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Bridgerton Season Three: The Difference A Week Makes

Updated: Jun 21

Colin Bridgerton and Penelope Featherington at their wedding.
Photo Source: Netflix

I think it’s fair to say I enjoy a good love story. I read them, I write them, and I edit them. But I also watch them on TV, and just like millions of other people, I was anxiously awaiting season three, part two of Bridgerton, which dropped at 3:00 a.m. ET in the US on June 13. I’m not going to lie to you, dear reader, I set my alarm and woke up at 3:30 a.m. so I could watch the conclusion to Colin Bridgerton and Penelope Featherington’s friends-to-lovers romance while cuddled in the comfort of my bed. That’s how big a fan I am of the show. Four episodes later, however, I was left staring at the credits with a shocked expression on my face. What did I just watch? Certainly, that wasn’t the conclusion to the most anticipated Bridgerton season ever. Was it?

In shock, I immediately penned a complaint to Shondaland and published it in a spoiler-friendly Bridgerton Facebook group. Not because I thought anyone important was going to see it but because I needed to vent to my people. The post garnered thousands of likes and comments, which not only surprised me but reinforced how cheated other folks felt as well. The consensus seemed to be part two was a letdown. Not only did it lack the intimacy of part one, but it felt rushed and full of subplots that detracted from the main romantic leads. Over the course of the week, angry fans took to the internet to lash out just like I did, demanding justice for Polin (Penelope + Colin = Polin) and even going so far as creating a petition for the release of deleted scenes.

It was easy to get caught up in the negativity and vitriol that resulted. Social media has always been a breeding ground for that. But as I read post after post of hateful comments, I started to feel awful for the cast, all of whom had poured their hearts and souls into season three. They had no control over what the writers wrote, how the scenes were directed, or what takes made it into the final cut. While I think we can all agree there were many failures and missed opportunities, some of which I’ll touch upon in this blog, there were also quite a few successes we shouldn’t soon forget.

In my lifetime, I have never seen people so obsessed over a pair of fictional characters. Whether it was the debonair handsomeness of Luke Newton, the buxom beauty of Nicola Coughlan, the relatability of the wallflower and friends-to-lovers themes, their story being a fan favorite of the book series, or the chemistry the leads had on and off the screen, the public ate Polin up like a bowl of popcorn. And the press tour certainly helped. Fans everywhere laughed right along with Luke and Nicola as they told stories about being on set. Pranks they pulled. Furniture they broke while filming love scenes. The ridiculous intimacy wear they flashed each other in. As they globetrotted around the world, we watched them stare into each other’s eyes and hold hands at every turn, fueling rumors of a real-life romance. The two of them created a frenzy, and in turn, Bridgerton’s viewership numbers soared into the billions.

Colin Bridgerton and Penelope Featherington after he cuts his hand.
Photo Source: Netflix

After I got over my initial anger, I decided to go back and rewatch part two because Bridgerton isn’t a TV series one should ever view just once. It’s a menagerie of colorful costumes, gorgeous scenery, intricate storylines, complex characters, and modern instrumental music. It’s a show that deserves to be studied. I then decided to publish another post on Facebook, this one praising Luke and Nicola for the realism of their love scenes. As of today, one week after the season concluded, the post has gotten more than nineteen thousand likes and generated almost two thousand comments. A few readers even dubbed me a real-life Lady Whistledown, which is why I ultimately decided to write this blog.

It’s been a while since I’ve published anything, dear readers, and that was a very long introduction, but I’m back with something important to say about the difference a week can make.

The Part-One Obsession

Season three, part one of Bridgerton, which was released in May 2024, was brilliant. Colin Bridgerton came back from his travels acting like a man-about-town, flirting with the ladies, drinking excessively, hanging with his bros, and even visiting brothels to, as his brother Anthony likes to say, “wet his wick.” Though Colin initially gave viewers a little bit of the ick (that behavior being so unlike him), it was a necessary part of his character development. See, Colin has always been a people pleaser with a little bit of a hero complex, and he's used his charm to cover up his own feelings of inadequacy. He clings to societal expectations of how he’s supposed to behave as a Regency-era man, but in season three, they wind up becoming a coping mechanism to hide how lonely and unfulfilled he feels.

