Frock Flicks note: This is a guest post by our friend Yosa Addiss. After pursuing a degree in costume design, she created one of the first websites for custom-made costume gowns. Yosa has moved on to a career in marketing but remains a lifelong fan of historical costume. Find her at yosa.com.
Welcome to my oh-so-spoilery review of Sanditon (2019), episode 8. Catch up with previous episodes here.
Note: The bulk of this episode I am doing with short plot commentary only, because it is essentially a storyboard of quick shots that are barely tied together. Any similarity to a Jane Austen story has faded into the woodwork by now. There is a nice closure to the Lord Babbington and Esther plotline, with an expected side helping of wackadoo.
Wackadoo sums up the costumes as well. In general, it is nice Regency clothing, sans hairpins and a clear idea of who has money and who doesn’t.
We open to Charlotte and her terrible, terrible hair, having a walk with Mr. Hero.
“There is absolutely no urgency about my dress fitting” — Charlotte, who I now fully can not stand one episode longer.
Seriously, the ball is that night! Grrrrrrr … Mr. Hero is impossibly self-centered, and she just made a very large portion of the audience of the show cry out at the audacity and flat-out rudeness of skipping/delaying a final dress fitting on the day she will wear an outfit. Oh, my outrage knows no bounds. I want to make the writer wear clothes that chafe, hems that are too long, and go to their room till they learn manners.
On to something more pleasant. Lord Babbington calls on Esther, and the Dowager makes her go on a ride with him.
In spite of herself, Esther has a grand time. His appreciation of her brings out her bold, fun side, and they are utterly charming together. He even has a good hat! Hers isn’t quite right for much, and worse, it is kinda boring. This is her moment, give her 12 feathers, a veil, and a bird on that chapeau!
Our revolting main characters are still walking, and have a wind-blown first kiss that I completely don’t care about.
Charlotte gets her ingenue on, ready for the ball. Light blue stretch satin gloves. I can’t even. And her sleeves are weirdly long because she missed her fitting? Hmm?
Little does she know that charming Mr. Stringer has gotten an apprenticeship in London and is going to tell her his feelings toward her. He is such a good match for her. Two people from moderate beginnings who are on the rise make a good pair.
Mr. Hero is sulky, and Georgiana continues to distrust and dislike him. Meanwhile, the younger Parker chap is charming and dances with Georgiana all night. Call it fan service but I like those two.
What is up with her shy dress? Is she so chastened by her disgrace in London that she goes out and finds a dress that will ensure no-one pays heed to her? It would make sense. It is way too modern, but I think her hair looks great here. It is up, fancy, and this is a show that has a scarcity of hairpins, so I am going to give it a pass. She’s had a rough season.
The Dowager CLEARLY missed her fitting. Perhaps a woefully understaffed costume team made this dress in an all-nighter without a pattern? I am positive that it happens. Someone didn’t have time to make a correctly fitting gown and is simply embarrassing to watch. It isn’t appropriate that the richest woman in town would wear anything that fit so badly. This production team should make better choices this far into production.
The dance continues with Young Parker needing to take a break from silly jigs on the dance floor. Georgiana does the most extraordinary thing when parting. She leans in and kisses his hand, then he kisses hers. It is awkward and sweet.
In a flashback to the beginning of the story, the couple is once again in front of a chandelier, on the same balcony, etc., etc. It gets schmoopy, but whatever.
But wait, there is more dance drama! Mr. Handsomebutslimy makes a brief appearance to be rude to the whole town and profess his love publicly to Esther. Rude.
She is embarrassed, he is dragged out and sent packing. Fair enough.
The Parker siblings leave the dance early and have a very sweet conversation. The sister is worried that she will be alone if he marries Georgiana.
Parker explains that he doesn’t at all understand romance, and is a confirmed bachelor. Aww, so no current romance, but he remains imminently likable. What a sweetie.
Because it is the best part of the episode, here is the gist of the romantic interlude with Lord B and Esther:
Do you not know that I love you and want to marry you?
–I do not wish to be your property.
Good, because I have no wish to own you.
–Why else would you want me to be your wife?
Because I want to make you happy. All I ask is to walk through life by your side.
See? Very nice. He has been consistently awesome, and she gains the courage to notice.
Think that is enough drama? Nope. What can we do to spice things up?
Why don’t we set the whole town on fire? Yes, that would be a great idea! OK!
Stringer is legit distraught when he realizes his father was in the building, and his dreams are disintegrating.
We are all very sorry that Stringer lost his Dad and now feels that he needs to stay in Sanditon to finish the work.
Young Parker pledges his inheritance if it will help rebuild. Adorbs.
We will find a way through. We are Parkers, we stand together.
Cut to a wedding? Wait what? This story is all over the map.
So yeah, we now have the wedding of Lord Babbington and Esther. Charming, charming, charming. Thank goodness this one plotline went well.
You can just turn the show off now, the good bit is over.
Mr. Hero arrives at the wedding with his super-rich ex, who he is now going to marry for her money. Screenshot here because of her sleeves! Take a look at that detail. Fabulous!
