Sanditon’s second episode gives viewers plenty to sit with, good and bad — a jam packed hour full of some riveting moments that touch on the theme of class and judgement bitterly. It’s an episode full of some of the most cringeworthy statements along with some of the most relatable ones, but most exquisitely, it’s a testament to friendship, and Austen’s way of writing steadfast female friendships. If I were in charge of titling the episode, I’d call it “Paddling in the Sea”, for it’s best to describe the first steps into an astounding friendship and the exposure of Sidney Parker’s being, physically today and emotionally tomorrow. It’s an episode that does a remarkable job of shifting plates and allowing viewers to start seeing more sincerity in the characters. Thus finally, it’s an episode that spends a lot of its time discussing the panoramas of marriage and what it truly means to choose a partner.
To kick things off, these are the times I’m glad we no longer live in regency era because goodness every word out of Lady Denham’s mouth during the luncheon had me cringing so hard. (And I love period dramas immensely, but they’re just … so … white … and entitled.) But this is the very episode that lets us see into the hearts of those who matter most because Charlotte, Sidney, and Arthur all coming to Georgiana’s defense is the very showcase of how good natured their spirits are. Sidney’s especially which officially gives viewers a glimpse into his character’s true nature. He didn’t want to be Georgiana’s guardian, but let’s be real, not many would be in the right headspace to be anyone’s guardian during their mid-twenties. And while he grumbles about it, he doesn’t miss the opportunities to remind her of her value, something women in regency era, especially black women, aren’t reminded of as often as they should be. “You know you’re worth far more than Lady Denham and all her circle put together.” Sidney Parker might waste away his days at bars and boarding houses with smoke and self-deprecation clouding him, but at his core, he’s a man who’s fully aware of the strong women he’s surrounded by. It’s also a fantastic showcase of the fact that Charlotte was right in throwing him under the bus about being too cruel despite stating that he doesn’t care. “Think too badly of you? I don’t think of you at all Miss Heywood. I have no interest in your approval or disapproval. Quite simply, I don’t care what you think or how you feel. I’m sorry if that disappoints you, but there it is.” And oh how badly this’ll bite him later on.
The truth is, Sidney Parker cares deeply — Theo James does a lot of work in silence during this episode to show us that the blasé exterior is to conceal the wounds in him. He refuses to get too close, especially to women because something’s broken him, and that very thing has forced walls up higher than his top hat. But it doesn’t take long after Charlotte puts him in his place for him to understand that his austerity is unmerited. And that’s why reminding Georgiana of her value while reinstating that she has duties as an heiress in this town touches on the theme of class remarkably. A scene that’s delivered with exceptional sincerity and anguish by Theo James and Crystal Clarke. He hears her concerns and frustrations, but mingling is a part of wealth, and it was crucial to remind her of the fact that though they’ll make her feel uncomfortable, she is without question better than them, not because of her money, but because her character is far more honorable.
And goodness, while I’m here for Lady Denham trashing Edward, I’m not here for her comments towards Georgiana, her hometown, and her mother. It was rough. But Charlotte and Arthur both defending her were excellent. The choice Arthur made to distract from the topics by cutting into the pineapple was exquisite, but even more exquisite is the symbolism of the pineapple revealing that those who are seemingly worthy and “hard to find” could sometimes be rotten. Touching on the theme of class powerfully because even in later episodes it’ll reveal that just because something, like money is hard to come by, doesn’t always make it good or worthy in the wrong hands. It’s also representative of the fact that on this show, what’s beautiful and exquisite on the outside could be the sheer opposite on the instead. It’s something we’ll come to discover as the episodes progress, and in doing so, we’ll learn the most jagged of beings have the purest hearts while others are full of worms and wicked intentions.
However, hero or villain, the complexity in each of these characters is one of series’ strengths. As mentioned in the pilot review, in a time where women weren’t advised to voice their opinions, the women on Sanditon don’t shy away from them. An attribute which contributes to the complexity wonderfully because though we’re told to be weary of Clara, even in her we are able to see bouts of vulnerability in the midst of her cunning schemes. Whatever she’s gone through, we can be certain of the fact that she too was once taken advantage of and broken into, forcing her into a state of rage and malice. There’s so much I want to say about Esther, but again, without spoiling too much, it’s impossible to do so. So instead we’ll get into the first few moments of Lord Babington’s affection towards her and how he’s a man of character seeing behind the façade of a woman who’s often not seen as intimately as she deserves.
There are quite a few intricate details that differentiate Sanditon from Austen’s previous novels, and the running theme of initial rash judgements aside, it’s the datums that showcase just how human and flawed these characters are. There’s purity in the midst of conceit and sensuality and there’s hatred interwoven with adoration. It’s a story about entirely corrupt beings finding ways to be the absolute best versions of themselves and meeting the challenges that arise from complete transparency.
