Sanditon 2×06 Spoilers Ahead
The Sanditon Season 2 finale delivers everything viewers want in a season closer: good triumphs and villains are ousted, love triumphs and vows are exchanged, and doubt triumphs and new questions are raised.
As a season finale, Sanditon 2×06 is deeply satisfying and yet utterly confounding. Some storylines reach a happy resolution, leaving us to wonder, with a third season looming, whether this happiness will be forever after or, instead, more precarious. Other storylines still want for resolution, and the path toward achieving, even with a third season, appears tortuous.
Join us once more as we look at the joys and sorrows that the Sanditon Season 2 finale delivers.
Victims and Villains
One of the more satisfying developments in any season finale is seeing evil schemes thwarted and breathing a sigh of relief as victims escape the horrid fates that they seemed destined to suffer.
In Sanditon 2×06, the lines between victim and villain are sometimes blurred, but the moments of relief still feel as sweet.
Although it is Edward Denham who set the macabre plan in motion, in Sanditon 2×06, Esther Babington’s fate rests squarely in the hands of Clara Brereton. With Dr. Fuchs blinded by his faith in Regency medicine and Lady Denham blinded by hers in a Colonel’s good testimony, only Clara sees Edward’s machinations to drive Esther to madness.
Neither Fuchs nor Lady Denham is capable of unmasking Edward. As Esther provides evidence to prove her own madness by saying, “sometimes I want to dash my head against the wall to rid myself of these thoughts,” Edward cannot contain his smirk. As she desperately begs for help, Fuchs is powerless to offer it. The only person in the room capable of ending Esther’s suffering relies on it continuing to achieve his own ends.
Fuchs again colludes, unwittingly, with Edward. He informs viewers that it was Edward who called the doctor to Sanditon House on his wedding day, which Fuchs interprets as a mark of concern. He is unaware of the moment of his diagnosis of Esther’s irreversible madness on the day that Edward is to wed Clara making little George the legitimate heir.
When Fuchs concludes that Esther “has advanced beyond the point of no return,” Lady Denham boldly protests Fuchs’ fatalism. “Oh, nonsense!” “Shock her out of this malaise.” As her protest is dismissed and she listens to Edward and Dr. Fuchs speaking of putting Esther in an institution, the look on Lady Denham’s face conveys horror — but is it for Esther or for herself or for the vulnerability inherent in womanhood?
Unfortunately for Esther, her potential savior, Clara, is faced with a dilemma: do what Edward has convinced her is right for their son or do what is unquestionably right. Clara’s choice becomes clearer as she comes to realize that placing herself and George under Edward’s power is not merely unwise but possibly dangerous. When Edward declares, “Babington will return to find his wife half-mad in the asylum,” Clara seems shocked at how far he’s willing to go.
When she realizes that Edward is intent on being “rid of [Esther] for good” and that he still thinks of the fortune as his, Clara must decide whether to defy Edward (who is clearly ready to mete out consequences for betrayal) and remain a single mother to an illegitimate heir or to force Esther into an institution from which release is all but impossible. By being charged with keeping Esther’s glass full, Clara realizes she will seal both Esther’s fate and her own. Clara’s subtle shake of the head as she glances at the poisoned chalice suggests she’s wrestling with this responsibility. With Edward’s hand firmly grasping her left wrist, Clara uses her free hand to liberate both her and Esther from subjugation to Edward.
Even in her altered state, Esther is the most lucid person at the table. She recognizes that both she and Clara are victims. The wedding breakfast scene is superb, and Charlotte Spencer and Lily Sacofsky deserve a special mention for the tender vulnerability each shows in offering and begging for forgiveness.
Shades of Grey
Early in Sanditon 2×06, Georgiana Lambe says: “He’s the villain in the story, not the victim,” referring to Colonel Lennox and his history with Alexander Colbourne. As the saying goes, “there are two sides to every story, and then there’s the truth.” While Lennox has shown himself to be a scoundrel, whether he is the villain and Colbourne, the victim is not so black and white.
Lennox seems genuinely surprised to learn that Lucy Colbourne was pregnant and had a child, his child. As Leonora tells him her age, the realization that the timing checks out spreads slowly on his face. Rather than destroying both Leo and Colbourne with the truth, he has the decency to deny it: “That man is your father.” We understand that Lennox’s decision was not reflexive but a strategic evaluation: “What good would come of it?” We also see Lennox mesmerized by the toy soldier that Leo left behind as if imagining what might have been.
