The drama world is abuzz with Bridgerton chatter right now, and the GBH Drama team is no exception. Jackie and Amanda-Rae dish on the latest installment, disability representation on the show, and how fandom reactions may be telling us more about the fans than the show itself. Obviously, there will be spoilers.

Jackie: Let’s start with some background — have you read the books?

Amanda-Rae: I only started reading the original Bridgerton series after Shondaland announced season 1 in 2020. I wanted to know the context behind the series and also what was left out. I discovered while the books were enjoyable it was much more exciting to see how the show’s timeline expanded the Ton, gave us several Black and POC characters, and gave supporting characters such as Lady Danbury a much more meaningful backstory.

J: I haven’t read the books, partly because I’ve had the experience of trying to keep competing canons straight in my head in the past (looking at you, Game of Thrones) and found that it made me a super annoying person to talk about media with. I thought it’d be fun to watch the plotlines develop over the course of the show without too much speculating about what was supposed to happen — I already have too many thoughts about what I personally want the show to explore in the future! But before we talk about future seasons (or even the forthcoming remainder of this season), what did you think about last season? I’m a real sucker for an enemies-to-lovers plot, so I was all about it.

A: I loved last season because period drama was very much overdue for a story about Indians in England without the trauma of the Raj attached. #JusticeForIndianSummersPBS!!

J: Seriously. Kate and Edwina were such fun additions; just delightful from jump. My biggest complaint was actually that I wished the costume department had gone SO much harder with Kate’s wardrobe in particular; where are the saree and lehenga-inspired dresses?! Such a missed opportunity IMO. Also I’m sure this wasn’t included because of continuity/timing, but wowee do I wish we’d have seen some bridal mehndi on Edwina, both because it’s beautiful and because I feel like it would have been a really visceral way to hammer home the dissolved engagement. Basically, I loved the cultural elements that the show included, and I really wish they’d gone harder.

A: I agree with you that Bridgerton season 2 should have gone harder with the Indian culture theme and expanded the Sharma sisters’ backstory. Kate and Anthony is so far my favorite Bridgerton book but I wish in the adaptation they shortened the length of Anthony and Edwina’s engagement. I wasn’t as annoyed by Anthony as you were because I knew he was going to be messy in the beginning because of the book.

J: Yeah, I was a real Anthony hater after watching season 1, and wasn’t sure he’d feel redeemable. Big uphill battle to go from “controlling older brother who tries to marry his sister off to the disgusting Nigel Berbrooke/is openly stringing along badass opera singer” to credible love interest, and he didn’t make it easier. In general I am much harder on the men in these shows though; I love all the gals and I want them to have the best. What do you think about #Kanthony’s plotline this season? I wanted a lot more of these goobers loudly breathing at each other, but I also can be realistic: this show has an intensely bloated cast, and there simply isn’t time to do everything.

 Simone Ashley as Kate Sharma, Jonathan Bailey as Anthony Bridgerton in episode 301 of Bridgerton.
Simone Ashley as Kate Sharma, Jonathan Bailey as Anthony Bridgerton in episode 301 of Bridgerton.

A: I believe Kate and Anthony should have had more screen time in these episodes because we didn’t see their wedding, however it is very possible that both Simone Ashley and Johnathan Bailey had other projects to film. What we did get of their relationship was very romantic and a great vibe! I do see where the writers wanted to make sure that other storylines were given room to grow as well.

J: Yeah, a huge bummer that we didn’t see their wedding — compared to season 1 (and where I think season 3 is heading), we’re just getting a lot less of their happily ever after (and uh… the extracurriculars that come with that) on screen, which is frustrating. They played the tension and yearning SO well, but I think many of us wanted more of them. Anyway, I’m happily imagining they’re off somewhere having a lot of fun and can’t wait to see how they react to the Polin shenanigans when they get back. This is why we have fanfic I guess?

Speaking of Polin! Were you always a fan of this ship? Please don’t kill me, but I was not sure about this one before this season.

