How ‘Sanditon’ Found Its Voice in Season 2
When Sanditon first arrived on the small screen, its sexual nature was one of the biggest draws of the series (and criticisms), but with its second season, it has tapped into the power of the women of Jane Austen’s world.
Based on the author’s unfinished novel of the same name, Sanditon is about a young woman named Charlotte Heywood who is brought to the seaside town of Sanditon by Tom Parker and his family. She ends up falling in love with Tom’s younger brother, Sidney, but due to financial obligations, they are forced apart.
When season one was initially thought to be the end of the series, it meant that the show, like the novel, would be an eternal cliffhanger. Thankfully, fan campaigns and ambitions have given it a second life, and much like Bridgerton, it has remembered that sexual teasing is so much better than just fanservice. (Not that we don’t love it, but this is the genre of the passionate handhold and single kiss of lust).
Season two is all about the journey of love through three different perspectives: Charlotte Heywood (Rose Williams), her younger sister Alison (Rosie Graham), and their friend Lady Georgiana Lambe (Crystal Clarke).
Having lost the person she thought would be the love of her life, Charlotte is trying to create a future for herself as a single woman and has found herself as a governess for Mr. Alexander Colbourne (Ben Lloyd-Hughes), the town recluse, raising his daughter and niece. However, just because she’s trying to avoid love doesn’t mean it’s avoiding her. Charlotte ends up having feelings for both Mr. Colbourne and Colonel Francis Lennox (Tom Weston-Jones). In true Jane Austen fashion, one is going to be the sweetest cinnamon roll and the other will be the worst villain in the world.
Alison is eager to fall in love and sets her sights on the young and flirty Captain William Carter (Maxim Ays), who woos her with poetry that he has no genuine interest in, due to the help of his friend Captain Declan Fraser (Frank Blake), who is also interested in Alison.
While the stakes in this story are very low, it serves its purpose of showing validity about what love means to this character. As a new person to the group, it is easy to see Alison as a flighty type of character, but as the series continues, it highlights that she is someone who wants a love connection between equals—someone who will fight for her as adamantly as she would for them. Sanditon crafts educated female characters who want that kind of love, a love with respect, honesty, and empathy. That is paramount above all else.
That is why love is a struggle for Lady Georgiana. A Black woman in an overwhelming sea of white faces, she cannot believe in the intentions of the many male suitors who come forward. They see her money and seek to own her in some way. We were told before that Georgiana’s mother was once a slave and married her father, who was a wealthy slave owner. Throughout the season, Georgiana helps launch and support a sugar protest due to the fact that the goods come from slavery.
Lady Denham (Anne Reid) is the richest woman in town and constantly throws Georgiana’s dueling identities in her face, so much so that the attentions of artist Charles Lockhart (Alexander Vlahos) and the ways in which he sees her as a fully human person lead her to the kind of headstrong passions we love in our regency heroines.
Each episode builds the ever-expanding tapestry of this show and allows it to be slowly infused with our modern world. The writing team really doesn’t flee from adding complex nuance to things (a team that has brought on Black British playwright Janice Okoh), including showing Mr. Colbourne’s daughter, Leonora “Leo” Colbourne, playing with gender in her dress.
I ate this show up when I got the screeners, and it has gone leaps and bounds from the earlier season, because it trusts in the magic of Austen more. So many people feel like updating something with romance means more sex, but it is more powerful to just show two humans connecting on a deeper level, trying to make something in a world where many lose their souls too soon.
For those who have already binged Bridgerton and are longing for a more grounded, but still optimistic and diverse period drama, Sanditon is waiting for you.
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