Welcome back to Sanditon weekly, darlings, I hope you’ve got a cup of tea in hand because episode three is a bumpy, jaw dropping ride full of some exquisite tenderness, and the beginning of compelling sincerity. The third episode takes all that was set up last week and touches on the emotional echos of our decisions, where there’s an absolute lack of gratitude at the beginning of the episode, by the end, most characters are taking steps in the right direction. Sort of. Sanditon’s third episode focuses on transparency and the importance of seeing what’s right in front of us as opposed to consistently looking ahead towards something better. And while there’s absolutely nothing wrong with looking ahead, persevering or aiming towards a brighter future, the inability to be grateful in the midst of the chase is what often gets people into trouble. It’s also an episode that focuses on patience with a grace that’s to be admired because it’s continuing to take already complex characters and layering (some of) them with the awareness to try a little bit harder.
Sanditon’s third episode dives into the lives of the Denhams in a riveting manner, allowing us to see the fact that Esther and Clara, foils of one another, both serve such an infectious purpose to the series’ thrilling plot. Whoever said period dramas were slow and boring might want to rethink those beliefs after this episode, because the lives of the deliciously crazy is anything but boring. There’s tremendous anger in both Esther and Clara, one more than the other understandably due to the terrors they’ve faced off screen, but the opposite approaches they’ve taken in the face of dealing with the rage is what’s so fascinating about the two of them. Sometimes, anger in a woman is so deeply engulfing, there’s no turning back, other times, it’s cobbled so closely with a sadness that it’s possible to choose the more honorable route. Sanditon is a series that tells us what we need to know without ripping the rug from underneath us, and that’s why when Clara says: “You have no idea what I endured before I came here, and you have no idea what I’m prepared to do to ensure I stay”, we need to believe that she isn’t afraid of crossing the necessary lines to gain sympathy. (I mean for Christ’s sake, the girl gave herself a massive second degree burn!) Burns are painful, as someone who accidentally burns herself frequently at work because I work with a hot machine, I can vouch that it’s no child’s play. We don’t know how much Clara’s endured, I imagine there was a great amount of sexual assault and physical abuse involved that’s tragically forced her pain tolerance to increase, but the emotional trauma was undoubtedly far worse. I have a lot of sympathy towards Clara, no one deserves to go through any of the things we can assume she’s faced, but I’m also not one to condone villainous behavior when she’s standing in front of someone like Esther who’s trying so desperately to come out in a better light despite how little she’s showing it.
When someone like Lady Denham is dismissing Esther because of her stoicism, but unable to see passed Clara’s “nice girl” façade, it can be greatly frustrating, which results in Esther’s merited threats. There’s genuine sadness in Esther’s eyes despite her stoicism, great pain that Charlotte Spencer is bringing to the surface subtly through her rage and anguish. It’s something that’s happening slowly, but the progression is leading towards making choices that’ll lead to a better future than what she could find with Edward. It’s the choice to be so cold with Babington despite clearly being intrigued by the gentle attention he’s given her, and it’s essentially how she differentiates from Clara because despite the rage that’s in her, too – she’s trying, just a little bit, and for the moment, that’s enough. But still, both characters and their inability to practice gratitude and the steps they can take to honorably ensure a better future for themselves is heartbreaking. But these very complex human emotions touches on the theme of ongoing depravity, which allows us to understand that this is a series that is going to highlight growth amidst the corrupt and broken.
There’s a lot I adore about Sanditon, but at the top of the list is the varying brokenness that each of our characters are filled with and the means in which they go about their day to day lives. There’s an entire list of reasons why Sidney’s such a riveting character, the exceptional growth he’s walking through alongside his immense capacity to love, which we’ll dive into later. But the innate goodness and inability to turn a blind eye to people in need merits rightful discussion. However, in order to talk about Sidney Parker in this episode, we need to look into James Stringer first, and his activeness vs. Sidney’s passiveness, alongside the fact that their differing personas are entirely due to what they’ve experienced in life. Their reactions to seeing Charlotte when least expected is such an interesting contrast, which shows each of the men and their state of minds so well. There’s a clear innocence to Stringer, his heart’s likely never been broken, and although he’s evidently lived a less privileged life than Sidney, he’s chosen to humble himself instead. He’s chosen to innocently believe in the big dreams he’s got and he’s chosen not let life’s disappointment break him as tremendously. It’s also fascinating to see these two men in an episode where we’re also watching foils of one another like Clara and Esther go head to head, we’re getting two men look out for one another.