When Lennox and Colbourne clash about Lucy Colbourne — was she exploited or willing — it is hard to discern whose truth is the truth. While it is easy to assume Lennox is the liar based on his recent behavior, some of Colbourne’s statements inform us that Lennox’s perspective may not be devoid of truth. We know the marriage was not a happy one; in Sanditon 2×05, Colbourne admits he left Lucy in London, that he was too prideful to investigate her delay in coming to Heyrick Park, and that he showed no pity or compassion upon discovering her infidelity. We know that Lucy “became a ghost of her former self,” which Colbourne implies happened in the wake of his harsh treatment.
Colbourne’s own recollections suggest some truth to Lennox’s allegations that Colbourne failed Lucy. Whatever the truth is, the Colonel’s question plants bulbs (bigger than seeds) of doubt in Alexander’s mind about whether he can take better care of Charlotte Heywood than he did of his late wife. As with Sidney Parker in Sanditon 1×07, we find Colbourne soul searching at the beach as he contemplates his feeling for Charlotte. Alexander’s pensive horse ride provides an opportunity for Sanditon viewers to take in the beautiful scenery, cinematography, and score that make the show unique.
The well-written dialogue in Sanditon has also been a hallmark of the show, and so we should pay attention to what’s spoken and even more to what’s left unspoken when a character is interrupted. Sanditon 2×06 has several interrupted lines that leave us wondering what might have been on the character’s mind.
Not My Type
In the wake of her not-quite Cinderella ball, during the opening scene of Sanditon 2×06, Charlotte tries to find a lesson in her and Alison Heywood’s disappointing encounters with the red coats. She gets out the words “soldiers are not to be trusted; better stick to…” before Georgiana interrupts with the word “artists.” We do not know what Charlotte was going to say — Civilians? Farmers? Architects? Men of affairs?
We do, however, see all three women looking meditative after Alison and Georgiana exchange the question, “Is it not peculiar how we can be strangers to our own affections?” and answer, “It isn’t peculiar at all.” We can easily imagine who Charlotte is thinking of after her post-ball “conversation” at Heyrick Park.
A Better Idea
As Tom Parker listens to Mary Parker’s plan to obtain payment for Sanditon’s shopkeepers, he interjects “Mary…,” only to be silenced by her reprimand, “Apologies serve little purpose, Tom. We must simply figure out what needs to be done.” Perhaps, emboldened by Arthur’s renewed confidence in his visionary capacity, Tom was hoping to offer a solution that would avoid the Parkers being debtors not only to their sister-in-law but to their own children. Mary’s interruption deprives Tom of this opportunity. Thankfully, the arrival of Sidney’s possessions at Trafalgar House interrupts Mary’s presentation of her solution and inspires a better idea.
Talk to the Hand
Another sudden appearance at Trafalgar House, that of Alexander Colbourne, creates the opportunity for a much more frustrating interruption.
During Sanditon 2×06, Colbourne has wavered in commitment to a relationship with Charlotte. Upon her arrival, we discover Colbourne out playing with the dog rather than hiding in his office. He walks boldly toward Charlotte and asks her to take a turn about the grounds. We see a marked shift toward assertiveness rather than his prior tendency toward passivity or even flight. Colbourne first apologizes for the kiss following the ball; he is ashamed of opening up and asks for Charlotte’s secrecy (unaware she’s already spilled the tea with Georgiana and Alison).
The seesaw ride continues, however, when Colbourne again succumbs to Charlotte’s influence and example. She tells him, “I too have known heartache and betrayal.” It is interesting to hear her refer to Sidney’s decision as “betrayal” (very different from “circumstances conspired against us”). We get more of her perspective on the events of Sanditon 1×08 and perhaps a sign that she’s finally ready to release the past. She encourages Colbourne with: “I cannot hide myself away. I must live my life. Is it not time you did the same?”
His response is immediate, and the change of opinion so sudden that his kiss is unexpected and seems to catch Charlotte off guard. She settles into it only to be interrupted by Mrs. Wheatley searching for Leonora.
Colbourne again waivers after Lennox’s words at the army camp and this time insists to Charlotte that he has taken advantage of his position as her employer. A romantic relationship cannot be, and her position as governess is terminated. Seesaw…
After urging from both Mrs. Wheatley and Augusta Markham, Colbourne sets off for Trafalgar House intent on — well, what we don’t know because at the moment he steps forward to ask Charlotte, she cuts him off with the wave of a hand. She informs him or her decision to leave Sanditon, and Colbourne walks out of the house in halting stages as if teetering between options.
