Season two of Sanditon continues to surprise me by being extremely fun. The main difference? The gloom is taken away from everything! There’s no scowling Sidney or “I’m in tremendous debt” Tom or darkly scheming Edward and Esther! I mean. They’re all there — except for Sidney, who continues to be dead — but they’re in the midst of a much lighter-feeling season. I am thrilled.
Remember how at the end of the last episode, there was a carriage accident on the beach and that young soldier checked on Alison, but we had no idea if Georgiana was dead or alive? Well! Everyone is fine! Georgiana and Alison are walking around having a grand old time, so I’m glad we solved that mystery.
I also think I’ve figured out another level to the Charlotte Brontë–ness of Charlotte’s story line (other than their having the same name, which I have only just now realized). We’ve already established that Charlotte is a governess for a grumpy man in his late 30s or early 40s, but I believe we can also claim Charlotte’s acquaintance/flirtation with Colonel Lennox as a Brontëan flourish. Who did Charlotte play when the Brontë children acted out their fantasy world of Glass Town? Yes! Admiral Wellington! The same Wellington who fought Napoleon. Whom does Colonel Lennox hate? Napoleon! My evidence stuns the courtroom, case closed.
Side note: Can you imagine if a soldier courted Jane Eyre at the same time she’s having her whole whatever-that-is with Mr. Rochester? I love it. Bring Charlotte Brontë back and make her rewrite it.
This episode revolves around a “mess dinner,” which is to be held at the new assembly rooms Tom boasted about last week. The term “mess dinner” seems to merely indicate that the army is hosting it. Colonel Lennox invites anyone worth knowing, i.e., all our friends. I love it when a show does a bunch of disparate story lines, and then everyone is brought together for one large, fancy occasion. Which is one reason I loved the finale of The Gilded Age! The mess dinner serves this excellent purpose.
Charlotte is mopey about Sidney, but not too mopey since she has a job now. Mr. Colbourne’s housekeeper Mrs. Wheatley tells Charlotte they are taking bets on how long she’ll last, but that Mrs. Wheatley is betting on her lasting at least the week. A vote of confidence! Colbourne informs Charlotte that book learning will have to wait until she has taught Leo and Augusta how to behave like young ladies.
So here’s the thing! Leo wants to be called Leo. Leo wants to be a pirate. Leo wants to wear short britches. I am definitely referring to Leo as “they” in these recaps because early-19th-century British culture did not have this option, but now we live in a culture that does. Excelsior!
Charlotte takes Colbourne’s cue and tries teaching Leo and Augusta embroidery. Augusta decides to put all her eggs in the “let’s harass her for being unmarried” basket, which, can’t you think of anything else, Augusta? It’s just not very creative. She does, however, point out that it seems odd that Charlotte is going to prepare her for marriage if Charlotte has never been married. Leo says it’s like a pirate that’s never gutted a man. That’s a good observation, Leo. I love that Augusta is 18 and still being classified as a youth who needs a governess. Normalize 18-year-olds still being very young! They feel like they are adults, but they seldom are, and then people say they should make very important decisions, and it is silly.
At the Parkers’, the whole household is invited to the dinner by a soldier, who sends Captain Carter’s regards to Alison. Captain Carter is the soldier who checked on Alison after she was flung onto the beach. Alison decides she is now in love with him. One of the other things I love about this season is the way it’s delivering all the literary romance tropes. You know that Alison will end up with Captain Carter’s friend, Captain Fraser. It seems pretty clear Charlotte will be with Colbourne, Georgiana will be with Lockhart, and hopefully Edward will be shipped off to Greenland. But it is the journey, not the destination, and the journey looks to be immensely fun. What if Captain Fraser pulls a Cyrano de Bergerac in this situation! I hope so.
