The sexy sex is back in 'Bridgerton' season 3 : Pop Culture Happy Hour The Netflix series Bridgerton is back, as gossipy and over-the-top as ever. Penelope Featherington (Nicola Coughlan) and her crush on childhood best friend Colin Bridgerton (Luke Newton) take center-stage. When Penelope is determined to find a husband, Colin wants to help her and they start spending extra time together. But where will this lead? Well, you know the answer to that. It's all about the journey, and the clothes, and the nudity, and obviously, the Queen's hair.

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The sexy sex is back in 'Bridgerton' season 3

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(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

LINDA HOLMES, HOST:

"Bridgerton" is back as gossipy and over the top as ever. In the third season, Penelope Featherington's long-standing crush on her friend, Colin Bridgerton, takes center stage as she tries to find a husband to save her from her terrible family. Colin wants to help her - just help her - and that's why they start spending extra time together. But where will this lead? Well, you know, the answer to that. It's all about the journey and the clothes and the nudity, and obviously the queen's hair. I'm Linda Holmes, and today we're talking about the Netflix series "Bridgerton" on NPR's POP CULTURE HAPPY HOUR.

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HOLMES: Joining me today is the co-creator and host of the NPR podcast Wild Card, Rachel Martin. Finally. Welcome to the show, Rachel.

RACHEL MARTIN, BYLINE: Aw, I'm so happy to be here. Thanks, Linda.

HOLMES: Also with us is Kristen Meinzer. She co-hosts the "Daily Fail," a podcast that does comedic close readings of the tabloids. Hey, Kristen.

KRISTEN MEINZER: Hey, Linda. Always happy to be here.

HOLMES: And rounding up the panel is New York Times food writer and author of the bestselling cookbook "Indian-ish," Priya Krishna. Hey, Priya.

PRIYA KRISHNA: So happy to see you, Linda.

HOLMES: The third season of "Bridgerton" is being split into two parts. The first half is now out on Netflix, and the second half will be out in June. Of the eight Bridgerton children, Daphne and Anthony have already had their seasons, and now we move on to Colin, played by Luke Newton. He has long been friends with Penelope Featherington, played by Nicola Coughlan, and she's been pining for him for years, but he's only seen her as a friend.

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NICOLA COUGHLAN: (As Penelope Featherington) You've sworn off women, then?

LUKE NEWTON: (As Colin Bridgerton) Well, for the time being.

COUGHLAN: (As Penelope Featherington) I am a woman.

NEWTON: (As Colin Bridgerton) You are Pen. You do not count.

HOLMES: What a thing to say. This season, he returns from a tour of Europe brimming with newfound confidence, and to make it up to Penelope that he hurt her feelings last season, he decides to help her find a husband.

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NEWTON: (As Colin Bridgerton) Let me help you.

COUGHLAN: (As Penelope Featherington) Help me how?

NEWTON: (As Colin Bridgerton) I was in 17 cities this summer and what I have learned is that charm can be taught.

HOLMES: So if you're keeping score in terms of romance tropes, the first season was fake relationship, the second was enemies to lovers. This is friends to lovers. Of course, there are a whole bunch of side plots, including Colin's sister, Francesca, joining the marriage market and Penelope's mother scheming, as always, to hold on to her wealth by any means necessary. I'm going to start with you, Priya. How did you feel about these four episodes, this first half of the Colin and Penelope season?

KRISHNA: You know what? I love "Bridgerton" because it does not try to be anything more than what it is, which is a fun, frothy, escapist, horny television show about romance. And I thought that this season was wonderful. I loved these first four episodes. I love Colin and Penelope. Do I think they have, like, the same magnetic chemistry as the other two couples we've seen in previous seasons? No, but I love them as characters anyways. I love watching them. I love this storyline.

