Welcome to Sanditon weekly, darling readers – what flavor of tea are we drinking today? (I’ve got the perfect lavender/blueberry mix.) The series’ untitled fourth episode is a dim ride with little progression, but perhaps, one of the most important arcs throughout the season. It’s an episode that focuses heavily on some chief flaws we all have as human beings – the choice to form judgements based on assumptions and frequently disregarding a universal truth, which is that there are always multiple sides to a story. It’s almost frustrating how many assumptions are thrown around in this episode, but it’s integral in this universe because Sanditon is one of Jane Austen’s more inclusively adapted pieces, it’s aware, there’s goodness stained with malice, and it’s centered around deeply complex human beings, thus demanding an episode like this.
First, let’s get into Lady Denham calling Clara out for being dramatic about her hand. “You’ve had more than your measure of sympathy.” You tell her — finally. It’s bizarre how hilarious this episode actually is amidst the serious ground it covers, but the balance makes the heavier pills easier to swallow. Lady Denham also calling Esther out for not marrying Lord Babington is ultimately all of us, let’s be real. In due time … in due time. But now, part of the episode’s darkness comes from Clara proving our previous beliefs to be true by admitting that she was sexually assaulted by an uncle on numerous occasions. And the choice to actually say this to Esther upon learning about her relationship with Edward is fascinating because for a moment, she’s looking after her. There’s a genuine sincerity in the way Lily Sacofsky carries Clara when she says that Esther can be free of him. It’s honest and open despite her endgame still being the inheritance. It’s hard to believe that a woman who has known great pain wouldn’t look after another if they’d admitted to defeat, and while there’s still great darkness in Clara, something tells me that if Esther hadn’t loved Edward, the ladies teaming up could have been good for both of them. Edward is the villain in all this for a number of reasons, his selfishness and manipulative nature at the top of the list.
And this very conversation is what makes Esther’s plea by the end so painful to watch because there’s nothing sincere in Edward towards her, nothing profound or wholesome. He’s a leach. Anytime he asks about Babington it’s to mock him, to terrorize her – it’s solely to break her down with this seemingly false sense of adoration he knows doesn’t matter because they can’t marry anyway. Charlotte Spencer’s showcase of Esther’s brokenness is so gut-wrenching in this episode, there’s profound sadness ceaselessly lingering in her eyes, but the tearful breakdown this week was harrowing to watch. The controlled sobbed following the immense vulnerability she’s already shown through her physicality during the conversation was utterly heartbreaking. Austen heroines aren’t given too many chances to break as badly as the women in Sanditon are, which is both enticing and jarring. It’s new and real, but it’s also dark and painful. Esther’s got a lot going for her, she’s driven and honest, capable and genuine — she’s deserving of so much greatness and the chance to allow love to inspire the best of her to come forward. She’s guilty of assumptions, too but ultimately plagued by a maliciously aggressive form of unrequited love that’s consistently trying to tarnish whatever goodness is left in her.
The fact that there will always be two sides to a story isn’t an easy notion to grasp for humans. We’ve all gotten riled up and tongue tied focusing on one part of it when there’s always another, and both deserve to be heard entirely before coming to a proper agreement. I adore Georgiana, but this episode is a showcase of her more inexperienced side, but as previously mentioned, it’s easy to appreciate the humanity this show layers its characters with. There’s not a single character who’s immaculate or right all the time. Georgiana should have told Charlotte the truth before surprising her with the awkward third wheel adventure, and even if Charlotte hadn’t made the promise to look out for Georgiana, it’s still dishonest to invite a friend out solely because you want to hang out a man. As someone who’s experienced these very things in Middle School, it’s odd to see it amongst older women. (Or rather at least, women who are older than junior high kids.) I’ve always hated the idea of girls pretending to hang out with their girlfriends when in reality they’re sneaking off with a boy. I understand the temptation and the thrill of love, but it’s just a crappy thing to do when there’s no transparency and understanding in the first place. It’s essentially why their quarrel is so childlike because while Georgiana should have been honest with Charlotte, from the beginning Charlotte should’ve mentioned that she was trusted to look out for her, as a friend, by Sidney. And knowing Charlotte, she would’ve probably agreed to accompany them anyway had Georgiana told her the reason behind the picnic. But alas, you live and you learn, right?
