OH GOD! They’ve Found the Mirror! Bridgerton Season 3 Part 2 Review (Episodes 5 & 6)

“Tick Tock” & “Romancing Mister Bridgerton”

Bridgerton. (L to R) Hugh Sachs as Brimsley, Golda Rosheuvel as Queen Charlotte in episode 307 of Bridgerton.
Cr. Liam Daniel/Netflix © 2024

The following review contains spoilers for Bridgerton Season 3 Part 2 Episodes 5 & 6

With the discovery of love shown in Part 1 of Bridgerton Season 3, Part 2 is about revealing one’s true self.

Episodes 5 and 6 have middle-of-the-season energy, which can often be dull and convoluted to drag out the inevitable climax and resolution in the final episodes. That is not to say, however, that they aren’t entertaining or without their own merit; I was pleased by plenty of risky cliffhangers and ball drops.

I was relieved to see that Part 2 begins exactly where we left off in Part 1; we get to see Colin Bridgerton (Luke Newton) and Penelope Featherington (Nicola Coughlan) rush into Bridgerton house to deliver the good news to Colin’s family—in the middle of the night, I might add, not suspicious at all… LOL. No one seemed to question how or why these two were unchaperoned waltzing into the living room, but we know this series will pick and choose when to be historically accurate and when to throw in the towel and ignore depravity. I’m not particularly bothered. I wish at least one character would have suggested they always thought it would be Colin and Penelope, but, no such luck; the writers’ room is rolling with the ugly duckling and Prince Charming.

It was almost too good when Colin put Lady Portia Featherington (Polly Walker) in her place. I also loved that scene in Julia Quinn’s Romancing Mister Bridgerton, although it was altered slightly for the show. Watching Portia try to correct her behaviour towards Penelope is a bit cringe and out of character. I don’t see Polly Walker put in enough sentiment to make the change believable; I wonder if, in Episodes 7 and 8, Portia will revert back to her callous self towards Penelope.

Bridgerton. Luke Newton as Colin Bridgerton in episode 306 of Bridgerton.
Cr. Liam Daniel/Netflix © 2024

Lovemaking in Colin’s apartment. The long-awaited mirror scene. Beloved in the novel for how Colin praises the body of Penelope and instills confidence in her exterior and internal beauty. This is another piece of source material repurposed for the Netflix series, and I like its inclusion and sentiment. Nicola Coughlan has claimed several times during the Bridgerton Season 3 press tour that she insisted on being as naked as possible as a ‘fuck you’ to the fatphobic haters out there. I’m all for it. However, I found the scene’s lighting far too cool to be flattering. The scene was so slow and honest that I felt like I was intruding. I found the scene hard to watch for how real it was.

To add to my discomfort, I detest the innocent virgin trope. I know it’s integral to a Regency-era show; however, I find the writing awkward and forced. Colin explaining sex to Penelope was irritating for me to watch. In the novel, I believe Penelope had some understanding of ‘the marriage bed’ from overhearing married women. I wish she could have gone in with a little more confidence and general knowledge.

I also think, as a bigger woman myself, I was shocked at my internalized fatphobia when I watched this scene. It all felt extra awkward because I was not used to seeing my body portrayed on screen in this manner. When I challenged myself to watch the scene again, I began to consider the beauty in the choreography and the intimacy between the two actors.

Bridgerton. (L to R) Ruth Gemmell as Lady Violet Bridgerton, Nicola Coughlan as Penelope Featherington in episode 305 of Bridgerton.
Cr. Liam Daniel/Netflix © 2024

Now that Cressida Cowper (Jessica Madsen) has claimed to be Lady Whistledown, the hijinks begin. In the novel, Cressida is already wed and, therefore, is protected by her marriage through society, so there are far fewer consequences when she makes this grand claim. As a spinster in the Netflix series, we are pushed to participate in Cressida’s redemption arc as a damsel in a toxic household, desperate to escape. I get it, I see where they’re going with it, but I still don’t like it. Redeeming Cressida takes away from Penelope’s redemption. These two characters now compete for who is worse treated by their family and society: who deserves power and happiness more?

Cressida has constantly been characterized as jealous of Penelope’s intelligence and her hold on Eloise’s attention; cracks form in Penelope’s righteous revenge column in Whistledown. Bridgerton Season 3 has effectively shown Cressida as lonely and misguided by shrewd parents. In many ways, Cressida and Penelope are very similar, raising the question of whether they will reconcile. To avoid the question of who wins, who ends happier with a best friend, a husband, etc., will the series bring the two women together and break society’s status quo? It is not particularly groundbreaking for a bully redemption, but it would work as a resolution for the two characters to succeed in their individual redemption arcs.

I can’t stand Benedict Bridgerton’s (Luke Thompson) story this season. We found his purpose last season and the season before that: ART! Why has the writers’ room stripped all that character development back? He could be painting the widow Lady Tilley Arnold (Hannah New) instead of relying on their affair to make him feel interesting. This is a frustrating backpedal in so many ways. With the number of times this man has been exposed to homosexuals, I’m baffled he has now been characterized as a runner when confronted with a ménage à trois. Perhaps, in Episodes 7 and 8, Benedict will be more open-minded and more sure of himself, but thus far, I am displeased.

Bridgerton. (L to R) Victor Alli as John Stirling, Hannah Dodd as Francesca Bridgerton in episode 306 of Bridgerton.
Cr. Liam Daniel/Netflix © 2024

Who will have the grander wedding: Penelope and Colin, Francesca Bridgerton (Hannah Dodd), Lord John Stirling, Earl of Kilmartin (Victor Ali)? I also wonder how Colin will be brought back to Penelope’s side now that he knows the truth. I can easily see that Colin feels honour-bound to marry Penelope, and then, after marriage, they will reconcile. I wonder if Eloise will make him see sense because she has concluded that Penelope did what she had to do to feel free.

Eloise’s emotions have been all over the place in Bridgerton Season 3, and finally, she is considering Penelope’s position in all of this. Eloise has had a relatively privileged life in the Regency era: a happy family, education, high social standing, money… Her family sees her for who she is and accepts her for it. Penelope is not so privileged—neither is Cressida. So, really, Eloise’s arc this season is about discovering empathy, and I think she’s almost there.

Written by Isobel Grieve

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