Bridgerton Midseason Premiere Review: Can Polin’s Engagement Survive Cressida Cowper?

Spoilers

Well *that* didn’t take long!

We were given one whole month to catch our breath from the carriage-tastic ending of the season’s first half, only to lose it again about ten minutes into Bridgerton Season 3 Episode 5 when Colin and Penelope decided to test drive the chaise lounge in their otherwise empty new flat.

It was worth the wait.

While it’s hard to remember what else was happening before Polin’s surprise engagement, a few plot threads made their way into the back end.

Related: Bridgerton Showrunner Explains Decision to Skip Ahead to Penelope and Colin’s Romance

Some people were NOT happy to learn of Polin’s surprise engagement.

Eloise Behind Door Vertical - Bridgerton

Speak Now Or Forever Hold Your Peace

Eloise has been at war with Penelope all season, and her response to the engagement news is to give Pen an ultimatum: tell Colin she’s Whistledown, or El will do it for her.

Eloise has been justifiably upset because her former friend’s writing as Whistledown has hurt her family in general and Eloise specifically. However, having to keep a secret of this magnitude pushes an already hurting El over the edge.

In contrast, it’s heartbreaking to see young Hyacinth beside herself with joy for Pen the way Eloise would be under different circumstances and to think that even the pair being sisters-in-law won’t mend this rift between the former BFFs.

Eloise will always feel betrayed by Pen, and she has now become culpable for lying to her brother Colin, which threatens their relationship as well.

(Plus, having to think about the squickiness of her best friend marrying her brother.)

Colin & Penelope Shake In Garden Vertical

Across the square, Lady Featherington was extremely miffed that she had to learn of the engagement from Whistledown-the-newsletter and not Whistledown-her-daughter.

This pointed snub amplified her anxieties about the Lord Debling fiasco and exaggerated the cruelty of her response to Penelope.

Lady Featherington: And you’ve thrown that away to play out, what?
A fancy on the neighbor boy, who happens to be the most desired man of the season?
Penelope: I do not think it’s unreasonable. Colin cares for me.
Lady Featherington: Has he told you that he loves you?
Penelope: Not in… those exact words.
Lady Featherington: Oh, Penelope.

Honesty Is… A Policy

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To his credit (or maybe it’s more of a problematic trait?), the one thing Colin hasn’t lost in his glow-up this season is his self-appointed role as protector, particularly of the Featheringtons.

He’s tried on various hats to find an identity comparable to his adult brothers and has settled on a blend of Anthony’s very proper officiousness and Benedict’s bohemian affability.

It’s a good look for Colin, where adulthood gave him a more nuanced moral code than the stuffily inexperienced one Marina read for filth in Season 2.

Colin Dreamy Glass Vertical - Bridgerton

Plus, he’ll need all the flexibility he can summon when his intended bride’s alter ego comes to light.

Pen always seems to be on the verge of telling Colin she’s Whistledown, yet somehow, she is constantly interrupted.

She can perhaps be forgiven for not pushing the issue immediately after being delightfully debauched.

But as time stretches on (and Eloise’s glares get more pointed), it strains believability to have every opportunity for the truth thwarted by things like “Oh, the Queen has just now offered a five thousand pound reward for Whistledown’s identity.”

This is indeed what happens, and it catches the eye of Cressida Cowper, who has been going through it recently.

Eloise & Cressida Vertical - Bridgerton

When her parents pawn her off to the exceedingly elderly (but still up for playdates!) Lord Greer, Cressida takes her future into her own hands.

Without even her supposed friend Eloise in her corner, Cressida decides to use the Queen’s reward (if she wins it) as a retirement plan of sorts, even if she’s unsure of the specifics.

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Couple Goals: Kanthony

Meanwhile, Kate and Anthony returned from their honeymoon with an extra souvenir — they’re preggers!

Witnessing Anthony’s utter goofiness at their impending parenthood was so satisfying. Kate’s bemused but reserved attitude (granted, she also had morning sickness) left a question mark next to this development.

Anthony has come a long way from the overscheduled and joyless head of the Bridgerton household we saw in Season 2.

Kate and Anthony - Bridgerton Season 2 Episode 1

He and Kate were both resigned to denying their happiness for the benefit of their families. However, together, they’ve been able to reverse that while keeping everything running smoothly.

However, it became increasingly hilarious how they kept trying to announce their pregnancy news but were constantly upstaged.

Suitors and Secrets

The season swirled on for everyone, not just the main romantic couples.

