Bridgerton, Netflix, series 3, part 2, review: settle in for 50 Shades of Cringe

Nicola Coughlan, who plays Penelope Featherington, has proudly (and publicly) celebrated her 'perfect breasts'
Nicola Coughlan, who plays Penelope Featherington, has proudly (and publicly) celebrated her 'perfect breasts' - Liam Daniel/Netflix

Two things of note happen in the latest instalment of Bridgerton (Netflix). One is the cliffhanger that closes episode six, which I shan’t reveal here in case you are such a fan of this series that these things matter to you.

The other is the sight of Nicola Coughlan’s breasts, which make a naked appearance in episode five. I wouldn’t have mentioned this particularly, were it not for the fact that Coughlan has given them quite the introduction. In response to a journalist suggesting that it was brave of her to go topless on screen, she joked: “You know, it is hard, because I think women with my body type – women with perfect breasts – we don’t get to see ourselves on screen enough. I’m very proud as a member of the perfect breasts community. I hope you enjoy seeing them.”

Her speech may also have been a sideswipe at a columnist who caused a stir recently by writing that a “fat girl” would never bag a handsome man; this is the series in which Coughlan’s character, Penelope Featherington, wins the heart of eligible bachelor Colin Bridgerton. This argument might work better if it were not for the fact that Coughlan has a beautiful china doll face and more sex appeal than most of the skinny women in the cast put together.

Aside from Penelope’s heaving bosom, though, this third series remains a dud. Her extensive sex scene with Colin has a cringe-making quality – think EL James’ Fifty Shades with all of the terrible dialogue but none of the nipple clamps.

Jessica Madsen as Lady Cressida Cowper
Jessica Madsen as Lady Cressida Cowper - Liam Daniel/Netflix

Away from the main couple, the plot barely exists (I can refer here only to episodes five and six, because Netflix has declined to give out the remaining episodes ahead of transmission). The most boring Bridgerton, Francesca, drifts in and out of the story. Newly-minted aristocrats Will and Alice Mondrich make their way in society, but their characters are so underwritten that nobody cares about them. Eloise Bridgerton remains in a monumental sulk.

Everyone is overcome with ennui including the Queen, played by Golda Rosheuvel, who has nothing to do with her days except attend balls and play matchmaker. Eventually, she offers a £5,000 reward to anyone who can uncover the identity of society gossip Lady Whistledown. That proves tantalising to Lady Cressida Cowper (Jessica Madsen), who is trying to wiggle out of marriage to an old duffer three times her age and sees the money as a potential escape route. Her scenes bring some much-needed pep to the proceedings.

Benedict, the middle Bridgerton brother, is invited to partake in a threesome with his girlfriend and another man. He can’t get out of the house fast enough, but this could be a hint (and support the fan theory) that future seasons will make Benedict bisexual – not the case in the Julia Quinn novels on which this series is based, but where would a modern TV series be without representation?