Portrayed by: Leo Suter
Show: PBS’ Sanditon
Sanditon is an incredibly special show and its captivating characters are at the top of the list as to why. Young James Stringer though not the main face on display is a gem to dissect. Stringer is a Mr. Bingley through and through—a character that deserves ample adoration because they’re good. Simply, good. And that’s the thing with Stringer played by Leo Suter—he’s so good, it’s heartwarming. That goodness however comes with layers; while Stringer is very of the times in the type of gentleman he is, he’s also a character with ambition and a desire to be more.
Stringer is such a pure delight, and up until the final episode, he was an explosively charming character to a relatively chaotic form of Austen storytelling. He was the calm amidst the storms–the joy amidst the grunts. And it’s that final moment with him staring at the ruins of all that he’s worked towards that I’m still haunted by a year later. To watch a character completely shatter right before the audience’s eyes the way Stringer does is one of the most underrated moments of the series. Leo Suter brings his a-game in what’s the strongest performance for his character, and it’s exceptional.
You can pinpoint the exact moment where Stringer’s entire being crumbles, the exact moment where he goes from a doe-eyed man with big dreams to a man who realizes he’s lost the fight against himself. Stringer losing his father will surely impact him, but as a man who’s known loss before, the thing that actually breaks him is all that he’s worked on turning to ash right before his eyes. Suter showcases a full range of emotions in his singular expressiveness and it’s remarkable. This is a man who’s now lost everything—a loss that hits deeper than all other losses he’s faced.
Stringer’s kindness is transcendent. So often characters written this way don’t get to actually explore their goodness as openly. So often they’re behind the shadows. Stringer’s kindness is the light in every scene he’s in. But the darkness in Stringer’s arc is his father, someone who cares deeply for him, but someone who’s also his panopticon. And the reality is that while this is perhaps something he doesn’t intend to be—he is. Old man Stringer’s inability to let go of his own dreams and thus forcing his son to follow in his footsteps has undoubtedly affected Stringer’s behavior throughout the series. All that he has done, and simultaneously has not done, is due to this subconscious feeling of always having to abide to someone else’s watchful eye—someone else’s conscience. Someone else’s dreams for himself—someone else’s watch. And the end of that watch is a dark one.
It’s the end of a loving man who never really knew how to show his son adoration, and tragically leaving the world after an enormous fight. A fight that leaves Stringer knowing so much but so little at the same time. A fight that leaves him with pieces he needs to pick up and places he needs to go, but the inability to do so because a son’s love for his father is stronger than his own dreams.
And that’s who Stringer is—a man who’ll put aside his own ambitions in order to rebuild from the ashes to protect those he loves. A man who will put aside his own desires to lend an ear to anyone needing someone. We’re often too busy analyzing the Mr. Darcys and Sidney Parkers, and not looking into the Mr. Bingleys, but Stringer is a treasure. He’s one of the most memorable characters not because there’s a barely there love triangle that he’s part of, but because his kindness is reflective of the type of people who are often ignored or just presumed to always be there.
It is reflective of the people who try so hard and aren’t always given the credit that they deserve. And granted Stringer’s never been one to do something for some sort of acknowledgement, but he’s taken care of people. He’s taken care of anyone who works with him, he’s taken care of his father, and to a degree, he’s taken care of Sanditon. The seaside resort might be Tom Parker’s baby, but without Stringer, it’d be nothing, without his help, without his spirit, its beauty wouldn’t stand as vibrantly as it does.
Stringer might not get the girl in the end or the option to follow his dreams, but he’s the character without whom the series wouldn’t be as special. Something would be missing. Something wouldn’t feel right, and that something is the benevolent heart of an extraordinarily good man. A man who’s time and time again made the conscious choice to be gentle, warm, and welcoming. In this house, Stringer’s the character who has our full respect and adoration.