Sanditon 2×02 Spoilers Ahead
Towards the end of Sanditon Season 2, Episode 2, Charlotte Heywood boldly announces that she is “trying” to “forge a new life, a new path.” This audacious idea could be the tagline for Sanditon 2×02. In this latest episode, several characters desire to take charge of their fates, with many hoping to change course.
For some Sanditon residents, changing course means breaking from a path they’ve already been traveling and for others it means creating a path that doesn’t yet exist. We begin to have some clues about which characters will succeed at their trying in Sanditon 2×02.
Let’s, once again, dive into the undercurrents at the Sanditon seaside.
A Word to the Wise
Sanditon is full of characters who love to offer advice or otherwise meddle in the affairs of others. Some of this advice is good, some misguided. In Sanditon 2×02, we see characters ignoring good advice, heeding questionable advice, and falling into the age-old pattern of not being able to see how the advice they give to others applies to their own lives.
Immediately after dispatching with yet another suitor, Georgiana Lambe questions Mary Parker about why she is so intent on seeing Georgiana married. Mary is candid in offering advice to Georgiana. She recognizes that Georgiana, because of her skin color, already faces challenges in an unkind and unwelcoming society. Mary emphasizes: “Your fortune leaves you vulnerable. A good marriage will offer you protection, acceptance.” One might rightly ask whether the Parkers are accurate judges of potential suitors since Georgiana views them as nothing more than fortune-hunters. Yet, Mary’s heart is in the right place – she is centering concern for Georgiana as the primary reason for pushing marriage.
Georgiana, however, seems to bristle at the word “acceptance” and later she declares to Alison Heywood that she is tired of being “told what is and isn’t appropriate.” By the time she seeks out Charles Lockhart on the patio of the assembly rooms, Georgiana has begun to convince herself that the cost of acceptance may be too steep. When Lockhart says, “I prefer to live my life on my own terms, outside the narrow confines of polite society,” I hear echoes of Georgiana’s tense conversation with Sidney Parker from Sanditon 1×02 (“Your father wanted you to take your place in polite society.”) The look on Georgiana’s face after Lockhart’s declaration suggests she may be remembering it too.
Unlike in Sanditon 1×02, where Georgiana’s desires were “neither here nor there,” in Sanditon 2×02 Georgiana boldly tells Mary no more suitors: “If and when I marry, it will be on my terms. Mine and mine alone.” As we saw in Sanditon 2×01, Georgiana is not eager to give up her power.
Seeking Battle Strategies
On Charlotte’s first day as governess, her charge Augusta Markham offers some advice: “You must learn to parry, Miss Heywood, if you want to survive this household.” This advice comes after Mrs. Wheatley, the housekeeper of Heyrick Park, has informed Charlotte about the short tenures of prior governesses and the wagers against Charlotte staying for more than a week. It also comes after Alexander Colbourne insults both girls in describing their “educational” needs to Charlotte, displays a narrow-minded view of “femininity” and what it means to be “marriageable,” and leaves abruptly slamming the door.
Although at the start of Sanditon 2×02 Charlotte may think she has an ally in the housekeeper – who did bet on her staying after all – Mrs. Wheatley seems to have a different view of how to handle the girls. She advises Charlotte to punish Augusta for the insulting embroidery rather than being lenient. Mrs. Wheatley displays wisdom but also a practicality with little sentimentality. When Charlotte wants to understand Augusta, Mrs. Wheatley responds “Is it so hard to understand? She’s 18 and not long orphaned.” In other words, she’s suddenly entirely dependent and isolated when she was on the cusp of entering society and perhaps choosing her own life.
When Charlotte presses for details about Leonora’s mother, Mrs. Wheatley responds “we don’t dwell on it.” It’s as if she’s saying, ‘what’s past is past. Now, get back to work since I’ve bet on you.’ In prying into Leo’s feelings (despite Mrs. Wheatley’s advice), Charlotte sets herself up for another attack from Augusta. “Mrs. Heywood misses the husband she doesn’t have.” Rose Williams once again portrays Charlotte’s hidden grief so poignantly. She remains in silent contemplation rather than parrying.
