Sanditon 3×01 Spoilers Ahead
The Sanditon Season 3 premiere is a solid opening for the final chapter of this well-loved show. With a good balance of continuity from both prior seasons and new characters and plotlines, the episode seeks to appeal to longtime and more recent fans. Sanditon 3×01 packs in nuanced dialogue and non-verbal cues to allow viewers to discern the mindsets of returning favorites and to discover the motivations of new visitors to “the country’s most fashionable resort.”
This broad appeal works to showcase the talented cast and to entice those intrigued by the journey as much as by the ending. For the next six weeks, we’ll once again dive deep into the undercurrents of social life in Sanditon. Pour your favorite beverage and join us for 15 minutes of scrutiny.
Sanditon 3×01: Untruth and Consequences
Much of the drama in Sanditon 3×01 stems from omissions, half-truths, and outright lies. Whether deceiving themselves or others, the residents of Sanditon create predicaments that make life more difficult for all involved.
A Settled Life, Unsettled
Sanditon 3×01 begins with a familiar scene — Charlotte Heywood (Rose Williams) in a carriage traveling along the clifftops between her village and the seaside. Seeing Charlotte seated alone recalls both the joyful opening and painful closing of Sanditon Season 1. Her expression is placid, and we might imagine she can now make this journey unencumbered by past regrets. Her first words, “look, Ralph!” jar us out of this reverie. As announced in Sanditon 2×06, Charlotte is now engaged to Ralph Starling (Cai Brigden). Her sincere, if somewhat muted, smiles while locking eyes with her betrothed suggest that Charlotte has reconciled herself to a life with the boy from her village. In this opening scene, Ralph is the only one who expresses doubt, not about their relationship but about his fear of disappointing Charlotte (“I should hate to let you down”). She quickly reassures him everything will be fine.
Yet, upon arriving in Sanditon, various forces work to unsettle Charlotte’s commitment to a settled life with Ralph. A cautionary tale, disapproving friends, a widening gap, and the consequences of a lie of omission begin to erode any certainty Charlotte might have.
Ghost of Charlotte’s Future
During a charitable outing to Sanditon’s Old Town with Mary Parker (Kate Ashfield), Charlotte discovers the modest and crowded home of Mrs. Filkins (Becky Brunning), who once worked as a maid in the Parker home. Before leaving Trafalgar House, Charlotte observes a tender moment between Mary and Tom Parker as they plan an outing to the beach. Charlotte’s glowing smile reveals how much she admires Tom and Mary’s affection. As she and Mary walk, Charlotte comments on the growing social inequality in the thriving resort: “The very people that built Sanditon and who serve its visitors should live so humbly themselves.” In a scene reminiscent of their Sanditon 1×01 stroll, Mary muses on marriage for Charlotte’s benefit. She clarifies her own motivation for charity: “It’s nice to find an occupation outside being a wife and mother,” before catching herself “rewarding as that is, of course.” As they enter Mrs. Filkins’ home, Charlotte is projecting her future self into Mary’s more leisurely social position: “I’ll bring some books next time.” When she learns that Charlotte is one of a dozen children and is soon to be married, Mrs. Filkins inserts an unwelcome dose of reality: “Before you know it, you’ll be just like me.” We can insert “not like Mary” to finish the thought. Charlotte’s smile quickly vanishes as she glances with alarm at the baby in her arms.
Duty or Devotion?
From the perfunctory welcome Georgiana Lambe (Crystal Clarke) offers Ralph to Lady Susan’s (Sophie Winkelman) constant reminders of Ralph’s good fortune throughout Sanditon 3×01, Charlotte understands that these friends are disappointed with her choice — not because of anything Ralph does but because of who he is or rather who he is not. Georgiana holds Charlotte’s feet to the fire, saying bluntly: “here you are, marrying the same man you once came here to avoid.” Susan’s words during their beach walk recall her impassioned defense of Charlotte at the regatta in Sanditon 1×07: “This is not the life that I’d imagined for you, that you’d marry a farmer and return to your village.” Additionally, Ralph’s modesty and lack of exposure make visible to Charlotte the gap between their life experiences created by her two short summer seasons in Sanditon. She is “a demon” at snapdragon; he burns his fingers. She enjoys pétanque; he has never played. She knows the steps to a quadrille; he must watch from the edge of the dance floor. Ralph is not insensible of these differences, remarking on the relative modesty of their upcoming wedding in Willingden and the “rarefied company” that Charlotte keeps in Sanditon.
