Some disgruntled 'Bridgerton' fans are turning on the showrunner

Some disgruntled 'Bridgerton' fans are turning on the showrunner
  • "Bridgerton" season 3 received mixed reviews from fans.

  • Some had issues with Penelope and Colin's love story and a character being gender-swapped.

  • The backlash prompted author Julia Quinn to defend showrunner Jess Brownell's creative choices.

On paper, "Bridgerton" season three was a roaring success for Netflix, breaking viewership records, driving the social-media conversation, and cementing the romantic drama's status as one of the streamer's most popular series ever.

But on the internet, the reception hasn't been entirely positive.

While many were pleased with the conclusion to the long-simmering friends-to-lovers romance between Colin Bridgerton (Luke Newton) and Penelope Featherington (Nicola Coughlan), some took to platforms like TikTok and Reddit to air their grievances with how Polin's romance was handled and the way writers changed key plot points from the source material. They've even started petitions to rectify some of the "mistakes" they believe the Netflix drama has made.

A few are specifically pointing the finger at Jess Brownell, who took over showrunning duties for the first time this season (series creator Chris Van Dusen was at the helm for seasons one and two). The outcry, particularly over the decision to gender-swap Francesca Bridgerton's (Hannah Dodd) eventual love interest, was so intense it even prompted Julia Quinn, the writer of the original book series, to step in and defend the show.

Of course, some dissent is to be expected from any property with a huge and fervent fan base — particularly one that includes book fans who have been attached to these characters long before we watched Phoebe Dynevor and Regé-Jean Page steam up our screens in 2020.

But could this growing dissatisfaction jeopardize the show? Here's what to know.

A two-part release schedule sidelined Colin and Penelope's story for other character arcs

Luke Newton as Colin Bridgerton and Nicola Coughlan as Penelope Featherington on season three, episode two of "Bridgerton."
Luke Newton as Colin Bridgerton and Nicola Coughlan as Penelope Featherington on season three, episode two of "Bridgerton."Liam Daniel/Netflix

While "Bridgerton" season one, which focused on the lustful love story between Simon Basset (Page) and Daphne Bridgerton (Dynevor), and season two, centered on Anthony Bridgerton (Jonathan Bailey) and Kate Sharma's (Simone Ashley) simmering enemies-to-lovers dynamic, were both released in full on their respective premiere dates in 2020 and 2022, Netflix decided to split season three into two parts.

Breadcrumbing Penelope and Colin's romantic payoff by splitting the season in half with two release dates a month apart had a domino effect on the rest of the season. Not only did it disrupt the couple's momentum in the eyes of fans, but it increased their anticipation of something sexy and spectacular happening in part two to arguably unrealistic levels.

There's no shortage of disgruntled TikTokers poking fun at themselves for getting hyped over part two, only to be massively let down.

"I'm so disappointed honestly by 'Bridgerton' season three, part two," TikToker @lightfrommars said in one video that's been viewed over 770,000 times. "I just felt like it was all so rushed."

"This new showrunner… she dropped the ball. She heavily dropped the ball, in my opinion," she added.

It didn't help that part one, which comprised four episodes, required the writers to juggle multiple narrative balls and set the stage for other storylines.

Large portions of the first half were dedicated to setting up Francesca's burgeoning love story with John Stirling (Victor Alli), Benedict Bridgerton's (Luke Thompson) flirtation with spicy widow Lady Tilley Arnold (Hannah New), and Anthony and Kate making up for that lack of sex in season two by getting busy all over Bridgerton house — not to mention matriarch Violet Bridgerton (Ruth Gemmell) making eyes at Lady Danbury's long-lost, invented-for-the-show brother, Lord Anderson (Daniel Francis).

While it's certainly true that more attention was given to subplots this season than in seasons past, there's a reason for that.

Unlike the two love stories featured in the earlier seasons, where one-half of each central couple was a new cast member, Penelope and Colin have both been major characters from the beginning. Though largely in the background, we've watched Penelope pine for Colin (and Colin be an oblivious doof about it) since season one. The show didn't need to spend time introducing and building up their dynamic in season three because it already had.

On top of that, the Lady Whistledown drama — a major part of "Romancing Mister Bridgerton," the book season three was based on — was also adapted before season three, freeing up space for Brownell and the writers to bring in more prominent romantic subplots for the other characters this season.

The Whistledown reveal was changed (and arguably improved) from how it plays out in the book to accommodate this reordering. Viewers learned Penelope's secret identity way back in season one; Eloise Bridgerton found out in season two, which led to the implosion of their friendship. Here, Colin doesn't find out the truth until one of the last episodes of the season. This reordering means we don't get any of the sexual tension present in the book — like Colin being very upset with Penelope, but also extremely horny — that precipitates his proposal of marriage.

In the show, it's reversed; the carriage hookup happens before the Whistledown discovery, as does their first time having sex (the famous mirror scene), essentially making Colin contractually obligated to marry Penelope even though he's miffed at her.

Part two does have the big mirror scene (a furniture-breaking romp that was well-received by fans). But other than that, there were no other sex scenes for the main pairing.

Except some viewers refused to believe that was true.

A petition alleges intimate Polin scenes were removed from the show — but there's no proof

Nicola Coughlan as Penelope Featherington and Luke Newton as Colin Bridgerton in season three, episode five of "Bridgerton."
"Bridgerton" fans were upset that Polin didn't have more intimacy.Netflix

One day after season three, part two was released, a user named "Polin Bridgerton" started a petition demanding that Netflix and Shondaland release "deleted scenes" of Polin that were removed from the final cut. As of writing, the petition has over 71,000 signatures.

