How 'Bridgerton' Season 3 Brought That Climactic Carriage Scene ...

28 days ago
Bridgerton season 3

Warning, gentle reader: Spicy spoilers ahead for Bridgerton season three, as well as plot points from the novels.

There comes a moment in Bridgerton season three where our resident leading man proclaims his love in utterly swoonworthy fashion. Viewers know how this works. In season one, Regé-Jean Page’s Simon tells Phoebe Dynevor’s Daphne that he “burns” for her. The second season has Anthony Bridgerton (Jonathan Bailey) confess to Kate Sharma (Simone Ashley) that she is both “the bane of my existence, and the object of all my desires.” A similarly charged moment arrives in the final 10 minutes of Bridgerton season three, which is debuting in two parts. The second half arrives June 13.

After two seasons of pining from Nicola Coughlan’s Penelope Featherington and two episodes’ worth of longing stares back from Luke Newton’s Colin Bridgerton, the childhood friends finally bring their romantic feelings out of the shadows during a tension-filled carriage ride in episode four, aptly titled “Old Friends.”

Fans of Romancing Mister Bridgerton, the Julia Quinn novel on which this season is based, are more than familiar with the steamy places this encounter leads. On TikTok, the topic “Colin Bridgerton carriage scene” already had more than 41.7 million posts before season three had even premiered. In March, after Coughlan first watched the scene, she let the world know by posting, “You’ll never guess what I’ve just seen…” alongside a tiny carriage emoji. The tease stirred up a fevered fan reaction, as did prerelease soundbites in which Newton and Coughlan were asked to provide one-word reactions to the word carriage itself. He chose “intimate,” while she went with some good old-fashioned “rocking.”

In both the book and show, Colin and Penelope’s carriage ride begins as a heated confrontation, but ends with a marriage proposal. The lovers find themselves “completely misbehaving,” in between, as Quinn writes in pages 223 to 249, FYI. On the show, after Penelope tells Colin that Lord Debling (Sam Phillips) did not propose to her at that evening’s ball, he kneels before her with a look of desperation. Then comes Colin’s season-defining declaration: “These past few weeks have been full of confounding feelings, feelings like a total inability to stop thinking about you, about that kiss. Feelings like dreaming of you when I’m asleep, and in fact preferring sleep because that is where I might find you. A feeling that is like torture. But one which I cannot, will not, do not want to give up.” A shocked Penelope then makes a heated confession of her own: “I’d very much like to be more than friends. So much more.” They passionately kiss, which leads to a rush of other amorous activities, perhaps best described in the book this way: “Something clenched inside Penelope, deep inside of her, in places that were never talked about.”

Coughlan tells Vanity Fair that she first became aware of this pivotal scene nearly five years ago, when she first read Quinn’s novel. “It stuck out to me because I’d never read a romance novel,” she says. “I was like, Oh, this is really steamy. Like, whoa. I laughed thinking about, Imagine me filming this one day. LOL, could never be me.” But once showrunner Jess Brownell confirmed in a Zoom with Coughlan and Newton that the scene would be included on the series, the actors began preparing for the shoot.

“It feels crazy being allowed to talk about it now,” Coughlan says while recording an episode of VF’s Still Watching podcast. “But I think that scene encapsulates everything that’s wonderful about Bridgerton. It’s got the suspense, it’s got the miscommunication, the heartfelt longing for one another, the profession of love, and then it’s got the sexiness. It’s got this brilliant pace.”

Newton echoes Coughlan’s adoration. “If you wanted to show someone that had never seen the show before the essence of everything that [it] represents, you really could just put that one scene there,” he says. “It’s his romantic confession of love, but then he’s insecure because he doesn’t get the initial response that he [expects]. Then it’s sexy, then it’s romantic, but then they laugh—all in the space of five minutes. It’s just so beautifully written.”

By the time he and Coughlan filmed the scene, everyone knew how momentous it would be. “There was a different energy on set that day,” says Newton. Make that over the course of three days, which is how long it took to complete the sequence. “We were locked in a carriage together with cameras outside. So it felt kind of real. It did feel intimate. It’s very honest,” says Newton. (They were so immersed, in fact, that during one take Coughlan and Newton apparently didn’t hear the director yell cut.)