And I think just, like, most importantly, what this show shows and what I think Shonda Rhimes does so brilliantly is showing the entertainment industry that amidst all these conversations we're having about normalizing diversity in television and will an Indian lead get viewership; will a Black lead get viewership, she's showing that it is not that hard to have diverse casts and to produce a show that is spectacular and timely and of a period. I just, like, overall, just really, really appreciate the show for that alone, even beyond the fun frothiness of it.

HOLMES: Yeah. How about you, Rachel? What did you think?

MARTIN: Oh, same. I've just bought into the "Bridgerton" world. I don't have any issue with historical accuracy. I just want to be in that world. I want to live there. I want to hang out with those people. And I desperately wanted Penelope to fall in love. I mean, we were all set up for this, right? Like, we knew it was going to happen.

I don't know if I - if it was going to happen this soon. I don't know if I was emotionally prepared for it to happen this quickly. I exhaled after we know that these feelings are reciprocated and this beautiful childhood friendship has evolved to this romantic place. I could have dwelt in the in between a little longer and had that tension kind of play out over time or maybe some more episodes. But overall, I adored it. I love the color. I love the music. I love the texture. I love the dialogue, as ridiculous as it is sometimes.

MEINZER: Same.

MARTIN: So ridiculous. And yet I want more. And I just thought Nicola Coughlan just came into her own, and she popped on the screen. She inhabited that character in new ways. And I was along for the ride. I was all-in.

HOLMES: All right, that's awesome. How about you, Kristen?

MEINZER: Wow. Full disclosure - I love the "Bridgerton" world, as well. So we're dealing with three people here who love the "Bridgerton" world. Yes, I did attend the "Bridgerton" ball last year.

MARTIN: Whoa.

MEINZER: I have consumed all things "Bridgerton", except for the books. I love this stuff. And I especially love Penny. And I love both of her big, deep relationships this season. She has, of course, the one with Colin, her friend turned love, and she has the one with Eloise, her BFF, who she's currently on the outs with. And I feel like the show did such a beautiful job of exploring the longing of both of those relationships, the pain, the feeling of not being able to bring your full self to the table.

And it was really beautifully done. I held my heart every time she was in a scene with either Eloise or with Colin. I was so into it. Unfortunately, I feel like some of the side plots were a little bit less interesting this season. I - whenever we got away from Penelope or from Colin or from Eloise, I was less interested. But what's happening with all three of those characters this season, anytime they were focused on, I was obsessed. I loved it.

HOLMES: Yeah. It does - I do think the show sprawls a little bit this season in terms of, like, there's -Colin's sister Francesca is on the marriage market, even though it's not, like, her main season.

KRISHNA: Don't care.

MEINZER: Nobody cares.

HOLMES: No one cares about Francesca. Aw.

MEINZER: Didn't even remember Francesca existed until this season.

KRISHNA: Yeah (laughter).

MARTIN: Wait, same. I was like, where did you come from?

HOLMES: And there's a thing that goes on with Benedict, one of the brothers, where you always feel like they're, like, maybe sneaking up on saying something about him, maybe about his sexuality, but they don't. I love Penelope - right? - as I think we all do. I love Nicola Coughlan. I think I feel somewhat protective of her because she is this kind of, you know, wallflower character. She's what you might call the plus-size character, which, again, as Priya was saying, is really an element of diversity in casting that almost never is included. Body type is almost never included when people talk about those kinds of things.

So I love her. And what I took away from this is like, do I think he's good enough for her? Or would I rather she was swept off her feet by someone who maybe appreciated her more from the beginning? Because when you come into this season, the feeling that he seems to have toward her - first of all, she's unhappy with him because she overheard him saying that he would never court her.

BERT SEYMOUR: (As Lord Fife) You're courting the girl, Bridgerton.

NEWTON: (As Colin Bridgerton) Ah, are you mad? I would never dream of courting Penelope Featherington, not in your wildest fantasies, Fife.

HOLMES: But he comes into this season with a certain amount of almost, like, pity for her. And there's a moment...

KRISHNA: Yeah.

