Is there anything more comforting than a Jane Austen happy ending? Why PBS Masterpiece’s Sanditon desperately needs another season.
If you love period drama (or Jane Austen), then you likely have seen Sanditon by this point. And, if you’re anything like me, the ending has driven you absolutely crazy. Surely, a Jane Austen adaptation deserves a Jane happily ever after!
Jane Austen’s Sanditon
For those unfamiliar with Sanditon, the manuscript is Jane Austen’s unfinished last work. She wrote eleven chapters about a delightful seaside town full of intriguing characters when her illness prevented her from continuing and finishing one last promising and witty novel. Unfortunately, that also means we will never know her true intended ending. Indeed, Sanditon’s conclusions will only ever be fan fiction seen through the eyes of several creative minds.
Over the years, there have been a few standout continuations, including Jane Austen’s Sanditon: A continuation, by Anna Austen Lefroy (Austen’s niece). But even that novel, with the author closest to Jane, remains unfinished. (And if anyone knows where to read a copy of Lefroy’s continuation, please let me know!)
The latest version of Sanditon comes to us as a romantic period drama from Andrew Davies, the same writer who gave us the 1995 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. First aired in the UK, Sanditon finally made its way overseas on PBS Masterpiece, capturing the hearts of several period drama aficionados only to announce its cancellation, marking this Sanditon as yet another incomplete version of Jane Austen’s last novel.
Sanditon – What It’s About
In the TV series, the story revolves around Charlotte Heywood, a spirited, bookish, and intelligent farmer’s daughter who encounters a carriage accident. With excitement, Charlotte helps an enthusiastic entrepreneur (Kris Marshall). In return for her kindness, Tom Parker (the entrepreneur) invites her to Sanditon, a seaside town he’s developing into a resort.
Charlotte accepts, with an eye for adventure, and enters into the new and exhilarating world of Sanditon. It’s a world of dancing and swimming. There are new friendships and fascinating dinner parties.
Of course, Charlotte meets an ensemble of captivating characters at these Sanditon parties. From the miserly and rich Lady Denham (Anne Reid), the Antiguan heiress Miss Lambe (Crystal Clarke), to social “brother and sister” schemers attempting to inherit the mean Lady Denham’s money. But it’s Tom Parker’s brother Sidney Parker (Theo James) making the biggest impression. He’s her Mr. Darcy, and these two characters clash almost instantaneously.
With a fantastic ensemble of characters and an ideal setting, Sanditon is a textbook setup for a period drama series to last more than one season, which was, of course, Andrew Davies’ original intention. But, for a series meant to continue, this addictive period drama, also ends rather unsatisfactorily.
So, rather than write out a typical review, I emphasize seven great reasons this lavish period drama not only deserves a second season but also needs one desperately. And, if you haven’t watched Sanditon yet, here are seven reasons why you should! (MINOR SPOILERS INCLUDED.)
#1: Theo James as Sidney
Theo James truly knows how to brood with the best of our period drama leading men! He just has that ‘it’ factor with intense stares and smoldering chemistry with leading lady Rose Williams. Sure, we initially despise him and all of his rudeness, but that’s what makes his performance so convincing! By the end of the season, we feel for poor Sidney, who must sacrifice everything to save his brother and his family.
#2: Rose Williams as Charlotte
What is a good Jane Austen drama without a wonderful female protagonist? Charlotte is our eyes into the seductive world of Sanditon, and Rose Williams (also fantastic in Reign) plays her to perfection. With her wide-eyed naivety, Charlotte still holds her own with fierce independence and outspoken opinions.
Add in her good nature and kindness to characters like Miss Lambe, and you’ll be sure to love Sanditon’s heroine despite the terrible cliffhanger. Surely, Charlotte doesn’t deserve that ending. Right?
#3: A Diverse Jane Austen
Surprisingly, Jane Austen introduced the Antiguan heiress, Miss Lambe, in her first eleven chapters. However, we will never know her original intentions regarding her first black character. That said, Andrew Davies’ interpretation of the romantic Miss Georgiana Lambe, who gets tangled in bad situations and plots, was a pleasure to watch. I would love to see what happens to her character next as her story also remains sadly unfinished.
#4: The Swoony Young Stringer
Aside from the central love story between Charlotte and Sidney, there’s the sweetest secondary love interest, Young Stringer (Leo Suter). He’s an idealistic architect who has dreams and ambitions to better his life despite his poor background. There’s beautiful equality between Young Stringer and Charlotte that almost made me want to root for them instead.
Nevertheless, he’s so kind and sweet, that a second season could introduce a new story and perhaps romance for Young Stringer. Stringer needs some love, right?
#5: The Layered Female Character Esther Denham
Esther (Charlotte Spencer) is cold and seemingly without feeling, but underneath she’s independent and full of intense emotion. Her stepbrother has manipulated her for years, and that has kept her from real happiness. How she breaks free and reveals her true self, is lovely to watch. Honestly, we need more layered characters like Esther Denham.
On a side note, Lady Denham is also a fascinating female character. She’s the one in power, and she won’t let anyone forget it! Her negativity made for great entertainment.
#6: Did I mention the smoldering chemistry?
When you find onscreen magic, why throw it away? The chemistry between Sidney and Charlotte is so palpable that their interactions are both fiery and compelling. You just can’t look away. We need more romantic scenes between Sidney and Charlotte. Things were just getting good…
#7: Sanditon Deserves a Happy Ending!
Break the curse! Give Sanditon and Jane Austen fans a real ending. Amid all the darkness and tragedy in the world, we need more light. We need more happy endings. Surely, Jane Austen and now Andrew Davies meant for Charlotte and Sidney to find happiness in the end. With such a devoted fanbase, why not at least make a two-hour movie? Finish the story. And if funding is a problem, prove the popularity with a fan-funded campaign. It worked for Miss Fisher and Veronica Mars!
Overall Sanditon Thoughts
Sanditon is a must-see period drama with extravagant costumes, excellent characterization, and romance that will knock you off your feet. Sure, some scenes are not very Jane Austen and one moment unnecessary. Nevertheless, the series still pays homage to the beloved author, particularly in the romance between Sidney and Charlotte.
Furthermore, Andrew Davies truly embellishes Austen’s original characters with interesting backstories and developments. Like the best melodramas, Sanditon leaves you hanging and genuinely wanting more. Make it happen PBS and ITV! The Sanditon audience is waiting.
Do you hope for a second season of Sanditon? What did you think of the addictive Jane Austen period drama? Sound off below…
Content Note: Rated TV-14 for male nudity and sensuality over an eight-episode span. Nothing overly gratuitous.
Where to Watch: PBS Passport and Prime Video with the PBS Masterpiece Add-On. You can also buy on DVD and Blu-ray.
“You had me at hello.”
“You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope.
I have loved none but you.”
Top Photo Credit: Courtesy of Photographer: Simon Ridgway/© Red Planet Pictures / ITV 2019