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‘Bridgerton’ Season 3 Part 2 Review: Sexual Awakenings and Secrets

Bridgerton” Season 3 is no fairytale. Instead, the second half of the season, arguably some of the most vital chapters in the franchise, is about taking up space and having the courage to face the consequences of your actions. As Penelope Featherington (Nicola Coughlan) and Colin Bridgerton (Luke Newton) transition from friends to lovers, the pair realize if their union is going to work, they must foster an environment of openness and honesty, even if it requires standing in opposition to societal expectations. 

Part 2 of Season 3 might not be the fantasy viewers expected, but it does allow us to indulge in the romance for a bit. Episode 5, in the perhaps winkingly named “Tik Tok,” opens with Penelope writing as Lady Whistledown (voiced by Julie Andrews). Still exhilarated from her enchanted evening with Colin following their steamy carriage ride and his impromptu proposal, Pen wants to linger in this new exquisite era of her life. Unfortunately, the scribe’s secret looms over the new relationship she desperately wants to build. She and Colin must decide what they are willing to relinquish so their marriage may have a fighting chance. 

Polin remains the anchor in the final four chapters of the season. Yet, this portion of “Bridgerton” also focuses on the women surrounding the young couple: These ladies are forced to make impossible choices to avoid being beholden to the whims and tempers of the men in their lives. Lady Violet Bridgerton (Ruth Gemmell), Eloise Bridgerton (Claudia Jesse), Lady Danbury (Adjoa Andoh), and Queen Charlotte (Golda Rosheuvel) continue to hold their own. Yet, it’s Portia Featherington (Polly Walker), Francesca Bridgerton (Hannah Dodd) and Cressida Cowper (Jessica Madsen) who have significant transformations. 

Though Portia’s attitude toward Pen certainly hasn’t been perfect, her fierce protectiveness over her daughters and her determination that they do more than survive in society are portrayed beautifully. Meanwhile, Francesca, so mollified in her connection with Lord John Stirling, the Earl of Kilmartin (Victor Alli), realizes contentment is no match for intense and longing chemistry. (In fact, as the season comes to a close, “Bridgerton” book readers will note that some storylines go in a vastly different direction.) Yet, if there was another leading lady besides Pen in Part 2, it’s Cressida.

After three years on the marriage market and no proposal in sight, Cressida’s father arranges her engagement to a vile old man. Desperate for a way out, the self-assured mean girl does everything she can to break free, including attempting to claim the Lady Whistledown name for herself. Though the villainous blonde certainly isn’t moral in her choices, which include everything from blackmail to forgery, she is a product of her environment. Having been raised by her mother, Lady Araminta Cowper (Joanna Bobin), to be suspicious and competitive with other women, her plight feels devastatingly unjust. Cressida is no walk in the park, but hopefully, this isn’t the last we will see of the conniving socialite who deserves, despite her bad behavior, the opportunity to forge a life on her own terms. 

Season 1 of “Bridgerton” saw Daphne (Phoebe Dynevor) and Simon, the Duke of Hastings (Regé-Jean Page), having frenzied sexual encounters in every corner of their estate. In Season 2, Kate (Simone Ashley) and Anthony (Jonathan Bailey) led a relatively sexless existence  – though they are making up for it now. Season 3 falls somewhere in the middle. While the drama is present in spades, there admittedly aren’t a ton of sex scenesexcept for Benedict Bridgerton’s (Luke Thompson) sultry escapades with the titillating Lady Tilley Arnold (Hannah New). However, the primary sex scene between Polin involving a full-length mirror and a chaise lounge is one of the sexiest things seen on television since “Bridgerton” Season 1. As an instrumental of Ariana Grande’s “pov” hums in the background, the segment encompasses all of the lush vulnerability that comes with love, lust and acceptance. A wallflower no more, it’s also the first time Pen asserts herself romantically as an active participant in her newfound intimacy with Colin. Fans may still gripe at the lack of sensual activity on screen, but this mirror section is absolutely intoxicating and beautifully done. 

Though the explicit sex scenes are sparse, the tension circling Polin as they move into a new chapter can’t be understated. Coughlan and Newton are entirely convincing as a new couple determined to hold on to their individual needs and desires while struggling to relinquish their egos. For Colin, it’s learning how to protect Pen in ways that make her feel safe and seen. For Pen, it’s reconciling the harm she’s caused (however unintentionally) amid the power she’s wielded as Whistledown. Long-term relationships are about reconciling the partner you once knew (or at least thought you knew) with the person who is actually standing before you. Providing your partner the freedom to be themselves is the only way to move forward, and it’s a lesson that makes “Bridgerton” Season 3 a gem in the franchise. 

All episodes of “Bridgerton” Season 3 Part 2 are streaming on Netflix.

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