Pretty deep, huh, ladies?

One of the things Bridgerton has always excelled at is giving us flawed gentlemen who only women can save. In season one, Simon, the Duke of Hastings, had daddy issues that prevented him from wanting to have children (and thereby an heir). However, he fell in love and ultimately had a child with Daphne Bridgerton. In season two, Anthony Bridgerton vowed never to marry for love after he saw how much pain his mother suffered when his father died unexpectedly. Of course, he did fall in love and marry Kate Sharma, a woman he initially despised. So, it’s no wonder in season three we encounter yet another man with issues, though I’d argue Colin’s struggles aren’t the result of any male pattern stubbornness. They’re simply him trying to figure out who he is and what type of man he wants to become, which makes him the most sympathetic and gentle of the male leads thus far.

Colin Bridgerton
Photo Source: Netflix

And let’s face it, it's easy to forgive Colin’s rakish behavior because he’s so darn swoonworthy. Kudos to Luke Newton for his hard work getting “sturdy” for season three. And much appreciation to the hair and makeup team for giving Colin a set of locks women just want to run their hands through. His physical transformation (dubbed the Bridgerton glow-up, which happens with the main characters every season) was probably one of the most shocking yet, but things didn’t end there. Penelope got herself a makeover too, ditching her typical citrus dresses for bolder green colors that showcased all her assets. She also let her hair down—literally. She looked stunning for her turn as a leading lady.

Colin and Pen have known each other ever since they were children when the Featheringtons moved in across the street from the Bridgertons. In seasons one and two, viewers got plenty of glimpses of their friendship. Though Colin often noticed Pen from across the room, danced with her at balls, and even stuck up for her now and again among the ton, he was oblivious to any feelings he held. At one point, after he swore off women altogether, Pen pointed out she was, in fact, a woman. He responded, “You are Pen. You do not count.” And I think that says it all.

Penelope always had feelings for Colin, though she never made them publicly known. At the end of season two, her heart broke after overhearing him tell his friends he would never dream of courting her. When he returns from his trip as the most eligible suitor in Mayfair, Pen finally realizes she needs to move on. She’s approaching spinsterhood and must find a husband if she’s ever going to escape her overbearing sisters and seemingly uncaring mother. When Colin attempts to rekindle their friendship, she calls him out on his cruelty and his disingenuous behavior. Feeling guilty and wanting to earn back her trust, he offers to help her find a suitor by giving her lessons on charm. Of course, during those sessions, Colin begins to fall for Pen, and he realizes, somewhat begrudgingly, he may have always loved her.

When the ton catches wind Colin was helping Penelope find a husband, a scandal ensues. Thinking she’s been socially ruined, Pen stays hidden away in her house for days. When Colin comes to check on her, she’s completely distraught, sure she’s going to wind up alone forever. In a moment of weakness, she begs Colin to kiss her, and though it’s clear he doesn’t want to, he’d do anything for Pen, so he acquiesces. It’s in that moment, when his entire body responds to hers, he realizes his true feelings.

For weeks, Colin tries to push them aside, hiding his emotions beneath his cool exterior. Inside, however, he’s reeling. As Pen considers marrying Lord Debling, the only man to show an interest in her, viewers watch Colin pinball from jealousy to anger to fear to sadness to longing and back again. Luke Newton has mastered the art of nuanced acting, and it’s quite impressive to behold. He’s able to convey deep emotion with the slightest movements of his face and body. Not to mention how expressive his eyes are.

Colin grows increasingly desperate as he realizes he might lose Pen. She’s his safe space, a place where he can truly be himself, and he knows he cannot live without her. In the now infamous carriage scene, he finally admits how he feels about her only to discover Pen feels the exact same way. What follows is one of the most passion-filled and forbidden love scenes in the history of television set to an instrumental version of Pitbull’s “Give Me Everything.” And boy, does it work.

Bridgerton Carriage Scene - Colin Bridgerton and Penelope Featherington
Photo Source: Netflix

In the carriage, Colin and Pen make out like two lustful teenagers, getting all the way to third base before being interrupted by a knock on the door. After straightening her up and encouraging her to follow him inside, Colin utters what will no doubt become one of the most famous lines of the series. “For God’s sake, Penelope Featherington, are you going to marry me or not?”

