'Bridgerton' season 3 changes how Penelope's Lady Whistledown identity is revealed — and it's so much better this way

Nicola Coughlan as Penelope Featherington on season three, episode six of "Bridgerton."
Nicola Coughlan as Penelope Featherington on season three, episode six of "Bridgerton."Liam Daniel/Netflix
  • Multiple characters discover Lady Whistledown's real identity in "Bridgerton" season three, part two.

  • This happened in "Romancing Mister Bridgerton," the book it's based on — but Netflix does it better.

  • Here's how the plot differs from the book and why the show's version is an improvement.

Warning: Major spoilers ahead for "Bridgerton" season three, part two, and the book "Romancing Mister Bridgerton."

Penelope Featherington's secret identity as Lady Whistledown is finally revealed in part two of "Bridgerton" season three.

Since season one, Penelope (Nicola Coughlan) has secretly published a gossip column about London's high society under the pseudonym Lady Whistledown.

In seasons two and three, Penelope's double life creates trouble for her as Queen Charlotte (Golda Rosheuvel) and Eloise Bridgerton (Claudia Jessie) begin hunting for Lady Whistledown's real identity.

A similar storyline occurs in "Romancing Mister Bridgerton," the Julia Quinn book this season is based on.

"Bridgerton," one of Netflix's most-watched series, has already made plenty of book changes (both good and bad), including revealing Penelope as Lady Whistledown to the audience way back in season one. But the Whistledown reveal in season three marks one of the biggest improvements the Netflix show has made so far.

Here's how the TV series handles the Whistledown reveal differently and why this new plot is better.

Colin is the third person to discover Lady Whistledown's identity rather than the first

Colin (Luke Newton) and Penelope (Nicola Coughlan) at their wedding in "Bridgerton" season three.
Colin (Luke Newton) and Penelope (Nicola Coughlan) at their wedding in "Bridgerton" season three.Liam Daniel / Netflix

In "Romancing Mister Bridgerton," Colin Bridgerton discovers Penelope's Whistledown secret before their engagement and is the first person to find out.

Halfway through the book, Colin visits Penelope while figuring out his complicated feelings for her and sees her enter an unmarked carriage. Colin follows Penelope to a shady part of town and confronts her.

During the carriage ride home, they argue about Penelope being Whistledown before kissing each other. Colin then proposes, much like he does in the series — except notably, in the book, he knows she's Whistledown when he asks her to marry him.

The "Bridgerton" TV show goes in a different direction, with some key changes.

Madame Delacroix (Kathryn Drysdale), a dressmaker, discovers Penelope's identity first in season two after bumping into her in the city center. They agree to be allies.

Eloise, Penelope's best friend and Colin's sister, also discovers Penelope's secret in the season two finale. This reveal leads to a massive fight and a friendship breakup between the pair that continues throughout most of season three.

In season three, episode four, Colin proposes to Penelope without knowing she is secretly Lady Whistledown. Therefore, in episode five, Eloise urges Penelope to tell Colin the truth before they marry.

Eloise gives Penelope an ultimatum, but it doesn't matter. Just before Eloise reveals the secret to Colin herself, Cressida Cowper, Penelope's rival, falsely reveals herself as Lady Whistledown, throwing everything into disarray.

Colin doesn't find out the truth until the end of episode six after overhearing Penelope and Eloise talk about Whistledown and following his fiancée to the printer where she's delivered the latest edition of her column.

This change raises the stakes for season three in two ways.

Eloise becomes an obstacle in Colin and Penelope's relationship, adding pressure on Penelope to reveal the secret. In addition, Colin's anger is more justified since two people he loves have been hiding the big Whistledown secret from him.

"Bridgerton" showrunner Jess Brownell told The Hollywood Reporter that she thinks the secret hits Colin harder this way because he is trying to prove himself to her.

"I think for Colin, the fact that he has given so much of himself to Penelope and shown her so much unconditional love and been really truthful about his feelings, it hits extra hard that she's been keeping a secret from him," she said.

Cressida also figures out Lady Whistledown's identity in a much different way in the books

Cressida Cowper (Jessica Madsen) confronts Penelope Featherington (Nicola Coughlan) in "Bridgerton" season three, episode eight.
Cressida Cowper (Jessica Madsen) confronts Penelope Featherington (Nicola Coughlan) in "Bridgerton" season three, episode eight.Liam Daniel / Netflix

In both "Romancing Mister Bridgerton" and "Bridgerton" season three, London's high society decides to hunt down Lady Whistledown.