Charlotte says goodbye to the town, which almost doesn’t make sense. Who will save the day and do all the bookkeeping?
Mr. Hero, I am just glad you are done, you selfish, ill-shaven, insufferable dudebro.
And that is the end! Right there. Big ol’ fizzle at the end.
The least they could have done is to have the lovely wedding be the end and do a pan of the attendees so we wonder what happens to them next. But no, it is all about Mr. Me Me Me. It isn’t even a sad trombone, more like a balloon slowly losing air or a fart.
Now, what do you think? Any remaining similarity to Jane Austen’s work? Can you find an extant gown with amazing sleeves like that? Is it a surprise to anyone that season 2 will not be happening?
Thank you Frock Flicks friends and readers for letting me come play. I’ve now written a novella worth of commentary about a show I didn’t particularly like. It has been a real pleasure!
What did you think of Sanditon?
I am so glad this travesty is over. It ranks up there with all PFG ‘historical’ adaptations. MrHero turns into MrCad. Not Jane Austen. Only nice thing was Esther and Lord B.
Maybe Claire’s was having a sale on the stretch satin gloves?
True story: My little sister bought stretch satin gloves, matching her homecoming dance…in 1999. That was fun.
I did like that there was a non cis/het person (Parker the Younger) who spoke like a Regency person, and looks like he is so very happy. Many “period” drama like to moralise LGBT persons by giving them punishment or sad endings. Other plots are so anachronistic (like the butler guy from Downton Abbey being received with open arms), that they are unhelpful. Something to like about this series!
Making a broader leap, the ball scene between Ms Lambe and Mr Parker reminded me of straight women dancing at gay clubs, because they know that they will not be pawed at and harrassed*. He doesn’t want her in marriage, and she doesn’t want to marry him. Both could just be themselves and enjoy the evening. Perfect.
*Yes, the colonizing of gay clubs by straight women–especially straight bachelorette parties– is a real problem. Even then, the point stands that cis/het men are often a danger that both women and queer men, making each group look for safer spaces. (I hope I am saying this right, if incorrect or disrespectful, or outmoded, and if someone is in an educating spirit, please help me learn)
The random fire did totally take me by surprise as I scrolled down. Ugh, why not marry the nice same class guy?? There are like 3 decent marriageable men in the whole story right, and he was actually interested in her.
That fire incinerated any logic I could have found in this uninspired mess of a story. But why was Mr hero so petulant throughout the series (I lack the courage to go through the previous articles to find his name).
Regarding the costumes, i find it a bit strange that our heroine dressed in gorgeous printed cotton dresses for daywear and outrageously expensive silk gowns for evening wear,that don’t fit her station.Yet hairpins are a denied luxury to her.Atleast Esther got her happy ending.
Who was paying for Charlotte’s ballgowns? Was she sponging off the broke Parkers? Was farmer Daddy sending her gobs of money? I didn’t get it.
“Expected side helping of wackadoo” — basically sums up the entire show. I haven’t read Sanditon in a while and I would have liked this show infinitely more if it hadn’t pretended to be a Jane Austen adaptation. I was honestly waiting for Charlotte Sue to run into the burning building and single-handedly save Stringer the Elder.
I watched it off the DVR and at the end of each ep there was about 10 minutes of interviews, one of which Andrew Davies said he could write Jane Austen dialogue just as well as her. I THINK NOT. GOOD DAY, SIR!!!
These recaps have been a joy and a delight, thank you!
So he thinks that Jane Austen – or anybody else at all before the 1940s (and in the USA, to boot) was capable of saying ‘Did you see anything impressive … shell-wise?’
Exactly. If Charlotte wasn’t the same class as the landowning Parkers she certainly would not have been invited to visit them. The Haywood’s are accurately described as quite well off and could have afforded a more fashionable lifestyle if they hadn’t had fourteen children to support. Mr. Haywood is closer to Mr. Bennett in circumstances than Robert Martin.
Charlotte is socially several cuts above an honest working man like Stringer, and totally unworthy of him! He can do better, who? Practically anybody!
I can’t decide who is being stupider, Sydney agreeing to such a bargain or Mrs.Campion for proposing it. He’s SO not worth the money, Mrs. Campion!
Mr. Hero and Charlotte-Sue deserve each other. I hope they will be romantically miserable. Stringer, go to London and learn architecture!
I agree with the other commenter that this series would have been better if it had abandoned any pretense at being a Jane Austen adaptation. I am at a loss to figure out what Charlotte sees in Mr. Hero. I thought maybe she would find out some bad secret about Mr. Hero, or he would decide he needed to marry his ex, and Charlotte would marry Mr. Stringer and go off to London. But I guess the heroine can’t leave the town that is the title of the series. I kept trying to figure out why they made the decision to do most of the hairstyles completely wrong. Costuming issues I can overlook, assuming money was an issue. But how much does it cost to put their hair up at least, even if they didn’t bother to do the little spiral curls. It’s a mystery to me.
if you mean tight little spiral curls as in the recent Emma, I just don’t believe those existed in the period. I’ve never seen a single portrait, caricature or fashon plate that shows them; curls are bigger and softer.
