Welcome to Sanditon weekly, darling readers — the tropey-est, most exhilarating episode yet, we’re two away from the season finale and things are getting deliciously captivating. It picks up right where we left off last week with Charlotte on her way to London in hopes of finding Georgiana, except what she finds instead is Sidney on the same mission. And who doesn’t love an unplanned trope filled mission? All that was missing the necessity to share a bed because they were stranded somewhere with no other option, but I get it, I get it. It isn’t very Austen-esque. Lady Denham is now bed ridden and once she reveals that she’s already got her will ready to go, Edward and Clara make it their goal to find it. It’s the episode where we finally meet Lady Susan, a character who’s able to steal the entire show in the less than five minutes of screen time she has. To be that legendary, I wish I could relate.
It’s an episode that solidifies the fact that in spite of the tough exterior, Sidney Parker really is a good man — a sincerely warm being with a great amount of compassion flowing through his veins. At his core, he’s a giving man, as Tom explains in detail, he wasn’t always a conundrum. As we learn towards the end of the episode, Sidney was once engaged to be married, but because she left him for an older, wealthier man, it broke his spirit entirely. And after all the debts he acquired on a self-destructive path following his heartache, he set off to Antigua in hopes of finding something more. But as we learned last week, the man that left for Antigua returned possessed by guilt, regrets, and overpowering heartache. And that very man is the Sidney Parker we know today, the one who’s trying desperately hard, but failing to succeed as a result of the bottled rage that lives inside of him. (Is anyone else crying because I’m already choking up here imagining just how much the heartbreak destroyed him.)
Prior to having our guesses answered in such straightforward manner, Sidney already shows tremendous growth here. There’s no going back for the man who’s yelled in the middle of a street multiple times then grew to regret it. He is going to do everything in his power not to make those same mistakes again, and it all starts from channeling the anger towards the people who actually deserve it. When Sidney saves Charlotte in the alleyway from another man attacking her, it’s not because he knows it’s Charlotte, it’s because he’s not the type of man to ever stand behind when someone’s getting hurt. The man he used to be and the man he is today have at least kept their morals intact to always stand up to the bullies. He’d never turn a blind eye, but when he learns it is Charlotte, goodness does it get titillating. She’s too stubborn to leave and he’s not in the mood to watch over someone else. But let’s be real, a part of him wanted her there. We see you, Parker. We see you.
And as we know by now, Charlotte will never not stand up to Sidney, she’ll never not call out his vague remarks or the lack of transparency in his being. She brings up the topic of his fortune again and makes it clear this time that it’s his doing to ensure no one knows a thing about him, it’s his choice to be an outlier — it’s his choice to shut himself off from the world, it’s his choice not to feel. To which he clarifies his hatred of slavery and states that it’s the very reason he left the sugar trade behind. One moment of honesty down, and a lot more coming. Sidney’s disapproval of Otis had nothing to do with race and everything to do with the promise he made to protect Georgiana until her 21st birthday, believing with everything in him that Otis was solely after her money. As members of the audience, people like Charlotte, it’s hard to believe Otis wouldn’t want Georgiana’s freedom, that he’d do all this for her fortune alone as opposed to her being, but it’s also understandable that Sidney would be so cautious and against it all.
After they find Otis at the Sons of Africa meeting, he and Sidney argue on the streets, as per usual, would it even be Sanditon if Sidney Parker wasn’t yelling in the middle of the street? At least it’s not at Charlotte this time. The belief that Otis ruined Georgiana, that his carelessness is entirely to blame for her kidnapping is valid, but also, untrue. It’s careless without a doubt, but it he isn’t entirely to blame, and I’ve always hated the idea of making a situation more difficult by casting blame on another person. But after they’ve learned his letters were stolen and he owes a prodigious debt, they come to learn that she’s been bought. (Gross. I forget what time period we’re in sometimes. Or even the fact that this happens so much today underground. People suck, as did writing that sentence.) They then walk into “boarding house” for answers and instead of Charlotte staying in the car as she’s told, she calls Sidney out on his crap again.
