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Colin finally loves Penelope back: NPR

Nicola Coughlan as Penelope Featherington.

Liam Daniel/Netflix


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Nicola Coughlan as Penelope Featherington.

Liam Daniel/Netflix

The Bridgerton Chronicles There’s a lot about it – successful, uneven, entertaining – but it is, critically, obedient to the demands of particular romantic tropes. In season one, when Daphne married Simon, it was a “fake relationship.” In season two, when Anthony married Kate, it was “enemies to lovers.” And now, in the first half of the show’s third round, we come to the story of Colin and Penelope, the inevitable and enduring “friends of lovers.” (The second half of the season comes out in June; we’ll discuss it then.)

We’ve known since season one that Penelope Featherington (Nicola Coughlan) has a crush on her good friend Colin Bridgerton (Luke Newton). And Colin was, how shall I put it… “a barely sentient lamppost about it.” As these episodes begin, Penelope has been through a few seasons of the marriage market, but she’s beginning to fear that the vagaries of inheritance will leave her at the mercy of her horrible sisters, so she’s eager to find a husband. right away. Colin, meanwhile, returns from a tour of Europe that appears to have been quite adventurous and carnal, and he finds himself the hottest since cucumber sandwiches when he hits the ton. Penelope, however, isn’t so happy to see him, since she overheard him at a party last season clarifying to his obnoxious friends that he would never – ever, ever – think of courting her.

As they try to reconcile, the two come up with a plan in which Colin would help her learn charm in order to please men, even though everyone is very vague about what that actually means, and we never actually see him do it. (Plus, Penelope is already very charming! Calm down, Colin.) Penelope also gives herself what any romance watcher or reader will recognize as the eye-opening makeover, which has turned so many would-be mouse wallflowers into bombshells. Will Colin start to see her differently? Will seeing other men respond to her differently wake… feelings?

Luke Newton as Colin Bridgerton and Nicola Coughlan as Penelope Featherington.

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Luke Newton as Colin Bridgerton and Nicola Coughlan as Penelope Featherington.

Liam Daniel/Netflix

The answers to these questions are obvious, as is the end result. (Sure, there would be some appeal in seeing Penelope say something like “you take a nap, you lose, buster” and leave with a very sexy man who owns several castles. But that would be another story.) Like always, it’s the execution that counts.

Is Colin up to the task?

The best thing the season has to offer is Nicola Coughlan, who has been winning and funny since season one. Penelope is one of the The Bridgerton Chronicles‘s most compelling characters, not only because of her desire for Colin, but also because of her exploits as secret gossip columnist Lady Whistledown, a side hustle that broke her relationship with her best friend (and sister by Colin) Eloise. Any sane observer wants the best for Penelope, which is why it would be easier to invest in the season if Colin had a little more…oomph.

In the books on which The Bridgerton Chronicles is based, you listen to the characters’ thoughts and thus gain insight into Colin’s changing feelings about Penelope. But here, he seems initially driven by two main motivations: sympathy (bordering on pity) for Penelope’s inability to find a husband, and guilt because she heard him be an asshole with his friends. These are pretty difficult emotions to create a romance from, because neither really has anything to do with the feelings she feels toward him. Some meaningful looks – you know, meaningful looks — don’t convincingly move a man from pity to lust.

And… how best to say this? It’s not clear that Colin, despite being a sought-after Bridgerton sibling, is good enough for her. Penelope is a smart, passionate and talented writer with gorgeous red hair and a secret life. Colin is… a handsome man who kept a diary while on vacation. What interests Colin? What are Colin’s interests? Does he have any hobbies, other than swooning over women (and hating Lady Whistledown)? The Bridgerton Chronicles Could have served the season better if it had spent a little more time developing Colin as a person outside of Penelope admiring him and explaining why she still does. Honestly, “I’ll give you free lessons to improve your personality” is not the traditional way to make up for someone you said mean things about them to your jerk friends.

This isn’t to say that the season is disappointing overall or that it lacks the qualities that have made the series interesting in the past. To his honor, The Bridgerton Chronicles incorporates body type into its concept of diversifying romantic leads, to a point. Coughlan is smaller and curvier than the other women who had steamy scenes on the show, and unlike the book, the show doesn’t mention that she lost much weight between her initial friendship with Colin and her realization of its appeal. (Whew.) Instead, a lot is accomplished with sleeker, sexier styling and new colors to replace the lemon tones her mother long forced on all her daughters, which never flattered the red hair and Pen’s ultra-pale complexion.

Golda Rosheuvel as Queen Charlotte.

Laurence Cendrowicz/Netflix


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Golda Rosheuvel as Queen Charlotte.

Laurence Cendrowicz/Netflix

The season is definitely stretching out a bit; maybe there’s a little too much going on. There is romance; there is a secondary plot with Francesca, Colin’s sister, who also enters the marriage market; there’s Eloise’s broken friendship with Penelope and her new friendship with good-for-nothing Cressida Cowper; there is Lady Featherington’s struggle to retain her estate; there are Penelope’s sisters trying to get pregnant; there is the somewhat opaque case of Benedict Bridgerton (the series constantly seems on the verge of revealing something about him). Of course, the Queen remains determined to unmask Lady Whistledown. On top of all that, Anthony and Kate are still there, preparing to become the ruling couple of the Bridgerton house and stripping down from time to time in order to help everyone get through the first few episodes when the main romance doesn’t. is not in progress.

This may all seem a little shaggy, no pun intended. But overall, the cast wins, and it’s impossible not to root for Penelope. You can sometimes wonder if she could do better, but she clearly doesn’t believe it. And that’s what his happy ending is for.

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