Previously on Sanditon: Farmer’s daughter Charlotte Heywood ends up in the seaside town of Sanditon after she helps rescue charming oddball Tom Parker and his wife from a carriage accident. (Just go with it.) Once there, she meets a wide assortment of interesting and bizarre people, including Tom’s handsome and arrogant brother, a wealthy black heiress from the West Indies, the local rich Violet Crowley-esque widow and the seemingly endless parade of relations competing to inherit from her, including a V.C. Andrews-ish pair of stepsiblings, a poor cousin, and Tom himself, who wants her to fund his investments in improving the town. It’s kind of a lot. If you need more detail, see our recap of Episodes 1 and 2.
After an opening pair of installments that left some of us (i.e. me) wondering if I could or did actually enjoy this show, Sanditon’s third episode felt a lot closer to what we normally expect from a Jane Austen drama. Sort of. (At least it focused more on the things I cared about than the things I didn’t.) There are still several narrative elements that will likely leave you sort of blinking in disbelief – the slapstick nature of much of Dr. Fuchs’ visit, Arthur’s continued existence, and the basically made up doctoring effort that keeps Young Stringer’s dad alive. (It also probably didn’t help that I couldn’t stop thinking of him as Old Stringer, just saying.) But, on the whole, there’s a lot to like in this episode, and if this is the general form Sanditon wants to adapt to going forward, count me right in.
There are many things I turn to a Jane Austen story for – deft language, class commentary, female characters of depth and richness, despite the circumstances in which they may find themselves, and, yes, romance. I’m hear to swoon over the Lizzies and Darcys, the Marianne Dashwoods and Col. Brandons, the Emmas and Mr. Knightleys. And now, finally, Sidney and Charlotte.
Yes, folks, I am fully and officially a Sidlotte shipper, as Sanditon at last seems to have righted the ship a bit in their depiction of this relationship. There’s still friction between the two – Sidney is still brusque and offputting, and Charlotte still speaks her mind with refreshing freedom – but they’re no longer snapping at one another in every other scene, and they’ve each stopped behaving as though they want the other to drop dead, so that’s an improvement. Maybe the magic of seeing a hot guy naked is the solution to many problems. Who can say?
At any rate, Charlotte and Sidney have entered that awkward phase where they're constantly running into each other around town and surprising one another in good ways. Charlotte’s not afraid of blood! Sidney’s considerate of Young Stringer’s emotions! Charlotte calls him out on assuming she’s some sort of shrinking violet! He takes her advice about Georgiana! It’s all very sweet and charming, and it’s almost enough to make me forget that Sidney has been basically spitting on Charlotte every time he sees her prior to this moment.
That said, I have not forgotten, and I’m ready to spend another episode or so watching Sidney be awkward and apologetic toward Charlotte because he deserves to suffer. But at the end of the day, I’m now extremely on board with his slow and inevitable realization of precisely how special Charlotte is, and I’m glad that Sanditon has decided to dial the antagonism between them back a couple of notches.
Though I deeply, deeply hope we can do without any more references to like Sidney’s “impressive” physique or whatever. Please and thank you.
Elsewhere, there’s a bizarre subplot where Tom Parker decides that the way to draw guests to Sanditon is to…promise them regular medical care? I’m deeply unclear on how any of these people have managed to survive without a doctor anywhere near them, but sure, what this town really needs is the promise of hydrotherapy instead. Basically, everything involving the over the top German doctor is entirely too much, from his accent to his insistence that mud masks are what will turn Sanditon around as a business venture. (Sidebar: My dislike of ridiculous Arthur and his wife (??) continues apace, if only because I think he is taking away valuable seconds of screentime that I’d rather spend with literally anyone else.)
Lady Denham’s poor ward Clara feels like one of the least Austen-ish figures in this show, yet somehow she’s also one of the most fascinating. Which may be a poor commentary on some of the story’s other elements – looking at you, V.C. Andrews twins – but I’m willing to go with it because rightly or wrongly Clara is interesting. So many female characters in stories like this basically exist to wait for a man to save them, and their narrative arcs are largely built around the idea that they’re basically just hanging out until someone provides them with the means (usually via marriage) to support themselves. Perhaps it’s because Sanditon isn’t a story of the aristocratic gentry or the genteelly poor, but these women are not like that, and Clara particularly isn’t.
Do I think that the revelation that she’s a blatant climber solely after her aunt’s money and not afraid to manipulate others or (physically) fight to get it is un-Austenlike? Probably. Do I care? Not really. I loved every second of Clara and Esther’s confrontation, from the hilarious book reading set-up to their vicious threatening whispers. When Clara didn’t even flinch while Ester was digging her nails into that nasty-looking burn? We have no choice but to stan.
I touched on this a little bit in last week’s recap, but I think the reason that this is all so much fun is precisely because Clara, specifically, doesn’t really have an Austen archetype. Or if she does, it’s maybe Pride and Prejudice’s Lydia, but that particular Bennet sister is just selfish and flighty, with terrible taste in men. She’s not out here physically scarring herself to get what she wants. Who is this girl? How did she become this person? Clara is one of the few characters other than Charlotte and Georgiana that I would genuinely like to know more about, both in terms of her personality and goals, and whatever life situation has turned her into someone that lets a stranger gouge a fresh burn wound without flinching.
What did you all think of this week’s episode? Are you Sidlotte shippers yet? (Come sit by me!) What did you think of Ester and Clara’s showdown, or whatever’s going on with the both of them and Edward? Let’s discuss in the comments.