A: I’m not offended at all! I was a #Polin skeptic coming into season 3. I have to note here for Penelope fans that her actions read very differently for Black and POC women. Their book was cool, but not one of my favorites because the narrative around Penelope’s makeover and weight loss is very dated by today’s standards. Compared to the books, Penelope was way more aggressive and it was harder to root for her during seasons 1 and 2. I was very annoyed by Penelope’s outing of the Theo and Eloise situation plus season 1’s microaggressions towards Marina. As for Colin, his brothers overshadowed his personality. He was wrong for telling the Regency frat boys he’d never date Penelope, and he also needed to admit he wasn’t really over Marina.

During these episodes Penelope and Colin begin the journey to the realization that they can be more than friends. I do wish the earlier seasons showed more of their friendship but the urgency of escaping her stupid sisters via the marriage mart fills some of that in.

By the end of Episode 4, I am convinced that Penelope and Colin can be good for each other and that possibly she can attempt to repair some of the damage she caused. Plus-size representation is also another area of representation that period dramas need to pick up the pace on, so I appreciated that aspect of Penelope and Colin’s relationship.

J: All really good points! I love Penelope, but you’re totally right that she has done some MESSED UP stuff on this show. And I’ve never been the biggest Colin fan — he’s always seemed kind of boring and immature. Obviously that’s not the worst thing, but given Penelope’s Whistledown-ing and her wild family, she’s pretty worldly, and I could not get why she was into him. However, I do think they sold it this season! Not with his bad boy glow up, but with the self reflection and also the tempering of his savior-complex stuff. Hopefully Penelope can work on solving her problems directly rather than using her secret identity to take the nuclear option. I also found it really refreshing to see a character who’s not a size zero on screen being worshiped as a hottie; more of this, please, and also can we cast some actual fat actors in these roles?

A: I agree with you that Colin on screen didn’t have the same level of charisma compared to Anthony and Benedict. Book Colin spent much more time abroad, so his new personality was less of a shock.

J: That makes sense! So, even without reading the books some spoilers are inevitable if you’re at all online, and the carriage one I knew was coming. I was NOT PREPARED. I mean good gravy! Extremely hot, very well done, and while I am aware that the PR people whip this stuff up on purpose, the way that actors Nicola Coughlan and Luke Newton are talking about this scene in particular is just 👀👀👀 in the best way. That’s how you tell your best friend you’re secretly in love with them! Also, real talk, you just know that carriage driver is losing his mind up there.

A: The first thing I thought of was that this is the Regency version of the Beyoncé song “Partition”! I knew it was an iconic scene in their book and I agree that Nicola Coughlan and Luke Newton did a great job portraying their passion for each other. After last season’s extended pining, it was great to see that energy switch up!

J: Pitbull is great (and he’s clearly a huge fan of how his song was adapted for this episode) but “Partition” is such a natural reference here I do kinda wish they’d been able to arrange that song for this scene. Let’s talk about favorite characters — who were you excited about this season?

A: Kate and Anthony’s perpetual honeymoon was wonderful but I needed way more!! I am also here for Lord Marcus and Violet. Lady Danbury’s backstory was such a critical part of Queen Charlotte and while I know they didn’t include all of the stories this season, I wanted a follow-up to Violet realizing she wants something new in her life. I adore Francesca having more screen time this season, and Phillipa and Portia are the GOATs for comedy chaos!

Daniel Francis as Lord Anderson, Adjoa Andoh as Lady Agatha Danbury in episode 304 of Bridgerton.
Daniel Francis as Lord Anderson, Adjoa Andoh as Lady Agatha Danbury in episode 304 of Bridgerton.

J: I’m also a sucker for a later in life ship and am 1000% here for Violet and Lady Danbury’s brother Marcus. That man is charming as heck, extremely handsome, and looking for love: not only do I want that for Violet, I want her kids to meddle around in her relationship for a change, as a treat.

I’ve said before that my favorite ship on the show is the friendship between Penelope and Eloise — and I really hope they actually mend fences in part 2 — but I was a huge fan of the Cressida redemption arc, in particular because I think it had a positive impact on Eloise. Obviously, I love the nerd character who’s not feeling the marriage mart (very teen me) but Eloise is doing a lot of the baby-feminist thing of trying to distance herself from other women to gain power, and that sucks. Cressida called her out for that crap, and I liked it. And yes, for comedy purposes you cannot do better than the Featherington women. Chaos indeed!

