feelings for Colin and then disappears from our screens like he was a shared hallucination. Which is baffling because (A) it made him look like a judgmental ass, and (B) he and Cressida remained the perfect solution to each other’s problems.  

To contrast with earlier, superior Bridgerton storytelling, let’s take a look at the Prince Friedrich subplot in season one. Daphne’s other suitor was used as a foil to bring the lovers together there too. But he didn’t disappear off our screens after Daph and her duke made out in the maze. Instead there’s a sweet scene where Daphne confesses she loves Simon and apologizes to the Prince. 

His response?

“I wish you a lifetime of contentment with your new husband,” he says. “It was a pleasure to know you.” 

Where was that longing “Awww…” in Pen’s story? The slightly wistful sigh for the suitor that might have been? 

On a personal preference gripe, I really didn’t appreciate the way they chose to make Lord Debling be on the look out for a loveless marriage. Was it really that hard for the writers to imagine two men falling for Penelope? Or are curvy girls just lucky to have even one option?

Lord Debling’s lack of desire and character robbed Colin and Penelope of the option to truly choose each other out of preference instead of a lack of other options. Another one of the many ways in which the writers failed the main couple.

How the Mondrichs Were Boring

The Mondrich storyline was pointless. The writers had no idea what they were doing with them and it showed. Good actors were wasted on bad storytelling. Watching them become smug and entitled while spending their son’s inheritance on themselves was not compelling viewing.

How Benedict Didn’t Change

Benedict’s story was a flip-floppy mess that ended up with him in the same lost and confused space that he was in at the beginning of the season. No character growth, except now he officially likes guys. Which…we already kind of knew? But his I don’t know what I want but I know it’s not commitment ending does nothing to set him up as a compelling romantic lead for either gender.

Oh, and his interest in art joined Lord Debling and Colin’s backstory in the oubliette of lost subplots.

How Francesca Became a Mary Sue

Francesca falling in love with her husband’s cousin at first sight… 


For me, the gender swap isn’t the big problem. Though the change will alter several key dynamics of Francesca’s story, especially the infertility representation. Given the quality of the storytelling in this season, I have no faith these changes will be handled sensitively. Or at all. 

But the part that truly upset me was watching Fran fall in love with Michaela in front of her new husband. This open emotional infidelity broke my heart and altered the tone of her whole romance regardless of her partner’s gender. 

If Francesca’s season follows the basic events of her book When He Was Wicked, instead of our heroine finding love again after her beloved husband dies, Fran will be relieved to be rid of the guy she married by mistake so she can be with the woman she really wants. If Michaela had fallen in love with Francesca at first sight, I’d have understood. That was what happened in the books.

But making Francesca be the one who falls first kills the emotional integrity of her character and her story. Not to mention undermining the quiet sweet romance Fran and John had spent the whole season building and getting me emotionally invested in. 

Seriously, why yank Fran’s happy for now ending with John out from under the audience’s feet right as the season ends? It is possible to fall in love twice. It is possible for there to be different kinds of love. There was no need to invalidate Fran and John’s love story in the final thirty minutes for shock value.

The writers who did this do not understand what made me, at least, love the books in the first place.

They do not seem to either respect or understand romance.

I can’t remember the last time I was so deeply disappointed.  

There were so many ways the writers could have introduced a queer protagonist this season without disappointing readers of the source material by gutting a fan favorite romance. At the beginning I thought Eloise and Cressida were gearing up toward something in that direction and I was curious to see that play out. The actresses had great chemistry together. It would also have fit Eloise’s I want a life outside the normal character arc.

The criminally underused Madame Genevieve Delacroix, who first introduced Benedict to the Regency queer community back in season one, could also have been given this arc.

It’s not that Bridgerton should not feature a queer romance to explore the love that dares not speak its name and the heartbreaking restrictions of that period in time. It’s that Francesca’s out of nowhere bolt of lightning attraction to Michaela feels like bad self-insert fan fiction on the part of the show runner Jess Brownell. 

How This Season Made Me Dislike Eloise

And speaking of Eloise, she made no progress this season beyond reconciling with Pen, which I was glad to see. The way she picked up Cressida as a friend and then dropped her when she was in trouble came across as selfish, heartless and cruel. 

Eloise ended the season still in the finding herself stage of character development. Currently, she seems both uninterested in and unprepared to fall in love. As a result, I am uninterested in her love story.

How This Season Screwed Cressida

Cressida’s character growth in the first four episodes as showcased by her friendship with Eloise joined Lord Debling, Colin’s backstory, and Benedict’s interest in art in the abyss of unfulfilled subplots. Though she had some excuse for the reversion given that her parents were about to sell her into legal marital rape with a man old enough to be her grandfather.

Cressida’s desperation and truly awful circumstances were treated with ‘gee, it sucks to be you’ energy.  But luckily she was not considered a main character so the writers could ship her off to Wales to live in exile from society with her horrible aunt. A totally justifiable punishment for attempting to change her circumstances after all her cries for help are ignored, even by supposedly good person and friend Eloise.

On A Semi-Positive Note

  • Violet’s new romance gave me some of the few truly uncomplicated warm fuzzies of this season. 
  • Lady Danbury and the Queen were underutilized but on the whole not catatonically stupid or totally out of character. 
  • Penelope’s deepening relationship with her mother was touching and their arrival at a point of mutual respect was well-executed. 
  • The Featherington sisters and their empty-headed husbands remained hilarious comic relief. 

Were these storylines enough to make up for the colossal failures mentioned above? Not even close.

Final Thoughts

Have I made it clear that I found season three a comprehensive disappointment? Was the goal to make me dislike every Bridgerton child with any screen time except for Anthony, Hyacinth and Gregory? Or do we have future character assassination to look forward to?

This season failed on so many levels. It failed the actors. It failed the source material. It failed the fans and the rest of the audience too. 

Honestly? It failed as a romance. 

And I mean that on a technical level. 

There was no soaring HEA. There was no third act heart-pounding declaration of love and desire. Where was Colin and Pen’s equivalent of season one’s I burn for you or season two’s you are the bane of my existence and the object of all my desires?

And for those who point to Colin’s proposal, it happened pre-Whistledown reveal and doesn’t count. He said it before he knew whole truth of who Penelope was, and, yes, in a romance that does matter. 

The whole acceptance of a partner, of truly loving someone despite and including their flaws and imperfections, is the whole fucking point of romance. The fucking is very much not the point. 

And the writers should have known that or they had no business writing for this show.

Season three of Bridgerton was a middling-quality drama, not a true romance, and we already have plenty of those. 

Yours sincerely,

Edwina Darke

Disappointed Fan Esquire