Related Content: Scene Breakdown: Georgiana and Charlotte Reconnect in ‘Sanditon’ 3×01
In response to the objections of her friends, Charlotte invokes practicality, familial duty, and social tradition. Recalling a Sanditon 1×05 rant from Lady Denham (Anne Reid), Charlotte heartbreakingly observes to Georgiana: “I’ve loved in the past, and look where that’s got me.” Echoing Old Stringer’s conservative view on social progress, when James Stringer dared to dream in Sanditon 1×04, Charlotte tells Lady Susan: “It’s been good enough for my parents. Why should it not be good enough for me?” In contrast, Charlotte responds to Ralph’s misgivings by displaying devotion. Along with numerous encouraging smiles, Charlotte explicitly reassures Ralph that she values him as he is, saying, “that’s why I need you to keep my feet on the ground,” jokingly suggesting she might forget where she comes from without his steadying presence. These varying motives likely reflect the fluctuating justifications Charlotte relies on to keep to the path she’s chosen.
However, Charlotte’s purposeful omissions, apparent in Sanditon 3×01, are the biggest destabilizing force. In keeping information from Ralph and keeping secret her engagement to Ralph, Charlotte creates numerous uncomfortable encounters during her stay in Sanditon.
We learn that Ralph is not unobservant or incurious; he does recall the reference to John Keats and offers Charlotte a book of his poetry, hoping they might read it together. Instead, he has not had access to the complete picture of Charlotte’s summer activities. When Tom Parker (Kris Marshall) carelessly mentions Lady de Clement (known as Lady Worcester in Sanditon Season 1) as Charlotte’s friend, Ralph is stunned less because of her brush with nobility and more because he had no idea Charlotte had ever been to London. Georgiana tries to smooth it over by explaining the trip was for her benefit but adds that it was undertaken with Sidney Parker. Mary finally ends the topic: “We needn’t dwell on it.” As Tom prattles on about the guest list, the stealthy glances Arthur Parker (Turlough Convery) and Georgiana give Ralph suggest both their hope that he won’t dwell on it and their pity that he is so in the dark. Perhaps to see how Charlotte will react, perhaps to test how little Ralph knows, Georgiana deliberately mentions Alexander Colbourne and his absence from the party. Again, we learn that Charlotte has dissembled. “From what Charlotte has told me, that is no great loss.” Charlotte looks like a kid caught with a hand in the cookie jar. Poor Ralph.
Charlotte’s greatest oversight is her consistent failure to tell people she is engaged. Tom blurts out the news as they meet up with Susan, and for a micro-second, Charlotte looks almost as mortified as she did when Ralph, assuming they already knew, proudly announced the news to the Parkers and Georgiana in Sanditon 2×06. Ralph learns of Charlotte’s intentional forgetting when Augusta Markham (Eloise Webb), having conspired to bring Charlotte and Alexander together, approaches them and bluntly asks Charlotte, “why didn’t you tell me you were getting married?” Charlotte’s disingenuous “I thought I had” is met with a rather direct admonishment from Ralph: “It is hardly the sort of thing to slip your mind.” Ralph has good reason to be upset. Charlotte earlier tells Lady Susan that “it didn’t seem relevant” to mention her engagement to Mrs. Wheatley (Flo Wilson), Augusta, and Leonora Colbourne (Flora Mitchell) when she encountered them on the promenade even though it is the most important change in her life since leaving Heyrick Park and the biggest obstacle to her returning in any capacity. This Charlotte who deceives is one Ralph is not accustomed to: “I confess she seems quite a different person in Sanditon, one I hardly recognize” and, frankly, one I hope viewers won’t see for long.
