Sanditon 3×06 Review: A New Life at the Seaside

Georgiana and Charlotte in Sanditon 3x06
©Courtesy of Joss Barratt

Sanditon 3×06 Spoilers Ahead

The Sanditon series finale hopscotches its way to multiple happy endings. The momentum initially suffers from the erratic jumping between storylines, but the overall effect is sweet relief and contentment. Sanditon 3×06 is tropey, at times campy, and utterly committed to the mission of providing closure to series fans.

Longtime viewers will not be surprised that Sanditon Season 3, Episode 6, contains more than its share of plot twists. Some devices are inventive, while others stock rom-com features. Although Sanditon 3×06 does flirt with becoming a costumed romp, it provides plenty of emotional weight. The racial justice theme is present but very dialed back with the question of female agency pervading the stories. Some of the storytelling feels partial or farfetched, but the mesmerizing soundtrack and superb acting draw viewers in long enough to suspend disbelief.

Hold on to your bonnets and grab your hankies for one last visit to the windswept clifftops and posh streets of England’s finest seaside resort in Sanditon.

Sanditon 3×06: Tropes and Treats

Tom Parker in Sanditon series finale

The final episode of Sanditon pulls out all the stops to provide viewers with some final thrills. The succession of quick vignettes does not always provide the opportunity to have a complete story. In some cases, this choppiness seems designed to manufacture tension and fill space. In other cases, the gaps feel more skillfully designed to create mystery and ambiguity. 

Side Stories

A lot of the drama in Sanditon 3×06, while entertaining, is unnecessary to resolve the central stories of the three-season series. Events and intrigues seem inserted primarily to delay the final resolution of the stories of Georgiana Lambe and, especially, Charlotte Heywood to the latest possible moment. Additionally, the chopping up of each storyline into brief, interspersed vignettes adds some tension but also provides little insight into sudden changes of heart.

Take, for example, the budding romance between Samuel Colbourne and Lady Susan de Clemente, a Season 3 addition and a Season 1 minor character. The gorgeous beach scene near the opening of Sanditon 3×06 showcases beautiful chemistry between Liam Garrigan and Sophie Winkleman in one of the least complicated love stories of the season. Yet, complications are inserted by a summons from the King. The impossible love interlude allows for some heartfelt declarations and insights into a woman’s feelings of unworthiness. Still, it takes time away from other stories that have been developing for multiple seasons, such as Georgiana’s reunions with her mother and Otis Molyneux. Additionally, Lady Susan’s midway-to-London change of heart and decision to risk the wrath of the King are explained only with a kiss.

Similarly, the second-chance romance between Lady Denham and Rowleigh Pryce, another Season 3 addition, occupies too central a place for a series finale. As a longtime character and the grande dame of Sanditon, Lady Denham certainly merits attention. Anne Reid’s portrayal of Lady D’s doubts and distress as she contemplates leaving behind her home, title, and independence is outstanding. I even had an unexpected wave of emotion watching the dust covers being placed as Lady Denham looks out the window and Edward Denham walks in with a sentimental sigh to encourage her to get to the church — it’s really almost goodbye. Yet, the rehearsal with Reverend Hankins and the repeated unannounced visits from Rowleigh to excoriate Tom Parker, then to demand an explanation for being jilted, and finally to propose a quarterly rendezvous could have been condensed. Yes, this dialogue is rich in meaning (e.g., Reverend Hankins explaining the link between “conjugal” and being “yoked together”) but at the cost of impoverishing storytelling elsewhere.

The Heart of the Matter

Samuel and Alexander Colbourne looking out a window in Sanditon 3x06

Despite the multistory approach, Sanditon 3×06 provides many delightful looks at the central characters and their stories. The tension-filled moment where Agnes Harmon contemplates the pound notes in her hand leads directly to Georgiana’s distress-fueled rant about soon becoming a duchess. Mary Parker and Charlotte are willing to give Agnes the benefit of the doubt because they can safely do so. As Agnes later notes, Georgiana has “been let down so many times by so many people” and has been put in real danger by opening herself up. Her experience (not merely fear) of abandonment makes her more suspicious. When she declares, “I shall have no need of anyone, it is a sad but desirable position given that people continuously disappoint her. Before learning of Agnes’s disappearance, Georgiana says to Charlotte, “I will have my mother’s love. That is enough.” In Georgiana’s context, feeling truly loved for who she is isn’t a given. The love of her mother is, therefore, a big deal. It recalls Mrs. Wheatley’s words from 3×03 about feeling sorry for Georgiana, knowing all that she’s lost. You’ll watch through teary eyes as Georgiana nestles into her mother’s embrace, finally finding the unconditional love and comfort she’s been denied for so long.

