Warning: There are spoilers ahead for the end of Netflix’s Bridgerton season 1.
If you are not-so-secretly obsessed with Eloise Bridgerton (Claudia Jessie) after watching all the way to the season 1 finale of Netflix's Bridgerton, you’re not alone. She’s funny, inquisitive, and sees through the superficiality of her society even though she doesn’t always understand what the adults are talking about. But just because her Bridgerton season 1 storyline was overshadowed in typical middle child fashion, by her older siblings’ broken hearts and major life events, that doesn’t mean we should ignore what happened to her in the finale. Plus, of all the many characters in Bridgerton, Eloise’s storyline has the most potential and could truly go anywhere. While we were all caught up in marriage and pregnancy drama, we missed the best coming-of-age story simmering underneath.
The finale might be a happy ending for Daphne (Phoebe Dynevor) and bittersweet for Marina (Ruby Barker), but it’s especially disappointing for Eloise: She failed in her attempt to unmask Lady Whistledown. Her season-long mission didn’t fill her with the freedom or sense of accomplishment she thought it would. After all that, she will debut in society just like every other young lady, even though she’d rather be at university or hanging out with her less encumbered brothers.
“I watch Daphne prepare for these balls,” Eloise tells her brother, smoking buddy, and fellow misfit Benedict (Luke Thompson), “and I’m exhausted.” It’s pretty relatable for anyone who feels different or socially anxious, and a viewpoint that belongs to scores of other beloved characters. We’re primed to love characters like Eloise, the feminist sister in otherwise patriarchal societies set in fantasy worlds or centuries ago because she’s the Jo March, the Belle, the Elizabeth Bennett, and the Arya Stark of this story and therefore easy to root for when Bridgerton begins.
One thing that sets her apart from these women is her friendship with Penelope (Nicola Coughlan). The closest, perhaps, is Lizzie Bennet's friend Charlotte in Pride and Prejudice, only Lizzie is more than happy to see her friend married off in that 19th century story. There’s no real conflict between Lizzie and Charlotte. There’s a lot of conflict between Penelope and Eloise, and when Bridgerton inevitably returns for a second season, their friendship will be tested even more. Sure, it’s exciting for us as an audience to discover that Penelope Featherington is Lady Whistledown, but it’s going to be devastating for Eloise when she discovers that her best friend has been lying to her. They already had one huge fight. If you recall, early in Eloise’s investigation, her family’s housekeeper snaps at her and essentially called her silly and stupid. It’s an early, hurtful indication that she’s not as smart as she thinks she is. So Eloise goes to Pen for some encouragement — but the Featherington girl is too heartbroken over Colin (Luke Newton) and Marina’s imminent engagement to care, and insulted by Eloise’s insistence that Lady Whistledown must be invisible to society, so she snaps too.
“People have real problems,” Penelope says, “mature problems, problems that have nothing to do with the secret identity of some silly writer. I am of age. I am out in society. Therefore, I have more important, mature things to worry about.” She kicked Eloise when she was down. It hurts when childhood friends move on to grown-up interests like that, and leave you behind. It’s going to be so much worse when Eloise learns that, as Lady Whistledown, Penelope has basically been stringing her along throughout the entire season.
All season, Eloise’s immaturity is the focus of insults and she just kind of rolls with it. Her brothers make fun of her when she demands to know “how a woman comes to be with child.” When she tries to open up to Daphne about her fear of childbirth, Daphne says, “I find children to be delightful, though you are not currently proving my point.” They patch things up by the end of the season, but that line still stings. Little comments like that add up. Even the Queen grows frustrated with Eloise during her Lady Whistledown investigation, brushes her aside, and hires men to do the job instead. The only thing Eloise had to cling to was the knowledge that she could uncover her mysterious gossip’s identity, and she fails at that as well. She does have some growing up to do, but that doesn’t make the way everyone treats her fair, and it certainly doesn’t mean she should be rushed into a future that makes her uncomfortable.
Still, this series is based on a string of steamy romance novels. So whenever it does become her time, shouldn’t expect an “I Choose Me” moment for Eloise. That’s not what we came here for. She will ultimately meet her version of Mr. Darcy, or the Beast, or whatever the Bridgerton equivalent is, as fans who’ve read Julia Quinn’s books well know. The clues are all over Bridgerton already. Avid romance readers may notice that season 1 blatantly sets up the events of the second book, which is about Anthony (Jonathan Bailey) finding a wife because in the finale, Anthony, uh, declares his intentions to find a wife. But fans also know that Colin’s (Luke Newton) ex-fiance Marina and the man she left to marry, Phillip Crane (Chris Fulton), play a role in the fifth book, which just so happens to be Eloise’s love story in Quinn’s series. Bridgerton is already planting seeds for Eloise’s future romantic adventures. Also, while the straight-across bangs may make Eloise look like a young teenager, the actress is in her 30s, so Bridgerton is free to follow her character’s growth without making it awkward.
There’s also a massive hint that Bridgerton season 2 will be about Eloise as well as Anthony. Bridgerton has a lot of fun making cheeky meta jokes, comparing the social season in London to a season of television. For example, Penelope says in the finale that with Lady Whistledown still on the loose, “next season” will be even more interesting. And in episode 4, when Daphne leaves for her honeymoon, Daphne tells Eloise that she believes her sister “will know what love feels like soon enough next season” — basically promising a much earlier start to Eloise’s larger arc.
But if you’re worried that Eloise’s impending romance might mess with her desire to do something grander with her life than just following her heart, don’t be. Rhimes and her team know how to give a character like Eloise a passionate romance without betraying her humor and agency or preventing her from making her own way in the world; she stands on the shoulders of giants from Shondaland series Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, and How To Get Away With Murder. And while her story may have been buried under Daphne giving birth and the big Whistledown reveal in the Bridgerton finale, the way the writers have carefully laid out the groundwork for her storyline in season 1 without giving us too much makes it clear that Eloise is destined for something much bigger.