You’ve seen it everywhere at this point. TV Line has even compiled a list of cancelled TV shows fans want brought back and it was #1. So what is this Sanditon show social media has been fighting for and buzzing about since October? It’s Emmy award winner Andrew Davies’ (BBC Pride and Prejudice, Northanger Abbey) adaptation of Jane Austen’s unfinished novel of the same title that brings gorgeous complexity to regency era in a seaside resort with perfectly compelling characters. It’s the compelling story of humanity and how we operate amidst judgements and mistreatment. It’s the love stories between polar opposites that found laughter with each other and kindred spirits who’ve healed each other of all darkness within. It’s colorfully complex characters arguing over money, regattas, and pineapples? It’s the period drama you won’t want to miss because unlike ones that have come before it, it’s deliciously enticing and even in the midst of the quiet serenity, there’s gorgeous storytelling happening. There are a plethora of reasons why Sanditon is a show I’d recommend to anyone, but here are the top 10.
- It’s Jane Austen
If there’s one thing you need to know about me it’s that I’m an absolute Jane Austen snob. The first time I ever read Pride and Prejudice, I wept because I knew I had found the author of my dreams and that we’d be on this adventure for life. (I even got to visit her Chawton house in England, and it was one of the most magical adventures in my entire life!) So for me, I’ll watch anything and everything Austen-inspired without question. But dare I say that Sanditon might actually be my favorite? (No one tell Emma.) And yes, I know Austen’s novel is unfinished and the series is essentially Davies’ version of fan fiction, but it’s brilliantly moving and with the proper conclusion, a story I feel Austen would be proud of. Sanditon is an exhibition of Austen’s deliciously enamoring side of storytelling that focuses on the darkest parts of characters and their tremendous growth through it all. Point being, if you love Jane Austen and haven’t already watched Sanditon, what on earth are you waiting for? Here’s a formal invitation to do so, come one, come all. You’re welcomed.
Who doesn’t love an epic, beautifully poignant and profoundly captivating love story? Here’s the thing, I know a lot of you are hesitant to give Sanditon a go because its cancellation didn’t allow for an Austen promised happy ending, but what we get in the realm of romance is utter magic on Sanditon. Whether it’s the daring love story of opposites in Esther Denham and Lord Babington or the incredibly nuanced relationship between Sidney Parker and Charlotte Heywood, Sanditon gives us some of the most beautiful moments between both couples in each of its episodes. The love stories on Sanditon focus exquisitely on growth and what it means to truly become the best version of ourselves when we find the person we want to walk side by side in life with. In both couples, it allows viewers to understand that when in love, you don’t just find it in your heart to be kind to your partner, but you find it in your heart to be good to everyone around you because love is able to effortlessly inspire the absolute best of you to come to the surface.
In Esther and Babington viewers are given the chance to see that there’s always a possibility of happiness after seemingly endless abuse. They’re given the chance to understand that through patience and kindness, a woman could laugh after years of darkness because she’s accepted just as she is. In Sidney and Charlotte, viewers are given the chance to see that when love is selfless and sincere, it has the power to heal even the most jaded hearts while bringing fire into the quiet souls with a lot of vigor to do great things.
3. Strong Females
Austen females are my favorite Regency females. Period. And that’s perhaps why I fell in love with her work when I began studying it in school because at that time, we weren’t given the chance to see women with this much strength in literature or even television. We were especially not given the chance to see women like this in Regency era because so few had a voice. Austen paved the road for exceptionally wise and outspoken women to use the voices God’s given them to fight for the right to choose for themselves. Austen wrote real women, complicated, ambitious, loyal, loving, kind, messy, etc. We’re always so much more and her characters brought to the surface raw females. Love wasn’t just something you were betrothed to, love is something you choose.
