There is a long way to go until Colin and Penelope find their happy ending, but in its first season, Bridgerton gave us quiet moments amidst loud chatter so effortlessly with these two, I might never be over it. No, Colin is not exactly the character we meet in the books, but he is getting there, and ultimately, we see most of that version when he is around Penelope.
It is so easy to appreciate this particular scene in “An Affair of Honor” because their exchange is so effortless, it’s overwhelming. There is no one else outside of his family members that Colin could approach as himself without rules or regulations binding his hands back. He might be pursuing Marina and he might believe theirs was a love match for a short while, but most effortlessly, the push towards Penelope is the undeniable detail in all this.
In Romancing Mister Bridgerton, the trope telling their story, in my opinion, is more of an “unrequited love”/”best friend’s brother”, but in the TV series (and the version I personally prefer a little bit more), is that of an intricate progression of “friends to lovers.”
Colin and Penelope, first and foremost, are friends. This was discussed while talking about their first dance in “Diamond of the First Water,” but Penelope, Pen rather, isn’t just Eloise’s best friend, but she is someone Colin feels comfortable around too. She is someone Colin sees and notices in spite of the detail that she might be a known wallflower.
That said, more than anything, this scene actually shows a shift in their dynamic. When Penelope comments on the fact that Lady Trowbridge’s son looks more like her footman than the old earl, Colin is visibly stunned by her wit. The way Luke Newton and Nicola Coughlan allow their characters to briefly lose themselves in the moment is so compelling, it’s almost hard to believe it’s happening in the first season.
This isn’t by any means a subtle exchange. It is loud where expressions speak and it is loud where uncertainties rise. Colin still doesn’t feel the same way Penelope does, but it is evident that he is continuously in awe of her. It’s evident that there is something here.
After a moment of genuine, unexpected laughter comes the quiet comfort of allowing their eyes to speak for them. Coughlan and Newton played off each other’s emotions brilliantly because it’s so hard to decipher what’s actually being said, but it’s easy to pinpoint the moment they realize, “wait a second, we’ve gazed for too long, what’s happening, look away now.” And again, Colin isn’t in the right headspace to even process that this is happening, but it’s clear that parts of him react before his mind could even catch up.
This also isn’t the first moment where she surprises him. This isn’t the first moment where his eyes linger a little bit longer than they probably should. She is his friend after all, it should be normal, right? Except she’s not just any debutante, she is Penelope Featherington for crying out loud. She’s something else and something more.
It’s a scene that preludes what is to come exquisitely because there’s already so much effortless comfort between them, and that’s the detail in all relationships that makes it worthwhile. Colin and Penelope might not even be on equal grounds where said comfort is concerned, but nevertheless, it’s easy to communicate with each other.
It’s easy for Colin to find her in a corner of the ballroom and approach her without second thought. The pull is there and it’s louder than any courtship he could even try to carry out. Even while he is talking about Marina, it doesn’t change the fact that every exchange with Penelope is effortless.
When the time comes for Colin to have his Amber Run “I Found” moment (this is one of their songs, don’t make me elaborate), a euphoric sway of scenes like this will waltz around in his head as he realizes boldly and with overwhelming contentment, that she’s been there all along.
It’s a fascinating moment to also point out how witty and remarkable Penelope Featherington is, but yet another sign that she could is Whistledown because she notices details others might not have.
Colin and Penelope (but more so, Colin), might not realize it just yet, but they’re each other’s safe place when the world around them gets too loud. Whether a dance, a jest, or a quiet conversation, they are each other’s best, most perfect escape. No matter who else is at the ball, no matter what’s happening, when it’s just the two of them, there is a sense of serenity enveloping them in a way that they wouldn’t find with anyone else.