Charlotte is, instead, obliged to seek battle strategies from Colonel Lennox, who happily obliges. His main advice is to trick the enemy into drawing close before going in for the kill. Charlotte retains only the idea of showing vulnerability, which provides another poignant look at her grief. While audiences should be touched by Charlotte’s revelation about loving Sidney and being loved in return, Augusta Markham is not similarly moved. Augusta Markham’s steely look (that Eloise Webb executes brilliantly) after she says she could play for Charlotte should set off alarms. Why is the spinet locked in the first place? Charlotte seems to have forgotten about the need to parry or use her bayonet and has certainly underestimated how determined Augusta is to keep her at arm’s length.
Dabbling in Alternative Remedies
Lady Babington is intent on conceiving at risk of ignoring traditional medical advice and her meddling aunt’s warnings. Esther seems to believe that “God has taken against” her. We see her in church perhaps trying to reclaim God’s favor). Like Georgiana in Sanditon 2×01, she may be thinking the Hankins and their eager curiosity are further proof that God is ignoring her prayers. Beatrice Hankins sensitivity to Esther’s plight does in fact seem to provide an answer. Lady Denham is stunned to learn that Esther has visited the home of a midwife in Melmead, but Esther perhaps too blithely declares “What do I have to lose?”
Not Playing It Cool
Alison Heywood appears incapable of taking courtship advice, being drawn forward instead by her own emotions. Even though Georgiana has been instrumental in her meeting Captain Carter, Alison does not heed Georgiana’s advice about how to advance the relationship. Poor Alison rightly calls out the mixed messages of Georgiana scheming to visit the soldier’s camp but then telling Alison: “Do not betray your feelings too readily. Try to appear aloof.” Alison seems to think, since “we’ve invaded his camp,” it’s too late for me to appear aloof.
Her over-eagerness continues at the mess dinner, despite both Georgiana’s and Charlotte’s advice. When Alison declares, “can’t you feel from my heartbeat that it’s just too late for such advice,” we know that she’s already forgotten the advice that she so earnestly sought from Esther in Sanditon 2×01.
Or has she? The tension between Alison and Captain Fraser continues as he delivers the invitation and later when they are seated together at the mess dinner. Is she unwittingly taking Esther’s advice? She’s certainly disdaining not just his every word but his very presence. And this approach may be working as, during the first dance, we see Captain Fraser looking with eager interest at Alison as she dances with Captain Carter.
The love triangle forming here promises to be a playful diversion among weightier Sanditon story lines, with Alison’s campy, naïve enthusiasm, Carter’s bungling dissembling (I love all of Cowper’s poems), and Fraser’s self-deprecating authenticity.
Speaking of triangles, the budding friendship between Tom Parker and Colonel Lennox casts Arthur Parker as a third wheel, while the one between Arthur and Lockhart positively revolves around Georgiana.
Filling Sidney’s Shoes
Although Arthur promoted himself to Tom’s right-hand man in Sanditon 2×01 and we see Tom shouting “Arthur” rather than “Sidney,” Tom does not seem to believe he can rely on Arthur to help resolve his situation in the same way he relied on Sidney Parker. It is true that Arthur and Tom differ in their approaches to the further development of Sanditon. It seems at first that Arthur may be encouraging Tom to be reckless when Arthur reminds his brother of the mantra “Speculators speculate.”
Arthur, however, apparently distinguishes between gambling and speculation. Perhaps, his criteria are the level of risk and trust involved in the venture. While Tom ever the enthusiast about installing permanent barracks so that soldiers will continue to “spend, spend, spend,” Arthur is much more circumspect. He seems to view Tom’s willingness to place his trust in Colonel Lennox so quickly as a risky move.
Tom, however, believes that Sidney and Colonel Lennox “would find much in common.” This hastily formed belief is the basis for his willingness to trust the Colonel to lend support to the development of Sanditon. Tom trusts in the Colonel so much that by the end of Sanditon 2×02 he has forgotten his own earlier statement that “we cannot afford to gamble” and ignores Arthur’s advice to stay away from the gaming table. Tom is willing to take risks to earn the Colonel’s “friendship” in hopes of a bigger payoff in future. Arthur looks physically ill when Tom agrees to gamble.
Whether Tom’s or Arthur’s assessment is correct, the dynamic between the brothers is one in which Tom tries to appear sensible or loyal to his new friend by dismissing and diminishing Arthur’s ideas and advice.
