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As Nicola Coughlan and Luke Newton’s characters take center stage, here’s where the series left off

Dearest gentle reader, it’s been a long wait for Bridgerton’s return — more than 780 days since Season 2 dropped on Netflix, to be exact.

“There are a lot of characters, there are a lot of complications and it’s a very complex story to weave,” Bridgerton executive producer Betsy Beers told Variety of the longer-than-usual break. “The writing and the meticulousness of the process obviously takes time. And every single aspect of a show in this period takes more time.”

Season 3 follows the friends-to-lovers courtship between Penelope Featherington (Nicola Coughlan), who moonlights as the town’s all-knowing gossip Lady Whistledown, and Colin Bridgerton (Luke Newton).

Their love story, which fans have dubbed “Polin,” is loosely inspired by author Julia Quinn’s fourth novel in the series, Romancing Mister Bridgerton. It’s also the first season to be split in two; Part 1 premieres May 16, while Part 2 launches June 13.

Because more than two years have passed since the series last made hearts race, it’s understandable if your memory is foggy in recalling where the main characters left off. Here’s what to remember ahead of Season 3.

Luke Newton and Nicola Coughlan.Luke Newton and Nicola Coughlan.

Luke Newton and Nicola Coughlan in Bridgerton Season 3. (Liam Daniel/©Netflix/Courtesy Everett Collection)

The final moments of Season 2 put Colin Bridgerton in a precarious position after Penelope overheard him gossiping that he “would never dream of courting Penelope Featherington.” That revelation was stunning for Penelope, who had learned from Colin moments earlier that her family was being conned, his discovery ultimately saving them from financial ruin.

“I’m interested to see where we find her when the season opens and how her relationship with Colin has shifted in a massive way,” Coughlan told Tudum. In much of Season 2, Colin was unaware of Penelope’s one-sided crush. At one point, he friend-zoned her when he declared he was swearing off women for the time being.

In Season 3, Penelope and Colin take center stage as she aims to have more agency in her life and he gets a noticeable glow-up following his travels abroad. While Penelope juggles her Lady Whistledown secret, Colin will be forced to contend with his uncertain relationship status with Penelope.

Suppressed feelings begin to surface when Colin starts coaching Penelope on how to gain attention from worthy suitors, leaning in to one of the romance genre’s go-to tropes. It’s not really a question of when Penelope and Colin get together, but how — and if they’ll include fan-favorite scenes from Quinn’s novel.

“Nic and I have talked so many times about how Colin always held the power in their relationship because of how she felt toward him,” Newton told Bustle. “It was fun to play the complete swap of that, of how she gains this power and confidence. We flipped everything on its head.”

Nicola Coughlan and Claudia Jessie.Nicola Coughlan and Claudia Jessie.

Nicola Coughlan and Claudia Jessie in Bridgerton Season 2. (Liam Daniel/©Netflix/Courtesy Everett Collection)

Once suspected by the queen of being Lady Whistledown, Eloise’s (Claudia Jessie) friendship with Penelope is on life support. After discovering Penelope was responsible for putting ink on the quill and airing everyone’s dirty laundry in the scandal papers, Eloise confronted her about an array of betrayals in the Season 2 finale, including damaging her short-lived relationship with Theo. Their devastating fight in the finale caused a massive fissure in their friendship. Though Penelope vowed to end her Whistledown career, the damage was already done.

When Season 3 begins, some time will have passed; once Eloise and Penelope inevitably cross paths again, things are likely to be icy between the ex-best friends. Adding insult to injury is Eloise choosing to align with Cressida Cowper (Jessica Madsen), the bully from Season 1 who becomes a thorn in Penelope’s side.

Simone Ashley and Jonathan Bailey.Simone Ashley and Jonathan Bailey.

Simone Ashley and Jonathan Bailey as Kate and Anthony Bridgerton. (Liam Daniel/©Netflix/Courtesy Everett Collection)

After the majority of Season 2 chronicled Anthony and Kate’s tumultuous love affair, the two finally faced their feelings at the end of the season. They endured more than a few hurdles, such as a canceled wedding, a scary encounter with a bee, and a near-fatal accident involving Kate, a horse and a rock. Thankfully, Anthony and Kate are married by season’s end, though their wedding was never shown.

“They’ve overcome a lot,” Jonathan Bailey, who plays Anthony, told W magazine. “Now, we can see them completely celebrate each other for who they are.” He said there are “lovely conversations about heritage and familial roles, and once you meet someone who understands you fully, having sacrificed so much for the families as they both have, how exciting [it is] to make decisions that might change the course for them.”

Hannah Dodd stands between two woman in an ornate room backlit by a window.Hannah Dodd stands between two woman in an ornate room backlit by a window.

Hannah Dodd (center) in Bridgerton Season 3. (Liam Daniel/©Netflix/Courtesy Everett Collection)

In a casting shake-up between seasons, Hannah Dodd stepped into the role vacated by original cast member Ruby Stokes, who left due to a scheduling conflict with Netflix’s since canceled Lockwood & Co.

Over the first two seasons, Francesca — the sixth Bridgerton sibling and third daughter — has been relegated to the sidelines, often appearing in family scenes or large gatherings.

That all changes in Season 3 when Francesca figures more prominently, as she begins her own marriage quest. She will be the latest Bridgerton daughter to vie for Queen Charlotte’s coveted “diamond of the season” title.

“She’s got quite a practical approach [to marriage], and she doesn’t like drawing too much attention to herself,” Dodd told People. “So, she wants to get in and get out, find somebody kind. And that’s something that her and [her mother] Violet, they have a fun dynamic that we get to play, because Violet obviously wants something very specific for her.”

Luke Thompson.Luke Thompson.

Luke Thompson as Benedict Bridgerton in Bridgerton Season 2. (Liam Daniel/©Netflix/Courtesy Everett Collection)

Because Bridgerton moved up Penelope and Colin’s relationship to Season 3, it meant Benedict — whose romance is the focus of the third book, An Offer From a Gentleman — would have to wait for his day in the spotlight. In Season 2, the second eldest Bridgerton had a crisis of conscience when it came to light that Anthony had pulled strings to get him into art school. His more casual approach to relationships also brought questions about Benedict’s sexuality.

“You know your place within that family, and then suddenly, you’re almost slightly redefining yourself,” Luke Thompson, who plays Benedict, told Entertainment Weekly after Season 2 dropped, noting “part of the tension in the show is, what do you hold onto and what do you let go of when you start a relationship and emerge out of your family and build a family of your own?”

Ruth Gemmell surrounded by half a dozen others wearing period dress in an ornate room.Ruth Gemmell surrounded by half a dozen others wearing period dress in an ornate room.

Ruth Gemmell (center) in Bridgerton Season 3. (Liam Daniel/©Netflix/Courtesy Everett Collection)

If you’ve watched Queen Charlotte, the Bridgerton prequel series about the young royal, you’ll know that Lady Violet Bridgerton (Ruth Gemmell) expressed a desire to start living her own life and explore romance. Suffice to say, she keeps her promise in Season 3.

“She is ready,” Gemmell told Elle Canada. By seeing two of her children married off for love in the first two seasons, the actress said it made Violet realize “just how lonely she is and how much of a void Edmund left.” “In Queen Charlotte she’s very tentatively engaging with the idea of embracing life again. And I think she’s open to flirtations, definitely,” she said.

Season 3 Part 1 of Bridgerton starts streaming May 16 on Netflix.

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