HOLMES: ...Where she kind of asks him to act out of pity for her...

KRISHNA: Yes.

HOLMES: ...Which I really did not like. I think pity is a particularly difficult emotion to pivot into a romance.

MEINZER: Pity's not sexy, either.

HOLMES: Pity's not sexy. I don't think they necessarily give you enough umph of him making that turn. They try to do it in kind of a couple of big moments. And then they do it through - unsurprisingly, as he helps her try to find a husband, other men take an interest in her. He sort of - his eyebrows go up. But now you're talking about jealousy, right?

KRISHNA: Yeah.

HOLMES: ...Almost, like, possessiveness of someone who's always given him all her attention. And it's like, I don't know if I'm getting there. I want to get there with them. I think he's lovely, and I don't think it's a problem with the performance. I didn't read the book, but I kind of paged through the book. And you get a lot more of his kind of growing feelings in the book. I didn't really believe that he had gotten there the way I wanted for her.

MARTIN: There was a moment - right? - when Pen is in his study. She's in Colin's study, and she finds herself glancing down at his diary. She sort of gets in trouble for this, and blah, blah, blah. But she compliments him on his writing. She was like, it's very well written. And in that moment, I was like, oh, maybe they're foreshadowing that he is also going to appreciate this kind of cerebral element in her. Like, at some point, he's going to appreciate her as more than just his friend but as this talent, as this really creative and excellent writer because I, too, Linda, felt like - I mean, I'm all in, right? Like, I want him to fall in love, but was it believable? Was it a very hard pivot? Absolutely. I mean, and we haven't even gotten to the part of the proposal, which was like, what? Hello. Like, that happened real quick.

KRISHNA: One thing that I loved about Season 1 was how much they made us, like, wait for the sexy stuff. Like, they really drew it out to the point where, like, by the time they get married, we're, like, begging for it.

MEINZER: Second season, too. They made you wait.

KRISHNA: And also, that second season, they really made you wait. Like, I literally - and I was so drawn in. And it was almost as though this season, they were like, we don't want them to have to wait for the sexy stuff. Let's give them the sexy stuff early. And to me, it was at the expense of the storyline.

HOLMES: Yeah.

MEINZER: I was ready for some sexy stuff.

HOLMES: Oh, go, Kristen.

KRISHNA: (Laughter).

MEINZER: Frankly, I was so angry with last season. The Kate-Anthony storyline was so antagonistic. It felt like I was trapped in a car while mom and dad were fighting for 8 hours. It did not feel sexy to me last season.

HOLMES: Yeah.

MEINZER: And so I just felt it was long overdue. Like, bring on the sex.

MARTIN: (Laughter).

MEINZER: I did not enjoy the fact that the first couple of times we see Colin in sexy scenes, he's essentially being pleasured by two other women, which...

HOLMES: Yeah.

MEINZER: ...I yelled at the TV, "Bridgerton," you know, that's not why we're here.

KRISHNA: You know better.

HOLMES: Yeah.

MEINZER: Yes. You should know better. This is not what we want. But then when he and Penny get sexy, what I really liked about that - we got to see him pleasing her. It was about her pleasure. And that was a big switch because those scenes with those other women - they are just to please him.

HOLMES: Yeah.

MEINZER: He's essentially paying these women to please him, to perform for him and so on. And so by the time we see him make that switch and he's actually there to please Penny, I was like, yes. I needed this.

HOLMES: You know, the other thing that they do, I think, to try to kind of tide you over until you get to the sexy part is they bring back Anthony and Kate, who were the couple from last season. And, of course, they're all married now. So they're still on the scene in those first couple episodes. And you get a couple of, like, sexy scenes with them, which they couldn't do in the second season with the first season 'cause they didn't have access to the cast. I agree with you, Kristen. In some ways, I find her relationship with Eloise to be the most compelling love story that this season is really telling.

KRISHNA: Yes.

