Bridgerton Season 3 carriage scene: book vs show comparison

Bridgerton. Luke Newton as Colin Bridgerton in episode 304 of Bridgerton. Cr. Liam Daniel/Netflix © 2024
Bridgerton. Luke Newton as Colin Bridgerton in episode 304 of Bridgerton. Cr. Liam Daniel/Netflix © 2024 /


Everyone’s favorite regency romance drama has finally returned to our screens this month, with the recent release of the first four episodes of Netflix and Shondaland’s Bridgerton Season 3 on May 16th. This first half (Part 2 will be released on June 13th) has arrived a full two years after this third season was first confirmed to be following the love story of Penelope Featherington and Colin Bridgerton (a departure from the natural order of author Julia Quinn’s book series, upon which the streaming show is based).

Such a long wait between seasons only furthered fans’ excitement for Penelope and Colin’s (affectionately dubbed “Polin”) romance, and now that the first half of the season is finally here, I’d like to take this opportunity to delve into what was perhaps the most-anticipated scene (or second-most, depending on who you ask) in the series — the carriage scene.

Whether you’re a die-hard book fan (Polin’s book is the fourth Bridgerton novel, “Romancing Mister Bridgerton”), a devoted consumer of the Netflix adaptation, a mix of both, or even simply a more casual viewer, chances are you’ve heard of the aforementioned “carriage scene.” It’s also been mentioned constantly in the press junket for this season, and on Twitter/X, the icon that appears with the Bridgerton hashtag (among other related keywords for the season) is a carriage.

It’s a common feature in Quinn’s Bridgerton novels to have one or two particularly iconic scenes that the fandom then latches onto for each couple. In many cases, the Bridgerton show has then found ways to adapt these memorable moments for the screen.

Bridgerton. (L to R) Simone Ashley as Kate Sharma, Jonathan Bailey as Anthony Bridgerton, Charithra Chandran as Edwina Sharma in episode 203 of Bridgerton. Cr. Liam Daniel/Netflix © 2022 /

For example, with Kate and Anthony’s book, “The Viscount Who Loved Me,” fans often cite the “bee scene” and the Bridgertons playing Pall Mall as two moments that are quintessential to this couple’s story. In Bridgerton Season 2, we saw versions of both of these moments play out onscreen — although the bee scene in particular served a drastically different narrative purpose in the show than it did in the novel.

With Pen and Colin, the carriage scene is one of the most beloved scenes from their book (the other is the “mirror scene,” which is expected to take place in Part 2, so I won’t be speculating any further on it here), making it logical for fans to assume Bridgerton would find a way to bring this pivotal scene come to life in the Polin season of the show.

If you’ve watched Part 1 of Season 3, then you’ll already know that this key scene from the end of Episode 4 involves Pen and Colin having a particularly tense conversation in a carriage that leads to them being intimate for the first time together, and ends with Colin (spoiler, but I already warned you of this!) spontaneously and rather amusingly and unceremoniously asking Pen to marry him.

Luke Newton, Nicole Coughlan
Netflix's "Bridgerton" Season 3 World Premiere in NYC / Dimitrios Kambouris/GettyImages

With a book scene this beloved, it was already clear from pre-release interviews with the cast and crew that they knew how important it was to get this scene right and do it justice, and so it’s not-at-all surprising that this scene is already garnering massive attention and praise from fans in these first few days following the release of Part 1’s episodes. I, among many other viewers, can confidently say that the show well and truly pulled it off — it’s a masterful moment, and a true highlight of Part 1.

What is surprising, then, at least to me, is that this adaptation of an iconic book scene is successfully generating so much affection and appreciation when it’s actually markedly different from how it plays out in the book.

Don’t get me wrong — the carriage scene is fundamentally the same in both mediums. At its core, it can be described as follows: at the midpoint of the story, Pen and Colin get physical in a carriage, and end up engaged by the time Pen exits said carriage. There’s also plenty of initial animosity and subsequent emotional vulnerability that occurs between the soon-to-be-couple over the course of the carriage ride in both the book and the show.

But the similarities stop there.

The Carriage Scene — Show Version

In the show, this scene happens after Colin, chaos incarnate at this point in the story, has jeopardized Pen’s promising courtship with one Lord Debling, who was planning to offer her a proposal that very evening. Colin brazenly interrupts a waltz between Pen and Debling, insisting to Pen that she’d be making a mistake marrying Debling because he can’t offer her what she truly wants in a marriage. Debling, with the help of some key insights from Cressida Cowper, fellow debutante and resident mean girl, pieces together that Pen and Colin have history and unresolved feelings that will no doubt get in the way of any sort of practical marriage Debling had hoped to have with Pen. Debling promptly ends the courtship, and Pen, crying, retreats to her carriage to head home.

