Jealousy, Jealousy
Colin and Penelope from 'Bridgerton' Season 3

Sorry, But Bridgerton’s Penelope & Colin Will Never Work

This season wasn’t a friends-to-lovers romance but rather a workplace rivalry.

by Ryanne Probst

Bridgerton has done something to deeply unsettle my spirit. Wispy bangs taunt my FYP. I just painted my bedroom mauve. Of course, I waited with bated breath for Season 3 to drop. Not just because I’m weak for satin A-line silhouettes and teen girls terrorizing grown men on the marriage mart, but because this is Penelope Featherington’s season.

Penelope has always felt kindred to me. Mostly because she’s a writer — and not in the It Girl way Carrie Bradshaw from Sex and the City was a writer or in the desperate, self-aggrandized way Hannah Horvath from Girls was a writer. Penelope has no ego. She earnestly wants to be good at this thing, yet she can’t admit that desire out loud. Her storyline is for introverts who never say the right thing in person, but can create exquisite works when locked in a room by themselves.

But if Season 3 is for the writers and creatives, then I have some doubts about the lead couple’s future. Penelope and Colin may have perfected a horny carriage hookup, but there’s no way their marriage lasts for the long haul. Let me posit this: Bridgerton Season 3 is not a friends-to-lovers romance but rather a workplace rivalry. We aren’t watching childhood friends rediscover their feelings for each other; we’re watching industry rivals compete to be London’s new literary darling.

Unlike past seasons, career identity is central to the plot this time. There are two writers in this Polin pairing. Penelope might be Lady Whistledown, but Colin is also a writer (loose as that title may be here, considering his portfolio is basically just smutty journals from his time abroad). Before there was #VanLife, Colin Bridgerton was traipsing around Europe armed with a Moleskine notebook and at least three synonyms for “bosom.”

Liam Daniel/Netflix

Colin the writer is introduced to us in Part 1 of Season 3. Penelope stumbles upon a journal entry that describes his days (ahem, nights) in Paris, and immediately there’s a change in her demeanor, a softness that overtakes her face. It’s the same look I get when I observe a man using an Oxford comma correctly. He just matched her freak.

But the problem with dating your creative match is that the craft will always come first, and love will always come second. They romanticize, but they don’t want to compromise. Lest we forget the doomed artistic power couples of days past: Taylor Swift and Matty Healy, Joe Jonas and Sophie Turner, and me and the Williamsburg bro who wrote copy for ESPN.

Tonally, the stakes of Polin’s season feel different than that of the Bridgerton couples before them. Their central conflict arises in Part 2, when Colin discovers Penelope’s true identity as Lady Whistledown. At first, it may seem like he’s angry she deceived him, but the true source of his feelings gradually becomes clear: He’s jealous that his betrothed is the ton’s equivalent of a New York Times bestselling author. His little erotic diaries, which he’s only passively pursued publishing, could surely never match up.

Both Pen and Colin want to be seen as special. This is the thing that initially draws them to one another, but it’s also the thing that will inevitably push them apart. Pen has notoriety and money — so much money that Colin’s third son’s allowance seems quaint in comparison. Colin wants these things, too, or maybe he just feels owed them as a man who traveled one time. And Penelope refuses to give them up. When Colin demands she quit writing, lest she bring ruin to the Bridgerton name and his shallow ego, she firmly denies him.

Jealousy doesn’t just go away because you break one chaise lounge with your fiancée.

Their problems only multiply when you consider the gender restrictions of the Regency era. Colin, regardless of talent, will have an easier time pursuing his writing career than his wife. Penelope, though wildly successful as an anonymous author, will face backlash just for being a woman in the field. And yet, the show avoids any meaningful conversation about this change in their relationship dynamic, skirting over their central conflict and pivoting to Benedict’s sexcapades instead (important to the plot as those may be).

This is never more evident than in the last scene of the season. Pen and Colin get their happy ending, complete with marriage, heirs, and successful published writing careers. It all feels a little too clean, especially considering Cressida called Colin on his bullsh*t early on in the last episode: “You do not sound as if you hate Whistledown. You sound as if you are jealous of her.” Jealousy doesn’t just go away because you break one chaise lounge with your fiancée.

Bridgerton’s strength has always been its ability to cultivate fantasy. But Penelope is as real as it gets. She works hard! She’s clever! She has perfect breasts! Her ending should never have been so cleanly executed. Fantasy only works if it acknowledges the reality of a situation and overcomes it. It falls flat when it refuses to acknowledge the reality at all.

Call me skeptical, but it’s a little hard to buy into the Polin fantasy when one part of the creative power couple has the queen of England’s interest and the other one… journals. Try as he might, our new Lord Whistledown will never be the star of the show, and I have a feeling he won’t take to his supporting role kindly.