I attended the online PBS Masterpiece Webinar that showed the first episode of season two, followed by a Q&A with the cast, writers, and producers on March 13, 2022. My warning is below, as I’m going to write about episode one before the official airing on Masterpiece PBS on March 20, 2022, and BritBoxUK on March 21, 2022. Fasten your seatbelts, ladies.
The opening scenes are quick and to the point. It feels like a bandaid swiftly ripped off. It stings. It shocks our senses. We gaze at we knew what was coming, but find it more painful to watch than we imagined.
The first scene unfolds with an aerial view toward a tropical island, Antiqua, which confuses our senses for a moment. Instead of being in England, we are suddenly transported to scenes of a casket being borne on the shoulders of pallbearers, the clergy walking behind, with a few mourners. Another scene of bloodied sheets being pulled off a bed; a letter being written; a trunk being packed; and finally a coffin being lowered with the name, Sidney Parker, 1788-1820. Rest in peace, Sidney.
While the above is occurring, we see Charlotte dancing with joy at a town assembly, while an admirer looks on who you assume to be someone interested in Charlotte. Suddenly, Mary Parker enters the doorway, and you know why she has arrived. Charlotte approaches, they go outdoors, Alison follows and watches as Charlotte receives the devastating news. Sidney is dead. Charlotte weeps in the arms of Mary.
Then the familiar Sanditon introduction arrives, with a few more colorful scenes from season two, replacing the old ones from season one. The music is familiar, and our hearts leap for joy. Sanditon is back in all its glory! Even though we sense joy, we realize that we are about to take a journey with Charlotte, experiencing her grief, dealing with our own, and taking a different path than we imagined.
As we see the scenes come to life, it’s interesting to see how we speculated over some of the stills that came our way during filming and promotion. Some of our hits and misses in those assumptions are revealed, like in the next scene. We see two new characters, Augusta, chasing Leo across grassy fields. You’ll discover more about them later. The young child running away from her, we first think is a boy, dressed in an old redcoat, running toward the army camp. I cannot help but think that that worn and old redcoat may have significance in the episodes to air. The militia has arrived, along with Colonel Lennox on his white horse.
We see Georgiana arrive in a carriage with a potential suitor, who she has refused. As usual, she spouts off a remark. Instead of cutting her own throat, she would sooner be boiled alive than marry him. Later in the episode, Georgiana says to Arthur that she would marry him, as he treats her with kindness, respect, and good humor not caring for her fortune. He again asserts that he’s not the marrying kind. Their relationship has evolved into a close friendship.
It’s been three months since Sidney’s death, and Tom is now her guardian but she’s living with Reverend Hankins and his sister, receiving more moral guidance. No doubt he’s preparing her to be plucked! Tom admits to Mary that he’s not the best in his new role (of course we knew he’d be a lousy caretaker), nevertheless Mary announces that a friend of Georgiana is on her way which may help.
The carriage ride back to Sanditon for Alison and Charlotte is a telling scene of excitement for one character and pain for the other. Alison is exuberant as ever and thrilled about her new adventure. Charlotte, on the other hand, can barely crack a smile as her return only brings back memories. Tom, Mary, the children, and Arthur all greet their arrival.
As Charlotte walks into Trafalgar House, memories flood back. Sidney Parker’s voice echos to us all as a clip from season one, “My dearest Charlotte. I had hoped… that when I returned I would be able to make you a proposal of marriage.” The pain etched across Charlotte’s face is enhanced, as she once again glances at the picture of Sidney on the wall.
When everyone enters the drawing-room, Charlotte reiterates that she hoped Mary passed on her sympathies over the passing of Sidney. Tom remarks that he cannot account as to why Sidney was in Antiqua, and remarks that he was happy with Eliza before they lost him. They have hired an agent into looking into the details. Tom announces that Georgiana lives with Mr. Hankins and his sister, while he remains her guardian now that Sidney has passed.
The next scene is, and I quote from Alexander Vhalos himself:
I mean I basically got given the best ever entrance in Sanditon history. Coming out of the water, walking all the way up the sand with a sarong and an open gown.
And, that’s exactly what we see! He’s such a rockstar in this role.
