Given that there are only six episodes in Sanditon's final season, one might expect the story to contract rather than expand. After all, there's not a lot of room to maneuver, narratively speaking, and many loose ends to tie up. But, in the season's second installment, there's not much evidence that's what's happening. Because even though many viewers (or, at least, me) would likely prefer this final run to drill down and focus on giving Charlotte Heywood and Georgiana Lambe the happy endings they deserve (and earning those endings in the process), the show seems to have decided to provide every character a romantic subplot instead. (Even some we've only just met!)
To be fair, the episode is entertaining enough. There's a promised and then thwarted visit from the King himself, a seaside musical recital featuring a famous opera singer who somehow doesn't mind performing in front of a crowd of nobodies, and a moral debate about whether it's okay to tear down poor people's houses to put a fancy hotel in their place. Alexander Colbourne's much more interesting brother arrives in town, Lady Susan has been dumped by the King, and Charlotte is doing her best to avoid returning to the life she's told everyone she's freely chosen for herself.
On paper, Charlotte's evident hesitance about marrying the nice farm boy from her village and open, obvious pining for Alexander Colbourne should be enough to serve as the primary narrative engine of the season. Her feelings for Colbourne and what, precisely, keeps drawing her toward him (other than the fact that she loves his girls) are the story I wish Season 2 had told, so I'd love to see this final outing correct that misstep. Make me believe in these two, please!
But rather than delve more deeply into its central romance, Sanditon decides to launch several new ones instead. And, look, we all know the show's ending, so there's something oddly sweet about this inclination to pair every character who's ever said more than five lines onscreen off in a true love match. But it also makes for terrible storytelling.
I'm not sure who, precisely, was worried about whether Lady Denham gets a man by the series' end or needed to see the vicar's sister and the village doctor send each other love letters. And don't get me started on the whole Edward and Augusta mess, which does nothing but reaffirm what a great character she is and how utterly wasted she is on this storyline. (Because here's the thing: I honestly don't care if Edward's reformation is genuine or a total fake-out. She deserves a better story than being his road to redemption.)
Even Arthur Parker appears to be about to finally get a boyfriend. I realize we all love Arthur, but it's genuinely okay to let supporting characters be supporting characters, living their lives in the background of the show's larger story. No matter how much I enjoy Arthur, do I want to watch him and Montrose more than I want to dig into Charlotte's emotional state or finally see Georgiana get the narrative focus she's deserved for so long? No, no, I do not.
Georgiana does get the episode's most exciting subplot, as she, Charlotte, and the Parkers struggle to figure out what to do about Lockheart's lawsuit. Things aren't looking great, given that no lawyers seem willing to take her case, and the judge assigned to her case has some "unfriendly opinions" about abolition and, being on the record as a racist piece of crap, seems unlikely to offer much relief.
Thank goodness Colbourne decides to eavesdrop on Georgiana and Charlotte's brunch commiseration about these setbacks and rides to the rescue by heading to London to make peace with his estranged brother Samuel, who just so happens to be a lawyer. (And, perhaps actually, a good one, given the brutal way he illustrates the sorts of questions Georgiana will likely face in court.)
As far as grand gestures go, it's pretty good, but Charlotte still seems disinclined to thaw toward the man who is her endgame. It would be one thing if the show were trying to make it appear that she had some legitimate feelings for Ralph as well — or that he was anything besides emotional roadkill on the way to her reunion with Colbourne — but since that's not the case, it's had to know precisely why she's so determined to stay angry with the guy she'd rather be with. There's...just no tension here; so much of this tortured pining feels like it's happening to no real end. (Unless someone behind the scenes likes the "hands barely brushing" trope.)
As random new characters go, Samuel Colbourne isn't a terrible addition to the Sanditon landscape. Liam Garrigan (Domina) is charming, easy on the eyes, and brings much-needed energy to the series' canvas. (It also doesn't hurt that he's more interesting than every other new face we've seen this year.) Since nearly every other character has a designated romantic partner already, it seems as though he's going to be destined to mend Lady Susan's broken heart if for no other reason than he doesn't have a lot of alternatives.
It's theoretically possible he could be meant for Georgiana. This twist would make her and Charlotte sisters by the series' end, but given everything she's dealing with plot-wise already, shoehorning in another romance feels unwise. (After all, it's been two episodes, and we haven't made any progress on the whole "surprise, your dead mom is still alive" thing.) The best ending for Georgiana may well turn out to be one in which she essentially pulls a Kelly Taylor and chooses herself, whether that means continuing her search for her mother or traveling the world with her fortune, or using her financial security to help push progressive policies in the U.K. government. As the one character who technically doesn't have to marry to secure her future (provided she wins her lawsuit, of course),
But with just four episodes remaining and roughly a dozen characters' stories to wrap up, here's hoping Sanditon still has time to give them all happy endings and earn them as well.