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Bridgerton Season 3 Showrunner Talks Part 2 Plots & Future of Series

Bridgerton Season 3 Showrunner Talks Part 2 Plots & Future of Series

[This story contains major spoilers from Bridgerton season three, Part 2.]

Spoiler alert

Penelope and Colin finally got their happy ending in the last few moments of Bridgerton season three, part two.

The couple spent the majority of the final two episodes on the outs after Colin (Luke Newton) found out in the worst way Penelope’s (Nicola Coughlan) lingering secret that she is Lady Whistledown. When Pen went to her printer to get an emergency Whistledown pamphlet out — to shut down Cressida’s (Jessica Madsen) claim that she is the ‘Ton’s infamous gossip columnist — Colin followed her. When he saw her leaving, it all finally clicked — a web of deceit spun by his fiancee.

The revelation blows up their blissful bubble, as the will-they-won’t-they pair finally got engaged at the conclusion of Part 1. While they do still get married, Colin, feeling betrayed by Pen, spent the first few nights after their wedding sleeping on the couch, leaving their families with questions.

“In a perfect world, of course, she would have told him herself. But it just wouldn’t be as juicy, and I do think that it speaks to Penelope’s character arc in terms of being honest about who she is,” showrunner Jess Brownell tells The Hollywood Reporter. “But then getting caught in this moment, caught lying by the person she loves most, it’s like a great, dramatic final test for her. And it’s her also having to pay the consequences in a big way, and be accountable for keeping this big secret.”

By the end of Bridgerton season three, part two, however, the pair have made their way through their first big, epic fight. The final moments see the Queen (Golda Rosheuvel) accepting Penelope is Lady Whistledown in front of everyone, and asking her to do better with her column moving forward. Then a flash-forward reveals that Pen and Colin have welcomed a baby boy, the heir to the Featherington family, and Colin has published his first book, with the help of his wife and best friend.

Below, Brownell unpacks Polin’s long journey to happily ever after, opens up about the evolution of Eloise’s (Claudia Jessie) friendship with Pen, the famous mirror scene between season three’s central couple, and what’s next for the Bridgerton siblings — from Benedict (Luke Thompson) to Francesca (Hannah Dodd) — as the hit Netflix series looks ahead to season four and beyond.


The second half of this season picks up immediately after part one ended, with Colin proposing to Penelope. Talk to me about the decision to have the Bridgertons fully support Polin the way that they did.

Well, obviously, Violet (Ruth Gemmell) knew all along — at least this season. She’s been rooting for Penelope forever, but this season she’s been picking up on Colin’s vibes. So, I think she was hoping this was going to happen, and it’s not a giant surprise. Hyacinth (Florence Hunt) is obsessed with Penelope and always has been. Francesca and Penelope have a great relationship. Certainly there’s surprise at play, but everyone loves Penelope. She’s part of the family. Eloise is the one who’s not in a great place with her, but I think all the family knows and/or is hopeful that they’re going to work things out.

That was my next question. Eloise is, understandably, a little taken aback by the news and threatens to reveal Penelope’s Whistledown secret to Colin if she doesn’t tell him soon. Why do you think it was important to have that exchange?

It is not great that Eloise had to find out this way. I feel for Eloise in that moment. And while I know we all, as the audience, want Colin and Penelope to get together, and we don’t want to see anyone coming in between them, Eloise has a really fair point. Penelope is keeping something from Colin, and that’s not a great way to start a marriage. She, in that moment, is really just trying to protect her brother.

Claudia Jessie as Eloise Bridgerton.

Liam Daniel/Netflix

Shortly after the engagement announcement comes the famous mirror scene that leads to Colin and Penelope having sex before they’re married, which was not very common at the time and was explored with Kate (Simone Ashley) in season two. Why do you think Pen and Colin broke from tradition?

First of all, I just want to say that I think it’s a lot more common than people think. Obviously, it was taboo, and so the history books aren’t necessarily remembering the fact that people were breaking those rules, just as people break social taboos today. But there are a lot of examples from history of babies who were born at eight months or are born quote-unquote premature, but with the eye of time, we know that those were probably babies who were conceived before marriage. Penelope and Colin are engaged, so the right intentions are there.