We are then watching Tom, Arthur, Charlotte, and Alison walk the streets of Sanditon, while Tom spouts the usual, “Sanditon is becoming the most desirable destination.” (Insert blah, blah, blah) Charlotte inquires about Mr. Stringer, who is now gone off to be a master architect (when actually we know he’s a sword-wielding buff Viking on Netflix). The militia is coming to spend the whole summer in Sanditon, and Colonel Lennox is a decorated war hero having fought at Waterloo.
Finally, we see Lady Denham with Esther, who has come for a visit. Lady Denham declares she has a certain fondness for the redcoats. Babington is away, and Esther has decided to visit her “favorite aunt.” Lady Denham has returned with her zingers and attitude that we all love.
At last, Charlotte and Georgiana are reunited and sit down for tea in the fashionable new tea room. She declares that Tom is intent on marrying her off before her twenty-first birthday, and her boycott of sugar and the reason behind it is briefly discussed. Alison declares that Charlotte is avoiding a proposal from Ralph Starling, a sensible farmer. Charles Lockhart enters the tea room, and Georgiana asks about him. It’s Charlotte who declares his name and that he’s an artist. Later in the episode, she is introduced by Arthur to Mr. Lockhart. Instant sparring between the two ensues, and Georgiana is not impressed when Charles is obviously intrigued.
The next scene is a bit telling, as Lady Denham has a conversation with Tom that business is booming. The militia will arrive to “spend, spend, spend” (his favorite catchphrase). Apparently, Eliza Campion owns a large part of Sanditon, and Tom needs to pay her back the sizeable debt. Arthur, with a voice of assurance, says they will find a way, while Lady Denham doesn’t like Eliza having a bigger share in Sanditon than she does! Okay, so how do we feel about Eliza still having her grubby hands clinging to the Parkers even after Sidney’s death? I’m not too happy.
Alison, Charlotte, and Georgiana have a walk through the militia camp and share a few words with the men. Charlotte asks Lennox if Sanditon requires defending, and they exchange lines between the two of them briefly. The ladies leave giggling like schoolgirls, having teased the new boys in town.
The episode turns to a more somber note with Dr. Fuchs, Esther, and Lady Denham, who still despises physicians. In her estimation, Fuchs is a fake even though he saved her life. Of course, she refuses to give him that credit. We discover sadly that Esther, married nine months, was with child but had a miscarriage after carrying the baby for five. It’s such a painful confession for her to make in front of her aunt and the doctor, that your heart goes out to her. Lady Denham declares that the milk from her asses will replenish her strength, and Dr. Fuchs offers little encouragement except to say that perhaps God does not intend for her to be a mother. We learn that Esther’s physicians have told her it could be dangerous for her to get pregnant again.
Like other typical Jane Austen books, Alison and Charlotte have a sisterly moment in bed. Alison declares the importance of first impressions, while Charlotte says her iconic line, “Love is not as simple as you seem to think.”
Surprise! Arthur declares to Charlotte while walking together that his ailments have vanished without Diana being constantly at his side. He’s finding a new purpose in life, helping Tom, and making himself useful. He also worries about Tom keeping his grief bottled up inside. Arthur admits that he goes to church and lights a candle for Sidney since they cannot visit his grave. In a heartwrenching scene, later on, we see Charlotte do the same, tearfully remembering Sidney as she lights a candle for him too. We hear Sidney’s voice again, “I believe I am my best self… my truest self… when I’m with you.”
Well, excitement arrives as the townspeople line the streets, waving their flags at the marching men in redcoats, while the drums beat, the music swells. Esther gasps at the sight of Edward. Lady Denham greets Charlotte and her sister with the line, “I thought we’d seen the last of you,” and the topic of conversation about marriage returns. Charlotte is stubbornly unwed, and Lady Denham, in her usual meanness of tone declares that an unwed woman is worthless and brings shame on a family. No one chooses to be a spinster!
In a rather quick turn of events, Charlotte intervenes saving Leo from being trampled by a horse in the parade. One thing leads to another, and suddenly Charlotte is taking Augusta and Leo back to Colbourne’s estate. She learns they are cousins and not siblings, that Leo is not a boy, but a girl named Leonora. Augusta is a rude, disagreeable, and bitter young woman. When Charlotte asks about their mothers, she learns that they are both dead.