Though heartbroken himself, Alexander sincerely
wishes his brother happiness.

It’s also heartwarming to watch Alexander Colbourne and Samuel confide in each other. As Samuel confesses that he may be ready to abandon his wayward lifestyle, Alexander shows no jealousy for his brother’s good fortune. His generosity of spirit comes on the heels of having agreed with Leonora that falling in love is “a beastly business” that should be avoided if it can be helped. Though heartbroken himself, Alexander sincerely wishes his brother happiness. He shows warmth and a lack of rancor. The conversation also shows his increasing concern for Augusta, in particular, and the future of both girls. His recognition of their need for a mother hints at his past inattention and fear of being inadequate for the task. Alexander has grown from a father and uncle who shunts the girls’ care to a governess into one who wants them to have a loving maternal presence.

And, as completely campy as it is, watching Mary’s miraculous recovery is delightful. The spirituality imbued in this story is surprising: the prayer, the gifted cross, the constant vigil. Even Tom’s Damascene conversion is endearing — though, did his wife need to knock on death’s door for this man to find a shred of ethics? The scenario is a clever update of and in contrast to Lady Denham’s 1×06 deathbed experience and 1×07 resurrection. During the watch over Mary’s fever, we see genuine affection, hope for her recovery, and Tom seeking to do good works while waiting as opposed to loathing, eagerness for the old miser to die, and Clara Brereton and Edward scheming and fornicating. Although the Sanditon 3×06 awakening is less dramatic than Lady D’s rise from the ashes, the joy in the room when Mary suddenly opens her eyes is infectious (unlike her mysterious fever).

Mission Accomplished?

Georgiana Lambe in a gold dress in Sanditon 3x06
©Courtesy of Joss Barratt

Sanditon 3×06 ostensibly ticks every box for what a series finale for an Austen-inspired period drama should accomplish. It gets the heroines down the aisle and, as a bonus, pairs off almost every other adult character or provides hope they will not “walk this life alone” much longer.

The final season of Sanditon and this final episode rely heavily on nostalgia. Sanditon 3×06 seems particularly designed to appeal to fans by calling to mind familiar feelings from earlier seasons and other period dramas. At times the effort feels like putting new wine into old wineskins, but it nevertheless feels intoxicating.

Incredible Odds

The finale asks viewers to believe that commitment (whether marriage or another form) from a loving man is a buffer against the oppressiveness of Regency society. In a sense, most Jane Austen adaptations make a similar call to faith as the stories rarely project forward after exchanging vows. In that light, the epilogue in Sanditon 3×06 is a reassuring addition showing us a radiant Charlotte, now Mrs. Colbourne, with her own bouncing baby and happy, empowered girls dancing through the streets. Charlotte’s primary obstacle is misogyny, and marriage is indeed a bulwark against the ignominy of spinsterhood. Additionally, in a marriage of mutual affection, the yoke may feel less weighty. Charlotte’s “happily ever after” may be a bit syrupy, but it’s not outside the realm of possibility in Jane Austen’s England.

The sources of their oppression cannot be mitigated through a well-considered marriage.

Overall, Sanditon 3×06 drives home the idea that women have choices. Each female character finds her voice, her worth, her independence and a man willing to respect her decisions. The framing of each story as a triumph of feminism over the patriarchal society sets up Sanditon as a seaside result where “the normal rules of conduct tend to be relaxed” — a sort of utopia where a love match provides women with protection and fulfillment.  

But what of Charlotte’s friends, Georgiana and Arthur Parker? The sources of their oppression cannot be mitigated through a well-considered marriage. In Arthur’s case, he is not only unable to marry, but he cannot live his love in the light of day without fear of criminal punishment. The scene of apology and forgiveness between Harry Montrose and Arthur is touching. It is also a joy to see them together at Charlotte’s wedding, but what’s next for them? A clandestine life secluded along the river Wye?

Related Content: Crystal Clarke Talks Sanditon’s Georgiana Lambe, Representation, and More

As for Georgiana, she raised legitimate questions about whether her fortune could be protected by marrying Otis. These concerns are not addressed in Sanditon 3×06. Instead, we are left to assume that a Black, formerly enslaved man, an heiress who may be legally considered enslaved, and her mother who is definitely “not a free woman in Antigua,” will not be harassed in their future lives or activities in racist England (where abolition will not come for more than a decade). The intimate wedding is a privilege to watch, and seeing Otis openly occupy his place by Georgiana’s side in Sanditon is a far cry from his ride of shame out of town in 1×04.