Sidney telling Stringer he should go so he doesn’t see his father in pain after the injury is such a wonderful detail. It’s an honest conversation between two men, a genuine showcase of affection and kindness, understanding pain and not wanting to see it be experienced by another. It’s Sidney looking Stringer in the eyes, placing his hand on his shoulder, and being genuinely careful, which showcases the honor within him that’s shielded by the defense he’s put up. And it’s so gripping to watch when of the Parker brothers is so dismissive towards Stringer’s entirely selfless proposals. Tom still refusing to see until the accident was so frustrating, but tragically so human, and it’s him trying a little bit harder to fight for his men and the equipment they work with that works so well in this episode. And finally Stringer’s genuine gratitude when learning that he was actually heard exhibits the very innocence and goodness of his heart so wonderfully.
But enough about these men (Oscars nomination joke. Sorry. I had to.) let’s talk about our main girl and the level of resourcefulness she once again brought to the forefront, proving anyone who’s doubted her, cough Sidney Parker cough, wrong. When Mr. Stringer is injured from the fall, Charlotte’s the first to take action that’ll stop the bleeding, she’s the one to call the shots and help out during the “surgery”. She’s the one who delivers the positive news to James after Dr. Fuchs has completed his work. And what’s so fascinating about all this is that Sidney begins to finally see that she isn’t just some naïve little girl, but rather a woman with credible opinions and a surprising amount of strength along with a sense of bravery that’s undoubtedly admirable. And perhaps, one of the most admirable attributes of his character, something we discussed last week, is the fact that these are characters who are willing to own up to their mistakes. They’re willing to admit when they’re wrong, they’re willing to give credit where credit is due, and they’re willing to give people chances to prove themselves accountable. Sidney Parker admitting to the fact that Charlotte’s given a good account of herself then inviting her opinion is as stunning growth as any.
Thus what continues to stand out and strengthen their bond is the fact that the former doubt wasn’t a result of Charlotte being a woman, but because he’s dismissed her, he’s been wrong, unkind, and this is his way of asking for forgiveness. Both of them have unfairly, but to a degree with merit, dismissed one another, and the choice to see what’s right in front of them, acknowledge that, and be transparent with one another is what’s so compelling about their budding relationship. Charlotte bringing up his reluctancy to help Tom, the lack of empathy towards Georgiana, and the choice to remind him of the fact that he needs to be kinder because she’s far from home were some of the wisest things she’s said. It shows tangible growth on Charlotte’s end, too because upon their first tongue lashing, she discredited Tom and didn’t see his struggles, but today, she’s bringing Sidney into the equation and essentially discussing what she’s consciously examining and knowing for a fact, as opposed to assuming. It’s a surprising conversation for a number of reasons, one of them being that for the first time, Sidney Parker is tongue tied followed the response that came to his “I hope you weren’t too embarrassed.” But of course, now he’s embarrassed. “Why should I be embarrassed, I was fully clothed.” He’s embarrassed and thoroughly impressed, awe-struck by what she’s actually saying and realizing, truly, that she is in fact much wiser than he’s given her credit for. She’s a woman whose wisdom could easily challenge him in a way no one else has and a woman whose goodness is the direct inspiration behind the further choices he’ll make.
It’s a conversation on the streets that changes their dynamic entirely because when Charlotte approaches him and Henry, with Alicia and Jenny, his demeanor shifts from the eye rolling fussy expressions he wore earlier to a now more welcoming openness. The curious smile that follows her: “Can we not rewrite our history, if we find it disagreeable?” The benevolence that now responds to her innocence. There’s an unequivocal transformation that’s taken place that showcases a more gentle, a bit more transparent, genuinely happy side of Sidney, and for a moment, a curiosity, that is entirely foreshadowing of a brighter future between the two of them.