In real life, friends often do become lovers. We might not know how we truly feel about someone until we’re given the opportunity to share an intimate moment that suddenly changes everything. Many of us are also guilty of taking people close to us for granted. It’s not until we’re confronted with losing someone that we understand how much they mean to us. Watching Colin discover his love for Penelope, seeing him yearn for her, and witnessing him wrestle with how exactly to tell her, kept viewers on the edge of their seats throughout part one. And when they finally locked lips in that carriage, we all screamed in delight because they had finally realized what we knew all along. They belonged together.

The Part-Two Disappointment

In the days leading up to part two, it felt like the world was collectively holding its breath. I hoped and prayed the final episodes would live up to my expectations. Fans knew the show was going to be a departure from the book, but nobody knew just how much.

We saw from the trailer Colin would find out Penelope was Lady Whistledown, yet there was still a wedding to be had and a happily ever after to achieve. We also heard from interviews there would be some spicy sex scenes coming up, including one involving a mirror (which had been embedded into the marketing campaign). The anticipation among us “horny little devils,” a nickname Nicola aptly gave fans, was high.

After waking up in the wee hours of the morning to devour episodes five through eight, I felt like the rug had been ripped out from under me (or at least my bedsheets). The steamy scenes we had all been promised on the press tour simply weren’t there. It was as if they had floated away on that hot air balloon from part one. The much-talked-about mirror scene wasn’t what anyone expected either. Instead of heat, we were given a very sweet “first time” experience, which in and of itself was fine but certainly not how it had been advertised. The only other intimacy scenes were an interrupted make-out session in the street outside the modiste and a seconds-long clip of Penelope on top of Colin at the very end of the season.

The horny little devils were deeply disappointed.

Instead of Polin, what fans got instead was a threesome with Benedict Bridgerton, Lady Tilly Arnold, and some friend of hers named Paul that honestly felt like it lasted days the way it was edited into the episode. While I'm all for LGBTQ+ storylines and the exploration of sexuality, I don’t understand why that was given so much airtime at the expense of Colin and Penelope’s relationship. And that wasn’t the only subplot detracting from the romantic leads. Francesca Bridgerton’s entire relationship with Lord Kilmartin overlapped this season. Did we really need two weddings in eight episodes? Not to mention Eloise Bridgerton’s new friendship with Cressida that ultimately disintegrated when she pretended to be Lady Whistledown to claim the queen’s reward. Lady Danbury’s fractured relationship with her brother, who has eyes for Violet Bridgerton, also took up a lot of screentime. Then there was the Mondrich family’s rise into society and the Featherington sisters’ pregnancies. Everything felt crammed and rushed, especially in the last two episodes, when it was clear the goal was setting up season four rather than wrapping up season three with the care Polin deserved.

In fact, the majority of part two consisted of Colin being angry with Penelope. When he discovers Pen is actually Lady Whistledown, his nemesis, he claims he will never forgive her, but he goes ahead with the marriage anyway out of a shear sense of duty. They had been intimate, after all. We watch as Colin struggles to reconcile that the person he loves is also the person he has spent years hating. It’s ironic, isn’t it? The fact that he’s angry at Pen for having an alternate persona when he came back from his travels with one of his own.

Colin Bridgerton sleeps on couch.
Photo Source: Netflix

On their wedding night, Colin decides to sleep on the couch and continues to do so while he works through his feelings. In many ways, he’s like a lost child, doubting himself, his worth, and his role in their marriage. It soon becomes evident he’s also secretly jealous of Pen. She’s already achieved notoriety for her writing when all Colin has wanted to do is write a book of his own.

It’s not until he rereads Penelope’s old letters that he truly understands she’s always been a talented writer and a strong woman. She hid behind Lady Whistledown because it was the only way she could have a voice in a world where women weren’t allowed to have voices. After Pen confesses to the queen and the entire ton that she is, indeed, Lady Whistledown, Colin puts aside his own pride to focus on being proud of his wife. Though instead of literally standing beside her like he apparently does in the book, he tells her, “If my only purpose in life is to love a woman as great as you, then I will be a very fulfilled man indeed.”