Francesca’s refusal of the suitor chosen for her by the Queen has already started to have ramifications and threatens to bring even more upheaval.

Francesca is smitten (as much as we can tell) with Lord Kilmartin, who has become almost talkative compared to the first half of the season.

Francesca: Lord Kilmartin, you must tell them the amusing story you were telling me the other day, about the boots.
Lord Kilmartin: Ah, yes. The boots.
Well, there was, uh… there was mud… a great deal of mud on them.
Francesca: Shall we get some refreshment?

(Don’t worry, he soon brings this anecdote home spectacularly.)

Lady Violet Bridgerton Vertical

His subdued charm is finally shining through, which makes it all the more perplexing why Lady Bridgerton still harbors misgivings about the match.

I suppose she *is* on her second strike in terms of undercutting the Queen’s “diamonds” and doesn’t wish to provoke Her Majesty further.

Still, Lady Bridgerton does manage a facsimile of joy when Francesca and Lord Kilmartin announce their intentions.

Related: When Going Off the Rails Makes Excellent TV

However, Francesca notices how much more thrilled her mother seems with Colin and Penelope’s engagement than hers.

Lady Danbury also moves under an unspecified dark cloud this season, although all signs point to her brother, Lord Marcus Anderson.

He’s such an engaging new presence on his own and a fitting suitor for Lady Bridgerton that it’s almost painful to consider that he might be responsible for something sinister in his sister’s past. 

Lord Marcus Anderson Vertical - Bridgerton

An Eventful Engagement Celebration

Penelope and Colin’s engagement party was the setting of much drama and many revelations, but it is perhaps most memorable for featuring the most challenging game of charades ever.

OMG, what even *were* some of those clues??

Most of the Bridgerton siblings toned down their cutthroat competitiveness for company except Anthony, who was wildly and hilariously intense.

I fully expected him to shout, “Baby fish mouth!!” at any moment.

Lady Mondrich: “A product of spring…”
Surely a flower of some kind.
Anthony: Lilies. Forget-me-not. Lilacs!!

Cressida has had a great villain arc this season. You can feel her desperation at the prospect of marrying the ghastly Lord Greer, which makes her false claim to be Whistledown almost understandable.

Cressida & Eloise at Ball Vertical - Bridgerton

But it also seems very much like something she might have done anyway, just for the attention.

For what it’s worth, Cressida inadvertently gave Penelope the perfect “out” to leave Whistledown behind with her secret intact, a plan that even Eloise came over in person to encourage.

But Pen’s pride wouldn’t let her do it. She was Whistledown and would remain so, even if it jeopardized her relationship with Colin and future as a Bridgerton.

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Penelope Makes a Decision

Penelope’s emotional whirlwind came to an unexpected turning point after a revealing conversation with her mother.

Penelope: What about my dreams?
Lady Featherington: What dreams? Ladies do not have dreams. They have husbands.
And if you are lucky and you fulfill your role, sometimes what you wish for may come true… through him.

Penelope was deeply moved by learning of her mother’s sacrifices for the security of her daughters.

The Featheringtons on Bridgerton Season 2

She also took to heart her mother’s directive to not take everything she has (i.e., Colin and the secure life he represents) for granted.

To that end, Pen burned all her collected evidence of Whistledown and discreetly informed Madame Delacroix she’d left that identity behind.

She also unofficially applied for the position of Colin’s manuscript editor instead of pivoting to a different form of writing herself.

The benefit of this attitude switch was a much-improved relationship with Lady Hetherington, which her sisters soon resented, even though they were both already married and pregnant.

Penelope’s eyes shone with love in every interaction with her mother, as when they chose colors and silverware for her wedding.

Penelope Pretty Smile Vertical - Bridgerton

You could tell that her mother’s acceptance and pride were things Pen never had from her before and always wanted, even if she couldn’t get them while being her true self.

Ever busy in the background, Cressida unknowingly engineered her downfall by publishing a decent (if brief) version of Whistledown that showed she might pull off this ruse successfully.

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And, she would most likely use that platform to be even more venomous to the ton than her predecessor.

This fear made Penelope and Eloise join forces against their common enemy and shook Pen from her choice of convention over personal truth.

With one issue, I can discredit Cressida.
It is not just gossip.
Whistledown is power.

Penelope

And the plan almost worked.

Colin Bridgerton Intense Vertical

It almost worked until Colin appeared at her publisher’s right as Penelope dropped off her latest issue.

He looked surprised, to put it mildly.

What did you think of these action-packed new episodes, Fanatics? Let us know!

Paullette Gaudet is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. You can follow her on X.

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