It all works beautifully for development because it prompts an intimate conversation about love followed by some more truth bombs. “God forbid you give something of yourself.” “You take pains to be unknowable” “You cannot bear the idea of two people being in love.” Tea. Charlotte isn’t here to play and thank heavens for that. (Quick someone count the amount of times she calls him out in this episode. That’s what, about 10 so far?) However, Sidney is anything but insensible of feeling, and when he apologizes because she thinks that, be still my heart – here come the waterworks. Rose Williams is on fire in this moment, but it’s the darkness that’s clouding over Theo James that breaks me – “how much easier my life would’ve been if I were.” He doesn’t even look her in the eyes as he says this — the man who’d once scream from the rooftops is quiet, his jaw tenses, his expression alters drastically, and his entire demeanor crumbles, instantly making it clear that the brokenness which haunts him unceasingly is in full force at this moment. James brings a myriad of heartaches to the surface with so much haunting repertoire, it is astounding. A change in the air Charlotte senses too as she then begins to quietly look into the man she’s just wounded by understanding that he does indeed care a great amount — an expressiveness full of immense longing that Williams delivers remarkably. The scene is straight fire, painful, moving, and exponentially surprising.
Once we finally find Georgiana and it follows a raging horse chase, we come to a moment which beautifully showcases friendship and female empowerment. There’s so much heart in this moment because Sidney wants nothing more than to save her. (Again, whoever said period dramas were boring clearly hasn’t seen the good ones.) But what perfect timing does it occur during because if I had to hear another word out of Mr. Howard’s gross mouth believing that women could be his property, I too would want to cut my throat off. We get it, Georgiana. We get it. And when she yells “I am no man’s property!” heck yes. Austen’s success in writing romance novels has always come from the fact that she’s created women equal to men, allowing them to speak their minds and stand up for themselves. It’s a line I’m sure Austen would be greatly proud of, as she’d also be of the two women immediately comforting each other.
In all honesty, I don’t know how 45 or so minutes of television included this much vulnerability and I am sane enough to write about it. It’s tropey perfection because once the moment in the carriage happens, you imagine, okay this was probably all we’d get for now, and then bam, we’re hit with an intimate conversation between brothers where there’s never been more honesty between the two. Sidney speaks of the guilt he feels for Georgiana’s heartache: he believes he’s failed her, and he believes there’s no way to really make amends. It’s a moment where Tom is also confronted, finally admitting to defeat and the fact that he can’t pay his men because he’s entirely broke.
Let’s rewind for a moment to what he says when Georgiana snaps at him, stating that she can’t cauterize her heart like him. (Okay but, this episode is once again just a whole lot of assumptions about his character that he’s handling, for the first time, like a champ.) He’s taking the opportunities to be honest and vulnerable: “At this moment your world feels undone. I know that. But you must put him from your mind, or you’ll go mad.” Sidney Parker went mad, and he gives her the kind of advice it seems no one else gave him, or let’s be real, knowing him, he probably didn’t listen to them, but the reality is that he’s choosing to put a part of himself out there to make it a little bit easier for her. It’s a moment much harder for Georgiana to catch given the grief she’s facing, but Charlotte does so immediately, a look of overwhelming empathy Williams touches on with the utmost sincerity.
But back to the conversation he has with Tom, when Sidney asks: “How can a man begin to make amends until he is willing to face his own faults?”, he’s talking about himself, the faults that he’s been forced to confront the past few days and the inability to get passed his own grief, his own forgiveness, which is perhaps the hardest thing a person could ever do. It’s easy to forgive someone else, it’s hardest to forgive ourselves and that’s the very demon Sidney’s been wrestling with for far too long, but he’s never cared for or wanted it more than he does today. And after the agreement to pay off Tom’s debts once more, he mentions that he would do anything to be blessed with a wife and family like his. (Oh honey, she’s upstairs.) The idea of opening up to love after facing the kind of soul crushing heartache he did isn’t an easy effort, but we’re now one step closer to it because the desire is at least in him. He hasn’t shut off his heart to the world entirely and if anyone needed further proof of the fact, this was it.
