‘Bridgerton’ Season 3 Part 2 Review: A Steamy, Surprising and Supremely Satisfying Masterpiece

It’s one of life’s greatest little pleasures to finish a season of a TV show and simply feel extremely content. It’s like having eaten just the right amount of delicious chocolate cake, or having taken the exact right length of a nap, and while I mean it as the biggest of compliments, it almost feels rude to say about “Bridgerton” Season 3 Part 2 because these final episodes are nothing like a nap. It’s maybe more of a colorful dream. It’s so good at being exactly what it needs to be that it’s sort of incredible — a masterpiece, really. If you’ve ever even come close to loving “Bridgerton” before, I can’t imagine not absolutely devouring this season.

The back half of the season picks up where the first half left off, just after Colin (Luke Newton) had sort of proposed to Penelope (Nicola Coughlan) after a steamy carriage ride set to an instrumental Pitbull song. Thanks to a quick announcement by Pen’s alter ego Lady Whistledown, the ton is abuzz with the news, but right there’s the rub: Colin doesn’t yet know that Penelope is the infamous gossip hound, and the only Bridgerton who does know is still seething over the secret. Eloise (Claudia Jessie) acts as a semi-antagonist this season, threatening to out her friend as Whistledown if Penelope can’t figure out how to tell Colin herself. But as Eloise’s anger reveals itself to be more about jealousy, Cressida (Jessica Madsen) and her massive sleeves come swooping in to ruin her own redemption arc, and nearly Penelope’s life.

It’s like a superhero soap opera, where Whistledown is the vigilante whose identity is all anyone wants to know. In particular, Queen Charlotte (Golda Rosheuvel) wants to know, and she wants to know so badly that she’s offering a 5,000 pound reward to anyone who can tell her, making Penelope’s late night travels to the printer all the more dangerous, and her relationship with Colin all the more precarious. It also adds exciting stakes to a show that is often lacking in that department.

As is the Bridgerton way, everything ends up working out for everyone but Cressida. Colin and Eloise eventually get over themselves and their gallant disdain for/jealousy of Whistledown and the Queen gives Penelope her approval, preventing her reputation from being ruined. Penelope also gives up the name of Lady Whistledown, choosing to continue her columns but sign them as Penelope Bridgerton, in a major twist from the books. At the end of “Romancing Mr. Bridgerton,” Penelope gives up the gig entirely. This was a far better choice, and it wasn’t the first or the last fantastic change from the book.

Colin and Penelope’s tale is not the best of Julia Quinn’s novels, but its magic lies in the friends-to-lovers storyline between two well-loved characters, and the fact that Colin and Penelope steer an epic romance while also being kinda goofy. The show managed to change nearly all of the book’s major moments without losing the spirit of the story or ever feeling like it forgot about the book entirely. Instead, it felt like the most beloved pieces of the book were carefully planted in places that worked better for the show.

Colin and Penelope’s second sex scene, which arrives just a few minutes into Episode 5, is a great example. In the book, Colin has suddenly gone from angry at his new fiancee to extremely horny for her, and says some weird stuff about how he wants to cup her breasts in front of the mirror. It’s all part of the ongoing narrative that Penelope is not traditionally beautiful and has to be forced to have sex in front of a mirror to see how beautiful Colin thinks she is. On screen, the mirror is present, but it feels like more of an opportunity for Coughlan to declare that she’s, to quote her own words, “an esteemed member of the perfect breast community.”

Penelope doesn’t know what she’s doing and no one has ever paid attention to her this way before, but there’s no question that she’s attractive and just as into this as Colin is. She doesn’t know exactly how it works (as we already know that Mrs. Featherington is not good at explaining sex to her daughters) but she is ready and willing to learn. The resulting scene is up there alongside the “Outlander” wedding night episode in terms of well done TV sex, and Coughlan’s performance makes it feel like it’s not just a sex scene for the sake of a sex scene. This scene is life-changing for Penelope, and it only takes a few facial expressions to convey just how monumental it is. Coughlan is undoubtedly a star, putting a bit of pressure on the future leads of the show to live up to what she’s brought.

As Penelope builds confidence in both her writing and her sex life, the rest of the Bridgertons start to plant some future seeds, literally and figuratively, while the show offers book readers some thrilling teases and finds an excellent ensemble balance. Anthony (Jonathan Bailey) and Kate (Simone Ashley) are expecting a baby and adjusting to a future as viscount and viscountess, while Violet (Ruth Gemmell) is seeing how things go with Lady Danbury’s handsome brother Marcus (Daniel Francis). Benedict (Luke Thompson) is fresh off a very sexy threesome and revelation that he might also be into men and looking forward to his mother’s upcoming masquerade ball (an important event for him in his book, “An Offer From a Gentleman”).

Francesca (Hannah Dodd), meanwhile, is off to Scotland with her new husband Lord Kilmartin (Victor Alli), a reserved but observant man who values peace and quiet. They’ll be accompanied by Eloise, who is craving adventure away from the marriage mart, and John’s cousin … Michaela. Readers of Francesca’s book, “When He Was Wicked,” will notice a bit of a bit of a surprise there as the show propels itself further into modern day ideas of relationships and marriage and further embraces its own fantasy. That’s best shown in the costumes, which are absolutely stunning works of art and character studies, but seem to only be getting less historically accurate.

At this point, I am no longer here for accuracy (if I ever was). I’m here for lush, dramatic, romantic tales of hot people overcoming the restrictions placed on them by society while wearing impractical dresses and corsets as necklaces, and that’s exactly what Season 3 was in all the best ways. It was simply fun and delicious, a sugary treat I can’t wait to eat again. I hope future seasons are even sweeter, but boy am I satisfied with this confection for now.

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