These are the very few moments I wouldn’t want to trade places with Charlotte because goodness, adventures as a third wheel are awkward as heck. (Although the shot of Charlotte picking bluebells is such a stunning scene.) However, it’s when the conversations start getting more honest that the episode’s theme prominently comes to the surface. We don’t know why Sidney has forbidden Georgiana to see Otis, but the assumption that it’s solely due to his race is clearly far from the truth, as we’ve understood Sidney carries a lot of guilt for how he’s made his money in the past. It’s a truth that’ll continue revealing itself more and more as the episodes progress, but the choice to discredit whatever legitimate concerns he must have is unfair information to feed Charlotte. Again, I get it. They believe the separation is entirely unfair, which it is, but choosing not to learn the truth and relying on assumptions is the detail that’s going to cause more of a commotion later on. And as we’ve learned with Charlotte, she’s someone who admires love, she admires togetherness; there’s a steadfast loyalty in her to do everything she can to help friends in need. Charlotte is, first and foremost Georgiana’s friend – having experienced Sidney’s rage firsthand, it’s easy for her to believe what’s being told about his character. That’s why despite the lack of transparency from the beginning, it’s incredibly human of her to act on the information she was given and now, make the conscious choices to help Georgiana instead of keeping her promise to Sidney.
Oh but what follows — it’s an innocent yet frustrated choice that leads to an impersonation that’s certainly heard and justifiably unappreciated. But we can’t deny that it’s a pretty damn good impersonation. Sidney Parker can indeed be a very dramatic man. What’s so infuriating however about this scene is the fact that when Sidney first set out to visit Georgiana, there’s a genuine, subtly evoked elation in him to see Charlotte as well; he’s proud that she’s stayed true to her word, for once it’s not annoyance because of her presence, but he’s purposely setting out to see her, too. And understandably finding her mocking him while in the presence of a man he’s forbidden from seeing Georgiana is going to lead him to a state of rage. An outcry he’s clearly trying to hold together until the very words that pierce the darkest regrets he’s possesses. “Whose fortune is so tainted with the stain of slavery.” Sidney’s a man who’s made choices he isn’t proud of, he’s done things he hates deeply, but what’s undoubtedly transparent about his character is the fact that he’s trying incredibly hard to atone. And though that’s something which isn’t obvious if one’s not looking carefully, it’s a constant battle with him that’s a colossal portion of the rage inside of him. It’s something we’ll get into more later on when the truth is revealed, but Charlotte touches on a part of him here that’s certainly a sore spot, and though unsettling to watch, mighty fine acting is taking place between Rose Williams and Theo James. The genuine rage in both of them is so palpable, it’s almost distressing — Charlotte’s defending her friend with everything she’s got inside of her and Sidney’s trying to not to expose his demons further. He’s trying to do the right thing and honor the promise he’s once made, too.
This conversation then follows the walk along the shore with Mr. Stringer and Charlotte, which is such an honest, gentle moment. If this were any other show, I’d ship the living daylights of Charlotte and Stringer. He’s so welcoming of her, so open to what differentiates her from other women and sincerely honorable when he states that he wouldn’t want her to change. They’re kindred spirits in so many ways — soft, simple, and unbelievably kind souls who could be perfect for one another. But what they’d sadly lack is the ability to challenge each other, the ability to awaken the parts of them that have long lived in silence. Stringer opening up to her about wanting to leave one day, that Sanditon isn’t enough for him is so reflective of his character — a man who’s seen so little but longs for so much. Whereas for Charlotte, Sanditon is already so much more than she’s used to, it’s already touching on the parts of her she wasn’t aware she possessed. It’s riveting and once again so incredibly human to hint on the elements of wanderlust along with the dreams to reach new heights.
Austen’s story’s often target key human experiences and flaws such as the racist and/or prejudice natures of man. The romance centered literature has never shied away from bringing to the surface characters who misjudge others, and whether that was the 19th century, or our current timeline, 2020, it’s still crucial to bring to the surface the fault in these misguided beliefs. On a show with an ensemble cast as riveting as Sanditon’s it’s integral to feature episodes like this that will allow our audience to perhaps even look into parts of themselves. It’s a strategic reminder of the fact that forming any kind of merited belief needs to come from understanding every thing that goes into it. It’s a strategic reminder of how flawed human beings are in their self-interests and how easy it is to go off into our own heads. It’s the key reminder to be fully aware in accepting that listening to people intently and indisputably understanding all sides to a story is the only way we can engage in more unyielding relationships.
- “Picnics are ungodly.” They’re what now?
- Lady Denham has so many ridiculous lines in this episode, the comic relief is just the kind of medicine that works best on a show like this.
- It’s so hysterical how dramatic Diana is after Arthur gets heat stoke. “Such excursions have a pernicious effect.” That’s just the very line I’m now going to use the next time I’m thinking of skipping my workout.
- Anyone catch the emphasis of Sidney’s kindly do this, kindly do that amidst his rage? Okay, sir okay.
- “You could at least allow them a proper parting.” We’ll touch base on these very words soon as Charlotte once again tries to make Sidney understand that he needs to be a little bit kinder to Georgiana even when she’s in the wrong.
- Tom’s behavior is so saddening to me. I broke for Mary when he gave her the necklace because there’s nothing that’s harder to watch than a man lying to his wife. And sure the intent behind it isn’t malicious, but because it’s bound to backfire, it’s not going to be an easy moment to watch.
What are your thoughts on Sanditon’s third 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.