As for the scene itself, we wanted to pay homage to the book. It’s just a line in the book where Colin says he would like to do something very sexy with Penelope in the mirror, but it’s a moment that fans really took to. So, we found a way to dramatize the sex scene in front of a mirror, and the mirror plays a real metaphorical role in that scene in terms of Pen seeing herself. I think her arc is, in many ways, about being the girl who hides on the sidelines to being someone who can step into the light and step into the center of the room. And in the sex scene, with Colin’s encouragement, she is able to take a baby step along that character journey by allowing Colin to see her in all of her naked nakedness.

They have this moment that’s so intimate in front of the mirror before they even have sex where she’s down on herself, and he says something like, “I want you to see yourself the way that I see you. You’re beautiful.” What was key to telling this story about desire for women of different sizes when Hollywood still struggles to do so?

We just focus on the character journey for Penelope. Penelope is such an eligible and naturally desirable protagonist and, for us, it’s really about confidence. We’re seeing her in the sex scene step into her confidence slowly but surely. I also love how much comfort and laughter is shared in that scene, and I love that Penelope, who was previously a wallflower and previously overlooked, gets to be with a man who just worships her. I’m very proud of that scene and so proud of Nicola and Luke for their performances.

We talked about Cressida’s journey in part one and how she’s grown. In part two, she takes a few steps back and spirals a bit. First, when she claims that she’s Lady Whistledown, and then again when she finds out Penelope is actually the gossip columnist and blackmails her. Why take her down this path?

We saw new depths from Cressida (Jessica Madsen) this season, but she’s still an imperfect character in many ways. But more importantly, she’s a character who’s under a significant amount of pressure and in a difficult situation. And so, my hope is that even though she does some things in the back half that people might not agree with, now that we understand what her circumstances are, we can sympathize with her and empathize with her and understand why she does the thing she does. I’m hopeful that this is not the end of Cressida’s story. And, if I have my say in it, we’ll be seeing more of Cressida.

Jessica Madsen as Cressida Cowper.

Liam Daniel/Netflix

Why don’t Cressida and Lord Debling end up together? There was some interest there from him originally, before he started courting Pen.

We did talk about getting them together in the end, but if they got together then that’s sort of the end of Cressida as a character, because she would have gotten her happy ending. There’s more we could do with her, but her and Debling (Sam Phillips) would be not as connected to the main story and frankly, we we want to see more from Cressida. We want to see more from Jessica Madsen. So we wanted to leave her story a little bit more open-ended so that we can craft an ending for her in future seasons.

At the end of episode six, Colin finds out that Penelope is Whistledown. What were the conversations surrounding how you all wanted him to react?

Well, Colin is such a lover boy, as he reveals in part two. He may have been pretending to be a cool, tough guy in the first half, but I think we all know that that’s not really who Colin is. And so I think for Colin, the fact that he has given so much of himself to Penelope and shown her so much unconditional love and been really truthful about his feelings, it hits extra hard that she’s been keeping a secret from him. Obviously, it would have been better for Pen to tell him herself, and I think she was working up to it, but dramatically, it felt like it brought out a lot of possibilities for us to have Colin find out just as she had been wrestling with telling him or not.

Pen was willing to give up Whistledown for Colin, even though it was so close to her heart. Talk to me a little bit about that.

She decides to give up Whistledown in the middle of episode six, but she’s really wrestling with it. She never really makes peace with that decision. And then when the Cressida-Whistledown thing comes out, I think if that hadn’t happened, she would have found some other excuse to get it back. I think there’s more to do with Whistledown. She knows she wants to have another chapter where she can use her plan in a more righteous way.

Ruth Gemmell as Lady Violet Bridgerton with Nicola Coughlan as Penelope Featherington.

Liam Daniel/Netflix

You touched on this a little bit, but why do you think it hit Colin so hard?

There’s a couple things at play. Colin has been searching for purpose for so long and he finally discovered that he likes to write, and he’s been talking to Penelope about it. Meanwhile, she’s this hugely successful, prolific writer, and I think it makes him feel a little bit foolish. In a larger way, I also think that Colin’s story is about being the third sibling who no one takes seriously. So, just the fact that he was about to marry this woman, who’s keeping this giant secret from him, it reinforces for him, “Oh, yeah, I am a fool.” All of that masculine projection he did in the front half was all about him trying to not feel like a fool anymore. And here he is with the person who’s always accepted him exactly as he is making him feel like a fool. So I think all of that is in the stew, as well as the fact that he’s right to feel upset about the fact that she lied.

Meanwhile, while Pen and Colin are on the outs, Benedict (Luke Thompson) is out here having threesomes.