Bridgerton. (L to R) Nicola Coughlan as Penelope Featherington, Sam Phillips as Lord Debling in episode 303 of Bridgerton. Cr. Liam Daniel/Netflix © 2024 /

Colin, however, takes it upon himself to chase — yes, chase (it’s glorious) — after her moving carriage, wrenching open the door with a desperate “Penelope!” and a plea for her to let him in, of which she begrudgingly obliges.

You see, by the end of Episode 4, Colin has finally figured out how he feels about his longtime best friend, but he’s pretty sure he came to this long-overdue realization too late and has now lost her to another suitor. This is his headspace as he ambles into Pen’s carriage and breathlessly demands to know if she is now engaged. Pen grimly informs Colin that no, she is not, and it’s actually Colin’s fault. She tells him how Debling’s reasoning for breaking things off with her — a suspicion that Colin has feelings for her — is utterly laughable, and it’s clear she’s extremely pissed at the man seated in front of her, who, not three episodes prior, promised to help her find a husband.

Colin, finally heeding his mother Violet’s thinly-veiled love advice from last episode, uses this opportunity to be courageous, finally confessing to Pen how he truly feels about her. It’s a beautiful and heartfelt speech, with Colin even at one point mentioning how he in fact prefers sleep because in his dreams is where he knows he will find her.

Bridgerton. Nicola Coughlan as Penelope Featherington in episode 204 of Bridgerton. Cr. Liam Daniel/Netflix © 2022 /

Pen, having been hopelessly in love with Colin since they first met as children, refuses to let herself believe his words, instead admonishing him for saying things he does not mean. This, of course, is when Colin comes in with the classic “But I do mean it. It is everything I have wanted to say to you for weeks.”, his insistence perfectly punctuated by the opening chords of Archer Marsh’s stripped down version of Pitbull’s “Give Me Everything.”

There’s a brief moment where Colin is terrified he’s misread the situation, when Pen reminds him they are friends, and the utter heartbreak in his eyes is painful (shoutout to Luke Newton, who portrays Colin, and his acting in this moment) — but fortunately for Colin, Pen then reveals “But I’d very much like to be more than friends…so much more.”

This admittance on Pen’s part is hugely significant, because she’s just exposed one of her biggest lifelong secrets — not even her former best friend and Colin’s sister, Eloise, knows the truth, which is that Pen has loved Colin for years. She tried to force herself to fall out of love with him after he loudly and publicly declared in the Season 2 finale that he would never dream of courting her, but has been reminded over the course of these last four episodes how fruitless of an endeavor this has been and always will be. Penelope Featherington is never going to not be in love with Colin Bridgerton.

Bridgerton. (L to R) Nicola Coughlan as Penelope Featherington, Claudia Jessie as Eloise Bridgerton, Luke Newton as Colin Bridgerton, Luke Thompson as Benedict Bridgerton in episode 206 of Bridgerton. Cr. Liam Daniel/Netflix © 2022 /

Colin, conversely, only recently clued into the depth of his emotional, physical, and romantic connection with Pen, just as she was set to marry another — talk about waiting until the last minute, Colin! When he tells her how he feels here in the carriage, he has no idea the extent of her long-standing love for him. This confession might end disastrously, but it’s a risk Colin is willing to take — he’s become that desperate for her to know how important she is to him — and this is a classic case of the “she fell first, he fell harder” trope.

Now, in the carriage, for the first time ever, Pen and Colin are on the same page, and it makes sense, then, that this scene quickly transitions into an extended moment of intimacy between the two of them — Pen’s first sexual encounter, as it is — while the carriage continues along its journey to Colin’s home.

The scene starts to wind down as Colin and Pen, having just been startled by the carriage’s sudden arrival at Bridgerton House, share an adorably sweet moment of levity and then kiss once more, before Colin gently readjusts Pen’s dress and fixes her hair. At this moment, Colin comes to a decision, and we can see the realization as it plays out across his face — he’s going to marry this woman.

“For God’s sake, Penelope Featherington, are you going to marry me, or not?” he says to her with an equal parts charming and playful smirk, offering a stunned Pen a hand after he himself has exited the carriage.

Bridgerton. (L to R) Florence Emilia Hunt as Hyacinth Bridgerton, Luke Newton as Colin Bridgerton, Will Tilston as Gregory Bridgerton in episode 202 of Bridgerton. Cr. Liam Daniel/Netflix © 2022 /

It’s here, then, that the scene — and the episode — ends. Viewers are meant to stay tuned for Part 2 for her answer (although it’s no secret she says yes — Colin’s youngest sister, Hyacinth, gleefully announces the engagement in a one-minute teaser trailer that autoplays for viewers on Netflix after Episode 4 ends).