It’s a sweet sentiment. It sums up his love for her. But it somewhat negates all the soul searching he was doing to figure out who he was as a man. Luckily, Colin winds up publishing his book and also becomes a father, which I hope gives him the purpose he was looking for all along.

Missed Opportunities

Though the season was wrapped up in a tight little bow, fans were left wanting more. More time. More intimacy. More happiness. Colin and Penelope were supposed to have shared this great love that spanned many, many years, and we were all waiting to see that realized. They deserved some screen time to bask in the glow of their new marriage before jumping ahead to them already having had their first child. In truth, there were loads of missed opportunities to make season three a whole lot better.

For instance, when Colin leaves the bar the night before their wedding and runs into Penelope outside the modiste, they have an argument that leads to some angry, passionate kissing. Colin pushes her into a storefront entrance and slides his hand under her dress only to be interrupted by a passing carriage. It’s a scene that could have and should have lasted a whole lot longer. And since we’re not bound by the confines of the book series, why not get a little creative?

Colin Bridgerton and Penelope Featherington Kissing
Photo Source: Netflix

Colin had just come from drinking a whole bottle of liquor at the bar, and his friends were pretty tipsy. According to a later scene with Kate and Anthony, the alcohol was wafting off him. It would have made more sense to have Colin be a little drunk, and it would have provided more motivation for him to kiss Penelope in that street despite him being so outraged. Although Pen could have initially welcomed his advances, she would have put a stop to them due to his inebriated condition. Perhaps she could have sent Colin home in the carriage instead that night, giving her yet another moment to be in control and take care of her future husband. Such a move would have prompted Colin to express his appreciation at the church the next day, softening his mood in time for the wedding.

There’s another scene that takes place in their new home where Colin goes into the bedroom and finds Penelope in her nightgown. He glances at her body, and we know what he’s thinking, but he doesn’t act on his impulses. He stubbornly asks for a blanket and pillow so he can go sleep on the couch directly outside of their room like a pouting child. Some of that anger could have fueled a very passionate love scene in the bedroom. Alternately, Pen could have come out and made an attempt to reconcile with her husband. If she had shown up on the couch in the middle of the night, begging him to touch her, we all know what Colin would have done.

The very brief scene at the end of episode eight where Pen is on top of Colin obviously symbolizes her power position in the marriage, but merely giving fans seconds of that lovemaking almost feels like a tease after a very long season of waiting for some sort of culmination of their relationship. Where is the scene where they both let themselves go and stop worrying about everyone around them? Where is the scene where they both abandon their personas and just “be” with each other?

There were other missed opportunities that had little to do with intimacy as well. For instance, when Violet Bridgerton gets a letter from Penelope before the ball, viewers can only assume it’s about her being Lady Whistledown. Most likely, she wanted to give her mother-in-law a heads up. But what does Colin say to his mother in that moment after he tells her to sit down? How does he smooth things over so all is well with the matriarch of the family? What prompts Violet to forgive Penelope for all her missteps?

And what about Penelope’s pregnancy? There’s a scene in part two where Pen leads Colin’s hands to her stomach, and many viewers have hypothesized it must mean she knows she’s pregnant. Whether that’s true or not, and the timeline is a little wonky, we never get to hear the announcement. We never see Colin’s reaction to learning he’s going to be a father. What a momentous moment that would have been for him!

Colin Bridgerton and Penelope Featherington angry at each other.
Photo Source: Netflix

I think the showrunner this season grossly underestimated how invested fans would be in Polin’s love story. There have been rumors scenes were cut for time or in favor of finishing up other storylines. I cannot confirm or deny any of those, but people on the production team and members of the cast have begun to comment on social media that there are no deleted scenes to be had. While that might technically be true, when a TV show is filmed, there are obviously many takes captured, so there is footage they decided not to use even if it’s not compiled into scenes.

I’ve also heard in interviews the director kept telling Luke and Nicola to hold back because Pen’s character was supposed to be sexually inexperienced. While I understand and appreciate that perspective, it’s also a little bit silly. Sexual excitement is innate, and while Pen might not have known how to pleasure her partner, she certainly would have been able to react to being pleasured. To hold back on what made season one of Bridgerton so shocking and successful seems like a very poor decision.