Benedict’s sexual identity is not a fixed belief for him. In modern terms, he might be described as pansexual, someone for whom gender doesn’t really matter. We’ve talked a lot about Benedict’s fluidity since season one, and I know that it’s something that people picked up on, and it’s something that we wanted to make a stance on and make clear about the character. Because I do think that he’s a character who would naturally be more about connection than he would be about gender. And in a bigger way, I think the threesome, or throuple, storyline for Benedict is about him learning to embrace his true self in the same way that Pen and Colin are embracing their true selves. Benedict has always been an unconventional character who lives a little bit outside of society in terms of his comfort. And so this season, Tilley (Hannah New) is really helping him embrace who he really is and is teaching him how to own that and that’s something that will carry forward for Benedict in future seasons.

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What can you tell us about what might be next for Benedict?

I think we’re going to continue on the storyline of Benedict learning exactly how he wants to exist in the world. There’s a moment towards the end of the season where Benedict is talking to Tilley about how he doesn’t want anything serious, and Tilly, in a very powerful way, says to him, “That’s OK, but it was really nice to want something for once.” And there’s a look on Benedict’s face that I think Luke Thompson delivers really beautifully, where you can tell that that hits him in a deep way. I think Benedict is someone who experiences a lot of breaths in his life in terms of a million different experiences, but he’s never really committed to anything. I think what he’s starting to realize is that he also craves depth, and so Benedict reconciling breadth with depth is something we’re going to dive into pretty deeply in future seasons.

Luke Thompson as Benedict Bridgerton.

Liam Daniel/Netflix

Toward the end of part two, Eloise reveals that she wants to move to Scotland with Francesca. Will we get to see some of their life together outside of the ‘Ton in the future?

Potentially. Eloise is in a tough position because she’s so different from all of the other young ladies in the ‘Ton, and I think it’s difficult for her to figure out her path in life. And so we’re continuing that. Going into season four, she’s going to be on that journey, and there’s more to come.

Also in the final moments of part two you introduced Michaela Stirling (Masali Baduza). For those familiar with the books that name might sound familiar: Michael Sterling ends up becoming Francesca’s second husband. Are you setting up a potential first same-sex relationship for Bridgerton with her introduction?


Many people thought that Eloise might be the first Bridgerton to be interested in someone who is not a man. Why do you think Francesca was the right person to start that with instead?

I absolutely understand why people have thought that about Eloise. When we talked about it in the room, we felt like it was powerful actually that Eloise’s resistance to romance isn’t about her not having discovered the right gender so much as it is an authentic representation of the fact that she’s more interested in cerebral pursuits at this stage of her life. I wanted to hold space for that because not every young woman is solely interested in romance. That’s not to say that Eloise won’t open up to love in the future, but for now, that’s I think, where she’s at.

The first time I read Francesca’s book, I really related to it as a queer woman. Her book is a lot about how she feels different from her family and from people in society. For some of us, that is a part of the queer experience, not for everyone but for a lot of queer people. It was important to me in creating a queer character not to just drop in a queer character to check a box but to actually tell a story about the queer experience and what it feels like to be queer. So, it felt like Francesca’s book was actually a really clean one to adapt, and we do plan on following the book pretty closely. There will have to be some changes but not major. I think we can honor a lot of what’s in the book. Also, we have examples from history of women like Francesca, who have been able to sort out a kind of happy ending, and it was really important to me to be able to tell a story that ends in queer joy. So that’s something that we plan to lead with when we do end up telling Francesca and Michaela’s story.

Victor Alli as John Stirling and Hannah Dodd as Francesca Bridgerton.

Liam Daniel/Netflix

In the books, there’s a two-year difference between when Francesca’s husband dies and when she starts her relationship with Michael. Is that something you are exploring in season four? What else can you tease about next season?

There will definitely be a time jump at some point. I can’t say if it’s in season four or not, but yes, there will be a time jump. I mean, we also really want to honor John and Francesca’s relationship, which although we are telling a queer story with Francesca, I don’t think that that negates her genuine connection with John. I know a lot of people have really fallen for that relationship, and we in the room really cared deeply about that relationship and about their connection. I think hopefully, it’s a lovely statement on the fact that relationships based in companionship, respect, friendship, trust and shared interests are just as valid as relationships that are super passionate. Both have value, and neither negates the other. So we’re absolutely not denying the connection that Fran and John have, and when we tell the Francesca and Michaela story, we would definitely want there to be a time jump to give Francesca some time to earnestly mourn what she had with John.

Bridgerton season three is now streaming on Netflix.

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