Bridgerton season 3 part 1 review: Polin weren't trusted to carry the show

Bridgerton. (L to R) Luke Newton as Colin Bridgerton, Nicola Coughlan as Penelope Featherington in episode 301 of Bridgerton. Cr. Liam Daniel/Netflix © 2024
Bridgerton. (L to R) Luke Newton as Colin Bridgerton, Nicola Coughlan as Penelope Featherington in episode 301 of Bridgerton. Cr. Liam Daniel/Netflix © 2024 /

Part one of Bridgerton season 3 has made its way to Netflix. It's been a long wait for this installment of the series, and I wish I could say that it was worth it but alas, it's not--at least not yet. These first four episodes are a bit of a slog and that is because they are overstuffed. Here's the thing about romances, the leads have to be the focus. Without that you don't have spark and without spark you wind up with rote writing, meandering plots, and a desire for the season to get on with it already.

It is not that Nicola Coughlan and Luke Newton don't have chemistry. They do. In fact, they have plenty of it. What they are not given is room for their characters to grow into the first blushes of a connection that's romantic in nature instead of platonic. There is very little tension. Sure, there are longing looks and some yearning but it all feels a bit one note and flat.

The conceit of this season of Bridgerton was supposed to be that Colin, in an effort to fix his fractured relationship with Penelope, offers his services in helping her find a suitable match. And he does that...kind of. He encourages her to be herself and to speak to the gentleman of the ton not like a coquette but like a woman who knows her own mind. It's a wonderful piece of advice, it's also his only real means of helping her.

If you were planning to go into season 3 with the idea that we'd be seeing Colin truly lean into being Penelope's wingman and that we'd see some kind of lessons given on how to flirt, pull focus in a room, and present your best self then I'm sorry to disappoint but that's not what happens so don't do that. The scenes we do get of that nature are charged and exactly what you'd want from Polin, they're just also few and far between.

This couple spends more time gazing at one another from afar than actually being together building up the romance we've all been waiting to see. Colin spends an awful lot of time swaggering about and being seen with Penelope's peers tittering about how gallant he's become. After one episode of this it grows tiresome. It is an effect and part of his story, it's just not very interesting.

The same can be said for the Featheringtons' preoccupation with producing a male heir to secure a monied future. It's meant to be comic relief and it is funny, it just also takes up a lot of room in the plot. As does Eloise's friendship with Cressida and the aftermath of the friendship break-up between Penelope and Eloise, though I must say the latter have some of the more affecting scenes.

There's often so much going on around Polin--including a romance for Francesca, one threatening to bloom for Violet, a new dalliance for Benedict, and the Mondrichs navigating nobility--that they get lost in the story. So much so that Bridgerton season 3 feels more like a period drama with an ensemble cast than a romance with a central couple we're supposed to be rooting for.

All of these side plots give the impression that Coughlan and Newtwon weren't entirely trusted with carrying the show which is a shame because when we do really get to focus on them, they shine. But the writing is also an issue. The point of a best friends-to-lovers plot is to showcase the way that a friendship can catch fire. It is about two people knowing each other intimately on an emotional level and with a shared history which either sparks or boils over into an untapped passion and a deepening understanding of one another.

The initiating catalyst for this for Polin is a kiss but the story around them feels empty. Often what triggers a step into romance for two friends in a plot like this is a growing, impending sense of loss. But that doesn't really happen with these two. Sure, Penelope has a suitor in Lord Debling but again it just felt like we were treading water.

The real meat and potatoes comes in the final episode of part one so perhaps there's hope for the second part of Bridgerton season 3. It's just a shame that the chase of this romance didn't get the attention that it should have. Having to wait to the middle of the season for there to be a sign of life is a hefty ask for anyone tuning in simply for Polin and it certainly doesn't cast the season in a good light. Here's hoping the final four episodes save it because as of now, I wouldn't recommend it to anyone who isn't already invested in this franchise.