Self-forgiveness and making amends are more than just sulking in guilt, it’s putting actions behind the very changes one wants to see and Sidney does so by allowing Otis to visit Georgiana for a proper parting. An act directly inspired by Charlotte’s comment in the fourth episode about how a proper parting could’ve at least brought a sense of clarity to Georgiana’s grief. It isn’t an easy moment to watch for it touches on forgiveness in a crushing scene that details what it truly means not to be transparent with the ones we claim we love most. (A detail that hits close to home for Tom Parker, too.) Otis confesses to gambling, but also states he was genuinely in love with her. He was proud of her not for her fortune, but because he couldn’t believe a woman like her loved a man like him. My heart broke when he said he fell in love with her soul because it was so easy to believe him. Jyuddah Jaymes does a great job here of showcasing authenticity in a way that allows us to feel the weight of his words. However, unfortunately, it doesn’t make a difference for Georgiana, or Sidney or the situation. This is the most likely the end for them, an end that will hopefully inspire acts driven by honesty in the future. Maybe this can teach Otis to be more careful, wiser, and smarter to know that his future can be great if he consistently tries to be the best version of himself and honest with the one he loves most.
And once Charlotte says her goodbyes to Otis, choosing to forgive him and understanding that he never had bad intensions, she learns that Sidney has paid off his debts setting him free, too. This isn’t something Sidney did for accolades or acknowledgement, he did so quietly because he’s been a man in his shoes. A man who’s made mistakes, who’s trying to be better, and in doing so, giving another the opportunity to do so as well. And when Charlotte confronts him, he’s honest about why he did it. She then tries to apologize to him except, he doesn’t accept because he needs to apologize to her instead and he does so with the very sincerity she saw in him in episode three. A kind of sincerity that convinces her to go to the Masquerade ball despite not wanting to. “I’ve done you a great discourtesy. I’ve underestimated you.” What he states here differs from what he’s said in the past because there’s no blame on her in anyway. His perception has been wrong. His judgement has been wrong. It’s entirely on him.
I have an incredibly important inquiry here that I’ve rattled my brain about for months now. How did they end up in match gold?!She clearly didn’t come prepared with a dress, I doubt something of that size would even fit in the tiny suitcase she had with her. And sure perhaps there were some dresses in the house, but how did he decide to wear the gold vest? This isn’t a coincidence, no one dare to even try to convince me that it is. Did he have her try on multiple dresses then ask which one she’s choosing from the house keepers so he can wear the matching vest? (Update: I’ve now read the companion novel that answers my question about where she gets the dress. Babington’s sister. So then Sidney chose a matching vest!? Is that what happened!?) I need answers and I need them stat. Because gold – let’s talk about that color and what it represents. (I figure you’ve all gathered this by now because I wrote an analyses on the blue shoes for the Pilot episode but I’m an absolute color symbolism snob.) Sure gold is generally associated with wealth, status, success, etc. but it’s also one of the warmest colors to exist, it represents, where our minds go to when we see the color. Riches sure, but treasures are a far better way to describe it. It’s a color that draws attention to itself because time and time again its proven to hold great value, and for these two, it’s a representation of the treasure they found in one another. (They don’t know it yet though but it is.) Despite all the wealth they could acquire, they’d never be more rich than they are in the moments they’re together.
But glitz and glamour aside, it doesn’t matter for Charlotte, she feels bad leaving Georgiana behind and on top of that, she’s certain she doesn’t belong in this company. A belief she states out loud to which he replies that he doesn’t think he does either. He’s an outlier. (Except he belongs with her.) But the banter here changes so intricately because when she asks for his permission, his response is an acknowledgement to her admirable individuality, the spunk in her he’s so deeply enamored by: “Since when have you required my permission to do anything?” To which she misunderstands as judgement, stating she’s “too headstrong, too opinionated” but he counters that in the same way he counters the apology back at the house by choosing to acknowledge that once again, it’s his judgement that has been wrong: “No. You’re not too anything. Don’t doubt yourself. You’re more than equal to any woman here.” The sincerity in this moment is filled with gorgeously profound weight because James layers Sidney with a benevolence we’ve yet to see in him. He doesn’t just want her to understand that he means every word he’s saying, but he needs her to. He’s done a great disservice to her time and time again, and this is a fact he’s trying to ensure screams louder than any of his tongue lashings ever have. She’s the only woman in this room who matters to him, the only woman he holds to high esteem, the only woman who’s more than. She’s fiercely compelling and deeply appreciated by him — a woman he’d never want to change but one he’s moved by ad-infinitum.