The Favors of Fortune
The main event of Sanditon 3×01 is the party ostensibly celebrating Georgiana Lambe’s 21st birthday and her long-awaited autonomy over her fortune. As good as their word, the Parkers have made Georgiana an honorary Parker, a status sealed by Mary’s gift of her heirloom emerald earrings (despite having two daughters of her own). Georgiana smiles brightly and clinches her fists in victory as she signs the deed, finally giving her full control over her inheritance and, presumably, her life. She is almost giddy as she and Arthur describe the vision of an indoor pleasure garden to mark her coming of age and announce herself to the polite society her father desired for her to enter.
Unfortunately, the preparations for the party reveal that the expiration of her wardship does not mean an end to constraints and claims on her fortune and her person.
Much Ado About Something
The party appears to offer Georgiana and her best pal Arthur an opportunity to collaborate in organizing an extravagant celebration. Yet, each harbors less joyous reasons for wanting the party “to be the grandest event [Sanditon] has ever seen.”
Georgiana’s shopping outing with Mary and her hesitation about which lavish fabric will “provide the greater entrance” is less about vanity and more about her controlling (or at least attempting to control) how she is seen. Since she cannot avoid the gaze of others, she believes that dazzling with finery might distract from her most visible distinguishing feature. Mary seeks to reassure Georgiana that her “beauty needs little adornment” (a callback to Captain Fraser’s compliment to Alison Heywood at the ball in Sanditon 2×05). Mary tries to persuade Georgiana that her true friends see beyond the superficial and admire her deeper qualities. Although the discussion is of clothes and the opulence of Georgiana’s party, we might understand Mary to be speaking broadly about judgments based on skin-deep characteristics. Sadly, Georgiana is either unconvinced or not comforted by Mary’s assurances and opts for showy strategies to obtain social acceptance. Her statement as she enters the ball — “I have arrived” — describes not only her physical presence but her belief that English high society now warmly accepts her.
Arthur’s unspoken motives in Sanditon 3×01 for his obsession with fulfilling Georgiana’s every wish stem from his desire to make amends for practically pushing her into the arms of Charles Lockhart. In a tearoom scene with almost identical staging to the pivotal scene in Sanditon 2×03, Arthur’s opening words are: “I fear I have failed you.” He’s supposedly speaking about the party, but we might suspect his concern is more general. He confirms these suspicions when he confesses that he still feels guilty about the Lockhart debacle. Arthur is very defensive of Georgiana this time, even begging off a duke’s invitation to her to take the air along the promenade. He is so deeply concerned about history repeating itself that he investigates and reveals to Georgiana the notoriety as a fortune hunter of the man with whom she has chosen to share her birthday spotlight.
Unfortunately, Georgiana’s and Arthur’s respective hopes for approval and atonement are spoiled when Charles Lockhart (Alexander Vlahos), dressed the part of a gentleman complete with a top hat and walking stick (unlike the shabby artist of Sanditon Season 2), dramatically interrupts to demand a private audience in front of all assembled.
Be My Guest
While it’s evident that proposals from nameless (and known) fortune hunters persist, what is less obvious are the ways various friends and acquaintances impose on Georgiana during Sanditon 3×01. As the party opens, Tom Parker says it best when Mary reminds him that “tonight is for Georgiana, not for Sanditon.” — “Can it not be for both?”
Given Tom’s monomania, it’s barely remarkable that he views the party as an occasion to put Sanditon on the map. Without consulting Georgiana or Arthur, he presumes to invite Rowleigh Pryce (James Bolam) to close a business deal. Tom tells an outright lie to persuade Rowleigh: “Lady Denham specifically requested your presence there, sir.” As Charlotte predicts, Rowleigh and Lady D prove to be a “combustible mix,” and Tom’s belief that a shared love of money will resolve any problems ignores the history that it was money that caused Rowleigh to jilt a young Louisa Brereton — “Lady Denham to you.” Despite the prospect of more profit, Lady Denham categorically forbids Tom to accept “so much as a penny or a farthing” from Rowleigh.