Charlotte’s actions earlier in the day are the true north he’s now following, the sudden shift in his anger to Tom’s demands is inspired by the very scolding she’s given him along with the sincerely good time they’ve had with the kids. “We were playing with the children”, a detail which once again is so beautifully foreshadowing because upon learning that Tom needs an extension, the camera pans to a distressed Sidney watching Charlotte play with the children alone. It’s a sight that instantaneously alters his heart, and it’s in this moment where he makes the decision to help Tom upon understanding that he has to do it for a possible future for Mary and the kids. It’s Sidney Parker quickly realizing how important it is to have a family, love, and trust with someone even though he hasn’t quite grasped that the possibility of this very future could be his, too. And at this point, Theo James makes sure the audience is fully aware of the fact that Sidney is incapable of hiding the light that’s being restored in him.
Then comes the walk along the beach and Sidney’s choice to put actions behind the unofficial promises he’s made, the conscious effort to do better and to actually acknowledge what’s right in front of him. It’s not only the choice to trust Charlotte with someone he wouldn’t trust another soul with, but it’s the choice to make sure she’s aware of his belief in her. There’s a bold openness in his character now, while there’s a bit of reservation still lingering in Charlotte. His body language is that of a man who doesn’t feel the entire weight of the world on his shoulder, whereas she’s still questioning, still hesitant, until he states: “Is it conceivable that we’ve had each other wrong, Admiral Heywood?”, which allows a slight sense of peace to sprinkle down on her. Despite the reservations still at large because this is a man who’s emotions have thus proven to be rash and harsh, it’s the bravery not to shut him out. It’s bravery to forgive. It’s bravery to continue trying with him. It’s all so fascinating to see because I’m such a fan of a gentle, entirely kindhearted witty woman effortlessly inspiring a man previously filled with immense rage to soften. Sidney cannot stop smiling during their walk, he can’t help the bliss that’s a result of the slight emancipation from the burdens — the sudden inspiration he’s filled with to be kind. And sure she tells him he needs to be kinder, but she doesn’t force it, it’s the direct choices he’s making to now stand in a more positive light in front of her.
Sanditon’s third episode is foreshadowing of both great joys and dark troubles that are ahead. It’s foretelling of active changes taking place while allowing our incredibly flawed and relatable characters to continue screwing up and learning from their mistakes. It’s an episode that preludes immense darkness amidst happy times that allows us to see that the characters are going to face consistent challenges in their journey of self discovery and finding love, too.
- Babington and Crowe giving Sidney shit for waking up at the bar followed by what Charlotte’s seen. What I would give to have that exact moment on screen when he told them what happened. The awkward strut down the street with his attempts at keeping cool. Good Lord, he’s such a dramatic man.
- Did anyone else catch that little moment of Charlotte smiling at the picture of the Sidney?
- “Young women sadly find it very hard to resist temptation.” And men are so virtuous, aren’t they? So much YIKES. I could write an entire novel on why this teaching is so incomparably wrong. As a Christian woman, it’s appalling to hear that we’re the only ones seemingly at fault. Again, YIKES.
- Babington’s one more try. Now here’s a man who’s clearly appreciative of what’s right in front of him and understands the importance of speaking up where feelings are concerned. The belief that he isn’t wasting time with Esther despite how much she rejects his advances. (Honorable advances of course because he still asks for permission to write to her. Go, Babers, go!)
- “Miss Heywood, seems I cannot escape you.” Careful what you wish for, sir.
- “Miss Heywood has an idea.” Followed by giving her the credit twice, refusing to forget that it was entirely Charlotte’s idea inadvertently showcasing profound respect for her opinions now as opposed to the dismissive attitude he’s walked with before.
- And what’s also admirable is Sidney actively acknowledging to Georgiana that he’s going to try to do better, work harder, and be the kind of guardian she deserves.
- Also, how stunning are the shots in this show? There’s not a single moment that isn’t utterly picturesque.
- In case anyone’s forgotten, I still dislike Edward. Shrugs.
What are your thoughts on Sanditon’s third episode? Is there anything you’d like me discuss further? Let us know in the comments below and I’ll happily do so as long as they don’t spoil future episodes too much.