Cut to Babington and Charlotte’s conversation, another moment that destroys me. (Seriously this episode is wild.) Charlotte brings up Esther, states that she saw them together, oblivious to the fact that she’s rejected him. And when he asks her for advice, it forces her to question herself, her own feelings instead. “Is it possible for your affections towards a man to alter entirely in a single day?” That’s when the camera pans to Charlotte looking at Sidney. (Be still my heart. Be still.) Her affections have altered. Just as Esther’s will. Because it’s possible. It’s entirely possible for one moment to change anything. A single moment has always held great power, a single day especially, is a whole other story. Charlotte’s not only learned crucial information that’s answered her questions about Sidney, but she’s directly seen changes in him. She’s seen his heart more closely than ever. She’s watched him put actions behind his promises, and she’s experienced his kindness firsthand learning that a heartbreak once forced him to shut himself off. Of course, it’d change everything. And Rose Williams does such an exquisite job of wearing a myriad of emotions in a single expression here — illuminating to the audience that Charlotte realizes there’s something awakening in her.
(P.S. Someone please for the love of all things wonderful, tell poor Babington to hang in there. The man’s expressiveness wounds me greatly!)
At last, folk — let’s talk about the woman of the hour, a woman who should just be the deemed queen of everything. We are not worthy of Lady Susan or the grace, kindness, and warmth she carries herself with. Sophie Winkleman is an absolute show stopping scene stealer. There’s not a single character that’s made an appearance on Sanditon who’s been as easy to appreciate from their very first word as Lady Susan is, which says a great deal about Winkleman’s embodiment of the character, and the sincerity she brings to the table in an episode that’s already so chaotic. She’s stillness and reason, she’s serenity and grace. She’s open and accepting: a woman who’s clearly done with the games that come with high society. Charlotte naively opens up about everything to our new heroine, literally tells her the whole story, sparing no detail. And Williams touches on a flustered spirit so acutely here, because it’s evident that Charlotte’s brain is racing more than it ever has in her life. Lady Susan listens intently, judges carefully and kindly, then responds to Charlotte’s “I’m inclined to talk too much” with “Forgive me for asking Charlotte, but you seem somewhat befuddled.” A warm approach to the situation that we have proof not many in Sanditon would take. So she bares it all to her: “There’s a certain gentleman. Mr. Sidney Parker. He inspires an anger in me I did not know I possessed and yet, I find that his good opinion means more to me than anybody else’s. How can that be?”
“My dear girl. You cannot determine who you fall in love with. It’s an affliction.” And there it is, the very truth. If this were not true, Charlotte should fall in love with Stringer, as we mentioned last week, he’s faultless, as perfect as man can be, and yet. She stands before us today befuddled and torn apart because she’s in love with the man who’s awakened parts of her that no one else could. He’s awakened longing and profound curiosity. He’s her equal in more ways than anyone can be. And in he comes to interrupt their conversation in a way that sparks the most fantastic expression on Lady Susan.
He comes and asks her to dance, but at the same time, he gives her the choice to carry on her with the conversation. And when she questions why he’s chosen her instead of the other ladies in the room, he states that he doesn’t want to dance with anyone else. “I don’t want to dance with any of them” directly equates to you’re the only one that I’ll ever want. (Cue Ruth Barrett’s “Sidney and Charlotte Dance” and let’s all cry for a moment before we carry on. MY GOODNESS.) It’s taking everything in me not to write on a novel on this piece of music alone. It’s so beautiful and moving, and it reflects the progression of their relationship so appropriately — how the melody changes to showcase the sudden shift in their dynamic is utter magic.
Sidney doesn’t take his eyes off Charlotte for even a split second. It’s as though they are dancing around all the unspoken words, everything they’ve been through, everything they’ll face, then finally coming to this organic moment of profound intimacy knowing that in each other’s arms, they’re safe. There’s so much reverence in his smile and the room is filled with their laughter again. It’s the very same laughter at the beach. The laughter that holds vast freedom and warmth. The laughter that carries the weight of a thousand words that focus on a conversation between the inner most parts of their beings that have found serenity with each other. The parts of their souls that are apologizing and forgiving, confessing and accepting, longing and giving in. It’s moving, it’s almost agonizing, and it’s deeply vulnerable. A room of full of people, but for a moment, the two of them could just be.