When it comes to Bridgerton, sex does matter. The show is based on a very popular Regency romance series written by Julia Quinn. Each book focuses on a different member of the Bridgerton family as they navigate the marriage market, and from what I hear, they’re pretty hot and heavy reads. There was a huge fanbase for the books before the show was ever greenlighted by Netflix, so those folks expect certain scenes to appear in each respective character’s season.

One of the main reasons Bridgerton even became popular in the first place was because it pushed the envelope. Season one was so sexually graphic it could have been labeled soft porn, and women gravitated toward it like mosquitos to light. Why? Because there was nothing else like it. Bridgerton thrust women’s fantasies right into mainstream media, not only giving us hunky men to obsess over but making feminine pleasure and female empowerment the focus of the majority of the sexual encounters on the show.

For years, women have been devouring romance novels in secret like we should be ashamed for reading them. It’s a literary genre that’s still clawing its way to acceptance after being labeled as “trashy” for so many years. I’m convinced Bridgerton has become so popular because it has unapologetically embraced the reality that women are sexual beings too. We enjoy sex just like men, but what we care about most, and what the show delivers, is a paroxysm of passion and connection.

Focusing on the Positive

Despite all its issues, there were some amazing moments in part two. Let's not forget when Colin stormed into the room and put Lady Featherington in her place for never having seen Pen as the treasure she is. When he said moments later, “I will always stand up for you,” fans around the world melted right along with Penelope. We all deserve a man like that who will rush in and defend us, even among our own family.

Crying Colin Bridgerton
Photo Source: Netflix

Another truly special scene was when a teary-eyed Colin confronted Pen in the alley about being Lady Whistledown. Too often men are taught to hide their emotions, which is probably why we love to see them cry. A sensitive man who wears his heart on his sleeve is sexy all day long, is he not?

Luke told InStyle magazine it had been a particularly long and grueling day of shooting, and that scene was tough content to get through. He was supposed to be angry with Pen, but in the heat of the moment, he began to cry instead. The director came over and asked if he could do a few more takes that way. Since Luke didn’t think the tears were going to stop any time soon, he agreed, and I love that his vulnerability was included in the final cut.

We got to see Penelope improve her relationship with her mother, and she and Eloise found common ground again. Even though it wasn’t the happiest of wedding days, Colin and Pen did get married, and she looked gorgeous in her wedding gown.

Lastly, but most importantly, I want to touch upon the carriage and mirror scenes, which have been the two most viewed and discussed moments of the season. When I first watched them, I had the urge to cover my eyes, and I know I wasn’t the only one. Many people have claimed to blush in embarrassment. TikTok reaction videos have shown everything from people cringing to screaming. Whether you're a Polin fan or not, I think we can all agree those scenes made us feel uncomfortable. But that’s not a negative comment. It’s actually a huge compliment.

What Luke and Nicola were able to do (both clothed and unclothed) was make people feel like they were intruding on a private moment in Colin and Penelope’s lives. I think most people held their breath and thought, “Should I be watching this?” In many ways, we felt like voyeurs because the scenes were a little too real—just the right amount of awkwardness and honesty. Sometimes, they were even funny. And that's not what we typically see on screen, is it?

Those scenes resonated with women because we all long to be touched like that, looked at like that, talked to like that, and cared for like that. How many intimate scenes on film have shown consent, education, and such gentleness? Very few. I think that’s why we kept going back and watching, dissecting, and ultimately embracing those scenes, and it’s why we’ll continue to do so. What hits us first as awkward starts to feel right with each subsequent viewing, and instead of wanting to look away, we can’t look away.

None of the other Bridgerton couples have been able to pull the same feat off. Sure, they all had passion in spades, but it never felt like we were spying or intruding on them. Most of Polin’s intimate scenes this season were linear and not montaged. As a result, it feels like they go on for quite some time. And in truth, they do. They're generous. They were also shot up close, giving viewers a front row seat to the actors' facial expressions and breathing. It wound up creating this sense of sexual claustrophobia that made those moments both hard and exciting to watch.

The carriage scene was largely improvised by Luke and Nicola. Though they indicated they had marks to hit, they were largely left to their own devices. The mirror scene, on the other hand, was supposedly a bit more directed, though they had agency within the scene to decide what they would and would not reveal. The latter scene had some editing issues at the very beginning, but I won’t go into those here because I truly believe the positive aspects far outweigh the negative. The way Colin leads Pen through the entire experience is representative of how every man should be when a woman loses her virginity, and it’s well worth noting why.