Women are multifaceted, wise, ridiculously charming beings and in Sanditon especially, they’re doing a lot better than the men. Our heroine, Charlotte Heywood is a farmer’s daughter with immense expertise in a number of areas including architecture and the heart of gold she has inspires those around her to be better. Esther Denham is a complicated woman navigating through the darkness she lives with by loving as hard as she possibly can while masking just how much pain she’s actually in. Mary Parker is the mother of three doing everything she can to help not only her husband but the entire town of Sanditon to feel like home. Georgiana Lambe is a loving woman fighting through the mistreatment she faces because of the color of her skin. Clara Brereton is perhaps the most villainous of all but she’s so much more than the mischief she causes. Lady Denham has years of heartache riding on her wealth today. And Lady Susan is the most powerful of all, honorably wealthy, incredibly kind, and sincerely noble – need I say more? The compelling females make Sanditon as special as it is, each remarkably unique in their own way. There’s a reason they’re the stars of the entire series.
4. Flawed Complex Characters
Austen’s characters are often far from perfect, which makes them that much more relatable and thus incredibly nuanced. There’s not a single character, with the exception of Queen Lady Susan who’s perfect. (And sure Lady Susan has flaws, too but because we don’t know them, we’re deeming her perfect.) The characters on Sanditon are full of astonishing range that allow the story to flow seamlessly because of their choices. And if there’s anything I value more than a riveting plot, it’s a character driven plot. The characters and their choices, noble or inconceivable make each of them so fascinating to watch. It’s through their eyes where we’re able to touch on crucial matters such as racism, class, and unfair judgments. It’s through their eyes we’re able to touch on the importance of getting to know a person as opposed to forming improper assumptions based off of past mistakes or misunderstandings. It is through the eyes of each character where we’re not only told but shown the importance of giving people the room to grow by showing them love above all emotions. It’s through the eyes of these characters where we’re reminded of just how much humanity relies on the openness and acceptance of others to help people grow into the best versions of themselves.
5. Incredible Friendships
The friendships on this show are as incredible and as raw as can be bringing to the series a wonderful balance between romantic and platonic relationships.. The friendships break down walls and touch on vulnerable topics concerning matters of the heart with great attention to loyalty. Although the women don’t always pass the Bechdel test, their interactions with one another are pleasant and met with great respect for each other especially Charlotte and Georgiana’s along with Charlotte and Lady Susan’s. The relationship between Charlotte and Mary is just as beautiful, too mirroring that of a mother and daughter in a sense. It is through these characters that we see the steadfast loyalty within most of these women and the great lengths they’ll go to for one another. We also get a lovely friendship between James Stringer and Charlotte Heywood and though its unrequited love, it doesn’t change the fact that there’s strong admiration and respect for one another. The friendships on the series beautifully reflect one of my favorite quotes from Austen’s Northanger Abbey: “I have no notion of loving people by halves, it is not my nature.” The friendship between siblings Diana and Arthur parker is worth mentioning as well for while they didn’t choose their blood relation, they choose their friendship over and over again, taking care of one another and supporting each other through everything. And let’s not forget to mention the friendship between Babington and Sidney, sure Crowe, too but the two men have got each other’s backs more often than not, which is always lovely to see. The loyalty these characters have for one another is remarkably unmatched.
6. Timeless Storytelling
Austen might be known as one of the greatest romance writers of all time, but her work is so much more than a love story between two people and Sanditon, much like the rest of her stories reveals the significance of her writing and how it holds up eras later. It’s 2020 and we don’t excuse things the way we’ve done in the past, and Sanditon is bold in its stance regarding the tragedies of racism, abuse, and ranking people based on class. This isn’t a series that excuses any of those societal terrors, but instead, it confronts them. As mentioned above, the plot is guided by its characters, their motives, and the choices they make every day, which makes the story that much more compelling because it’s bigger than a seaside resort. It’s a story that demands its audience understands just how improper it is to pass judgement based off someone’s skin color, societal prestige, or wealth. Sanditon is history and the present all at once intricately mirroring yesterday and today by showcasing that humanity’s growth has and will always be dependent on our treatment of others.