The petition also pointed to a Redditor's graphic comparing total screentime for each of the season's couples as proof that Penelope and Colin's fans had been shafted in season three. (According to the graphic's creator, Polin had 99 minutes and 32 seconds of screentime total, putting them just ahead of Kate and Anthony's total screentime across all three seasons, but only 78 minutes and 22 seconds of screentime in season three — a solid five minutes less than Kanthony got to develop their romance in their own season.)

The petition even lists out some of the scenes they say were cut, including:

The problem? There's no proof any of these scenes actually existed.

One Business Insider reporter who viewed screeners of all four episodes in part two ahead of release can confirm that none of these moments were present in pre-release episode cuts provided to journalists.

And if you don't trust us, at least trust Nicola Coughlan, who very clearly swatted down this deleted-scene theory in a reply to a fan's comment on Instagram.

Nicola Coughlan instagram comment
"Bridgerton" star Nicola Coughlan responds to fan comment about alleged deleted Polin scenes.Nicola Coughlan/Instagram

Executive producer Tom Verica also denied the existence of deleted footage, writing on Instagram, "Not sure where this all came from but these claims are false. The supposed scenes ... don't exist."

The petition to release extra scenes — whether they exist or not — points to fans' broader issues with Polin's love story this season.

"I don't even know why Penelope likes Colin," TikToker notwildlin said in a video begging for a flashback or more backstory giving context for Penelope's feelings for him.

Another TikToker named Maia Douglas posted several videos, including one over nine minutes long breaking down her issues with how Polin was portrayed in season three. Douglas specifically accused showrunner Jess Brownell of centering herself by spending so much time developing Francesca's eventual queer love story, and of being fatphobic for not having faith in the actors, specifically Coughlan as Penelope, to bring the chemistry required for more romantic scenes.

Douglas pointed to Brownell's quotes in an interview saying that she saw herself as a queer woman in Francesca's story in the books and wanted to plant the seeds for the future season where Francesca would be the lead and fall in love with a woman — Michaela Stirling, a gender-swapped version of the character Michael Stirling from the books.

"They did not believe in this season. They did everything to distract us from the main couple because they thought they needed the bells and whistles because this could've been a letdown," Douglas said in one video.

Another TikToker, Marie Soledad, noted that "Bridgerton showrunner fatphobia" had even started trending on the platform. But she urged creators to lay off Brownell, pointing out that the showrunner and Netflix had already diverted from the source material to make the story less fatphobic (in the books, Colin and Penelope's romance starts after she's lost a significant amount of weight).

Victor Alli as John Stirling and Masali Baduza as Michaela Baduza in the season three finale of "Bridgerton."
Masali Baduza plays a gender-swapped version of Francesca's eventual love interest.Netflix

There's also another subsection of fans who are threatening to boycott future seasons of the show: the ride-or-die Francesca and Michael fans who adore her book, "When He Was Wicked," and are devastated not to see Francesca's eventual romance play out on screen the way they imagined it would.

While there is a contingent of fans who are angry about Brownell's decision to give Francesca a queer love story for homophobic and misogynoiristic reasons, others, many of whom are collectively mourning in the subreddit r/FranchaelStirling, maintain that they're upset about the radical changes to the character that will need to happen to accommodate the switch and are insisting that they won't watch Francesca's eventual season because they aren't getting the Michael Stirling they hoped for. (Never mind the fact that Julia Quinn, who wrote all the books, has wholeheartedly endorsed the queer love story for Francesca.)

The Franchael fans have started their own petition, demanding that the writers restore Michael Stirling for the Netflix series.

"I am not against the LGBTQ+ community in any way shape or form," wrote Abbie Mills, who started the petition. "So if that's why you're here, you may want to find a different petition to sign. We're just book lovers here, who want them to stay as close to print as possible. Michael, we will continue to work to bring you to our screens!"

Complaints from 'Bridgerton' fans could affect the show — though it's probably safe for now

Will Tilston as Gregory Bridgerton, Florence Hunt as Hyacinth Bridgerton, Luke Thompson as Benedict Bridgerton, Ruth Gemmell as Lady Violet Bridgerton, Luke Newton as Colin Bridgerton, and Nicola Coughlan as Penelope Featherington in the season three finale of "Bridgerton."
Does this spell doom for the Bridgertons? Probably not.Liam Daniel/Netflix

While Netflix has only committed to four seasons of "Bridgerton" at this point, it's unlikely they'll can their crown jewel prematurely.

Quinn's books provide material for eight seasons, and Van Dusen has said that creating eight seasons would be the ultimate goal. In terms of viewer interest, the numbers don't lie: Season three opened with 45.1 million views, marking the show's best launch to date and putting "Bridgerton" on track to topple "Stranger Things" as Netflix's biggest TV series ever. "Bridgerton" season three also topped Nielsen's streaming chart, with 2.19 billion viewing minutes. From a publicity and marketing standpoint, the show has also been a home run.

With "Stranger Things" coming to an end with season five in late 2025 or 2026, Netflix isn't about to put all its eggs in the "Wednesday" basket. (Jenna Ortega is busy, and Netflix conspicuously didn't lock down a multi-season renewal — just season two so far.)

So no matter how mad the "Bridgerton" fans are — and how much some factions may insist they're not watching anymore — I'd put my money on the romantic drama's continuation. In addition to satiating those who have been clamoring for a prominent queer love story on the show for years, Francesca's storyline in her eventual season will likely draw in a brand new audience who never watched the show before because they never saw themselves represented in it.

If anything, the controversy may even propel "Bridgerton" to new heights. Hey, it's happened before.

Read the original article on Business Insider