I’ll tell you what I didn’t like: the Ye Olde Regency Locker Room Talk was a low point. The show has been surprisingly tame with this stuff, but it seems like we’re destined to have a creepy moment every so often, and this was it for season 3. Yes, it emphasized that Colin has matured beyond his peers (and that he’s different from the other boys, and thus, dreamy) but it wasn’t cute. Also, I didn’t love the threesomes simply because I majored in history of science and couldn’t unthink “all these men have STIs, huh” afterwards.

A: I interpreted Eloise’s actions less so as baby feminist mistakes and more so someone who is tired of being judged. Cressida definitely picked up on Eloise’s isolation but I still believe at the end of the day she’s looking for shields in case her actions backfire. I don’t like their friendship but I do hope we get a bit more of Cressida’s backstory to explain why she’s been a mess.

While I was skeptical of Cressida’s redemption arc, I really wasn’t a fan of the Colin threesome scenes either. They felt like something unused for the season 2 Anthony plot, or Benedict’s current plot. I know we’re supposed to assume Colin did some experimentation during his travels but it’s not convincing to me at all. They’re likely very effective for annoying prudish period drama fans so that’s the upside.

J: LOL. Honestly surprising that the folks who aren’t into those kinds of scenes are still watching — this show has been very clear about what it is from the first few minutes of episode one! Fandom reactions can be a lot, as we know. Another thing I didn’t love about this season wasn’t even on screen: it was really disappointing to see all the weird shipper wars stuff from the fandom. Some of it is, I’m sure, just a preference for different tropes, but it really felt like there was a strong undercurrent of racism, and some anti-fat bias to many of the comments I’ve seen. And people are STILL loudly mad at Regé-Jean Page for only being in season 1? We’ve talked about this before, but it’s so uncool to get mad at an actor for doing other projects and being less available to objectify. You can just rewatch season 1!

A: Bridgerton’s canon-established couples are not in competition with each other, so people arguing about which relationship is the best is kind of silly on the surface. Each Bridgerton sibling competes with other people in the Ton for their spouse’s attention. It’s not like both Colin and Anthony had a crush on Kate. Which relationship you prefer often comes down to your favorite romance trope and character personalities.

However: there is a darker side to the ship wars. I’m going to be writing in more detail about this topic soon, but to summarize: a lot of it is fueled by racism. The racists have co-opted Colin and Penelope as their avatar for the way Bridgerton “should be” and that’s why season 3 is so contentious online.

This will sound harsh to Penelope/Colin fans but let me explain a bit more here. There is a segment of very loud white Bridgerton fans online who still resent Julia Quinn for agreeing to Shonda Rhimes and her production company casting many characters as Black and POC. All the way back before season 1 began there was a #NotMyDuke hashtag to harass Regé-Jean Page. Then in season 2, the racists started harassing both Simone Ashley and Charithra Chadran on social media because they are darker skinned women. Some of the attacks against Ashley and Chadran also came from the Indian community because of caste, class, and colorism issues. I can’t speak to that aspect of the situation, but there’s some overlap with antiblackness for sure.

Black, Desi, and other POC fans believe Simone Ashley’s popularity has been ignored and downplayed by Netflix in promotion and junket interviews for both season 2 and season 3. They also believe the Sharma family backstory hasn’t been as promoted the way the Featheringtons, Cowpers, and other white families on the show have. I cannot speak to how much this perception can be explained by factors the average fan wouldn’t be aware of, but the fact that this is something multiple people have discussed means there’s a trend.

Racists during season 3 have also complained about Victor Alli playing John Stirling (because for them it’s impossible to be Black and Scottish) and about the Mondrich family extended plot, despite the fact Will Mondrich has been a supporting character fixture since season 1. For readers who were around for the height of the Sanditon drama, there are similarities between the way racists in that fandom were acting and Bridgerton’s racist Polin fans are acting online. The difference is that since the Bridgerton cast is more active on Instagram and TikTok, they can post haterade directly to them.