7. The Ramifications of Abuse
Sanditon touches on abuse subtly but without missing a beat in showcasing to viewers just how often it happens and how crucial it is to have support through it all in order to bounce back. We see it happen in the form of love between Esther and Edward Denham. We hear about it through Clara and see it in her behavior. We see the ramifications of verbal abuse through Lady Denham. And we see it faintly in a social setting through Eliza. (I don’t put this in the same category as above by any means. It’s more bullying than abuse, but in order not to create another category, we’ll mention it here.) The series doesn’t shy away from revealing what becomes of people when they’re mistreated, but it also doesn’t stop reminding us of the fact that our actions are often a choice and no one else’s fault. It’s the stunning reminder that when people are brave enough to let abusive relationships go, they’ll finally have the freedom to reach their highest potential in life.
8. The Performances
This is perhaps the part of the series that has surprised me the most. I hadn’t seen any of these actors in their previous roles so I had absolutely no clue what greatness I was in for. But there’s not a single performer on Sanditon that doesn’t layer their character with meticulous attention to the inner most parts of their being bringing their a-game in every moment. And thus, because each performer is so strong on their own, the chemistry with other actors reaches a period drama high unlike anything I’ve seen in a long time. Theo James and Rose Williams are the strongest Austen scene partners I’ve seen since Romola Garai and Johnny Lee Miller (Emma). James and Williams brought their individual characters to life beautifully, and simultaneously touched on the romance between Charlotte and Sidney with profound sincerity and unparalleled ardor. The strength in each of these actors and the nuanced performances they brought to the forefront in every episode brought to life emotions beyond the written words. Crystal Clarke was on fire through each of her Georgiana’s scenes bringing to life both pain and strength exceptionally. Charlotte Spencer made me cry almost every week after the fourth episode as she explored Esther’s darkness and pain. Mark Stanley brought sincerity to life remarkably as Lord Babington. Leo Suter’s charm and gentle portrayal of Stringer made the character an absolute treasure. The list goes on — the cast alone is reason to watch.
9. The Score
I want to give Ruth Barrett all the awards for the poignantly moving score she’s composed for Sanditon. It is utter magic in every way and I have not stopped listening to it since the moment it was released. The score layers the story in a way that’s so compelling, you don’t even have to be paying close attention to be enamored by how much power it holds. A good score goes along with the story, a great score emphasizes the emotions and allows what’s on screen to be amplified beautifully. Each and every track on Barrett’s score does the latter with effortless ease, and “Possibility of Love” especially highlights the very essence of the series’ eight episode run with a type of captivating sensation that easily evokes tears even when listening with no context. “Sidney and Charlotte’s Dance” tells the progressive story of “enemies” to lovers with enamoring momentum and a staggering pace that flows remarkably with the scene. (I need to do a detailed breakdown of this dance at some point. I’ll get to it. I promise.)
10. The Scenery
Period pieces have the best scenery and I’ll fight anyone who disagrees with this sentiment. The clifftops (Sand Point), the beaches (Brean Beach), the blue bells, the estates Dyrham Park, Bowood Estate, they all play an incredibly beautiful role in making Sanditon aesthetically riveting. And each place symbolically accentuates the story’s arc with great ease. To have Sidney and Charlotte’s first kiss take place on the cliff where they first met marks the moment as the freeing representation of their hearts finally being at ease, open, and everlasting as places in nature tend to be. The Victorian set design within four walls that intricately makes each moment stand out perfectly. The scenery and costumes will get you from the get-go. I promise.
You can watch Sanditon on Masterpiece PBS, iTunes, Amazon Prime. Check your local providers and most importantly, when you do, scream (metaphorically) about it on social media. I’ve seen so many shows rise from the cancellation ashes, I know it could happen with Sanditon, too. Be sure to hashtag #SanditonPBS and #Sanditon on social media. Tell all your friends, too. It’s the type of story that deserves to be given the proper sendoff. And if God forbid the show never returns, it’s worth the watch anyway. It’s masterfully done and poetically captivating. I know without a shadow of a doubt that if we were given the chance to see its proper ending with another season, it would honor Austen’s legacy beautifully.
If you’d like more Sanditon content, be sure to check out our weekly reviews of every episode in season one.