Who thought we’d be here again? Sanditon went from definitely canceled to “it’s coming back for at least two more seasons, but without that main guy.” We last saw Sanditon in the U.S. in February 2020. It’s fitting that as so much has changed in our lives, so the writers seem to have tossed 90% of the show’s storylines in the garbage and started over. A move I applaud! It’s very Into the Woods-after-intermission. What happens after the Jane Austen plot runs out? Well, clearly, we move onto Charlotte Brontë. But first, let’s talk briefly about our absent leading man.
At risk of internet harassment, Sidney was terrible. They fixed him a little in the last few episodes, but he spent most of his time screaming at Charlotte in the street, and it made me extremely uncomfortable that he was her love interest. But guess what, SIDNEY IS DEAD. It’s the whole opening. There’s a funeral in Antigua and a grave marked Sidney Parker. It’s a fresh start for Charlotte, Georgiana, and all of Sanditon. Everyone is version 2.0 except Lady Denham, who remains the worst.
Charlotte has been living at home and returns to Tom and Mary Parker’s with her sister in tow! As someone without any sisters and frequently no interest in sororal relationships, I do love an Austen sister dynamic. Alison is rife with storyline possibilities, and she’s got such a positive attitude! In period dramas, you have the gloomy, staring-across-the-sea characters and the upbeat “I do love jam!” characters. I love the jam characters and I want more of them. Up with Alison! Charlotte wanders through the Parkers’ house and has flashbacks to her time with Sidney. She seems to avoid the yelling bits, although I’m unsure how. Of more importance is that we learn there is a new assembly room and promenade in Sanditon! Exciting.
Georgiana Lambe, who was Sidney’s ward, is now Tom’s. Mr. Hankins and his sister seem to be her chaperones, an arrangement that Arthur (Arthur is back!) describes as not ideal. The Hankinses sing a hymn loudly and off-key, which will get me every time. I love a hilariously sung “Bread of Heaven.” I technically know Mr. Hankins was in the last season, but I have no memory of him. He and his sister are bringing a strong Dickens vibe in episode one, though, and I appreciate them for it. Georgiana does not.
Let’s talk about the new men of the season. As previously established, I am what I like to refer to as “a lady gay,” so sometimes I do not understand the appeal of certain gentlemen. Sidney, aesthetically, I understood. Theo James is a very attractive man. I’m having a harder time this season, but I appreciate the new options for the ladies. We have:
- Charles Lockhart, who emerges from the sea with mutton chops, which I think is supposed to look Byronic, but I am not into it. He’s got that “I’m charmingly blunt and don’t care what you think about me, but you probably will love me, ha-hah!” vibe.
- Colonel Francis Lennox, the leader of the new military encampment. Lennox is like a budget Richard Armitage, which feels mean, but Richard Armitage is a very high bar. Just imagine him in a British military outfit and you’ve got the character. He’s serious, but occasionally his eyes glint with amusement! Classic Armitage.
- Alexander Colbourne is our Mr. Rochester of the season. Again, I think it is very fun that they’re taking an Austenian show and injecting tropes from later literary periods. He’s the wealthy widower recluse who needs a governess for his child and niece. He’s fine. I’m hoping the writers learned from season one and don’t just have him yell at Charlotte all the time and then go, “THUS IS LOVE.”
There are multiple (two) bare-chested men in this episode? And they both speak to ladies while like this! I was shocked, I tell you. Maybe they’re just trying to emphasize the loose and sexy vibes of Sanditon. This is all because of that beach influence.
Do you remember Mr. Stringer? Nice, handsome, aspiring architect, Mr. Stringer? Well, he’s gone. Written off the show, with some passing reference to him doing well in London. You’re not DRAMATIC enough for this season, Stringer! Get some windswept hair and a rearing horse, and maybe you can come back.
In another interesting change to this season, Georgiana is leading a boycott of sugar in the town, hoping that plantation owners who enslave people will be forced to change their ways. Alison is confused because England abolished slavery. Which is true! Sort of. The slave trade was abolished in England in 1807, but, as Georgiana explains, it only prohibits the buying and selling of enslaved people, not owning them. Alison says she’ll never have sugar again. A jam character moment if ever I saw one!
The Hankinses hand out pamphlets about the boycott (they really do seem great this season), which Lady Denham immediately pooh-poohs. We later see her pointedly shoveling sugar into her tea. I have some pamphlets you should read, Lady Denham.
Truly so much happens in this episode as we catch up with everyone. Esther is back! She’s still married to Lord Babington and seems to love him very much, only she’s having fertility difficulties. This is an extremely emotional subject now when we have the wonders of science on our side, so I can only imagine miscarrying at over five months along and then being told you will die if you try again. Esther is having a hard time, and of course she is!! She miscarried a month ago. Lady Denham is trying to be kind to her in her own Lady Denhamy way, but wow, a month is no time at all. Poor Esther. Due to the extreme pressure on women to have children to carry on the family line, particularly for more aristocratic families, she looks to Dr. Fuchs for help. Fuchs seems like a nice guy, but he tells Esther that perhaps God does not intend for her to be a mother. (When I was fifteen at church camp, I told a leader I was terrified of being pregnant someday, and she told me maybe God didn’t intend me for marriage. Well, Patty, now I’m married to a lady, and it feels pretty great. Basically, boo everyone who uses this phrasing.)
Also, back in town is terrible Edward, who is part of the army. He’s bought himself a commission (well, he hasn’t paid for it yet) and has grown a truly awful mustache. He immediately sees Lady Denham, promises he won’t harass Esther, and then harasses Esther. What if, instead of Edward as the villain, we just make this whole season about social faux pas that stymie romantic relationships until the final episode where everyone gets married. Or Charlotte falls in love with Colonel Lennox, but then it turns out he’s engaged to a scheming girl named Lucy, and they must follow what duty dictates, despite their inner turmoil. Elizabeth/Darcy is overdone; I demand more Edward/Elinor copycats.
Alison teases Charlotte about the colonel until she realizes Charlotte is still very upset about Sidney and has determined never to marry because she doesn’t want to put herself in a man’s power again. Sure. Their family has no money, though, so she has to work. If only there were a job, like the one available at that very large house with the unruly children, Leo and Augusta. Charlotte saves nine-year-old Leo’s life, and Augusta is a grumpy teenager. Leo’s father and Augusta’s guardian is the aforementioned Alexander Colbourne, who is very short with Charlotte upon their interview.
She walks out after hearing him say that society wants a woman to be accomplished and not learned. How very Blanche Ingram of him. He later rides after her, offers her the position, and rides away. This feels like a Kate Beaton comic.
Meanwhile, Georgiana and Alison steal Lord Kingsley’s carriage and ride it around the soldiers on the beach. They’re laughing so much that it feels sure there will be an accident, and yep, the carriage tips and we see Alison on the ground. We don’t see Georgiana at all and a soldier we saw earlier only checks on Alison. Is Georgiana okay??
The last we learn is that Sidney was in Antigua on business for Georgiana. What’s going on?! When will Charlotte and Alexander Colbourne inevitably make out? Will Georgiana succeed in her sugar boycott? Is she even alive? And how many pamphlets does it take before Lady Denham becomes a caring human person? Hopefully, we’ll find out some of the answers next week.