Nicola Coughlan has been getting harassed for her politics and her size, however, too many racists have also been using fatphobia as a weapon to silence Black and POC fans who have legit critiques about Penelope’s character and her fans. The narrative that Kanthony fans — many of whom identify with Kate because she reflects their cultures — are fatphobic doesn’t make sense since many Black and POC fans are also plus size and care about body positivity.

While fandom does need to calm down about the more petty relationship personality debates, the racism in fandom — which the series is not at all trying to support — is still a major issue that fans must confront. Harassing cast members and their families plus doxxing fans you disagree with (revealing personal info online such as addresses and real names to spur harassment) is offensive and needs to stop. Fans who believe that Bridgerton should have no POC cast members also need to stop watching the show because that’s not changing. There are likely a lot of things Netflix staff will miss because social media is vast and the Bridgerton fandom is international and multilingual. Fans can definitely help by calling out and reporting racist accounts to platform moderation.

J: Pretty frustrating that a show that has all the potential to provide true escapism and fun for BIPOC audiences (who, as we’ve talked about before, and I know you’re planning to cover more in the future, are often cut out of the this experience because the vast majority of these dramas are so white and so casually racist) is still plagued by this type of behavior from fans. I think for a lot of people there’s unexamined bias and privilege driving some of this behavior, but that doesn’t change how toxic the fandom experience is, especially for a show that really is actively working to be more inclusive.

Speaking of which — it was super refreshing to see one of our debutantes using BSL, and that gossip-loving Viscount who’s a wheelchair user was so cheeky. More please! And Francesca and John were so much fun: I love a good neurospicy pairing!

A: Francesca and John were legit scene stealers! I’m kicking myself for not asking during the junket if Francesca and John are indeed on the autistic spectrum. They’re a breath of fresh air in terms of representation for both women and Black men on the spectrum as both have been very overlooked in past period dramas.

I also loved seeing the increase in disability representation this season both physically and in terms of social/mental differences with Francesca and John. I believe Queen Charlotte diving into King George III’s illness opened the door for an expansion in season 3. We need more of this!

Hannah Dodd as Francesca Bridgerton in episode 302 of Bridgerton.
Hannah Dodd as Francesca Bridgerton in episode 302 of Bridgerton.

J: Absolutely. It was also fun to get more time with the other Bridgertons this season. Francesa wanting to ditch a party to hide in the introvert’s corner, and her interest in escaping the loving and bonkers bosom of the Bridgerton family? A mood. Benedict’s thing of specifically being attracted to women who are too badass for him? Respect it, and also: good luck to him in the second half of this season, I think he’s going to need it. Like I said earlier, I know we don’t have time to get into everyone’s thing every season, but it’s a huge bummer that Benedict’s not still in art school, or at least attending those awesome drawing parties. You’re a second son, pal, doubling down on hobbies is your whole deal!

A: I was also disappointed he’s no longer in art school or at the drawing parties. Bridgerton so far has left out a lot about how men like Benedict would likely be in the military or the clergy. I’m also sensing there’s going to be a plot twist with this new relationship. It will be interesting to see if Part 2 introduces the core part of his storyline in the novels.

J: One pairing that has gotten more screen time this season is the Mondriches, who I love. One of the most realistic and lovely couples on the show, and it’s really nice to see them continuing their upwardly mobile ways, especially when it comes with some sick wardrobe upgrades. Objectively I’m glad that Will’s not boxing anymore, but because I’m into martial arts outside of work I selfishly miss the boxing scenes. The class politics going on with their story arc is really fascinating — we’ve seen some of this before in MASTERPIECE dramas (I’m thinking of the famous “what is a weekend” line in Downton Abbey when Cousin Matthew’s explaining his job), and it’s so weird to watch from our modern perspective. I know I just said Benedict needs to lean into his art career but I would love for Will to just get to relax and go to parties with his hot wife! There’s got to be someone he can trust to manage the club for him so he can just be an angel investor.

James Bryan as Nicky Mondrich, Martins Imhangbe as Will Mondrich, Ariella Warburton as Daisy Mondrich, Emma Naomi as Alice Mondrich, Elias Amos as John Mondrich in episode 301 of Bridgerton.
James Bryan as Nicky Mondrich, Martins Imhangbe as Will Mondrich, Ariella Warburton as Daisy Mondrich, Emma Naomi as Alice Mondrich, Elias Amos as John Mondrich in episode 301 of Bridgerton.

