'Bridgerton' Season 3 Finale: Is the Show Stuck?

Golda Rosheuvel, left, and Nicola Coughlan in the <i>Bridgerton</i> Season 3 finale Credit - Courtesy of Netflix

This article discusses plot points from the Bridgerton Season 3 finale.

The future of television is a big, scary question mark in 2024, but if there’s one thing we know for sure, it’s that Netflix is committed to making as much Bridgerton as possible. Just a day after the second half of Season 3 was released, it’s the most-watched series on the platform. A fourth season was confirmed way back in 2021—although showrunner Jess Brownell recently suggested that fans would have to wait around two years to see it. And yet, the third season’s finale kind of felt like a series finale, tying up too many of the show’s most compelling storylines.

Following a penultimate episode that saw recovering wallflower Penelope Featherington (Nicola Coughlan) finally marry Colin Bridgerton (Luke Newton), while he was still seething over his discovery that she was Lady Whistledown, the finale brings Bridgerton’s enormous ensemble cast together at a fabulously gaudy party thrown by Penelope’s ridiculous sisters. Suddenly, Queen Charlotte (Golda Rosheuvel) bursts in to announce that she’s deduced Whistledown’s identity—and demands that the woman with the poison quill pen reveal herself to all of Mayfair. So Penelope does. “No one has ever taken any part of me seriously,” she explains in an emotional monologue. But the column gave her power. “Gossip is information. It forges bonds.”

Nicola Coughlan as Penelope Featherington in episode 307 of <em>Bridgerton</em><span class="copyright">Courtesy of Netflix</span>
Nicola Coughlan as Penelope Featherington in episode 307 of BridgertonCourtesy of Netflix

And just like that, the Queen—who’s devoted three seasons to tracking down her nemesis—is satisfied. “What is life without a little gossip?” she chuckles. So is Colin, who tells Penelope that he now understands “there is no separating you from Whistledown” and abruptly abandons his need to be the genius writer in the marriage. As for the rest of the ton, families whose darkest secrets Whistledown has aired, they barely seem to care. A minute after Penelope’s speech, they’re back to dancing. This all seems a bit unlikely—a moment of crisis smoothed over in order to give the couple that shippers call Polin an unequivocally happy ending. What’s more worrisome, though, is what the outing of Whistledown might mean for future seasons of Bridgerton. After all, what is a debutante season without a Regency Gossip Girl to chronicle it?

When Penelope retires Whistledown, in the finale’s closing scene, she writes: “Hopefully, dear reader, you will stay on to enjoy [my future] with me, as we begin this next part of our journey.” But it isn’t just the Polin storyline that the season resolves. Whistledown intrigue has been a crucial ingredient in the show’s love potion since the very beginning, when the author’s identity was still a mystery to viewers, as well as after we were let in on the secret, in the Season 1 finale, and got to follow Penelope’s publishing adventures, fingers crossed that she wouldn’t get found out. Meanwhile, the hunt for Whistledown has occupied the majority—and by far the most amusing moments—of Queen Charlotte’s screen time, outside of her eponymous spin-off.

Golda Rosheuvel in <i>Bridgerton</i><span class="copyright">Liam Daniel—Netflix</span>
Golda Rosheuvel in BridgertonLiam Daniel—Netflix

It’s true that Bridgerton is based (albeit increasingly loosely) on a series of books by Julia Quinn, and that Penelope is publicly unmasked as Whistledown just halfway through its eight volumes. And it’s true that the Season 3 finale left viewers with several emerging storylines to look forward to in Season 4: Benedict Bridgerton (Luke Thompson) has discovered he’s into men as well as women, and it seems fair to predict his foray into polyamory is just beginning. Judging by the way newlywed Francesca (Hanna Dodd) looks at her husband John Stirling’s (Victor Alli) cousin—and the couple’s future housemate—Michaela Stirling (Masali Baduza), Benedict may not be the only bi Bridgerton. Then there’s matriarch Violet (Ruth Gemmell), whose romance with Marcus Anderson (Daniel Francis) might finally begin in earnest, now that Marcus and his sister, Violet’s best friend Lady Danbury (Adjoa Andoh), have reconciled after years of tension.

Yet if Whistledown really is dead, never to be revived by some brilliant new outsider (see: Tavi Gevinson’s character in Gossip Girl 2.0), then Bridgerton will have no droll Julie Andrews narration to structure it and, even in the likely event that Penelope keeps writing under her own name, no anonymous scandal sheet to torment Mayfair with impunity. Worst of all, Penelope could be doomed to the same yesterday's-news status that previous heroines now occupy. (Remember Daphne?) If a new Bridgerton-sibling romance each season is the series’ gimmick, then Penelope has proven to be its soul—a vividly realistic protagonist whose perspicacious alter ego tethered each fairytale courtship to earth. Bridgerton may find a way to carry on without Lady Whistledown, but if it succeeds, it will be as a different show entirely.

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