Similarly, the scheming by the newly-arrived Dowager Duchess of Buckinghamshire, Lady Montrose (Emma Fielding), to obtain an invitation to advance the marriage prospects of her children is no surprise. Intent on escaping scandal in Bath, the Montroses have chosen Sanditon despite its quaint appearance. Their snobbish glances as Tom welcomes them to town betray their customary standard of living. We learn, however, that a gambling man has once again ruined those close to him, and the Montroses now possess only a title and a grand house (similar to the Elliots in Persuasion). Lady Montrose clarifies that her intentions are for Harry Montrose (Edward Davis) to “restore our wealth by finding a wife of means and producing a son and heir.” Her instruction for him to find Miss Lambe and charm her, insisting on “a hundred thousand,” is reminiscent of Lady D’s command to Edward Denham before the pineapple luncheon. That she also boldly demands an introduction to the famous Mr. Colbourne for Lady Lydia Montrose (Alice Orr-Ewing) may be a shocking breach of decorum. Still, Lady Montrose’s grasping is evident throughout Sanditon 3×01.
What’s more surprising are the actions of Augusta and Leonora, who feign good wishes for Georgiana to secure an invitation for the benefit of their uncle. Regardless of their intent to help along the relationship between Charlotte and Alexander, crashing one party to offer an insincere gift to finagle an invitation to Georgiana’s birthday is a brazen imposition. Georgiana plays along, perhaps because she is generous, perhaps because, like the girls, she is curious to see what will happen when Charlotte and Alexander are in the same room. She does, however, check with Charlotte before extending the invitation, but Charlotte responds, “It’s your party,” to avoid an opinion. The glances Charlotte and Georgiana exchange suggest Charlotte would rather that her friend say “no.” Without a valid reason, the wealthiest woman in Sanditon cannot appear ungenerous by excluding last-minute additions to the guest list.
I’ll Cover You
Georgiana’s transition from a ward to a bosom friend cannot stave off loneliness. She is now bound to the Parkers (Mary and Arthur, at least) by affection rather than fiduciary obligation. The beach scene with the Parker girls halfway through Sanditon 3×01 confirms that she considers them the closest thing she has to family when she invites them to make shell necklaces together like the one her mother made for her. The swelling music and a tight shot of Georgiana as she contemplates the shell indicate an unfilled longing, and we see the Parker girls run away, leaving Georgiana alone. In her lonesome wanderings, she discovers Harry’s secret. He attempts to meet her curious gaze with his usual pompous posture but, not finding anything to say, wordlessly hurries away.
Georgiana sizes up Harry’s situation very quickly. From the moment the Montroses shamelessly crash the beach party, Georgiana understands that he is pursuing her to manage his mother. She decides to humor him for a moment in exchange for future peace. After the run-in by the bathing machine, Harry calls in to ask Georgiana to keep his secret; her response is one of pure mercy, even emphasizing the term of address — “your grace” — to convey that she will not threaten his social standing. When he speaks about the obligation to maintain certain appearances, Georgiana reassures him that she understands “all too well.” She sees in him a kindred sufferer of potential ostracism and proposes an arrangement that can help them both cover their shunned identities.
Stagnation, Reformation, or Transformation
While Charlotte and Georgiana continue to evolve and challenge each other (a brief exchange at the party — “you and the Duke of Buckinghamshire …, you and Mr. Colbourne” — shows the two friends remain keen observers of each other’s choices), Sanditon 3×01 also showcases various other character arcs.
The Great Projector
Will Tom Parker ever find a remedy for his delusions of grandeur? Tom’s ambitions continue with a new hotel project, and despite the apparent success of Sanditon, his entrepreneurial agitation has returned. Mary stokes his ego — “Who can fail to be impressed by you, Tom” — and his response is classic self-important Tom (“that’s just what I keep telling myself”). He is thrilled at the prospect of Georgiana becoming a Duchess as a mark of his success as a guardian even though, as Mary reminds him: “We know nothing about him.”
Tom does have some cause to be proud of himself. Though her attire recalls the scene from Sanditon 1×08 where Lady D promised to see him in the poorhouse, Lady D congratulates Tom on accomplishing what he initially set out to do. Yet, his coveted new investor, Rowleigh Pryce, is an impatient brute from the moment they meet. That Tom would want to go into business with another impatient and seemingly unforgiving personality suggests Tom has not learned much, if anything, from the past.
