Warning! SPOILERS about the Bridgerton books ahead.
The absence of Phoebe Dynevor's Daphne from season 3 will surely mark a difference from past seasons, but it could also offer a solution to Francesca's ongoing problem in the Netflix series. The news that Hannah Dodd took over Francesca's character from Ruby Stokes in early 2022 surprised many as it was a prominent recast of a relatively central character that briefly appeared in seasons 1 and 2. While the recast was motivated by Stokes' other work commitments making it impossible for her to remain as Francesca, it also hints at possibly wanting to show more of Francesca Bridgerton.
with her education taking her to an aunt in Bath for piano lessons. While season 2 showed more of her, letting her attend events like Eloise's debut and Anthony's wedding, among others, it still didn't involve Francesca in any meaningful storyline. This would be on par with the way Julia Quinn's books presented the character, as Francesca was never really involved in Bridgerton family matters until her own book. However, the novels did the same with other characters such as Eloise or Colin, but the Netflix show still let them be embroiled in central storylines, making Francesca's absence even more evident.
Daphne was pivotal in Colin's book, , and , potentially. However, season 2 crystallized Daphne's role as that of the meddling sibling in the Bridgerton family, but not one of real centrality after season 1. As Daphne also offers her support and experience to Colin in , another character could easily do the same. Daphne's absence could then mean more screen time for Francesca, who had often been absent and whose relationship with her brothers and sisters was never explored by , thus making Daphne’s exit the opportunity to deepen the Bridgerton siblings' connections.
By the end of season 2, Francesca is known to audiences as the Bridgerton who disappears offscreen more than the others, rather than for characteristics that set her apart from her siblings. This wasn’t a problem in the novels, which explored each Bridgerton sibling’s interests and characteristics only when it was time to tell the story of how they met their love interest and future partner. However, Netflix’s employing a different strategy, and presenting an ensemble cast on which the series partly focuses each season, makes it difficult to motivate Francesca’s disconnection with the rest of her family, and essentially makes her a stranger to audiences.
Anthony’s story in season 2 worked well because season 1 already set up his difficult relationship with his duty to be the head of the family, enriching season 2’s plot because audiences already knew part of his backstory. Aside from her name and education, not much is known about Francesca, and she’s the only Bridgerton sibling virtually unknown, as even Hyacinth and Gregory’s squabbles received enough attention to set apart the two younger Bridgerton siblings.
Francesca’s story in the books is already one of the most intricate, with her first tragic wedding and the second happy romance, and her character always staying on her own, feeling part of the Bridgertons but also cherishing her freedom as a widow. season 3 would only benefit from setting up her character and making her known to audiences, as she could prove to be the one Bridgerton most different from her sisters and brothers, happy in her independence and solitude. More screen time for Francesca could finally make season 3 paint a more complete picture of the Bridgerton family.