And then the moment’s over, he sees Eliza watching them from a distance, and everything changes here. He thanks Charlotte and approaches Eliza. He smiles with her, which is entirely understandable for someone like him, because at his core, Sidney’s a happier man. And light has returned to both Sidney and Charlotte, except Tom is an idiot and thinks it’s because of Eliza. Goodness, man. Get your checks in order and open your eyes. But Charlotte breaks me here because she’s not only in a state where she understands and is accepting her feelings for Sidney, but she’s watching him carry on the warmth they experienced with another woman, the very kind of woman she felt he’d be better off with. The very woman he said he didn’t want to dance with. It’s a lot to swallow, a lot to process, and that shot of her face as everyone danced around her is tormenting. To open yourself up then question whether or not the person feels the same way is a dark road no one wants to be on.
As mentioned, this episode touches on the theme of forgiveness a tremendous amount, except two people aren’t deserving of it, they don’t want it they don’t care for it. As Lady Denham is now bedridden drinking seawater, (I have so many questions.) Edward and Clara are off will hunting. Esther is focused on Lady Denham’s recovery, and the belief that perhaps they’ll finally be free from Clara not realizing that they’re conspiring behind her back. Yuck. After they discover the entirety of Lady Denham’s assets is to be left to the development of Sanditon town, Clara suggests burning the will and taking 25% for her silence. After they slept together. On the floor. On top of a painted picture of a snake. Oof, the symbolism! The gold isn’t the only element doing more talking than the characters. Edward and Clara are the snakes — the leaches of the town, the conniving worms that want nothing more but money, the ones that want to leave venom in everyone and everything.
And unsurprisingly, Edward the snake, lies about the will to Esther. Which continues to crush me because as mentioned last week and during every single one of these reviews, Edward is so easy to hate. He’s especially easy to hate when we watch him lie to Esther, when we watch him tear her down word by word, touch by touch tearing her away from the happiness she deserves. I’ll have more to say about this situation next week, but goodness.
The episode focuses meticulously on the importance of putting actions behind our words in order to find the light we’re all searching for. And while some characters fail at finding the light in darkness, others blossom in the challenges. It’s an episode that highlights the darkness that follows heartaches and the pangs of guilt with tremendous attention to what it means for so many people. Physical pain is never as excruciating as the aches that follow betrayals and broken hearts. It’s an episode that shows us just how difficult it is to forgive ourselves, a theme that’ll carry on to the rest of the season, and an episode that focuses exquisitely on what it means to be aware of ourselves. It’s as mentioned in the introduction, an absolute bumpy ride full of a lot. As most penultimate episodes, it packs in as much as it can without being too overbearing, and despite the wild ride, it works beautifully in allowing a number of natural human emotions to shine through.
- There’s something utterly hilarious about a spunky little girl walking into a “boarding house” and calling out Sidney with the assumption that his idea of love is something to be paid for. It shouldn’t make me laugh as hard as it does, but Sidney’s face in that very scene is ridiculous. He just. . .cannot believe she didn’t stay in the car, like it’s somehow surprising to him that she wouldn’t listen. Be the Charlotte Heywood of whatever you do, readers. Be the Charlotte Heywood.
- “ You haven’t made a nice man out of our Mr. Parker.” She has. She has indeed, but also Charlotte doing all the talking in this moment is everything. See, this is why she shouldn’t have stayed in the car. He’d get nowhere without her.
- Sidney’s voice when he yells “driver.” I just don’t understand how it did that thing it did and I’m not mad at it, folks. I’m not mad.
- Crowe not recognizing Charlotte like the idiot that he is. What is this man’s deal? How does he function?
- Sidney’s physicality when talking to Eliza isn’t as serene as when he’s with Charlotte, but he’s still holding on to the love inside that’s allowing kindness to pass through. The man he’s always been, the kind, compassionate loving being has returned because of Charlotte, which makes it that much easier for him to be this way with Eliza, too. It appears differently to Charlotte, but we know where his heart belongs.
What are your thoughts on Sanditon’s sixth 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.