Nicola Coughlan as Penelope Featherington and Luke Newton as Colin in Bridgerton.LIAM DANIEL/NETFLIX

At one point during their coupling, Penelope gives Colin a heated nod, granting him permission to move his hand beneath her skirts. It was an important moment of consent for Coughlan. “Because she’s also desired him for so long,” she tells VF. “We realize later on, she doesn’t know about sex fully, but she’s aware of her body and where she wants him to touch her.” She adds, “It’s lovely because it’s so easy to see virgins on TV portrayed in a way that they’re like terrified and have no agency, but that’s not the case. The consent is managed so beautifully, and that’s down to the writing and the brilliant Lizzy Talbot, the intimacy coordinator, because we want it to seem like it’s not teacher-student anymore. We’re in this together. It’s the first time that they completely see each other and they’re on a level and it’s like, Let’s go.”

The scene is also propelled by something of a surprising needle drop. “You know, that was my choice,” says showrunner Jess Brownell. “I didn’t pick a lot of the songs, but I weirdly picked the Pitbull song. I never thought I would pick a Pitbull song for a sexy moment, but the build of it just works perfectly.”

Mr. Worldwide’s 2011 hit, “Give Me Everything,” was not written in the script, but chosen after music supervisor Justin Kamps sent Brownell playlists of Vitamin String Quartet renditions of popular songs. “The second I heard it, I thought, This is a really sexy adaptation of the song,” says Brownell. “It’s a tricky balance because you hope that people aren’t taken out of the scene by going like, ‘Wait a second, it’s Pitbull?!’”

Say what you will about the track, which blasted from a DJ booth at Bridgerton’s recent New York premiere, a prop carriage parked nearby—but the lyrics actually evoke a passage in Romancing Mister Bridgerton. Pitbull sings, “I’ma make you feel so good, tonight, / Cause we might not get tomorrow,” which sounds strangely similar to Penelope’s internal monologue: “Tomorrow would be awful, knowing that he would find some other woman with whom to laugh and joke and even marry,” Quinn writes. “But today…. Today was hers. And by God, she was going to make this a kiss to remember.”

When the carriage transporting them home comes to an abrupt halt, Colin is the one who utters the frustrated line Penelope gets in the book: “Can’t we just ask the driver to keep going?” After sharing a laugh and another kiss, he gets a determined look on his face, then hops out of the carriage, extending his hand, and asking: “For God’s sake, Penelope Featherington, are you going to marry me or not?”

“That’s one of Nic’s favorite moments,” says Newton. “She always says that to me, whenever we’ve watched it, ‘I love that [moment] when you decide [to propose].’ One of my favorite things about the proposal is the way that it’s written, because it just represents their relationship. He’s done the declaration of love, he’s been open and honest about it. And then the comedy of it is just brilliant.”

Penelope is confused, then elated. “It makes me so sad for her that she thinks he’s just getting out of the carriage and walking away,” says Coughlan. “Because she’s just so used to stuff going wrong. And you’re like, It’s not going wrong this time. It’s not going wrong!”

At least, not yet. Unlike in the book, where Colin confronts Penelope in the carriage after learning she’s Lady Whistledown, on the show he has proposed without knowledge of her secret identity. “For us, it felt early in the season for that to be a reveal,” says Brownell. “But we wanted to honor the spirit of the scene, which is a moment where Colin starts seeing Penelope in a new light and it leads to an intimate moment.”

Viewers don’t hear Penelope’s answer to Colin’s proposal; the screen cuts to black before a monthslong wait for the next batch of episodes. “People are going to have our heads,” says Coughlan. “It’s only a couple of weeks. They’ll live.” Plus, it seems like there will be more spicy moments to come—including one which apparently required Newton to learn how to untie a corset and may have resulted in some broken furniture. But until then, the carriage scene remains the hot and heavy pinnacle of Bridgerton’s third season.

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