It’s no secret every Polin (Colin Bridgerton and Penelope Featherington of Netflix’s Bridgerton) fan loves their dancing scene (at 1:12) in season one’s “Diamond of the First Water.” There are a lot of reasons to love it! But my reason for loving it might be a little different than most, and for Polin Week, I wanted to share my love of this scene with this community.
First, we have the obvious reasons this scene just truly hits different–for one, dancing? Any Bridgerton fan knows the absolute height of regency romance is a dance (see: Simon and Daphne, Darcy and Lizzie). Polin’s take on the classic regency dance has an special swirl of goodness added, though, by Colin’s rescue of Penelope from Cressida, the Regina George of Mayfair.
What’s adorable about his rescue, too, is that Cressida purposefully spills her drink on Penelope (right after Penelope had finished telling Colin how excited she was about her dress, too!). She knows Penelope is not as popular in society, not as wealthy, not as appealing as a bride, and she wants to squish Penelope’s spirit even further. She saw Penelope shyly talking to Colin and wants to ruin it for her, so she asks Colin to dance right in front of Penelope.
But the Bridgertons–Colin included–know Penelope’s worth better than anyone else in the ton. Eloise and Penelope are best friends, and Eloise’s family knows she wouldn’t be friends with just anyone. They know Penelope is a good, loyal, kind girl with a good heart, and that she doesn’t deserve the way someone like Cressida treats her. The Bridgertons are the people who see Penelope’s intelligence, determination, that she’s a dreamer at heart, and they want to defend her because of that. She deserves to be defended because she is the best of the ton, despite what people like Cressida may think.
So Colin not only defends Penelope but rubs it in Cressida’s face that he’s going to dance with Penelope instead. Penelope’s shock is palpable, and at first she looks nervous. She doesn’t want Colin to be doing this for her out of pity, and genuinely, I don’t think he is. He knows she is preferable company to nearly every other person at that party, and that’s why he wants to help her and defend her. That’s why we often see him seeking her out at parties.
Now for the reason I love this scene. It has its television functions, of course. The show wants to establish the relationship between these two characters, and it’s easy to see Penelope’s feelings. She rambles somewhat nervously about her dress, looks stunned when he swoops in to save her from Cressida, is visibly nervous about dancing with him, but eventually shows her beautiful smile and is just glowing with happiness. Viewers are meant to gather that Penelope has a crush on Colin and that there are questions as to whether it is reciprocated or not (which I think is communicated extremely well in the glance Colin gives Penelope just before he says he will escort her to the dance floor).
Beyond the television functions, though, there’s something more going on with this scene–something deeper than just what is at surface level. This scene is the essence of Polin, truly. It cements why Penelope is in love with him, and also why he isn’t aware of how he feels toward her.
For Penelope, this scene is fully emblematic of everything she loves about Colin. He’s a knight in shining armor. She has put him on a pedestal, and I don’t mean that in a negative way. He is popular, funny, charming, intelligent–everything a girl could hope for in a potential husband, which is why Marina is so quick to try to ensnare Colin. I don’t have to like her but I definitely can’t blame her, because the other choices are not great.
But Penelope has a pragmatic side to her, which is well established throughout the series thanks to her hobby. We as viewers know that Penelope does not believe someone like Colin could ever notice her in that way. We watch her suffer through that realization thanks to Colin’s affection for Marina. We can see it in the way she puts herself down in her own writing. But deep down, Penelope has dreams, just like any young girl, and this scene gives us a glimpse of the dashing young man she sees in her dreams, and shows us her reasons for being dazzled by him. He swoops in to rescue her from a bully with no thought to how it will affect how the ton sees him. He speaks to her like a friend, like she matters, both because he genuinely finds her to be smart and funny and because that’s what Bridgertons do.
For Colin, I think this scene illustrates why he doesn’t see her as a marriage option (yet). Crucially, at this point in the series, none of his siblings are married. The only example of a happy relationship he has is his memories of his parents, and at this point in the series, viewers don’t know much at all about his father apart from a few passing mentions in Anthony’s storyline. Right at that moment, Colin probably believes he will end up married to someone like Cressida. That is who society has to offer for him as he sees it in that moment. He doesn’t have the examples of happy relationships based on companionship that his siblings will set for him in the coming years. He thinks his fate will be do to his duty, marry a dull or silly debutante, and live his life dodging them as much as possible. The women at Lady Danbury’s party later in the season solidify this line of thought, that husband and wife need not be together much at all.
And who is to blame him for thinking that? We see examples of unhappy marriages that were clearly based on social standing all around him, and those are the examples he sees, too. It isn’t until Simon marries Daphne that he gets an opportunity to see that marriage can be more–that it should be between people with affection for one another. It should be between people who make each other laugh, people who see each other as intellectual equals. But because that is so rare, he cannot recognize that Penelope is actually a girl who fits all of these things.
This scene established camaraderie that is a thread throughout the series. It encourages viewers to keep an eye on their connection, that there might be something more to it. At Lady Trowbridge’s ball, with their banter about Marina’s suitors, even in just that he calls her “Pen”–the casual intimacy of a real friendship, a mutual sense of respect, is there. And it shines in this scene in Penelope working up the courage to talk to him, in her smile as she feels confident dancing with him, in the glance he gives Cressida for being horrible to Penelope, for thinking she might be more deserving of his company or attention than Penelope.
But for now, in this scene, Colin is a dream for Penelope, and she is a friend to him, neither realizing that there is so much more to learn about the other. Penelope doesn’t know that the things that make her and Colin belong together aren’t necessarily the Prince Charming aspect of Colin rescuing her, but in his respect for her and everything she truly is. Colin doesn’t recognize that the things that make a woman he should be paying attention to romantically are the things he sees in Penelope–not yet.
Ultimately, Penelope’s decision to keep writing and Colin’s decision to travel are what will bring them together, but they both need a little more time. In this scene, though, all of the elements are there for them.
It’s just that neither of them know it.