Bridgerton’s Colin And Penelope Are The Ultimate Beta Romantic Leads – That’s Why We Love Them

We’re rooting for this Bridgerton couple like never before – here’s why…


by Rebecca Holman |
Published on

Three seasons in and it’s clear that our love affair with Bridgerton is going nowhere. But after two turns watching the hot alpha male ultimately win the hand of the season’s diamond, this season’s big romance between Penelope and Colin (obviously dubbed Polin) hits differently. For one thing, neither Colin nor Penelope exhibit the kind of main character energy we’ve come to expect from big budget event TV. They both spent the first two seasons as the underdogs - Penelope a bookish wallflower overlooked by her domineering mother and obnoxious sisters, while Colin was the unlucky-in-love third brother, never able to match his older brother’s swagger and easy charm.

Admittedly, both characters have had something of a glow up this season. Colin returns from his tour of Europe with a natty wardrobe of suede jackets and open-neck shirts and a newly soulful demeanour (a bit like the quietest guy in your A Level class returning to your hometown after his gap year with a tan, a PADI qualification and fairly proficient Spanish). Penelope, determined to find a husband and escape her mother’s house once and for all, ditches the Featherington’s trademark citrus outfits for a new sexy wardrobe and a French-inspired hairstyle.

There’s nothing tepid about the pair’s romance as they realise their friendship is developing into a fiery passion and deep love. They smoulder and burn for each other with an intensity that matches the Duke of Hasting’s hottest entreats to Daphne - but they do it for each other - not a ballroom full of watchful mamas and gossip-hungry queen (although obviously Colin’s mum realises what’s going on before he does; she sees everything). Ultimately, Colin and Penelope are Betas, and the show is better for it.

We are used to seeing certain formulas play out on screen - two Alphas battle it out to win each other’s hearts, or else a bookish but beautiful young woman is bought out of her shell by the leading man determined to win her heart. When we do see two underdogs find love with each other, they’re mostly supporting characters, often written for lols. Not so here.

Even their sex scenes exist as a refreshing change from the norm, with Nicola Coughlan who plays Penelope explaining in a recent interview that one scene where she was ‘very naked on camera’ was designed to be the ‘biggest f*** you’ to all of the ‘conversation surrounding my body’ online.’ I felt beautiful in the moment, and I thought, ‘When I’m 80, I want to look back on this and remember how f***ing hot I looked.’ She does look f***ing hot and the sex scenes are as sexy as we’d expect from Bridgerton, but they don’t follow the usual Hollywood playbook. (As an aside, the fact that the very average-sized Coughlan has to even consider comments about her body is depressing in itself).

It's interesting to note that with Polin’s romance, the showrunners have deviated from the books and jumped ahead with their romance (originally they don’t get together until the fourth book, when she’s 28 and he is 33, whereas she’s probably about 19 in season three). It was a smart choice - their slow-burn friendship from season one captured our imaginations and watching it play out now makes for compelling viewing. And fundamentally, we love to root for an underdog – the best punch-in-the-air moments on TV are where the wallflower we’ve been rooting for suddenly finds their voice and has their moment, and season three of Bridgerton delivers this in the best possible way.

It doesn’t hurt that in Coughlan we see much of the same relatability that we see in Penelope. From her self-proclaimed ‘fuck you’ to the body haters out there, to her admission that, aged 37, she’s been advised in the past to lie about her age to get roles (mirrored by Penelope’s fear that, aged 19, she’s heading for spinsterhood), both Coughlan and Penelope are the reminder we all needed that you don’t need to be a 5ft 10 size 6, you don’t need to be 25 and you don’t need to be the loudest person in the room to survive, thrive and ultimately come out on top.

Penelope and Colin are the best kind of Betas in a world of Main Character Energy. And the show is sexier, richer and more relatable for it. We root for Polin in a way never did Anthony Bridgerton or the Duke of Hastings – as handsome and troubled as they were. Watching a man who’s won at everything in life win again was never going to be as satisfying as watching two people who weren’t sure if they were ever going to find happiness – or in Penelope’s case, a way out of her mother’s house – set out on the path to true love, is something special.

Quiet Girls Can Run the World: The beta woman's handbook to the modern workplace by Rebecca Holman is out now.

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