Can Edward Denham change? This question will be central to Sanditon Season 3, but I suggest asking it differently. The challenge is not whether Edward could change but whether the methods and motivations of those involved will permit real rehabilitation. We see Lady D’s devilish delight as Dr. Fuchs (Adrian Scarborough) introduces torture as a means to reform: “The more physical punishment he learns to endure, the better his mind will resist temptation.” We learn that Edward is caught in a vanity contest between Fuchs and Reverend Hankins (Kevin Eldon), between science and religion. Do they desire his reform for Edward’s sake or their own?
Edward’s fate also depends on Lady Denham being a less spiteful person than she has shown herself to be. Lady Denham summarizes their bargain: If I see consistent evidence that you are reformed, I will grant you a living. Once again, his financial position depends on her approval. What has changed from Sanditon Season 1 is that she’s no longer dangling the entire fortune as enticement and no longer inciting him to fortune-hunting and infidelity. Without acknowledging her part in creating the monster, Lady D hopes to transform Edward into a moral being. Yet, her judgment alone, not Fuchs’ or Hankins’ considered opinions, will determine his fate. Edward confides to Reverend Hankins his concern: “What if I spend years enduring her treatment and still find myself out in the cold?” Hankins’ assurance that his “soul will still be saved” seems to provide cold comfort. Shortly after this exchange, Edward learns from Beatrice Hankins (Sandy McDade) that orphaned Augusta has inherited a small fortune. Although he supplies appropriately compassionate words — “scant consolation for losing them” — his glances suggest that the financial prospects pique his interest.
Reopening Heyrick Park
Is Alexander Colbourne already a changed man? As he, Augusta, and Leo return to Sanditon, the happy smiles in the carriage starkly contrast the somber departure at the end of Sanditon 2×06. The dust covers coming off, the shutters and curtains open to let in the light, the door wide open, and Mrs. Wheatley’s barely concealed excitement as she welcome’s them (notice the fidgety hands and the fleeting smiles) all indicate a literal and figurative reopening of Heyrick Park and its owner.
A scene over tea gives some pause as Alexander continues to defend the prevailing social norms. When Leonora asks: “Why does she [Augusta] have to get married If she doesn’t want to?” Alexander’s response — “to assure her security and position” — fails to satisfy Leonora. A wider shot reveals Mrs. Wheatley listening attentively as Alexander explains, “that’s just how society works, Leo.” Is the camera on Mrs. Wheatley at that point a visual reminder of the class, gender, and race-based Regency social hierarchy that Alexander does not seem keen to challenge? When Leo questions why her father remains unmarried “if marriage is so important,” Augusta’s answer reveals Alexander’s state of mind but ignores the important truth that men of means do not need to marry to secure their positions in patriarchy. As Augusta describes Alexander holding out for an ideal woman, we see Mrs. Wheatley stirring in the background as she knows the true source of his reluctance.
After various half-truths and fibs from Augusta, Alexander is convinced to attend Georgiana’s party on the belief he’ll have an opportunity to speak with Charlotte. In a touching scene, Mrs. Wheatley makes a final inspection of Alexander’s jacket. “You must be seen at your best tonight, sir. Life affords so few second chances.” We understand that he knows she knows and is encouraging him not to blow it again. Augusta appears, looking like an habitué of the ball scene, with her long gloves, pearl drop earrings, and a feather in her hair. The hopeful enthusiasm of the trio clashes with the reality of Charlotte’s engagement, and the very next scene is of Charlotte entering the party on the arm of her betrothed.
Alexander makes a beeline for Charlotte, and after Augusta maneuvers Susan aside, he attempts to seize the opportunity of being in a tête-à-tête with Charlotte. He appears to have learned from his fatal mistake in the Season 2 finale and attributes his presence to his own desire to be there (rather than Augusta’s urging — almost true). Charlotte’s face is closed, her furious pout reminiscent of conversations with Sidney Parker after he appeared to trifle with her feelings in Sanditon 1×07. Leo sitting on the stairs, unable to sleep, imagining Miss Heywood soon becoming her mother is poignant. Mrs. Wheatley deals delicately with Leo — “let’s not get ahead of ourselves” — but her dreamy look and half smile suggest she shares the hope that Xander and Charlotte will soon fall in love. Charlotte’s omission has set up the whole of Heyrick Park for false hope.