HOLMES: For all that the love stories on this show can be pretty on rails, which is fine. That's what the genre is, right? I think that friendship has had some interesting turns. And there's a - there is a real tension because Eloise did discover - and I - you know, we're spoiling everything. But, you know, Eloise did discover that Penelope was Lady Whistledown. And Penelope made perhaps some errors in her inhabiting of that identity. And Eloise is maybe justifiably hurt and maybe justifiably suspicious and concerned.

And so I think that friendship, which has always been super, super genuine - and, you know, in some ways, it's more compelling to me to see a friendship that started off as clearly supportive and loving broken, as opposed to a friendship that was kind of based around Penelope's adoration of Colin and his sort of, oh, she's a nice girl. Like...

KRISHNA: Yeah.

HOLMES: The stakes are not as high to me. I think I love the friendship story the best.

KRISHNA: I think it is by far the most, like, narratively rich and interesting part of "Bridgerton." And I love that it's taking center stage. I love those two actors. I love - think their chemistry as friends is amazing.

MEINZER: Yeah. And I wasn't mad about Eloise's new friendship with Cressida, who was kind of villainous in past seasons.

MARTIN: Oh, I'm mad, Kristen.

MEINZER: Rachel's mad. Well, I'd love to hear why Rachel is mad...

KRISHNA: (Laughter).

MEINZER: But I initially was like, why are you hanging out with this terrible person who's trying to undermine everyone? But I felt that the show gave some backstory and some depth to Cressida this season and made her more human and less, like, twirling-the-mustache villain, like she was in the past. I thought that they did a better job with Cressida than they did with a lot of the other side characters, frankly. I think that it was an interesting contrast to what Penelope and Eloise had. So I came around to that friendship. But, Rachel, I'd love to hear why you hate it so much.

KRISHNA: (Laughter).

MARTIN: I did appreciate Cressida's backstory. Cressida is a person in the world, too, with a complicated family...

KRISHNA: (Laughter).

MARTIN: ...And a set of expectations...

MEINZER: (Laughter).

MARTIN: ...That are weighing on her. And, you know, she hasn't said it out loud like Penelope has, but she wants her freedom, too. And that, for those women in that time period, comes through marriage, which seems very bizarre. But that's her path out of this dysfunctional family. OK. I get it, Kristen...

MEINZER: (Laughter).

MARTIN: But I didn't buy the turn for Eloise. Like, I'm like, really? How do you have anything in common with this young lady? Like, if you're a person who had this intellectually rich, emotionally deep best friendship...

KRISHNA: Yeah.

MARTIN: ...With Pen, they didn't do a good enough job of teasing out what connects them.

MEINZER: They are both seen as abrasive within the ton, and I think that's the only thing they really had in common, right?

MARTIN: Right. Yeah, that's true.

HOLMES: Well, and - I think they want you to take away from it that Eloise doesn't have that many choices because she's being sort of...

KRISHNA: Yeah. She's - this is...

MEINZER: Yeah.

KRISHNA: ...Like, her last resort.

MEINZER: Exactly.

HOLMES: And I think she's found, like, this little window into this group of women. And you can kind of see how it - how difficult it is for her to make conversation with them. There are some funny scenes of Eloise kind of trying to make conversation about husbands and embroidery and other...

MEINZER: (Laughter).

HOLMES: ...Things and really struggling...

KRISHNA: Yeah.

HOLMES: ...With how little she has in common with them. But I agree. I was like, would she really become besties with Cressida? I don't know about that.

MARTIN: Although, I will say Cressida's hair rivals the queen's this season.

HOLMES: Oh, absolutely.

MARTIN: It is amazing.

HOLMES: Yes.

KRISHNA: The hair generally this season is amazing. That scene where Queen Charlotte has a wig, and there's, like, a whole setting...

HOLMES: Just, like, a little diorama...

KRISHNA: ...Like, a scene...

HOLMES: ...In it.

KRISHNA: ...In the wig.

