The 'Sanditon' Season 3 Premiere Takes Us Back to the Seaside One Last Time

Turlough Coventry, Kris Marshall, Cai Bridgen, and Rose Williams in "Sanditon" Season 3 Episode 1

Turlough Coventry, Kris Marshall, Cai Bridgen, and Rose Williams in "Sanditon" Season 3

(Photo: Courtesy of Joss Barratt (C) Red Planet (Sanditon 3) Ltd)

Even if PBS hadn't already announced that the third season of Sanditon would be the show's last, we probably would have been able to guess from the Season 3 premiere that the end was nigh. Everything about this episode indicates that this will be a season about wrapping things up and, most importantly, pairing people off in true Jane Austen or (at least Austen adjacent) style.

But, perhaps that's honestly for the best, as much of the series' second season ultimately ended up repeating the basic narrative beats of its first, and its finale concluded with heroine Charlotte Heywood once again facing misery and heartbreak, her BFF Georgiana Lambe learning that yet another man she cared for was only after her fortune, and the Parker family once again stressing about money thanks to Tom's gambling debts. At least, since it's been given a definitive endpoint, Sanditon will finally have to finally say something new. 

As one might expect, the Season 3 premiere is full of a lot of table setting, as everyone returns to the titular seaside resort town for various reasons. Georgiana's throwing a party for her 21st birthday to celebrate coming into her inheritance and invited Charlotte, who brings her new fiancee Ralph Starling along. The Parkers are giddy over the crowds in Sanditon, which has drawn all sorts of new people to town, including the aristocratic but secretly broke Montrose family, whose matriarch, Lady Montrose, is determined that her son Henry, the Duke of Buckinghamshire, find a rich wife while in town. 

 Rose Williams and Crystal Clarke in Sanditon Season 3

 Rose Williams and Crystal Clarke in "Sanditon" Season 3

(Photo: Courtesy of Joss Barratt (C) Red Planet (Sanditon 3) Ltd)

Sanditon has never been a show known for its subtlety, and it's true that part of the appeal of a story like this is the familiar narrative beats and predictable endings. But this season seems set to take things up to eleven in that regard. For example, as sweet as poor Ralph is, there's never any true sense that he's Charlotte's happy ending, a fact that the series beats viewers over the head with by constantly reminding us how out of place he is in a world comprised of dukes and titled heiresses. 

The fact that the show has decided to lean so heavily into Ralph's provincial roots is especially bizarre given that Charlotte herself certainly didn't know any heiresses or titled nobles when she first arrived in Sanditon either, and now feels comfortable with them because she took the time to build various friendships and relationships with all of them. There's little reason Ralph couldn't do the same if given the opportunity  the man seems almost painfully sweet   but like almost everything else in this premiere, Sanditon is crystal clear about where this relationship is ultimately going. 

From Augusta's literal run-in with Edward Denham to Georgiana's fake dating arrangement with Lord Montrose and Charlotte's obvious and pained pining for Alexander Colbourne (so weird she didn't want to tell him she was getting married!), it's clear almost from the premiere's opening moments what the season's ultimate trajectory will be. I mean, they even introduce a man for Lady Denham! The beach apparently really is the most romantic place on earth. 

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It's disappointing that it appears that several of Sanditon's best characters Charlotte's sunny sister Allison, who had the only real romance of last season, and the delightfully prickly Esther Denham - don't appear to be part of the show's final season. Particularly because they appear to have been replaced by the predictably annoying social climbing Montrose family and an increased role for Augusta, which in and of itself is lovely, except the show seems to have decided to throw her in the orbit of Edward Denham, who sucks. Ugh. 

It's not clear how many viewers out there (if any!) were desperately hoping for another attempt at a redemption storyline for Edward (or another glaring example of how irredeemably terrible he is, depending on how all this plays out.) To be fair, it is at least somewhat entertaining to watch him be repeatedly belittled and forced to attend religious lectures about accepting God's love and saving his soul. But, the fact that his entire body perks up when he learns Augusta has a fortune is honestly exhausting. Are we really meant to watch another likable young woman fall victim to the gross charms of this man? (Here's hoping she's savvy enough to see through his antics and/or put him in his place, but the prospect of Augusta getting stuck in this terrible man's orbit all season sure is depressing.)

Speaking of men who suck, surprise, the wonderful Alexander Vlahos is back as the truly wretched Charles Lockhart, tortured artist and con man who attempted to scam Georgiana into marriage last season. Having failed at accessing her fortune he views as rightfully his (he's Georgiana's cousin) through romance, it appears that Lockhart has turned to the legal system and is suing her for all the money she's just come into. For her part, Georgiana hasn't had much success tracking down her miraculously still-alive mother nor sussing out why her father insisted she was dead, but one has to assume the threat of her daughter losing everything may well be enough to bring her out of hiding at last. 

Rose Williams and Ben Lloyd Hughes in "Sanditon" Season 3

Rose Williams and Ben Lloyd Hughes in "Sanditon" Season 3

(Photo: Courtesy of Rob Youngson (C) Red Planet (Sanditon 3) Ltd)

Then there's the Charlotte and Colbourne of it all. I'm on record as not being much of a fan of this relationship, as it's always seemed much more about Colbourne's needs — his grief, his family, his moody weirdness, and uncomfortably stoic nature  — than Charlotte's. He's the one, after all, who made the decision to end their relationship (both personally and professionally) and never seemed all that interested in the specific griefs or problems Charlotte carried with her. Yes, he's attractive and rich, and Charlotte clearly adores the girls in his care, but I'm not sure that Sanditon has done a particularly good job showing us what it is about him that draws Charlotte to him so strongly.

On paper, it's hard to make an argument that she wouldn't be better off with Ralph, a man who may not necessarily be her intellectual equal or as experienced as she's become in the larger world, but who at least is willing to make an effort to learn about those things for her. If Colbourne has ever made any effort where Charlotte's concerned at all, the series forgot to show it.

Given how many Sanditon residents appear to be aware of the fact that the pair are in love and either want to ask them about it or meddle in their affairs, it's a wonder that someone doesn't just accidentally push Ralph into the sea. Here's hoping that because Sanditon has made Charlotte's final choice so obvious that the show will actually take the time to show us why it's actually the right one for her. 

Lacy Baugher

Lacy's love of British TV is embarrassingly extensive, but primarily centers around evangelizing all things Doctor Who, and watching as many period dramas as possible.

Digital media type by day, she also has a fairly useless degree in British medieval literature, and dearly loves to talk about dream poetry, liminality, and the medieval religious vision. (Sadly, that opportunity presents itself very infrequently.) York apologist, Ninth Doctor enthusiast, and unabashed Ravenclaw. Say hi on Threads or Blue Sky at @LacyMB. 

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