But let’s finally get into the darling female friendship I want to discuss, which is Charlotte and Georgiana’s and the innocence in both their characters after finally finding a kindred spirit in a town that doesn’t quite understand them. After Charlotte is told that her choice to defend Georgiana upset Lady Denham, she goes to apologize, but instead tells her the truth she needed to hear: “You were very impolite You made a spectacle of her, you didn’t consider what her feelings might be – far from home, amongst strangers. It was unkind of you.” And this is a fantastic line, which not only works for Lady Denham’s treatment of Georgiana, but Sidney’s treatment of Charlotte — too bad he wasn’t there to hear it though he was already rendered speechless by her refusal to tell him anything at the luncheon. Charlotte is able to understand Georgiana in a way no one else in Sanditon can because though she doesn’t experience the racial mistreatment, she’s the only other person far from home like her. And being far from home in a place where it feels like they’re getting in more trouble than out of it, finding each other is the lovely surprise neither of them expected. The sea paddling scene was so sweet because that moment wasn’t about anyone else — it was two women finding laughter and happiness again. It was two women away from prying eyes just being themselves in a place where class or prejudice or marriage aren’t the running topics of discussion. It’s a friendship that’ll grow and blossom beautifully because it’s grounded in transparency and an unspoken promise to be the other’s safe place away from judgement.
This is also the episode we finally meet James Stringer, and it’s riveting to see another man, much like Arthur who’s open, kind, and willing to listen when women speak. (Though Sidney Parker will get there too once he puts his defenses down.) Young Stringer’s introduction also comes at a time that reveals to us how resourceful Charlotte truly is because while we already knew she’s a woman who isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty, she’s also got a great eye for architecture and a wisdom within her that money could never truly buy. She’s smart, she’s organized, and we’ll come to learn that there’s really nothing she can’t take care of, nothing she isn’t willing to learn, which for a farmer daughter says more about her class than money ever could. Charlotte may not have money, but she’s richer than most in Sanditon because she’s aware of her surroundings, kind, and she’s willing to apologize when she knows she’s made a mistake. The absence of pride in her is a trait that’s going to take her far and inspire those around her, Sidney Parker firstly, to be much better versions of themselves than they would’ve otherwise been.
Sanditon’s second episode sets up so much for the finale it’s astounding, and quite literally having to stop myself from saying too much is a challenge I’m finding incredibly difficult. This is a series that respects its women and it’s a series that’s going to demand a lot of out of its heroes. It’s a series with a whole lot of complications and in its progression, there’s going to be a lot of revelations — much like the pineapple, we’re going to be given the chance to cut into the deepest corridors of these beings and learn things about them that’ll continue layering this universe beautifully even in the midst of the dark exposures.
- ARTHUR PARKER IS AN ANGEL. In every way one can be. His kindness is unmatched.
- “Oh, how I hate your sex.” Same, Esther. Same.
- “Without a quality of affection, marriage can become a kind of slavery.” This is a quote I can’t wait to come back to and discuss when we’ve gotten further into the series because it ties into Sidney and Charlotte’s arc painfully, and it could turn into an entire spiral of analysis.
- “I don’t care to be any man’s property.” Yes, Georgiana. YES. Seriously, the lines in this episode spoken by women are complete and utter perfection.
- HOW STUPENDOUSLY AWKWARD WAS THAT CHURCH SERVICE?! In all honesty I don’t know whose eye roll could win in that moment, Esther’s or Jesus’ from above because goodness. Thank heavens I’ve never heard a sermon like that in any of the churches I’ve attended.
- This is such a thrilling episode for Sidney because while he’s entirely on edge throughout the episode and can’t seem to catch a single break, it’s nothing compared to the pain he’ll face later. His entire body being exposed to Charlotte is child’s play compared to the vulnerability that his soul will live through throughout the season and that’s what makes this so fascinating. It’s racy, it’s unexpected, and it preludes exposure and vulnerability intricately, making it very clear to the audience that these characters can’t escape each other quite yet.
- Sidney Parker is also a very dramatic man and let’s put that on record. That strut. Okay sir. We get it.
- I still hate Edward. I mean fine, hate is a strong word, deeply dislike will do. I still deeply dislike him.
What are your thoughts on Sanditon’s second episode? Is there anything you’d like me discuss further? Let us know in the comments below and I’ll happily do so as long as they don’t spoil future episodes too much.
Gissane (pronounced Geese-enny) — or, as people often call her, "Goose" — is a romance aficionado who's taken her Master's in English and love for essays into writing lengthy analyses about pop culture. She's the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Marvelous Geeks Media and the co-host of Lady Geeks Podcast. She drinks too much coffee, wants to live in a forest, and cries a lot because of her favorite characters.