Another halting exit from Trafalgar House thankfully meets with a much happier end.
When Captain Fraser first calls on Alison to say his goodbye, he interrupts himself. We see Alison with pink shoes in hand, perhaps a symbol of the vanity and superficiality that marked her relationship with Carter. She drops them to race down the stairs, spying on Fraser from the window. As Fraser looks up at her pleading face — “Her face, it bloomed like a sweet flower and stole my heart away” — he cannot muster the courage to say what he truly feels.
It’s interesting to remember the way Alison jumped in with assumptions to fill in the silences with Carter. Here, she gives Fraser no help even though he’s just said he cannot express his feelings well, and he confessed in Sanditon 2×04 to being undone in the company of the woman for whom he had feelings. We might think Alison has learned her lesson about completing sentences, but her final presumption that Fraser has returned to Trafalgar House to propose would prove us wrong. Instead, her uncertainty about his feelings may leave her tongue-tied as well.
Thankfully, Carter’s subtle smirk at the Sanditon ball was not jealously but sudden awareness that his fellow officer and friend had been pining for Alison. He encourages Fraser by calling him a coward. Other events push Fraser to realize he may be the only honorable man in his company. He looks uncomfortable throughout the final card game and smiles only when he sees the company will have to honor their debts. He looks on with concern as Lennox storms off after ripping away Edward’s epaulettes as if suddenly realizing the hypocrisy of his leader.
The scenes where Charlotte, Georgiana, and the Parkers help Alison realize Captain Fraser views her as more than a “Friend?!” and eavesdrop on the couple are among the more charming in Sanditon 2×06 and will bring a grin to even the most jaded amongst us.
When Captain Fraser finally finds the words, his proposal is simple, elegant, and beautiful.
Going Backward, Moving Forward
While Alison and Declan Fraser seem set on a happy future, as Sanditon 2×06 draws the season to a close, the future happiness of other characters is far from certain.
Lady Denham’s Reform School
Edward Denham is set for a life of misery if Lady D has her way. After choosing to believe Edward’s expressions of remorse, Lady Denham feels badly deceived — “More fool me!” She was tricked into giving her favor and patronage to a wedding and almost committing her noble niece to an asylum. Lady Denham’s punishment for Edward has as much to do with his wicked actions as her own need to reassert her authority over the family and the fortune.
Edward realizes returning to life with Lady D will not be a cakewalk and expressly rejects the offer: “I would sooner die in battle.” Not one to be outdone twice, Lady D has ensured that Edward has no other option. In writing to Colonel Lennox, she not only cuts off Edward’s path toward freedom in the army but she may also be motivated by a desire to inform Lennox that his own judgment has been woefully inadequate.
It is unclear whether Lennox is more disgusted by Edward’s conduct or by the fact that he cannot pay his commission. I scoff at Lennox’s haughtiness when he calls Edward “a disgrace” after everything he has been accused of in Sanditon 2×06 and that his soldiers have done in Sanditon. Still, I relish the moment he rips off Edward’s epaulettes. The ferocity of the action is deeply satisfying.
Colbourne Family Vacation
While Edward returns to a form of internment in Sanditon, Alexander Colbourne has decided he and the girls need an escape from their lengthy period of confinement (a sentiment familiar to many post-lockdown). Rather than going back to the drabness of existence prior to Charlotte’s arrival at Heyrick Park, Colbourne will seek light, happiness, and restoration in travel. Although Augusta and Leo look apprehensive as they climb into the carriage, a confident nod from Mrs. Wheatley reassures Colbourne he is making the right decision.
Save the Date?
A questioning stare from Georgiana at the news of Charlotte’s engagement to Ralph Starling screams loudly that she is making the wrong decision. Having promised Georgiana in Sanditon 2×05 that she would not return to Wilingden and marry Ralph, Charlotte’s announcement comes as a shock. It is, in fact, one of the more confounding elements of Sanditon 2×06 — another cliffhanger engagement that must somehow be gotten out of if Charlotte is to have her Austen-inspired happy ending?
Yet, Charlotte’s decision to settle (down) did not come without warning signs. We have known since the start of the season that the Heywoods are dirt poor and cannot afford to keep Charlotte and Alison. We have seen since Sanditon 2×05 that Charlotte has begun to question whether her ambition is imprudent. We learned in Sanditon 2×03 that she reveres her father above all men. And we learned in Sanditon 2×06 that she believes she has tried her father’s patience long enough.