Alexander once again seizes the opportunity of speaking to Charlotte alone. Relying on the distorted version of Charlotte’s regrets communicated by Augusta, he appears poised to tell her about his feelings. Ralph’s interruption silences him, and Alexander is visibly deflated when he learns that Charlotte is to be married. Feeling obliged to explain his motivation for conversing with Charlotte, Alexander reiterates what Charlotte (mistakenly) believed to be his intentions during their final conversation in Sanditon 2×06 — an offer to return as a governess. During their long-awaited first dance of Sanditon 3×01, Charlotte and Alexander spit well wishes at each other like venom — “I wish you luck in finding a new governess.” “I wish you a happy marriage.” When Colbourne says, “I hope he is worthy of you,” I’m reminded of the Sanditon 1×08 ball as Charlotte danced with one man unable to declare his feelings while another man who loved her stood on the edge of the dance floor watching.
Despite the unexpected outcome, Alexander Colbourne seems transformed and ready to move forward. His new openness benefits Lydia Montrose who quickly secures an invitation to come riding at Heyrick Park at her convenience. Perhaps, that apple does not fall far from the tree.
Sanditon 3×01 is so chock full of important details and interactions that we can’t cover them all. This premiere succeeds in setting up what should be an exhilarating final season.
- Anne Reid is fantastic as a flustered Lady Denham when she learns the new investor is Rowleigh. The way she shouts, “where is your servants’ entrance” before her panicked exit never fails to make me chuckle.
- It’s odd that they mention Charlotte being a demon at snapdragon since it was typically played during winter and specifically the end-of-year holidays, but seeing a festive atmosphere in the Parker household is heartwarming.
- There is an adorable background scene as Ralph helps the Parker children pack off for the beach while their own father dashes across the street to secure his investor’s commitment to attend Georgiana’s party.
- Edward literally bumps into Augusta, quite unintentionally. Both look momentarily stunned when their eyes meet and allow their gazes to linger as they part, leading me to believe this first meeting is a meet-cute. Augusta’s witty responses are classic Austenian (and Sanditonian sass from a young lady towards an eventual suitor. Remember Esther’s advice from Sanditon 2×01: Disdain his every word…. The warnings from their respective minders appear to sow the seeds for a forbidden romance. When asked about potential suitors, August glances at Edward, and her “it is too early to say” is an evasive way of saying she has not yet made up her mind about whether to heed the warnings about Edward. Augusta openly challenges him about his bad reputation. When Edward advises her not to believe everything she’s heard, she essentially invites him to prove himself by saying, “I am perfectly capable of forming my own opinion.” Time will tell.
- Susan is apparently still simpatico with the former Prince Regent, now King. Despite the prestigious title, Lady Montrose is still jockeying for social position. The way she pounces and (re)introduces herself as Susan approaches demonstrates how grasping (or gauche) she is. She establishes her bona fides as royalty adjacent by referring to the late lamented Princess Charlotte’s wedding and insists on introducing her children to the King’s particular friend. Harry stands preening as befits his title, but Lydia’s slight sigh as Lady Montrose speculates about a royal visit suggests that she at least is embarrassed by her mother’s scheming. In response to Lady Montrose’s speculation, Susan confides to Charlotte: “I have every reason to suspect he might.” Will we yet see the King in Sanditon?
- Hankins does not approve of the “bacchanalian excess,” and as the scene shifts to Fuchs bowing to acknowledge Beatrice, we see two female dancers behind him enacting “pleasure garden” choreography. Lady Denham shares Hankin’s conservative opinion: Inheriting a fortune seems to have robbed Miss Lambe of good taste and discretion.
- Lovely imagery to show Beatrice holding a blossoming branch as she and Dr. Fuchs exchange surprise at her newfound interest in the German language. It seems almost everyone will get a love interest.
Now airing on PBS and available for streaming: What are your thoughts on Sanditon 3×01? Let us know in the comments below.