First Time Scene - Colin Bridgerton and Penelope Featherington
Photo Source: Netflix

Throughout the scene, Colin asks for Penelope’s consent four times. He covers her on the chaise, answers her questions patiently about what to do, educates her about how their first time may hurt, watches her not only to make sure she’s okay but to gauge her arousal level, and checks in with her immediately afterward to ask if the experience was all right. In mean, in all honesty, I’ve never seen a man so attentive to a woman's needs, and if that’s not what real love looks like, I don’t know what is. It’s an amazing example for young people to see so they understand what a first sexual experience should be like.

The scene may not have been the racy encounter so many fans wanted, but it’s a tender moment full of so much love I can hardly stand it. Isn’t that exactly what we wanted for these two characters?

Future Directions

I have not yet read the Bridgerton books. I own them. They’re sitting on my bookshelf, but I haven’t had the time to read them yet, and I wanted to wait until after season three ended before I began. There are millions of people out there who have read the novels and want the Netflix series to follow them. However, once an author sells the rights to his or her work, they lose the ability to control how the books are adapted.

Another one of the things that makes Bridgerton so great is its diversity and representation. It emulates Hamilton in that way. But it’s a very fine line to navigate when there’s a cadre of fans who are coming to the show from the literary world. At the end of season three, we get a brief glimpse of Michaela, a cousin of Lord Kilmartin. In Quinn’s associated novel, Michaela was apparently Michael, which means her sex was changed for the show. Though viewers have no idea where the story may lead next season, the assumption at this point is Francesca Bridgerton may be bisexual. Michael fans were, of course, outraged, and I can understand why. Throwing a beloved character away instead of simply creating a new one seems harsh. If the show strays too far from its original content simply to embed LGBTQ+ storylines, trouble could be on the horizon. That wonderful diversity we’ve all embraced could begin to border on tokenism.

When the series began, we all just assumed each season would focus on one Bridgerton sibling. Daphne got her season. Anthony got his. But Colin shared his with Francesca and even a little bit of Benedict. Perhaps Netflix doesn’t want to ride out eight full seasons of the show. It takes a long time to produce, it’s expensive, and it has a gigantic cast. I would understand if the actors didn’t want to be tied to one show for more than eight years. That's a lot to ask. However, some transparency would be nice. If fans knew the trajectory of the show, perhaps they’d be a little more understanding and forgiving about how crowded season three wound up.

Bridgerton family
Photo Source: Netflix

In conclusion, we don’t have to love everything about a person or thing. We can embrace the aspects or pieces that speak to us. That was what Colin ultimately realized about Penelope. Although there were parts of her he didn’t like, he accepted the whole package because his love far outweighed any hate or jealousy he harbored for Lady Whistledown. The same thing could be said about season three of Bridgerton. We don't have to love every episode, but we can certainly give the show our love.

Bridgerton got millions of people invested in this season. We’re still talking about the show one week later because we care about these characters who we either see ourselves in or we want to live vicariously through. Luke and Nicola have done an amazing job bringing Colin and Penelope to life. They acted the hell out of season three, and who knows what 2026 will bring. Perhaps Shondaland will listen to fan feedback and give us some more Polin. It’s a wave Netflix should want to ride as long as possible.

For those of us left feeling unfulfilled, I have some advice. Focus on those moments that speak to you. The most amazing thing about television and movies is that we can watch and rewatch scenes as many times as we’d like. The carriage scene and the mirror scene aren’t going anywhere. And if they aren’t enough, there are always the books.

Though I'm not a religious person, I have always enjoyed the Bible verse that states love is patient and kind. And I have to admit, one week later the entire season hits different for me. There's a familiarity and comfort settling in that feels a whole lot better than before. If you haven't gotten there yet, you will. Just give it at little time and another rewatch.

Season three was never going to satisfy everyone, and the stakes were high for part two. If you feel like you’ve been left longing, just remember Colin and Pen longed for each other for years, but they finally found peace in acceptance. Bridgerton fans can too.

Colin and Pen - Bridgerton
Photo Source: Netflix

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