The Carriage Scene — Book Version

Now, switching gears, let’s focus on the original iteration of this iconic scene. In “Romancing Mister Bridgerton,” the carriage scene signifies a major turning point in Pen and Colin’s budding relationship, but because of an entirely different reason than what we see in the show.

For context, it’s important to know the key differences that exist between the book and show versions of Pen and Colin, as well as the nature of their relationship, to understand how these differences then affect the way the carriage scene plays out.

In the book, Pen and Colin (aged 28 and 33) are much older than their show counterparts (Pen is 19 in Season 3, while Colin is presumably 22). They’re also far less close — they met when Pen was 15 going on 16, and were friendly acquaintances in the time since, but were never truly “friends” until the events of the book, which take place over a mere handful of weeks. Pen also did overhear Colin disparaging her prospects with him in the book, as she did in the show, but this encounter happened seven years prior to the main timeline of their book.

There’s also one other essential element that plays a massive role in the book’s carriage scene, one that’s entirely ignored in the show’s version — Pen’s secret identity as Lady Whistledown, the ton’s notorious gossip columnist.

Bridgerton. Nicola Coughlan as Penelope Featherington in episode 201 of Bridgerton. Cr. Liam Daniel/Netflix © 2022 /

As of these first four episodes in the show, Colin is still in the dark about Pen’s connection to the scandal sheet. As described above, the impetus for the show’s carriage scene is Pen’s courtship with Lord Debling, a character unique to the show.

In the book, by comparison, Pen and Colin get into a carriage together because Colin has just inadvertently discovered this aforementioned secret identity of Pen’s, and he’s actually the very first person in the ton to do so (whereas in the show, Eloise is the first, as seen in Season 2 Episode 8). Pen is on “the wrong side of town” in a hired hack in order to stay under the radar while delivering an urgent message to her publisher about her column, when Colin, having followed her in his own carriage, confronts her among the pews in a church she uses for covert Whistledown-related communication.

Pen’s hired hack has disappeared by the time she and Colin leave the church, and so Colin orders her into his own carriage, famously instructing the driver to “take the long way” home (a much-loved line amongst book fans).

The reason Pen was on this mission on the wrong side of town in the first place was because, at this point in the book’s story, Cressida Cowper has just tried to take responsibility — Colin calls it the blame, whereas Pen sees it as the credit — for writing the long-running scandal sheet. Earlier in the novel, a challenge was issued to the ton to unmask Lady Whistledown, and after Cressida publicly declares herself responsible for all of Pen’s years of hard work, Pen refuses to take this lying down. She heads out to the church to publish one final issue denouncing Cressida’s claim. Crucially, though, Pen has no intention of actually outing herself in this final issue — she just can’t let her biggest bully claim the very thing that perpetually-overlooked Pen is most proud of in her life.

Bridgerton. (L to R) Nicola Coughlan as Penelope Featherington, Jessica Madsen as Cressida Cowper in episode 301 of Bridgerton. Cr. Laurence Cendrowicz/Netflix © 2024 /

Colin doesn’t see it this way, though, and it’s a major source of conflict between them at the start of the carriage ride. “I am trying to decide what, precisely, I am most angry with you about,” Colin tells Pen as the carriage begins its return to Mayfair, “Because there are so many things — so very many things — that I am finding it extraordinarily difficult to focus upon just one.” Among them, he cites a concern for her safety as a single woman in an unsavory part of town, his humiliation at having declared to her face that the columnist was someone else, and an incomprehension at her refusal to let Cressida take the fall and endure the ton’s inevitable wrath. “You will be ruined, Penelope! Ruined! Do you understand what I am saying?…People will stop talking to you. They will cut you dead—”

But Pen cuts him off. As she rightfully and angrily points out, people never paid any attention to her — it’s how she’s been able to keep Whistledown going for 11 years at this point (the column is only three years young in the show). When Pen explains, “No one saw me. No one talked to me. I just stood and listened, and no one noticed.”, Colin tries to deny this, but Pen calls him out for disagreeing just because he feels guilty, as well as for pitying her over the many years of their then-acquaintanceship.

She also accuses Colin of running from responsibility (in the book, Colin, an avid traveler as he is in the show, is also the oldest unmarried Bridgerton), and for being unjustifiably angry with her about the whole Whistledown situation. “What have I done that is so repellant? Been cleverer than you? Kept a secret? Had a good laugh at the expense of society?” she demands at one point, and when Colin feebly tries to interject, Pen delivers perhaps my favorite line of hers in the entire book: “No. You be quiet. It’s my turn to speak.”