In the book, Lady Danbury starts the hunt by offering a bounty of £1,000 to whoever reveals her identity. But in the series, Queen Charlotte provides a bounty of £5,000.

In the book, Cressida pretends to be Lady Whistledown, is exposed by Penelope, and blackmails her. The TV series slightly changes this part of the storyline.

Firstly, season three provides more depth into Cressida's circumstances.

The audience discovers that Cressida doesn't come from a loving family and is a scared, lonely woman trying to make her own path in the world and escape an arranged marriage to an elderly man. Therefore, Cressida's drive in the show is to escape the confines of London's society with the bounty money.

When Cressida fails to persuade the Queen that she is Lady Whistledown in episode six, her mother finally helps her pull off a fake Whistledown column. This spurs Penelope to write a Whistledown column to expose Cressida as a fraud.

Penelope's attempt to stop Cressida leads Queen Charlotte to believe Lady Whistledown is a Bridgerton, and she confronts the Bridgertons in episode seven during Colin and Penelope's wedding breakfast.

Later in the episode, Cressida also discovers that Penelope is Lady Whistledown after questioning a printer's apprentice.

These particular changes make Cressida a more empathetic villain.

In May, Jessica Madsen, who plays Cressida, told Business Insider of her character's journey in season three: "I really saw it as her trying to do her best with very little understanding, very little knowledge, and very little perspective on reality until reality starts to smack her in the face."

Penelope is also put under even greater pressure in part two since angering Queen Charlotte could have serious consequences.

Penelope willingly comes forward to reveal her identity to the Ton in 'Bridgerton,' unlike the book

Penelope Featherington (Nicola Coughlan) admits the truth to Queen Charlotte (Golda Rosheuvel) in "Bridgerton" season three, episode eight.
Penelope Featherington (Nicola Coughlan) admits the truth to Queen Charlotte (Golda Rosheuvel) in "Bridgerton" season three, episode eight.Liam Daniel / Netflix

In the season finale, Cressida reveals what she knows to Penelope and Lady Featherington, asking for £10,000 from Penelope to keep quiet about the secret.

Ignoring her mother's advice, Penelope tells Colin and Eloise the truth. Colin takes charge from there and goes to Cressida to get her to recount her blackmail. He fails, and Cressida doubles the blackmail money.

Colin also takes charge in the book series after discovering Cressida's blackmail, but he's more successful in that version of events. With help from his family, Colin reveals Penelope as Lady Whistledown during a ball, which leads to the whole of London's high society applauding her.

The season three finale takes a different approach, and the show is better for it.

In the show, instead of paying off Cressida, Penelope uses her Whistledown money to help her sisters pull off a ball they have been planning. She writes to the Queen, revealing her identity and asking the royal to expose her in the middle of the ball.

Then, in front of London's high society, Penelope pleads her case, revealing why she started the column, apologizing to those she harmed, and promising to do better in the future.

nicola coughlan as penelope featherington in season three of the show, wearing a blue and white shimmering dress, her hair styled in elegant, loose curls, looking forlornly out of a sunny window while seated on a chaise
Nicola Coughlan stars as Penelope Featherington in season three of "Bridgerton."Laurence Cendrowicz/Netflix

The Queen is charmed by the speech and promptly exits the party, satisfied, leaving Penelope standing awkwardly in the middle of the room. There is no applause and it is unclear if the party-goers accept Penelope's apology.

But Philippa Finch (Harriet Cains), Penelope's sister, quickly changes the mood by releasing a cage full of butterflies into the room. After that, nobody seems terribly bothered by Penelope's reveal. And later in the episode, Penelope is writing another gossip paper, this time under her own name, indicating her plea likely worked.

These changes work so much better for the Whistledown reveal.

Giving Penelope a more prominent role in resolving the Cressida issue allows her to connect with her mother for the first time and rebuild her friendship with Eloise. It also gives Penelope agency in fixing her problems and organizing her own reveal of her secret identity.

As Penelope says in the season finale, she doesn't need Colin to save her: Colin just needs to love and stand by her. The writers of the Netflix series give Penelope the opportunity to be the hero of her own story — not a woman who needs her husband to fix things for her.

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