Bridgerton Season 3 Premiere Recap: A Crowded Dance Card of Potential Couples

Spoilers

It has been the longest of waits, Gentle Readers, but Bridgerton Season 3 is finally here!!

The smash Regency-set Netflix series returned May 16 in a dizzying thunder of carriage wheels that brought the ton back to London after a summer in the countryside, all refreshed and ready for the new debutante season with the Queen’s next “diamond.”

One dashing figure returned home by sea instead of land: a newly suave Colin Bridgerton apparently procured a swashbuckling long brown coat on his travels in addition to a marked dislike for sleeping alone.

In the chaotic swirl of activity before the Queen’s court, we learn that the mysterious Francesca Bridgerton (Hannah Dodd) will wear the tall white feather for her debut that morning.

However, it seems she’d prefer to stay home playing the pianoforte.

This new-to-viewers Bridgerton sister has been in Bath for some time and is pleasant but distant when dealing with her boisterous family, which seems to visibly concern her mother, Lady Bridgerton.

Francesca & Lady Bridgerton

It’s a puzzling choice for the show to foreground an uncharismatic, out-of-left-field Bridgerton sibling this season when audience faves Eloise and Benedict are right there, but perhaps this decision will make more sense in later episodes.

We’ve long known that Penelope and Colin are this season’s primary romantic couple, but in just the first few minutes of this episode, several exciting storylines center on other characters.

Eloise and Penelope are still on the outs this season.

This is heartbreaking to watch, especially when we see that Eloise has replaced Pen with none other than her arch-nemesis, Cressida Cowper (Jessica Madsen).

Lady Featherington did not take a summer break from scheming, if you were wondering.

In front of her daughters, she credits the family’s recent financial stability to an inheritance from their Aunt Petunia.

We then see her whispering with Varley how this story is just a cover for the money from Cousin Jack’s shady dealings in Season 2.

The Featheringtons on Bridgerton Season 2

At a garden party after the debutante ceremony, Lady Featherington counters snide remarks about Cousin Jack’s shameful departure by announcing that the estate will stay with the Featheringtons if one of her daughters produces a male heir.

This is surprising but welcome news to the married daughters Featherington.

However, Penelope is not thrilled at the prospect of depending on one of her sisters for a roof over her head instead of her mother.

To live at the whim of either the most cruel or the most simple person I know…
I must take a husband before that happens.
It is time.

Penelope

While entirely understandable, it also makes one wonder if this is a 50 First Dates situation where Penelope forgets that she has a ton of Lady Whistledown money hidden under her bedroom floorboards every morning.

What is she planning to use it for, if not to buy a cottage by the sea??

Speaking of new digs, Mr. Mondrich and his wife learn from a solicitor that their young son has inherited the title and holdings of the Baron of Kent.

The catch? The peerage expects the ex-boxer to give up his gentlemen’s club.

This very same solicitor, Mr. Dundas, threatens Lady Featherington with eviction if it’s discovered that her succession letter from Cousin Jack is a forgery.

Just when you think this might be the busiest possible week the ton has ever seen, everyone assembles at Lady Danbury’s home for the first ball of the season, where Penelope tries out a new look that makes jaws drop.

Penelope Belle of Ball Green Dress Vertical - Bridgerton

She still struggles with small talk until she meets Lord Debling (Sam Phillips), a wealthy naturalist considered eccentric by the ton for being a vegetarian.

Penelope flirts with him, but Cressida sabotages her by “accidentally” tearing her dress. Pen leaves the ball and is followed outside by Colin.

She finally tells Colin that she overheard him last season saying he’d never ever court her, and that is why she’s been cold to him since his return.

Watching Pen give her longtime unrequited crush a piece of her mind is both a shock and a thrill. He has the grace to accept her anger and does not try to defend himself.

Colin Bridgerton Intense Vertical

When Pen gets home that night, she fires off a scathing issue of Whistledown. Surely nothing bad will come of that!

The following day, Eloise meets with Cressida to chastise her for her treatment of Penelope at the ball, but Cressida reframes the narrative, and Eloise stays friends with her.

Anthony and Kate discuss asking Lady Bridgerton to remain Viscountess since she enjoys it so much (and doesn’t want to move out of their home). This would allow the newlyweds to extend their honeymoon a bit longer.

Penelope is in her garden when Colin stops by to apologize. She tells him she is looking for a husband, and he offers to help.

Penelope: Colin, I cannot have you with me, whispering into my ear in every ballroom.
Colin: You will not need that.
We will have lessons.

Colin does some great groveling here.

True, it could be seen as just a quick and easy way to get back into his esteemed friend’s good graces, but it does appear to come from a genuine and caring place. 

It will also give him yet another reason to tell us about what he learned on his recent travels abroad!

Penelope is convinced to try this plan and is amused when Colin produces his hand to seal their deal with a shake.

This is the gesture of a friend, not a lips-to-gloved-knuckles touch of hands that could be flirtatious.

Pen seems slightly disappointed at this stark evidence of their platonic status but accepts his hand and the title of “friend.”

Colin & Penelope Shake In Garden Vertical

Bridgerton Season 3 Episode 1 ends with the new issue of Lady Whistledown arriving at the Bridgerton home, where Colin reads her mocking critique of his new personality.

He vows to Eloise that he will ruin the writer’s life if he ever discovers her true identity.