This first half of the carriage scene is exceptionally important specifically for Pen — it’s the first time she’s ever truly stood up for herself while also standing up to Colin, and in a book where a huge part of her character arc is how she’s finally coming into her own, this scene marks an essential point in her journey.

Bridgerton. Luke Newton as Colin Bridgerton in episode 304 of Bridgerton. Cr. Liam Daniel/Netflix © 2024 /

How the scene then changes to become more important for Colin’s development is when, after thinking he’s successfully convinced her to let them put a pin in things and continue this conversation later, Pen reminds Colin that Cressida wasn’t ruined when she claimed to be Lady Whistledown. One of Colin’s main arguments from earlier is instantly invalidated by this observation from Pen, and it leads to Colin unthinkingly replying, “That’s because no one believed her. And besides, she’s…different.”

Unsurprisingly, Pen doesn’t take this well, the implication of Colin’s words immediately clear — she’s not the popular, beautiful, self-assured, and confident Cressida. She’s Penelope — awkward, ignored, unpopular, ugly (in her eyes) — someone the ton would never forgive for writing insulting things about them for over a decade in her scandal sheet. “I suppose I’d just always hoped you were different. I thought you believed in me, that you saw beyond the ugly duckling.”, Pen tells Colin, and it’s at this exact moment that something seismic shifts in him.

Whereas the Colin of Bridgerton Season 3 has figured out his feelings for Pen and desperately needs to tell her when they’re in the carriage, the Colin of “Romancing Mister Bridgerton” is only just coming to this realization in real time with Pen in front of him in the carriage.

“You’re beautiful.” he whispers to Pen, and then, in a line that’s actually echoed in the carriage scene in the show, Pen responds, “Don’t say things you don’t mean.” Colin reassures her that he does mean it, she is beautiful, and he doesn’t know why nobody else sees it. They then, similar to the show, have their first experience of true physical intimacy, although the specifics of what they get up to in that carriage are a little bit different…

Bridgerton. (L to R) Nicola Coughlan as Penelope Featherington, Luke Newton as Colin Bridgerton in episode 302 of Bridgerton. Cr. Liam Daniel/Netflix © 2023 /

The book’s carriage scene ends, of course, with Colin’s equally chaotic offer of marriage, although in this version, Colin’s proposal comes across as more exasperated and less playful. And, crucially, the scene is punctuated by Pen being so stunned by Colin’s words that she legitimately falls to the ground on her way out of the carriage. It’s a humorous button to the scene that I like to think was reassigned to Pen and Colin’s shared chuckle that takes place a bit earlier in the show’s carriage scene.

In conclusion: they’re both great!

As you can see from the detailed breakdowns above, there’s a lot to love about both iterations of the carriage scene, even though they ultimately have far less in common with each other than I reckon most fans — myself included — expected heading into this latest season of Bridgerton.

The fact of the matter is, both Pen and Colin in the book and in the show are in such different places by the time the respective carriage scenes happen that it’s nearly impossible to compare the two.

So I’m not going to.

To me, as someone who adores this show, loves the book it’s based on, and, most importantly, values the art of adapting a written story for the screen, these two carriage scenes serve as a marvelous example of how creatives can honor the source material while not having to be shackled to it.

Bridgerton. (L to R) Luke Newton as Colin Bridgerton, Nicola Coughlan as Penelope Featherington in episode 302 of Bridgerton. Cr. Liam Daniel/Netflix © 2024 /

A tense but also emotionally intimate and sexy scene that takes place within the confines of a carriage ride, and ends with both parties fundamentally understanding each other and their relationship better, so much so that a spur-of-the-moment proposal isn’t as entirely nonsensical as it may seem on the surface, is essential to the love story of Penelope Featherington and Colin Bridgerton. It’s clear that, whether on the page or on the screen, the carriage scene reigns supreme.

Even though the motivator for such a scene is Pen’s failed courtship with another suitor in one iteration, and the discovery of her long-hidden secret identity in another, I’m so incredibly grateful that both versions of this scene exist. They’re each magnificently crafted in their own ways, they both handle the rapid tone switches in Pen and Colin’s dynamic with aplomb, and they both signify the biggest turning point thus far in each respective version of Polin’s story.

There’s no doubt in my mind, then, that Season 3’s carriage scene will go down in history as one of Bridgerton’s all-time best moments, just as the comparable scene in “Romancing Mister Bridgerton” has been lauded as a standout scene in the book series for 22 years and counting.

Bridgerton Seasons 1 and 2 are currently streaming on Netflix, as well as Bridgerton Season 3 Part 1. Season 3 Part 2 will be released on June 13th.

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