Bridgerton Showrunner On Why Colin and Penelope’s Friends To Lovers Romance Resonates

Bridgerton showrunner Jess Brownell breaks down the happy endings and big questions of season 3.

Bridgerton. (L to R) Luke Newton as Colin Bridgerton, Nicola Coughlan as Penelope Featherington in episode 307 of Bridgerton.
Photo: Liam Daniel | Netflix

This article contains spoilers for Bridgerton season 3.

Bridgerton season 3 part 2 reveals that the course of Penelope (Nicola Coughlan) and Colin’s (Luke Newton) relationship after the fateful carriage ride was not entirely a smooth one. Penelope’s career as the gossip columnist Lady Whistledown hurt Colin’s feelings and that secret hangs over their engagement and wedding. 

Den of Geek interviewed Bridgerton showrunner Jess Brownell to find out more about how the writers’ room approached adapting Penelope and Colin’s love story from the novel Romancing Mister Bridgerton.

Bridgerton season 3 part 1 established that Penelope and Colin first had to admit that their public personas were hiding the truth of their deeper feelings for each other. 

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“The major theme of the season is about stepping into who you truly are, loving yourself as you are, and nurturing your authentic self,” Brownell says. “Before anyone can go about finding love, or strengthening their relationships with their friends, their mothers, their family, that is the main focus.” 

Colin left for Europe at the end of season 2 adamant that Penelope was only a friend. He returned from his travels abroad and adopted the handsome world-traveling rake persona in contrast to the kind friend Penelope knew. Penelope, for her part, realized that she was tired of being the spinster wallflower and had to get away from being controlled by her sisters and mother. Brownell has several favorite scenes this season but one moment from Part 1 stood out. 

“Penelope’s makeover reveal and the way we handle it is something I’m quite proud of,” Brownell says. “It’s not your typical makeover reveal, and I think watching Penelope step out of the shadows and try to flirt with suitors is hilarious, awkward, and very relatable.” 

Penelope changes her dress color palette and her hairstyle for more self confidence. These scenes are a body positive update from the novel. Penelope, on page 100 of the digital edition, is described as “pudgy” during her debut season and then “slimmed down and graceful” after her makeover. 

Colin agrees to teach Penelope how to flirt to attract a suitor who can facilitate her escape from the Featheringtons. Through these lessons, Colin realizes he made an error stating at the end of season 2 that he couldn’t date Penelope to his male friends. He realizes he’s jealous of Penelope attracting the attention of Lord Debling (Sam Phillips). 

Penelope and Colin’s first kiss followed up by the cliffhanger intimate encounter in the carriage marking the end to part 1 completes the friends-to-lovers transformation. 

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“It’s lovely to see people building a love based on deep respect and admiration, laughter, and friendship even if you’re not a romance fan,” Brownell says.

Bridgerton season 3 part 2 begins with dialing up the heat on Penelope and Colin’s romance with their engagement and Colin showing Penelope how beautiful she is naked in front of the mirror before their first time making love. Colin’s desire for Penelope is pure. He also considers her desires as well, which is also another reason why audiences love their relationship. He praises her natural beauty and raises her self confidence by telling her she is far more desirable to him than his past lovers. 

Penelope never tells Colin she is Lady Whistledown but he finds out for himself at the end of episode 6 when he follows her to the print shop. She doesn’t want to lose her voice and career but it is one that would certainly put her in danger as Queen Charlotte’s (Golda Rosheuvel) hunt for the author intensifies. Colin is very upset but agrees not to postpone their wedding as Penelope may already be pregnant. Penelope and Colin have their dream wedding followed immediately by the threat of Cressida’s (Jessica Masden) blackmail and a fake edition of Lady Whistledown’s newsletter claiming the younger Bridgerton siblings are illegitimate. Colin tries to help Penelope negotiate with Cressida but that fails. Penelope then asks Colin to support her by standing by her side when she makes her public confession and apology to refute Cressida. 

“I believe everyone on the show deserves a happy ending personally, but that’s not to say that they don’t need to do some work before they’re ready for their happy ending,” Brownell says. “All of our characters are flawed, and that’s intentional. They’re humans, at least in our imagination, and we want to see them make mistakes, and earn those happy endings by making progress.” 

While Lady Whistledown was harsh, Penelope did not print outright lies and with this in mind Penelope decides in Episode 8 that she needs to clear the air publicly. Some Bridgerton fans believe Penelope’s biggest and possibly unforgivable mistake as Lady Whistledown was how she exposed Marina’s (Ruby Barker) secret in season 1. Penelope believed she was protecting Colin from possible emotional pain if he didn’t know about Marina’s situation in advance but many viewers interpreted her actions as selfish bullying . 

“I believe the Marina storyline came to a satisfying close in season two,” Brownell said. “She had really strong words for Colin and told him she’s not living in some romantic fantasy in his head. She has her own life, and permits him to move on as well.” 

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Fans who were hoping for Penelope to make an in-person apology are likely going to be disappointed. However, Marina is named in dialogue this season as someone who was negatively affected by Penelope’s harsh words. Barker has said previously that she is not interested in returning to Bridgerton for personal mental health reasons

Other Bridgerton fans believe that Penelope treated her best friend Eloise equally as badly by writing about her flirtation with Theo the printer in season 2. Eloise at the beginning of season 3 becomes friendly with Cressida only to realize Cressida is only out for herself. Cressida is resentful of Penelope’s publishing success, however she has her own personal motivation. Cressida’s parents are trying to marry her off to a much older man. The reward money is her only way out of a terrible fate. 

”It was important to me to give some nuance and some humanity to Cressida Cowper,” Brownell says. “Women in the Regency period were pitted against each other by the way society was set up. So while Cressida absolutely has culpability in her behavior, and should and will take accountability for that behavior, we wanted to understand that she too is a victim and a vulnerable player. Also, she creates a really nice foil and simultaneous friend for Eloise this season.”

Penelope and Colin’s reconciliation comes from a place of mutual adoration and a desire to protect their family and friends. Her public confession in front of the Queen, Lady Danbury, and the entire Ton leads to a happy ending both for their marriage and for her career.  While Bridgerton’s audiences may not be able to relate to a Queen threatening them with arrest for their published writing, many can relate to falling in love with someone who they first met as an acquaintance or friend. 

All episodes of Bridgerton are currently streaming on Netflix.