It is no wonder that Charles Lockhart is able to win Arthur to his cause so easily. When the artist encounters Arthur napping on the beach, Arthur has just had his dreams of a Theatre Royal crushed in favor of the barracks. When he wakes to find an artist’s gaze upon him, Arthur is “honored” to be considered worthy of being sketched. He joyfully exclaims, “I should love to be fêted in the Tuileries,” suggesting that he craves recognition.
Lockhart has invaded Arthur’s intimacy and succeeded in charming him. Given how quickly the conversation turned to talk of Georgiana, it is doubtful that Lockhart is genuinely interested in Arthur as a subject or a friend. Is the artist pleased to have a model of such “rare masculine beauty” or is the man pleased to have an ally in his pursuit of Georgiana? Lockhart’s smug purse of the lips after Arthur closes his eyes suggests the latter.
As Arthur seems to have fallen under Lockhart’s spell, his judgment about the artist as a suitable match for Georgiana is suspect. He claims at the beginning of Sanditon 2×02 that he has Georgiana’s best interest at heart, but, like Sidney, he also seems unwilling to take heed of what she wants. His meddling is heavy-handed despite Georgiana clearly stating her lack of interest. Arthur’s watchful eye during the dinner is almost as invasive as Sidney’s during Lady D’s luncheon in Sanditon 1×02, with each brother monitoring whether Georgiana is acting as they want her to. Even after Lockhart’s scandalous behavior (which I discuss below), Arthur pushes her forward declaring “you do seem rather fascinated by him.” Like viewers, Georgiana notices Arthur own fascination, but it doesn’t seem to trigger doubts for her about whose interests Arthur truly has in mind.
We get clues that Georgiana, Charlotte, Esther, and Lady Denham need to be on their guard with the men swirling around them.
Look out for Lockhart
Lockhart’s ploy with Georgiana is to draw her forward by flouting social acceptability. He questions her apparent approval seeking but not in an empowering way. “You don’t strike me as someone who seeks approval; you disappoint me.” In one breath he disdains the need for approval while denying her his own. While I pray that Georgiana’s declaration that Lockhart’s opinion means nothing to her is sincere, I fear it is not.
In his grand gesture of toasting Napoléon Bonaparte, Lockhart revealed more about his true nature than perhaps was meant. Celebrating Napoléon as a liberator of enslaved people flies in the face of history. Bonaparte, in fact, reinstated slavery in the French colonies upon coming to power in 1802. Upon his defeat in 1814, Bonaparte was forced to sign a treaty that included a provision ending the slave trade but did not abolish slavery. Assuming this historical blunder in the Sanditon script was deliberate, it reveals Lockhart to be a man who is woefully ignorant of contemporary events or willing to play fast and loose with the truth for shock value. In toasting Napoléon, he praised a ruler responsible for re-enslaving hundreds of thousands of Blacks in the French colonies.
All the signs during Charlotte’s arrival to Heyrick Park on her first day say “Run!” An immediate reprimand, bets against her, a disdainful boss, even a crow cawing in the background as she rings unsuccessfully at the main door.
Despite Charlotte’s fine speech during the hiring interview, Colbourne does not appear to have changed his mind about her task as governess. “Your books will have to wait, Miss Heywood, until you have taught them how to behave like young ladies.” Although Charlotte does do embroidery, she also takes Leo out to collect snails. When their quest for a magnifying glass leads to an intrusion into Colbourne’s office, he is contradictory. Colbourne scolds Charlotte for not making Leonora a young lady, but also he gives over the magnifying glass and tells Charlotte the proper zoological terms. It’s unclear what it is Colbourne really wants from Charlotte.
When Augusta’s tricks lead to Charlotte being caught playing the piano (embroidery and piano in the same episode – Is that Sidney Parker turning in his grave?), Colbourne is again contradictory. He claims he doesn’t like the way Charlotte is doing her job, but he still wants her to stay on. We even learn that despite hiring her, he is among those who bet against her. What these contradictions signal about his character we’ll have to discover of the remainder of Sanditon Season 2 and perhaps beyond.
Even though we know that Edward schemed to get his company back to Sanditon, he appears eager to prove to his aunt and Esther that he has changed. The ominous music as Edward spies Esther in the street suggests otherwise. Esther is wise to his scheme (“fate played no part in this – it’s all a contrivance”). Nothing will convince her that he has changed (rightly so, it seems) and her telling him to drown himself suggests she’s really broken from his spell. Edward no longer holds power over her, and he does not seem happy about it. Esther even resists Edward’s attempt to reminisce about their first dance and, presumably, the first sparks of affection between them.