Still, assuming a “happily ever after” for these couples requires completely divorcing their futures from the Regency social context of Sanditon.

Return to the Clifftops

Charlotte Heywood on a clifftop in Sanditon 3x06

One surefire technique for a successful season finale is reconnecting to elements that originally made fans fall in love with the show. As with the rescue in 3×05, the writers have boldly decided to reboot a key element of Sanditon Season 1, the controversial clifftop carriage stop that ended 1×08 and launched an 18-month renewal campaign. In fact, much of the action is contrived to lead to this moment. The original scene in 1×08 is not what I’d call a beloved element. It has, in fact, haunted many fans for years now. This do-over in Sanditon 3×06 can be seen as an exorcism for Charlotte and for viewers. We can recall the opening of 2×01 and the mix of white and black, shadow and light, as Charlotte spins for her life in a village barn while Sidney’s coffin finds eternal peace on a cliff overlooking the sea. We can want that same peace for Charlotte in this life rather than the next.

Some will see the final carriage ride over the clifftops, the proposal, and the uninhibited kiss as a clever reworking of the 1×08 cliffhanger and the 1×08 kiss to provide Charlotte with that peace and healing. For other viewers, the scene may appear as a strange echo from a closed chapter of Charlotte’s life. Closing Charlotte’s journey to her new happy ending with imagery that recalls an ending that could never be is a debatable choice. Her final look around at her wedding reception is, however, a fitting goodbye to each of the beloved characters, most of whom we first discovered through her eyes in 1×01.

Sanditon 3×06 works as a delightful, uplifting finale if you embrace the idea that love conquers all. It sometimes feels more Austenland than Austen, but closure covers a multitude of sins. The frantic switching between stories, the rushed explanations, and the new elements introduced conveniently to allow closure are easy to overlook when overwhelmed by gratitude that the stories of Charlotte Heywood and Georgiana Lambe finally have satisfactory and even happy endings.

Further Thoughts

  • It is admittedly hard to be fully satisfied with essentially a cameo for the Georgiana-Otis resolution. Yay, they’re married, but that was fast. (Insert sad face emoji here) Actor scheduling apparently left little time for filming. Still, a debt of gratitude that Jyuddah Jaymes made the time to return at all.
  • The discussion between the Colbourne brothers about being tamed is similar to the conversation between Sidney and Lord Babington in 1×08. In the first scenario, both men were contemplating marriage while in this second scenario only one seems to have that possibility immediately before him. Still, Colbourne does not begrudge his brother the chance at happiness.
  • The roles of Mary and Agnes are remarkably similar. Mary acts as a moral voice and confessor for Charlotte, encouraging audiences to believe that Charlotte’s “choice” to break off the engagement took courage. She authorizes Charlotte to pursue her heart (similar to giving Charlotte permission to mourn in 2×02). Agnes encourages Georgiana to believe that she can manage her own fortune (more of this positive affirmation time for Georgiana, please!) and steers her gently back to her true love. In the same way that Mary saw how Charlotte looked at Alexander but said nothing — in fact, sought to reassure her about marrying Ralph — Agnes bit her tongue about Georgiana and Harry, despite not seeing the look of love.
  • Georgiana’s apology to her ‘friends’ diminishes the trauma that led to her behavior. She did not merely lose sight of herself. The 3×03 trial shattered her sense of reality and sense of self. Adding dialogue here about the lack of safety and support she felt despite her friends’ best intentions would be useful to validate the real needs driving her to seek status as a shield as a young Black woman in English society. I would also have liked to see more time devoted to a proper goodbye between the Parkers and Georgiana, given her (former) status as an honorary Parker.
  • Lydia’s engagement is a rather silly, easily resolved misunderstanding. Georgiana could have asked one simple question: To whom? She and Charlotte might have wondered why Lydia was so keen to keep it a secret, given how much Lady Montrose would crow about it.
  • Heaven help the good people of Sanditon! Their spiritual leaders, John Hankins and Edward Denham, are deeply-flawed men.

Now airing on PBS and available for streaming: What are your thoughts on Sanditon 3×06? Let us know in the comments below.


One comment

  1. I agree! I wish certain sub-plots could have been cut down to give more life to Georgiana and her mother/Charlotte and Colbourne scenes. Heybourne didn’t actually have many scenes where they were just talking, and reminding us of why they fell in love in the first place. I would have liked to see that! Still, I enjoyed the sweetness and feeling of completion. Thanks for all your reviews! 🙂

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