MEINZER: Yeah.

KRISHNA: Yeah (laughter).

MEINZER: There's, like, a merry-go-round of swans.

KRISHNA: Yeah (laughter).

MEINZER: Yes. Yeah.

HOLMES: It's interesting 'cause it did make me appreciate - I don't know if you guys all watched "Queen Charlotte." I did. But...

MEINZER: Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

MEINZER: Oh, yes. Of course.

KRISHNA: Yeah.

HOLMES: It has made me appreciate the character of the queen in a new way and the character of Lady Danbury. I do just always - when you see those women kind of come on, it's always like, oh, this is going to be fun 'cause I appreciate the...

KRISHNA: Yes.

MEINZER: (Laughter).

HOLMES: I appreciate the opportunity to watch those women work and, you know, to have multiple characters who are what television would consider older women, who all have very fresh, you know, lives and stories.

MARTIN: I will say that even though the side plots - I agree, the side plots to the season aren't as exciting. But the thing I love about Lady Danbury and the queen and this new character, Lady Tilley Arnold, who's playing around with Benedict...

HOLMES: Yes.

MARTIN: ...Played by Hannah New - it's women who don't have men in their lives centrally. It's, like, the power of the widow or the woman who has stepped into her power in a completely new way. And I get that every time Lady Danbury is on screen. And, like, that one scene - she's smoking her cigarette before she finds out her brother's coming, and I'm just like, oh.

HOLMES: She's, like, the most elegant person...

MEINZER: Yes.

HOLMES: ...On television, probably.

MARTIN: I love showcasing women in that place.

HOLMES: And it makes an interesting counterpoint to the fact that sort of the entire point of the show is this marriage market and this idea that to get married is the highest purpose of everyone...

MARTIN: Right.

HOLMES: ...In the world.

(LAUGHTER)

HOLMES: And the hopelessness of life without getting married. And I - there's part of me that's like, you know, are they going to eventually make it that, like, Eloise doesn't need to get married? And I'm like, no, they're not going to do that.

(LAUGHTER)

HOLMES: It's "Bridgerton." They're not going to do that.

MEINZER: But isn't the ultimate power, then - the lesson from the show - the ultimate power is to be widowed, actually?

(LAUGHTER)

MEINZER: Got to get married to get widowed.

MARTIN: Just outlive them.

MEINZER: (Laughter).

HOLMES: Kind of true. I don't want to make it sound like I don't like the season. I just want the best for Penelope.

KRISHNA: Yeah.

HOLMES: They've sort of hinted around - you know, that Colin can write. I kind of would like to believe that Colin has hobbies and is...

(LAUGHTER)

HOLMES: ...Something besides handsome man. I want some character. I want some person because he's certainly handsome. And honestly, that is a problem in a lot of romances.

MARTIN: Did you feel, though, Linda - like, Anthony, I felt was well drawn. I got a...

HOLMES: Yes.

MARTIN: ...Sense of him, and there was tension and the legacy of his dad and...

HOLMES: I think both of the other men were better drawn...

MARTIN: Yeah.

HOLMES: ...Than Colin is.

KRISHNA: Definitely.

MARTIN: Yum, Simon.

MEINZER: (Laughter).

HOLMES: And I just think that's partly because of the way that the relationships are built. It does begin with this kind of soft friendship/unrequited love situation, which doesn't set him up to necessarily be anything other than kind of this object of her longing. So it's not his fault. I don't know. Maybe - I may be just being ungenerous to this 'cause I'm entirely too protective of Penelope, but...

MARTIN: Maybe he's just, like, a forgotten middle child that everybody just forgot to draw out.

HOLMES: It's true. It's very possible.

MARTIN: (Laughter).

HOLMES: And if they can kind of play up, like, that he does have that creative side, and that, like, you know, is he going to appreciate the fact that she's a bookworm and finally endorse her heavy reading habits and stuff like that?

MEINZER: (Laughter).

