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Bridgerton Appears to Be Setting Up Francesca as the Season 4 Lead

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Hannah Dodd as Francesca Bridgerton
Liam Daniel/Netflix

While Bridgerton‘s creative team has yet to reveal the season 4 lead, the show has been doing a great job at setting up Francesca Bridgerton to take on that honor.

During the first half of the third season, which started streaming on Thursday, May 16, Francesca (Hannah Dodd) took center stage as she prepared for her debut. The journey wasn’t easy though as Francesca tried to figure out what she wanted in a suitor, which only got more conflicting when John Stirling (Victor Ali) entered the picture.

Bridgerton’s cast and crew has remained tight-lipped about who the next focus of the series will be but the answer seems to be quite clear. Francesca’s reintroduction comes after the role was recast when Ruby Stokes‘ chose to pursue other professional opportunities.

Stokes, 23, portrayed Francesca on the first two seasons of Bridgerton before stepping away to star on Netflix’s short-lived series Lockwood & Co.

“I love Francesca, but we lost her midway through Season 2,” then-showrunner Chris Van Dusen told TVLine in March 2022 about Stokes’ scheduling conflict. “After exhausting all other options, she unfortunately had to come out due to reasons beyond our control. Perhaps Season 3 will be the charm.”

After taking on her new role, Dodd, 28, opened up about taking on a character who was already played by someone else, telling TVLine in July 2022, “Everybody’s been so lovely. I just wanted to do a good job.”

Dodd also discussed how she prepared by reading six of Julia Quinn’s eight books in the Bridgerton series, which inspired the show.

“Because I didn’t know what I’d got myself in for, but I needed to read that as soon as possible,” she explained at the time. “It’s such a beautiful book, and she’s such a beautiful character. I can’t really believe that I get to play her.”

Keep scrolling for every hint Francesca could be the season 4 lead on Bridgerton:

Making Her a Main Focus

Bridgerton Is Hinting at Francesca Being the Season 4 Lead From Screentime to Johns Introduction

Hannah Dodd as Francesca Bridgerton
Liam Daniel/Netflix

The first two seasons of Bridgerton didn’t offer viewers much insight into Francesca since she was too young to partake in the balls. Francesca became a more prominent part of the show during season 3 since the new episodes featured her making her debut.

Francesca’s entrance into society went off without a hitch but that didn’t mean she was ready for marriage. Season 3 — or at least the first half that was released — showed Violet (Ruth Gemmell) being concerned by Francesca’s search for someone practical over the idea of love.

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Drawing Comparisons to Her Mom and Dad’s Love Story

Despite Francesca’s father dying before the series began, Violet and Edmund’s (Rupert Evans) marriage has often been referred to as a true love match. The pair expanded their family with eight kids before Edmund died from a bee sting.

Francesca used Violet and Edmund’s relationship as an example of something that she considered potentially out of her grasp. Francesca also mentioned her sister Daphne’s (Phoebe Dynevor) marriage to the Duke of Hastings (Regé-Jean Page) and her brother Anthony’s (Jonathan Bailey) devotion to wife Kate (Simone Ashley).

While seeing so many true love matches around her, Francesca made it clear she wasn’t waiting around for one. Her comparison to Violet and Edmund specifically is meant to foreshadow the unfortunate conclusion of her first marriage.

An Eagerness to Walk Down the Aisle

Bridgerton Is Hinting at Francesca Being the Season 4 Lead From Screentime to Johns Introduction

(L to R) Ruth Gemmell as Lady Violet Bridgerton, Hannah Dodd as Francesca Bridgerton
Liam Daniel/Netflix

With Francesca not wasting any time on the marriage mart, it wouldn’t make any sense to stretch that out any further. The pace in Francesca’s story has already picked up so much speed that the writing is on the wall for her to be front and center going forward.

There is also the question of her suitor — or at least the one she’s most interested in. John’s arrival on Bridgerton makes it clear that the show is ready to dive into details from Francesca’s novel, When He Was Wicked.

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The Famous John Stirling

Any Bridgerton fans not looking for book spoilers, look away. Because season 3 appeared to be laying the groundwork for Francesca’s bittersweet union with John, it is important to note that it ended in the books before it even properly started.

When He Was Wicked, which is the sixth novel in Quinn’s franchise, centered around Francesca getting married to John a.k.a the 8th Earl of Kilmartin in Scotland. Shortly after their wedding, John died and his title was passed on to his cousin Michael Stirling. Francesca, however, wasn’t aware of Michael’s secret feelings for her after they became pen pals when she was still with John. This set off a sequence of events that subsequently led to Francesca finding love with Michael.

John being introduced in the third season is a heavy-handed hint at his involvement in the next installment of the show. Since Francesca and John have already met and formed a connection amid her search for a spouse, logistically they are headed for marriage as soon as possible.

Bridgerton can’t spend the entire fourth season stretching Francesca and John’s nuptials. And as soon as they get married, there is a countdown to John’s death. The storylines all seem to be lining up in Francesca’s favor so far.

The Other Bridgertons

'Bridgerton' Season 4 Focuses on Francesca Bridgerton's Love Story With Michael Stirling
Liam Daniel/Netflix

In addition to clues gleaned from Francesca’s scenes, there are also her siblings to think about ahead of season 4. Benedict (Luke Thompson) has always been the obvious choice as the next lead since his novel — An Offer From a Gentleman — was skipped over to move Colin and Penelope’s story forward sooner.

But as of the first four episodes of season 3, Benedict isn’t any closer to meeting his love interest Sophie. Instead, he was paired off with yet another woman who has allowed Benedict’s storyline to tread water until his time in the spotlight comes.

There is also Eloise (Claudia Jessie), who has been a frontrunner after being a main character for several seasons. According to her book, To Sir Phillip, With Love, Eloise would reconsider her stance on marriage after becoming pen pals with Phillip (Chris Fulton). Season 3, however, has yet to make any reference to Phillip or any potential correspondence Eloise could have with Marina’s (Ruby Barker) husband.

Eloise was focused on her complicated friendship with Penelope, which was put on the back burner when Eloise formed a bond with Cressida (Jessica Madsen). While Eloise has found herself more integrated into society throughout season 3, she still has a long way to go to be in a place where she can entertain the thought of commitment.

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