Lady Denham, in contrast, seems to be letting down her guard. She assures Esther: “He is no threat to either of us.” Like Tom, Lady Denham seems inclined to trust Colonel Lennox and his reports of Edward’s desire to atone. Edward reinforces the positive reports when he charitably dances with Miss Hankins (echoes of Emma). Edward seems to be passing the test.
Although it should seem suspicious that Edward invited himself to tea – to learn more about his family – Lady Denham seems swayed by Lennox’s direct and transparent evaluation. Esther’s eye roll is everything. She would rather “dance barefoot on broken glass” than trust Edward again. Whether Edward accepts that Esther has irrevocably escaped his influence and allows her to enjoy her newfound self-assurance remains to be seen.
There’s still so much more we could say about Sanditon 2×02, an episode that moves slowly but surely towards forging new paths forward for the promising stories introduced in the season premiere.
- Lennox, get down off that high horse. I also did not like this about Colbourne at the end of Sanditon 2×01 – men literally looking down on Charlotte. We get the reverse power dynamic in Esther looking down on Edward with just cause as she climbs the stairs.
- Augusta is really rubbing Charlotte’s face in the decision to forego marriage and be a governess. Suggesting that Charlotte has “roundly failed,” the spinster embroidery, the reminder that the governess eats alone in the kitchen, the superiority in believing she’s destined for marriage, the haughty laughter as she and Leo walk away to lunch, the disdain for the “charms of a simple farm girl” (echoes of Eliza). Powerless Augusta is exercising what little power she has to ridicule.
- Charlotte’s place in society really has sunk. She enters by the servants’ door and is informed of terms of work by the housekeeper (not her employer). She is seated with the spinsters as convention requires Charlotte to sit lower down the table (Col. Lennox confirms this while also saying there’s nothing lowly about you). Does Charlotte really know and accept her new place? She first tried to enter the great house by the front door. She seems to be hoping to be seated with “society” as shown by searching for her card higher up the table.
- The playful interaction between Lady D and Esther is a refreshing change of pace and seeing Lady D arrange her own flowers rather than harangue Esther suggests she no longer has hold-up power over Esther.
- Lady Denham’s first onscreen encounter with Georgiana since the pineapple luncheon: Georgiana now has the power to speak up for herself, even go on the offensive (not being a guest in Lady D’s house or shushed by Sidney) – “I’d forgotten you lived a life of such deprivation.” Esther’s secret look of approval suggests she joins the others in scoffing.
- ARTHIANA!! I just love the joy and playfulness when they dance together.
- What are we to make of Lady D’s offhand remark – “That one doesn’t let the grass grow” said about Charlotte? Coupled with “I’d thought we’d seen the last of you” from Sanditon 2×01, it suggests some animosity that I can’t fully explain.
- While gambling, Tom looks high, out of control (excellent acting by Kris Marshall). Not a good sign. He didn’t even realize he’d won.
- Lennox’s thunderous look on hearing Colbourne’s name is the same as the look he gave Lockhart for praising Napoléon. What’s the story there?
- Charlotte is still not ready to move on completely, even though her friends think it’s time. The conspiratorial look between Mary and Georgiana (who both know of Charlotte’s heartache and grief) when the invitation arrives suggests they are very happy to hear Lennox has specifically requested her company. But on arrival at the ball, Charlotte refers to the last time she danced in Sanditon (it was actually with Stringer). Georgiana invites her to move forward.
Now airing on PBS and available for streaming: What are your thoughts on Sanditon 2×02? Let us know in the comments below.
I am an American consultant and writer based in Paris, where I have lived and worked since 2001. Following a career as a corporate lawyer, I retired from Big Law in 2010. I now advise organizations and coach individuals on equity, diversity and inclusion and leadership.
I love helping people figure out why they do what they do (and how to do differently) and working to improve group, team, and organizational dynamics. Good fiction provides a wonderful practice field for observing people.
Although I've geeked out on many shows over the years, Sanditon holds a special place in my heart. I've been tweeting more or less actively about Sanditon from my fan account since November 2020.