KRISHNA: Although, I will - I do appreciate that for what it's worth, at the beginning of every season, they're like, OK, we're going to take this one character. And we're going to give them, like, a little bit of a glow up. And now - that they, like, really leaned into it. Like, if you see Anthony Season 1 versus...

MARTIN: Yeah.

HOLMES: Yeah.

KRISHNA: ...Season 2, it's like shocking.

HOLMES: Yeah.

KRISHNA: And I think they were like, oh, we're going to, like, fully lean into that this season.

MEINZER: Yeah. Let's make sure that his first few minutes on screen he just gratuitously doesn't have a shirt on.

MARTIN: Yeah.

HOLMES: Yeah. And I learned from our wonderful producer, Hafsa Fathima, that in the book, Penelope loses a bunch of weight.

MEINZER: No.

HOLMES: And I am glad that they left that alone.

KRISHNA: Yeah.

HOLMES: Her glow up has a lot to do with styling. If you...

MEINZER: Yes.

HOLMES: ...Look at the styling of Penelope in the first season, it's oof.

KRISHNA: Yeah.

HOLMES: And to tell you the truth, the styling has gotten sort of more elegant and less fussy, I think, overall than the first season, if you go back and look at it. But Penelope, in particular, was being styled in this very - like, tight little curls...

MARTIN: Yeah.

HOLMES: And...

MARTIN: Cartoonish. Yeah.

HOLMES: ...Fussy dresses and the bright-green color that the mom liked. So her glow up - I do appreciate the fact that it comes in the...

KRISHNA: Yep.

HOLMES: ...Form of styling. She looks fantastic.

KRISHNA: Yeah.

HOLMES: She's flattered by the way these dresses fit.

MEINZER: Yeah.

HOLMES: Like, her...

KRISHNA: Yeah.

HOLMES: ...Particular body is flattered by the way these dresses fit. And they lean into it instead of doing anything that would...

KRISHNA: Yep.

HOLMES: ...Suggest there's anything wrong with the way...

MEINZER: No.

HOLMES: ...She looks. They treat her as being just as beautiful as the other women are treated when they come out having had their glow up. And I think it's wonderful. She's wonderful.

MARTIN: There are some beautiful close-up shots of her. Like, there's one...

HOLMES: Yeah.

MARTIN: She's laying on the bed. I can't remember if she's bereft or inspired or whatever, but it's a big close-up shot of her, and it's gorgeous. And it - just heaving bosom and the same thing they would have done with anyone else, right?

HOLMES: Yeah. I appreciate the worshipping of her particular beauty as much as anybody else's. It made me very happy. I'm just too protective of Penelope.

MARTIN: (Laughter).

MEINZER: We all want the best for Penelope. We all love her and want the best. And...

MARTIN: Right.

HOLMES: All I want...

MARTIN: Yeah.

HOLMES: ...Is the best for Penelope.

MEINZER: (Laughter).

HOLMES: All right. Well, we will be talking about the second half of the "Bridgerton" season in June, so make sure to look out for that episode. I can't wait to see all these folks again. And we want to know what you think about the first half of the "Bridgerton" season. Find us at facebook.com/pchh. That brings us to the end of our show. Rachel Martin, Kristen Meinzer, Priya Krishna, thanks so much for being here.

MARTIN: Thank you.

MEINZER: Thank you.

KRISHNA: Thank you.

HOLMES: We want to take a moment to thank our POP CULTURE HAPPY HOUR+ subscribers. We appreciate you so much for showing your support of NPR. If you haven't signed up yet, you want to show your support and you'd like to listen to this show without any sponsor breaks, head over to plus.npr.org/happyhour or visit the link in our show notes.

This episode is produced by Hafsa Fathima and edited by Jessica Reedy, and Hello Come In provides our theme music. Thank you for listening to POP CULTURE HAPPY HOUR from NPR. I'm Linda Holmes, and we'll see you all tomorrow.

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