I cannot explain my love for the pious Hankinses except in saying that they seem so well intentioned. Again, if Mr. Hankins did anything terrible last season, please forgive me, but I absolutely do not remember it. Last season is gone, and we have a tabula rasa for season two, except that we still hate Edward and Lady Denham is still super-racist. But the Hankinses. Poor Esther is really going through it emotionally, and she sits in the church but leaves when the service starts (“I cannot stay, thrilling as matins sounds”). Beatrice Hankins follows Esther out, telling Mr. Hankins she needs to remind Esther of something. But then Beatrice tells her that she has heard of a midwife who can help women who are struggling. It’s so nice. IT’S SO NICE. Ladies looking after ladies. It’s been an emotional week/month/few years, and I will tear up at any display of kindness, so give me more of this, show. More kind characters doing kind things!
Back at the Colbourne house, Charlotte is making Leo and Augusta collect snails. Obviously, only Leo is following this instruction, as Augusta is busy thinking of new spinster jabs. Charlotte tells Leo they will study their specimens like malacologists (those who study mollusks). They need a magnifying glass, though, so Leo runs into Colbourne’s study where Colbourne is … doing work? Brooding about his deceased wife? It is unclear if he has a job and what that job might be if he does. Colbourne keeps telling Charlotte some variation of “I thought you would be instructing them in the art of becoming young ladies,” and Charlotte keeps responding with some variation of “women must broaden their minds,” and then he always gives in.
Later, Augusta pulls a real Mrs. Danvers trick on Charlotte by asking her to play the spinet in the very Beauty and the Beast west wing–type drawing room. Everything is dusty and abandoned. Charlotte just goes along with this plan because she does not know about the west wing or Mrs. Danvers. Clearly, Colbourne’s dead wife used to play this spinet, and he comes in and immediately blames Augusta, who is not as wily as Mrs. Danvers, but Charlotte takes the blame instead. Charlotte thinks she’ll be fired, but as usual, Colbourne is all “I am impressed by your audacity.” He loses the bet to the housekeeper, and Charlotte keeps governessing.
But let’s talk about the mess dinner! Lennox flirts with Charlotte, and it’s cute, but he has just enough red flags about him to make him a red herring of a love interest (too much mixing of metaphors? What if the red herrings had tiny red flags?). The Byronic artist Mr. Lockhart is interested in Georgiana and goes through Arthur to get to her. I hope he also likes Arthur. Arthur is the cutest cinnamon roll of a person, and he deserves everything. He swaps place cards at dinner so Lockhart will sit next to Georgiana, which doesn’t work out for the former until he toasts Napoleon. He toasts. Napoleon. Sanditon the novel was unfinished at Jane Austen’s death in 1817, so should we assume this is around the same year? Napoleon fought the Duke of Wellington at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815! Scandal.
Lennox almost calls Lockhart out, but Lady Denham tells Lennox to ignore him because he’s just an artist. Understandable. Georgiana later comes outside and chats with Lockhart. He proclaims that he has decided not to care what anyone thinks of him, and he is going to live outside the “narrow confines of polite society.” Okay, dude. This type of person tends to be really annoying, but Georgiana likes him, and I like Georgiana. Lockhart currently merits a B-minus in my book.
Also, at the dinner, Lady Denham talks to Georgiana about the sugar boycott, saying she will not participate because it is difficult enough to find things to enjoy. Georgiana replies that she forgot Lady Denham lived a life of such deprivation. ZING.
Edward tries to talk to Esther, Esther makes him dance with Miss Hankins to repay her for the midwife information (In a kindly way! It is a nice gesture!), and Alison remains sure she is in love with Captain Carter, with whom she has at least now had something of a conversation. What a stellar party.
The next day (I think), a footman tells Lady Denham and Esther they have a visitor. And who is it?? CLARA. Remember Clara?? She and Edward had sex on the floor of Lady Denham’s palatial residence and tried to steal all her money, but then Lady Denham recovered and they were both banished? Well, she’s back. Back, seemingly impoverished, AND PREGNANT. She says it’s Edward’s, and Lady Denham’s eyes burn with demonic fury. What a delightful soap opera of a show.