As the carriage approaches Colbourne’s estate, the musical score turns rather dark, mysterious, with an undertone of being ominous. Charlotte doesn’t meet Colbourne on the first visit but learns he’s looking for a governess for Augusta and Leo. When she returns to Trafalgar House, Tom Parker instantly reads a long list of dislikes about the man:
- He’s a miser
- He’s a recluse and rarely seen outside his home
- He obstructs Tom’s improvements
- His wife died, under mysterios circumstances
- And he has not one good quality that Tom could call admirable
Then to lighten the mood, Lennox arrives and stays for tea. Alison teases Charlotte in his presence about finding a husband, but Charlotte abruptly rises and excuses herself from everyone.
Alas, the encounter that Esther dreads happens when Edward visits his aunt, acting very remorseful for his ways. (Yeah, right. Once a snake, always a snake.) He confesses that he had no hand in the militia coming to Sanditon. He tells Esther that she looks well, radiant, and has no desire to cause her further pain or embarrassment. He promises to keep his distance.
Then a very telling scene happens between Alison and Charlotte. Her sister apologizes for putting her in an embarrassing place in front of Lennox and realizes that Charlotte still loves Sidney despite everything. Charlotte declares that coming back to Sanditon has given her clarity. She will not allow herself to be put under a man’s power again – not Ralph the farmer or Lennox. She has no desire to marry. Alison asks how will they live if they do not marry? They are wretchedly poor and their father has had three bad harvests and cannot afford to support them. Charlotte declares emphatically that she will keep herself. Charlotte’s declaration certainly sounds like Sidney’s former thoughts. It will be interesting to see how long it takes for Charlotte to heal and risk her heart to love again.
When Charlotte declares to Mary and her sister that she will apply for the job as governess for Colbourne, they both become unhinged. Mary says that living as a governess is the last resort when one cannot marry. She tells Charlotte that she is allowed to grieve over Sidney and find love. Charlotte declares it’s not her place to grieve, as she’s not his widow. What a heartwrenching scene!
Then we learn through a small conversation between Lennox and Edward that he’s still a snake. Liar, liar, liar. You’ll see.
Next, we see Charlotte walking to Colbourne’s to apply for the position of governess. It’s a spine-tingling meeting. The mysterious music returns. She enters his home and glances at a portrait of a beautiful woman, no doubt his dead wife. Charlotte stands before his desk, while his maid announces that she has arrived to apply for the position. It starts out like a tennis match. He throws a question at her; she knocks back the answer. Everything from the capital of countries, to speaking French, to playing an instrument. Charlotte is quick to answer, showing her intelligence. When it comes to the final question about education versus a woman’s place in the world, this is where the two differ and the sparks fly. No one should be deprived of an education because of their sex, replies Charlotte. It’s obvious, she’s wasting his time, and she walks off without a further word. His dog, however, follows Charlotte out of the study, out of the house, and runs down the walkway. It almost appears that the dog, after being hugged by Charlotte, returns to his master to say a thing or two. As Charlotte is walking back to Sanditon, Colbourne returns on horseback. With a few short words, he offers her the job.
In the last scenes, we see Georgiana and Alison tease the militia on the beach, riding around a carriage that ends in a slight mishap. We also learn that Tom has received a letter from the agent in Antiqua that Sidney had gone there to settle affairs for Georgiana. The mystery is left without further explanation.
This is pretty much a blow-by-blow recap of the majority of episode one. Frankly, it was very emotional to watch. There’s grief, naturally, over Sidney’s demise which is carried through the family, Charlotte, and the audience. There is joy in the return to Sanditon, and seeing the familiar characters that we fell in love with from season one. And, of course, there is intrigue over the new men – Lennox, Colbourne, Lockhart, and others, and how all the romance will play out between everyone involved. Overall, I was impressed by the look and feel of the episode, and the heart of Sanditon that will surely continue through season two.
As a PBS Passport member, I will be able to watch episode two right after the posting of episode one on their website. Each episode will contain a recap on my blog, and at the end of the season, I will definitely dig deeper into the story, symbolism, and characters because I won’t be able to leave it alone! Since the following episodes will be out in the public domain anyway, I will post the recaps afterward. If you haven’t seen it yet, read at your own risk of being spoiled before you see it yourself.
Bye for now!