PBS MASTERPIECE has released the new season of Sanditon, thanks to popular demand. A co-production of Red Planet Pictures, MASTERPIECE and ITV in association with PBS Distribution, the six episodes of Season 2 expands on Jane Austen’s unfinished final novel. Theo James’ Sidney Parker does not return to Season 2, but Rose Williams’ Charlotte Heywood has new suitors to contend with as she goes back to Sanditon.
The end of Season 1 saw Charlotte Heywood leave the English seaside resort of Sanditon to return home, after Sidney Parker decided to marry a wealthy heiress to financially rescue his family. It was an unhappy ending, uncommon for a Jane Austen story. Season 1 first aired in Great Britain, and after disappointing viewing numbers, its broadcaster, ITV, cancelled the show, despite a successful run in the U.S. on PBS. Sanditon‘s cancellation ignited a fan movement and the formation of a fan group, called the Sanditon Sisterhood, who campaigned on social media for the return of the series with the hashtag #SaveSanditon and petitions. It is largely thanks to their persistence that we have now two new and upcoming seasons of Sanditon.
Sanditon‘s Season 2 is a potpourri of Jane Austen’s stories—with a slight zest of Charlotte Bronte’s—with a little less social commentary. The writers, headed by Justin Young, have managed to continue Jane Austen’s story, making numerous references to her work, while, at the same time, bringing the narrative to a contemporary audience.
With Sidney Parker definitely not coming back, as the opening of Season 2 quite emphatically establishes, Sanditon feels like a brand new story with familiar characters. Season 2 sees Charlotte Heywood returning to the seaside resort for the summer with her sister Alison (Rosie Graham). Both are staying with the Parkers, and Charlotte is reunited with her friend Georgiana Lambe (Crystal Clarke), who was Sidney’s ward.
Season 2 focuses largely on the ladies of Sanditon, the trio of friends, Charlotte, Georgiana and Alison, and Esther Babington (Charlotte Spencer). Sanditon thus intertwines four different stories together of these young women. Heartbroken and grieving, Charlotte is not looking for a husband this season. She, however, meets two new potential suitors in Colonel Lennox (Tom Weston-Jones), who appears very interested in her, and the mysterious Alexander Colbourne (Ben Lloyd-Hughes), for whom she works for as governess for his two charges.
Georgiana is also unwilling to find a husband, especially one who would only be after her fortune. But meeting free-spirited and flamboyant Charles Lockhart (Alexander Vlahos), the town’s new resident artist, may change Georgiana’s opinion about marriage. By contrast, Charlotte’s rather naive younger sister, Alison, is hoping to find herself a husband amongst the men in the regiment freshly arrived at Sanditon. She soon finds herself infatuated with the charming Captain William Carter (Maxim Ays).
Esther’s storyline differs from the three young friends. Already married to Lord Babington (who does not appear at all in this season), she arrives alone at her aunt’s, Lady Denham (Anne Reid). She is grieving too, having lost her baby. She, unfortunately, crosses paths with her scheming step-brother Edward (Jack Fox) and Clara (Lily Sacofsky). Completely detached and disconnected from Charlotte’s story, Esther’s could really have been a series all to itself.
All four storylines unfold as expected, with Alison’s love triangle being particularly predictable from the beginning. Each storyline borrows from a well-known Austen trope, making this series a rather enjoyable ride without any real surprises. The only slight deviation is perhaps Charlotte’s own story with Alexander Colbourne. In a sort of Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre turn, Charlotte finds work as a governess for a brooding, reclusive and mysterious Mr. Colbourne. There is no wife hidden in the attic (as of yet), but Colbourne is as taciturn as Mr. Rochester, although a milder version.
Season 2 of Sanditon is an entertaining Regency era period drama, but for a second season, it still feels introductory, caused clearly by the abrupt departure of Theo James’ Sidney Parker from the story. While the emotional depth of the series should have come from Charlotte’s pain at having lost the man she loves, she is supplanted by Lady Babington’s own grief. But I’m sure, with the cliffhanger ending we are given in episode 6, that the upcoming Season 3 will provide all that this season lacked. Like its first season, Season 2 ends with us, viewers, just wanting more of Charlotte Heywood’s story.