When Charlotte declared “enough,” instead of it being a roar of power, it was a cri de coeur expressing all of her exasperation with aspiring to live life on her own terms. Charlotte’s resigned acceptance of Ralph’s proposal is perfectly understandable after her last two summers in Sanditon.
We’ll close out this review where we began with Sanditon 2×01, with the legacy of Sidney Parker. His trunk has made its way to Sanditon, bringing the mundane objects of a gentleman’s life — a flask, a few puffy white shirts, a pair of wool pants, a ring, a deck of cards — along with bombshell letters that bring healing for some and open fresh wounds for others.
Georgiana’s Best Interests
Having already learned that Sidney was in Antigua defending Georgiana’s interests in her fortune, we finally discover the identity of the man who challenged her claim, Charles Lockhart (cue dramatic music here). Red flags about Lockhart have been apparent for those who could see past his charm. We see even more in Sanditon 2×06 with him declaring, “I have a restless soul.” He dangles the secret elopement in Miss Hankins’ face as if testing Georgiana’s resolve. He reminds Georgiana that only he can truly see her calling her “the most inspiring muse an artist could wish for.”
Having felt that something is “off” with his courtship, it is vindicating to discover that Lockhart is indeed a scoundrel. I felt physically dirty watching him press his body closer to Georgiana as Tom’s voice announced his villainous name and read Sidney’s description of him as “a man without scruple.”
The basis on which he alleged that Georgiana was illegitimate to inherit is vilely racist: he describes Georgiana as “the mulatto daughter of a slave who conspired to claim the fortune of a white man who is not even my father.” In doing so, Lockhart seeks his whiteness to work the system in the same way Edward uses maleness or Lennox his aura of heroism.
We understand that Lockhart is not colorblind at all and that I pray the writers do not ask us to grant him any kind of redemption that involves a romantic reconciliation with Georgiana. She has already forgiven so many people, so much — Sidney, Otis, now Arthur Parker.
“We are Parkers”
It is a satisfying development to see Arthur own his part in pushing Georgiana into Lockhart’s arms and to welcome Georgiana as an honorary Parker. This welcome to the family is more meaningful after Tom and Arthur have done the Parker name proud, thanks to the magic trunk from Antigua.
The trunk full of Sidney’s possessions contains gifts of hope, encouragement, and forgiveness. As Tom stares at the card deck, he ruminates over lost hope — “I always hoped that I might one day beat him at vingt-et-un” –and holds the key to a bold new plan to save Sanditon.
A letter from a departed relative is such a gift for anyone who’s lost a loved one without a proper in-person parting. Sidney’s letter to Tom grants his brother not only absolution — “You must bear no guilt for my part in saving you from ruin” — but also an encouragement to continue to be bold. “If you wish to honor my memory, you must hold fast to your vision.”
After a “What would Sidney say?” moment, Tom presents Lennox with a bold wager. It’s still unclear to me whether Tom had luck or strategy on his side (if you understand, please leave a comment!), but his faith in Sidney and new faith in himself carried the day. Once again, thanks to Sidney’s legacy, Sanditon is saved.
As with the end of any summer holiday, the close of the season in Sanditon 2×06 is bittersweet. The Season 2 finale caps a season that fulfilled the promise of Sanditon 2×01 and steadily recaptured the lion’s share of the magic of Sanditon Season 1. Season 3 cannot come soon enough!
- “He’s my son” breaks my heart in the best way. Esther’s joy is so palpable and so uplifting after watching her poison-induced descent into insanity.
- Augusta’s impassioned plea to her uncle breaks my heart in the worst way. Eloise Webb’s performance is moving as she captures all the desperation of a cloistered orphan who has finally found a bit of loving kindness begging not to go back to the misery of life before Charlotte.
- Watching Georgiana pour over the documents with Alison and Mary, I cannot help but think of Charlotte’s absence. Again, she was offered a stay in Sanditon to be Georgiana’s friends. As Georgiana discovers the earth-shattering news about her mother that “there is every reason to believe she’s still alive.” thank goodness Mary is there to offer her a shoulder.
- “A funeral liturgy might be more apt.” Even being out of it, Esther is still able to deliver the perfect zinger.
- Lady D spills the family secret by saying “a little late after the fact I’m afraid.” Hankins’ face suggests he might be figuring things out (remember his inquiry about the family at the Garden Party), though his perplexed look as Esther introduces George indicates he may still have questions.
Now airing on PBS and available for streaming: What are your thoughts on Sanditon 2×06? 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.