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Bridgerton-How Bright the Moon, Forces of Nature, Old Friends-Review: Presenting #Polin

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There was a genuine attempt to show restraint in watching the first four episodes of season three of Bridgerton. I really wanted to review each episode separately, but like consuming a box of LadurĂ©e macarons, no restraint was shown. I devoured all four episodes in a day, so here we go. 

While the first episode of this season was a little slow in showing any real chemistry between Colin and Penelope, the last scene of episode four puts that to rest. Not wanting to put the carriage before the horse, let’s back up because there’s a lot of matchmaking going on. 

Queen Charlotte is still hesitant to name a diamond of the season and wants to see “more” from this year’s batch of eligible ladies before declaring the sparkler of the season. Lady Danbury, never one to shy away from a good meddle, directs the Queen to overhear Francesca losing herself playing the pianoforte. She is the sparkler of the season who will receive the Queen’s attention. Not that Francesca wants the attention. Unlike her mother and siblings, Francesca wants this season to be over so she can be married and find some peace (or silence?). 

“How Bright the Moon”- BRIDGERTON, Pictured: Hannah Dodd as Francesca Bridgerton. Liam Daniel/Netflix ©2024 Netflix. All Rights Reserved

Francesca’s introduction to the Queen-approved Lord Samadani seems like a perfect match. Both come from big families, but where Lord Samadani wants a noisy house filled with children, Francesca longs for quiet and understanding. She is charmed by Lord John Sterling, the Earl of Kilmartin, who appreciates silence and Francesca’s love of music. Those who have read Francesca’s story know the name Sterling and that the wheels are in motion for her story. 

Who else can we match? 

Lady Violet might finally be getting a story of her own after some charged meetings with Lady Danbury’s brother, Lord Anderson. Violet’s been giving out meaningful advice to her children and is due for a little romance of her own. 

Cressida Cowper’s character development is a bit of a head-scratcher. Is she a villain? The misunderstood popular high school cheerleader with a terrible home life? She vies with Penelope for Lord Debling’s attention using questionable tactics, but she also pushes Eloise to make a decision about her friendship with Penelope. 

Female relationships run deep on Bridgerton. Lady Danbury, Queen Charlotte, Lady Violet, Eloise, and Penelope all know that having someone to confide in makes navigating the ton much more enjoyable. Speaking of enjoyable, the subplot of Lady Portia Featherington serving as sex education teacher to her daughters Philipa and Prudence is wonderfully hilarious. These two newlyweds know nothing about sex or their own anatomy, giving us this perfect line, “Inserts himself where?” 

“How Bright the Moon”- BRIDGERTON, Pictured: Harriet Cains as Philipa Featherington, Bessie Carter as Prudence Featherington, Polly Walker as Lady Portia Featherington. Liam Daniel/Netflix ©2024 Netflix. All Rights Reserved

Elsewhere, Benedict runs around avoiding matchmaking mamas and their daughters only to find himself enthralled with wealthy widow Lady Tilley Arnold. Lady Arnold, like Benedict, is in no rush to marry. This feels like a ploy to keep him in the story while he waits for his own season. 

We are just now getting to Colin and Penelope, and that’s the main problem with this season. It’s so overstuffed with other plot points and romances that the scenes with #Polin seemed hurried. We’ve seen Penelope pine for Colin for two seasons, but Colin’s realization that you can have fireworks and a friendship happens all at once. 

Colin’s offer to help Penelope find a husband by tutoring her is born out of kindness. Penelope has always understood and appreciated Colin. When she reads his travel journal and compliments his writing, Colin feels seen. Isn’t that what all of these well-dressed, wealthy people want? Someone to understand (and appreciate) them for who they really are. Colin is more complex than the overly romantic traveler dabbling in threesomes at a brothel. Lord Debling loves nature and is a (gasp) vegetarian. Is that so wrong? Francesca just wants to play the piano, and Penelope wants to read and watch the Bridgerton family from her window seat. Can’t they be loved for who they are?

Colin shares his plan to help Penelope find a husband with Eloise, who rightfully points out that this puts them both in jeopardy since Colin, himself, is an eligible bachelor. Later, Eloise shares this plan with Cressida, and just like that, the plan is out for the ton to ridicule, driving Penelope back into the shadows. 

When Colin visits Penelope later that evening to check on her, she is heartbroken and defeated and, with nothing left to lose, asks Colin to kiss her. She’s assuming she will forever be a spinster and never be kissed. This is where things take a turn (finally!). Colin obliges, and the first kiss is light and tentative, but then...there’s a noticeable shift. Penelope is grateful for the experience and retreats, while Colin is dazed. That is not what he expected, and now he’s having dreams about Penelope, watching her from afar, and asking his mom about the crazy idea of friends making the best romantic partners. He can’t even get excited for a visit to the brothel. The guy’s in love. As an aside, there has been some conversation in which Penelope’s asking Colin to kiss her was cringy, but the brothel and hot air balloon scenes are way more uncomfortable to watch. 

“How Bright the Moon”- BRIDGERTON, Pictured: Luke Newton as Colin Bridgerton, Nicola Coughlin as Penelope Featherington. Liam Daniel/Netflix ©2024 Netflix. All Rights Reserved

Once Penelope decides to emerge from the shadows and is back to her wonderfully awkward self, she finds that Lord Debling appreciates someone with a life of her own and who will understand his long absences, and he makes it known that he would like to ask her to marry him. She’s torn. She should want to marry. Lord Debling seems kind and has no interest in changing Penelope, but she still hopes for a love match. 

There’s nothing like a needle drop to make for compelling television, and Colin marching into the Queen’s ball to an instrumental version of “Snow on the Beach” shows that he is a man on a mission. Colin cuts in during Penelope’s dance with Lord Debling to make his displeasure of her impending engagement known. Lord Debling is scooped up by Cressida, who provides him with a key piece of information. The window seat that Penelope favors provides a view of the Bridgerton house. Colin and Penelope are the oldest of friends, and Debling instantly knows that Penelope is in love with Colin and any impending engagement is off. 

When Debling pushes Penelope on the matter, she doesn’t disagree but instead thinks that Colin returning her affection is impossible. Good for Lord Debling, who does not not want to settle. Could Cressida eventually learn to love the outdoors and be his match? How great would her wig look on a camping trip? 

Now, we get to the best part. The part anyone who has read Romancing Mr. Bridgerton knows by heart-the infamous carriage scene. 

Once again, Penelope is escaping a ball by carriage, but this time, Colin runs after her, and in the carriage, the two finally see each other. Penelope, who has always thought Colin would never see her as anything but a friend, is shocked when he says, “What if I did have feelings for you?” He then gives a romantic speech. The speech to end all speeches. He dreams about her. He longs for her. She still doesn’t really believe this is happening and reminds him that they are just friends, but then she says, “But I’d very much like to be more than friends. So much more.” Game on. “Give Me Everything” plays; Penelope touches Colin’s head, and this becomes the scene that will be replayed on a loop until part two arrives on June 13. 

Will part two contain the book’s infamous mirror scene? How will Colin react when he finds out Penelope is Lady Whisteldown? Will Lady Portia have to explain to Philipa and Prudence where babies come from, and can we be present for that conversation?

Meredith Howell
Meredith lives in Chicago where she and her husband made sure their two boys were fluent in all things pop culture. She loves talking about all things GG- Gilmore Girls, Gossip Girl, and Golden Girls and indulges in a yearly viewing of Pride and Prejudice (the Colin Firth version is the only one recognized).

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