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TV review: 'Bridgerton' Season 3 does right by Penelope

Penelope (Nicola Coughlan) is the star of "Bridgerton" Season 3. Photo courtesy of Netflix
1 of 5 | Penelope (Nicola Coughlan) is the star of "Bridgerton" Season 3. Photo courtesy of Netflix

LOS ANGELES, May 16 (UPI) -- Editor's note: This review will discuss spoilers from the Season 2 finale of "Bridgerton."

The Season 2 finale of Bridgerton revealed a secret that necessarily changes the dynamics of the characters moving forward. Season 3, premiering Thursday on Netflix, explores those dynamics with humor and heart.

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Since Penelope Featherington (Nicola Coughlan) was revealed to be the author of the Lady Whistledown gossip papers, she is shunned from social gatherings and looks in from the outskirts. She doesn't stop writing them, though, and Julie Andrews still reads them in narration.

As the latest debutante season begins, Penelope is on her third try to find a suitor, while Francesca Bridgerton (Hannah Dodd) reluctantly enters her first. The courtship rituals begin anew, but with Penelope working uphill and Francesca dreading what she's seen her sisters experience.

When Penelope glams-up for the debutante ball, she rightly turns heads. But she is endearingly awkward with suitors, talking about all her books.

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Penelope confronts people who have taken her for granted, namely Colin Bridgerton (Luke Newton), with whom she has the most chemistry. This sets up a will-they-or-won't-they dynamic between Colin and Penelope that is predictable, but sweet.

The will-they-or-won't-they between Penelope and Eloise Bridgerton (Claudia Jessie) is far more fraught and less certain to resolve. Eloise has not forgiven Phoebe for writing Lady Whistledown.

Penelope herself wants to make up with Eloise. For now, Eloise hangs out with Cressida (Jessica Madsen), who is arguably a worse gossip, but Cressida doesn't publish her whispers.

Season 3 gets into how the debutante season pits women against each other. They start to talk about how they should be friends and not rivals, which is a progressive concept for the Regency era and for modern television.

Season 2's main couple, Kate (Simone Ashley) and Anthony (Jonathan Bailey), remain happily together and still romp in bed. They only appear early in the season, but still more than Daphne (Phoebe Dynevor) and Simon (Regé-Jean Page).

Will (Martins Imhangbe) and Alice Monrich (Emma Naomi) have a potentially interesting subplot regarding their status in society. It would be nice if more scenes could have explored that in depth, but perhaps in Part 2.

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There are a lot of subplots that necessarily take a back seat to Penelope's storyline in the four-episode Part 1. Bridgerton only checks in on Francesca once or twice per hour, and there is even a potential love interest for Lady Bridgerton (Polly Walker).

This debutante season moves very quickly. By Episode 4, Penelope has a big decision to make, which nicely sets up Part 2, coming June 13.

There are still string covers of modern music. The boys gratuitously show off their bodies, Colin changes his shirt in a carriage for little reason but to allow the audience to gawk, and the show celebrates such cheesecake shots.

Bridgerton has never quite recaptured the chemistry between Daphne and Simon, but they are a tough act to follow. Penelope's story offers satisfying development for a fan-favorite character, while introducing a few more romantic subplots for the future of Bridgerton.

Fred Topel, who attended film school at Ithaca College, is a UPI entertainment writer based in Los Angeles. He has been a professional film critic since 1999, a Rotten Tomatoes critic since 2001, and a member of the Television Critics Association since 2012 and the Critics Choice Association since 2023. Read more of his work in Entertainment.

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Nicola Coughlan, Luke Newton attend 'Bridgerton' Season 3 premiere

Cast member Nicola Coughlan attends the premiere of Netflix's "Bridgerton" Season 3 at Alice Tully Hall in New York City on May 13, 2024. Photo by Louis Lanzano/UPI | License Photo

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