A: The Mondrich storyline is my absolute favorite this season! Their story ties in the “Grand Experiment” from Queen Charlotte perfectly. Seasons 1 and 2 had some inconsistencies with how the Ton works so their story fixes that. I know some fans have complained about this storyline but they forgot that Will was first introduced as Simon’s friend in season 1, then he became friendly with Anthony, Colin, and Benedict. Plus we get to see more of Alice and the cute kids! Tom Jones on MASTERPIECE last year touches on the outsiders moving into the upper class but it has different implications in the countryside where they’ll never get an invite from Her Majesty to a ball. It will be interesting to see in Part 2 what kind of pressure to conform the Mondriches will face.

J: We gotta talk costumes! I feel like folks are hating on the costumes more this season, and I don’t get it. Some of the choices are so delightfully bonkers, as ever, and that’s what I’m trying to watch! Those giant sleeves on Cressida’s dress live in my head rent free.

 Claudia Jessie as Eloise Bridgerton, Jessica Madsen as Cressida Cowper in episode 303 of Bridgerton.
Claudia Jessie as Eloise Bridgerton, Jessica Madsen as Cressida Cowper in episode 303 of Bridgerton.

Also, from a character standpoint, you cannot do better than what they’ve set up for our leads this season. Penelope’s dresses having the bustline lowered to show off what she’s working with/take her from girlish to adult? Such a small detail but it’s doing so much, and that’s not even factoring in her color story shift! I saw someone refer to Colin’s travel outfit as pirate cosplay and yeah, buddy! That’s what he’s doing, the costume should reflect that! Who hasn’t seen friends come back from a gap year with a new wardrobe and unearned swagger? Anyway, I’m really curious to hear your take as someone who knows a lot more about costuming and clothing construction than I do!

A: Overall I like season 3’s costumes but I am not in love with them as they’ve pulled in some eras of fashion that are not personal faves of mine. I believe a lot of the hate for this season’s costumes is due to the fact there was a designer switch, and also the heavy influence of 1830s styles combined with later Regency. A good example of what I mean by the 1830s is Cressida’s wide sleeves. The longer Bridgerton goes on the less patience I have for costume snobbery and gatekeeping. I believe the costumes and color palette tell a story that Bridgerton is moving along in time. The teenagers we met in season 1 are now young adults. I love Penelope’s color palette switch to emerald and mint green, plus as you mentioned the lowering of her bodice line. I also love Queen Charlotte’s and Lady Danbury’s gowns. They have a lot of cool texture details and patterns you have to pause to look at.

J: Queen Charlotte’s wigs are also always a delight. I honestly have no idea how period-accurate they are, and I don’t care, because you can see how much effort and thought goes into them!

Hugh Sachs as Brimsley, Golda Rosheuvel as Queen Charlotte, Adjoa Andoh as Lady Agatha Danbury in episode 302 of Bridgerton.
Hugh Sachs as Brimsley, Golda Rosheuvel as Queen Charlotte, Adjoa Andoh as Lady Agatha Danbury in episode 302 of Bridgerton.

A: If I win the lottery I want to make a Queen Charlotte gown!

J: Ok, now I really need you to win the lottery! Final question: what do you think we can expect from the second half of the season? We tend to find out who the next Bridgerton to marry will be, and as you suggested, we might get some groundwork for Benedict’s story, but other than that, any hopes for episodes 5-8? I’m personally hoping for Penelope to make amends for some of Lady Whistledown’s worse behavior, and I’d like to see a little more of Queen Charlotte in the second half.

A: I believe Part 2 will have to address at some point that Colin has no idea that Penelope is Lady Whistledown. I am hoping Penelope can explain herself to Colin and apologize to Eloise. There needs to be some kind of amends before the happy ending. In addition, I hope to see Francesca and John’s relationship continue to grow because their relationship is so unique. I also believe we’ll see more of the Mondriches adjusting to life in the Ton. I hope to see more of Queen Charlotte as well, I’m sure there will be more balls and events to attend.

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