The penultimate episode of Sanditon wraps up what feels like a lot of loose ends, which leaves me wondering exactly what sort of story the finale is aiming to tell. After all, this hour basically settles things in terms of the love triangle between Charlotte, Sidney and Young Stringer, exposes Clara and Edward’s scheming, crowns Esther as the queen of this show that she so obviously is, and makes the town a relative social success thanks to Charlotte’s ability to make high placed friends.
I suppose there’s still the question of when all our endgame couples are all going to marry one another. (Esther, choose happiness girl!!) There’s also what exactly the future will hold for poor Georgiana, now that she’s had her heart broken and her eyes opened to the general perfidy and scumminess of the male sex. And I suppose Charlotte and Sidney have to actually run into each other’s arms after his declaration of love via self compliment at the end of this episode.
Okay, I’m mostly kidding on the last bit. Yes, Sidney’s admission that Charlotte makes him feel like his best self around her is almost as much a compliment to him as it is to her, but also, it’s extremely adorable at the same time. Especially coming from a man that we’ve watched struggle and resist the idea of caring about people, or the place he comes from, or Georgiana, or literally anything at all, for so long. Sidney seems willing to try at life again, and that’s a big deal for him as a character.
This realization also makes the past like hour and a half of Sidney’s irritating ex Eliza worth it. A true Regina George-style mean girl, she spends most of this episode being a straight up bitch to Charlotte, condescendingly belittling everything from her upbringing to her personality, while treating her like the hired help. Charlotte, being Charlotte, rises above it all, ultimately proving her worth by basically being the reason the Sanditon regatta is a success, having drawn her new rich and very influential friend Susan to town simply because the woman wanted to continue the gossip session about all the town weirdos they’d started at last week’s ball.
Susan, as it turns out, is also a huge Sidlotte shipper, so I feel her on a deep emotional level.
For those of us who prefer Charlotte with Sidney, we are gifted with a magical hour where our occasionally idiotic leading man struggles to make his ex be nice to the girl he likes before abandoning everything to take his new crush out on a boat ride where he “teaches her to row” as an excuse to hold hands, sit close together, and stare longingly into each other’s faces.
I am extremely here for all of this, if you couldn’t tell. Honestly, it’s just all so Austen-ish. The beautiful costumes. The meaningful glances. The colorful small town event that would honestly be extremely boring and terrible to actual rich people from the big city, but that comes off as a fun and charming diversion for all involved. They even let the poor workers win the boat race!
See, this right here, is what I want from adaptations like Sanditon. Not full on sex on snake-decorated floors. Yes, Sidney and Charlotte have had their problems – and the show has really leaned way too hard on the push them together/pull them apart thing as a plot device in their relationship – but they’re so good with and for one another, and this is all just riotously romantic. I swoon.
Elsewhere, Esther manages to cement her position as the true MVP of Sanditon. That is due in large part to actress Charlotte Spencer who has done her absolute best from jump to portray Esther as a real, three-dimensional woman with so much going on inside her at any given moment. Her performance in this episode runs the gamut from heartbreak to determination to something that feels vaguely like hope, and every moment she’s onscreen is fantastic.
Happily, Esther gets plenty to do this week, as Clara suddenly decides to clue her in on her plot with Edward to destroy Lady Denham’s will and split her fortune amongst themselves. This is, unfortunately, a deeply stupid plot twist that turns on making Clara do something incredibly dumb in the name of pushing the story in a specific direction, rather than as a natural decision her character might believably make. Because this is not one of those choices.
In what world would Clara, who understands the game of inheritance and family and the limits on women’s lives better than anybody, suddenly decide to rub Esther’s face in her drawing room romp with Edward? Or reveal her inheritance scam to anybody before Lady D’s cold cash money was in her hand? Though I think she’s genuinely drawn to the scummier Denham sibling, and maybe even reveled in the chance to make Esther jealous Clara’s not an idiot. The idea that she would have brought her own house down so carelessly doesn’t work for me at all.
What does work for me, however, is Esther’s passionate speech at Lady Denham’s bedside, in which she rambles on at length about how poisonous her aunt’s money has always been, how it’s ruined countless lives and left her friendless and alone in her final hours. Thankfully, the old woman is very much just “mostly” dead and not the goner we all assumed, because Esther deserves better than to be the one left with nothing while everyone else celebrates. Lady D makes a truly miraculous recover from her near-death experience, just in time to disown both Edward and Clara, calling them out for their sexcapades while casting Esther as her most beloved relation. I’m here for it. Especially if it’s all given her the motivation to go chase her own happiness with Babbington, because nothing with her trash family is in any way guaranteed.
For all that there’s still an episode left, things in Sanditon seem to be swimming along quite nicely. Which makes me feel a little bit nervous, since I’ve got no idea what happens next. We’ll see how it goes, I guess.
What did you think of this episode of Sanditon? Let’s discuss in the comments.