This is a perfect segue to the opening of Bridgerton Season 3 Episode 2, where Queen Charlotte is also perturbed at Whistledown’s sharp opinions.

When Mr. and Mrs. Mondrich arrive at their new Baron of Kent estate, they discover they are expected to sleep in separate rooms.

Sure, the house has twenty-seven to choose from, but the couple is used to staying together in just one.

Lord & Lady Mondrich Vertical - Bridgerton

This episode continues the odd dynamic between Lady Bridgerton and Francesca as they seem to work at cross purposes in her search for a suitor.

Francesca wants a quick and practical match, which should please her mother. Violet initially pressured her to hold out for true love, but now she seems to want the best match possible.

Lady Danbury also seems invested in a high-status match for Francesca, probably to smooth the Queen’s ruffled feathers from Lady Whistledown’s taunts.

Lady Violet Bridgerton’s actions regarding potential matches for Francesca are all over the place.

She seems to ignore the few times Francesca appears excited about a suitor and then frets that her daughter seems… what, exactly??

Francesca Bridgerton Vertical

I’m not Francesca’s biggest fan, but her mother seems weirdly hell-bent on creating obstacles for her where there are none.

We can’t all have magical love matches, Violet!! Maybe you should listen to your daughter and help her get what she wants, not what you have.

As exciting as all of the side plots are, the shifting relationship between Colin and Penelope is what really drives this episode.

Colin wastes no time in starting Pen’s lessons.

They arrange to meet on a stroll, and Pen’s excruciating small talk with a group of eligible young men almost makes her give up on this project completely.

Colin is late for their next lesson because, well, he was at a rendezvous.

In bed. With two young ladies, who I believe were being paid for their time.

But he still meets up with Penelope at the shopping stalls!

Colin sans Shirt Vertical - Bridgerton

They converse over tables of knickknacks under the watchful eye of Pen’s chaperone.

This is a really sweet interlude, during which they must pretend not to talk to each other for the sake of propriety.

There’s an artless choreography to their movements that is effortlessly charming as they walk around merchandise displays and behind hanging rugs.

The scene sells them as close friends with a history who enjoy each other’s company and could potentially be a couple.

Colin, as a teacher, abandons practical lessons for theory.

He knows that Pen needs to increase her confidence before she inflicts painful small talk on unsuspecting suitors again.

Colin: Pen, living for the estimation of others is a trap.
Once you break free, the world opens up.
Penelope: You make it sound so easy.

Their next lesson is at Bridgerton house.

Pen is nervous about being seen by Eloise or the other siblings, but they are all out or occupied.

Colin and Pen practice in the drawing room, which Colin encourages her to think of as a ballroom and he as a stranger at the lemonade table.

Colin: Imagine what you would want to say to me if I were a suitor without concerning yourself with how I might receive it.
Penelope: Your eyes… are the most remarkable shade of blue.
Yet, somehow, they shine even brighter when you are kind.

Penelope Pink Sugar Vertical - Bridgerton

They hear Eloise talking downstairs, so Pen hides in the study.

She sees Colin’s open journal on his desk and is reading it when he returns.

Angry that she’s seen his private writing, he reaches for the journal and knocks over a lamp, cutting his palm on the broken glass.

As Pen bandages his hand, they gaze at each other, then break apart in a fluster and end the lesson.

There is, of course, another ball that night.

In the carriage, Colin tells Eloise about his helping Pen find a husband and swears his sister to secrecy, as it would not do for a highly eligible bachelor to platonically help someone out, apparently.

At the ball, much happens: Benedict explains the rules of the ton to Mr. Mondrich (i.e., there ARE no rules for married peers); Lady Featherington discovers that she must explain the bird and bees to her daughters in detail if she ever wants an heir; and Eloise does a tight five for her fellow debs.

Eloise Behind Door Vertical - Bridgerton

Colin helps Pen approach a couple of young men.

After making one cry (who could have guessed his horse just died??), she hits it off with the charming Lord Remington, who promises to call on her the next day.

Only word has gotten out about Colin helping poor spinster Pen find a husband, and mean-spirited gossip swirls around the room.

Pen runs out, followed by Colin and Eloise, who, for some reason, told Cressida Cowper about her brother and Pen.

The aftermath of the ball is eventful.

The Queen chooses Francesca as her season favorite, Mr. and Mrs. Mondrich decide to make their own rules and sleeping arrangements, the Featherington sisters use their new education, and Lady Danbury receives word of an unwelcome visitor.

Eloise meets up with Cressida to accuse her of starting the gossip about her brother and Pen.

Cressida, for once, is innocent.

She states that she did not say anything but suggests that Eloise was a bit loud, so others nearby doubtlessly overheard.

Eloise & Cressida Vertical - Bridgerton

Penelope is despondent and withdraws from society for a while.

She is surprised late at night with a visit from Colin, who wants to ensure she is okay.

The chaperone has been paid away, so they are alone in the garden.

Pen confesses her fears of social ridicule and spinsterhood and asks Colin a favor.

I do not wish to die without ever having been kissed.

Penelope

He kisses her, and it is epic.

Then Pen dashes inside.

The episode ends with our mouths as agape as Colin Bridgerton’s.

The look on his face tells us that everything has irrevocably changed.

What did you think of these first two episodes? Let us know!

Paullette Gaudet is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. You can follow her on X.

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