I finished this show with such mixed feelings. It probably didn’t help that I watched them all back-to-back over a day and a half, so almost despite myself by the end I was feeling invested. Most of the supporting characters were more appealing than the hero and heroine, and I especially loved Esther’s storyline. Even if it wasn’t particularly Jane Austen-y, I liked seeing a woman who has been psychologically abused get a happy ending. But what really pissed me off was the cliffhanger. I feel like if you don’t know for sure if you’re going to get a second season, wrap things up enough so that if that’s the end, your fans won’t be mad. (For instance, Joss Whedon has said that he ended the first season of Buffy that way for that exact reason.) Why would anyone rewatch it now knowing how it ends?
I really enjoyed the guest commentary–witty and entertaining. And I totally agree about the youngest Mr. Parker. Annoying early on but what a fine fellow he turned out to be. The (only?) really satisfying thing about this weird hybrid of a series was Lord B.’s persistent wooing. Very romantic. Esther wins!
Personally I have no problem with Charlotte-Sue and Mr. Hero being forever divided. Serves them right!
Esther got her happy ending and that’s all that matters.
Stringer, go to London! Become a famous architect and marry a woman who appreciates your wonderfulness.
Mr. and Miss Parker, live happily ever after as contented singles.
Georgiana, be more careful next time.
Dowager, take Claire back, you know you miss her, make her your heir.
The Sanditon fragment is only eleven chapters long but characters are firmly established.
Charlotte Haywood is not ‘spunky’ but a proper lady with good judgement and maybe a bit prim and bland for an Austen heroine.
Mr. Parker is cheerful and optimistic and perhaps slightly lacking in judgement but not a total ditz.
Lady Denham is a domestic tyrant and mean about money.
Claire is quiet, ladylike and seems satisfied with her life as a companion, but may have hidden depths.
Sir Edward is one of Austen’s comic creations, deluded and sunk in fantasies of dashing roguery but quite harmless. It’s fairly clear he won’t have the least idea what to do with a woman if he does carry her off!
Charlotte despises Esther for being a brown nosed flatterer, but really what choice does the poor woman have?
The mulatto Miss Lambe is barely seen. All that is established about her is she is rich and reclusive, ill health or discomfort with white society?
The younger Parker’s are comic too, Arthur is a good natured hypochondriac, and his sisters fuss over their health to give themselves an interest in life. The elder is very officious and likely to cause trouble with her meddling but not malicious or bad natured.
We get barely a glimpse of Sidney Parker. All we can say for sure is he’s quite gentleman-like, no five o’clock shadow!
Davis ignored all this to create his own regency melodrama. Fine but why associate it with Austen??
Roxana, that certainly is completely different from what Davis gave us. I quickly ignored that Sanditon was supposed to be Jane Austen and pretended that it was Vanity Fair Lite.
After I finished watching the show I went back to re-read “The Suspicion at Sanditon” which, despite being part of a series where Elizabeth and Darcy interact with other Austen heroines to solve mysteries, does a much better job of characterization. Actually, they’re all quite enjoyable and you can tell the author tries very hard to portray the existing Austen characters in ways that fit with their established characters. Why is it that that can be done with books and not tv??
Claudia and Roxana: That makes sense. I wondered why they would take her in as a guest if she were in a lower class.
Very disappointed in this. Didn’t help that I couldn’t stand the heroine and the hero didn’t do much for me either. A poor attempt at Mr. Darcy? Andrew Davies tried to put his own modern spin onto Jane Austen and obviously wrote a story that was meant to have a sequel. Why? Unless he thought he would be paid more. Esther and Lord B were the only two characters I really cared about, although I did develop a soft spot for the younger Mr. Parker. If the costumes had been great, even good, it would have helped compensate for the dullness of the story.
Thank Godness that they cancelled this travesty! And thank you for a great review that made it a little more endurable. And – PLEASE ! – promise us to review another Regency series, but this time a good one – like EMMA (2009) or VANITY FAIR (1998)
Thank you for watching it, so i don’t have to. I’d almost consider watching for the young Parker siblings (who sound delightful), but nearly everything else is so dreadful.
I like to think that the messy, unfinished hairstyles on the ladies were a nod to the fact that the manuscript itself was unfinished. That way i feel better about it.
I found the series fun enough, but that is probably because I went into viewing it thinking that Austen had really barely written any of Sanditon and therefore expected the show was going to be more “Andrew Davies at the seaside”- which is pretty much what it was. I can understand people who thought this was going to be some kind of cross between Mansfield Park and Sense and Sensibility to be disappointed.
Although- doesn’t Mansfield Park violate the “there is no sex in Austen” rule? She didn’t write the act itself, obviously, but scandalous (assumed) sex outside of marriage/adultery was definitely central to the “ruination” plots of both Lydia Bennett and Mariah Rushworth.
I did not expect to adore Esther Denham after the first episode, but I eventually did and her and Babbinton’s plot line alone is worth sitting through 8 episodes of Charlotte’s terrible, terrible hair.
Clara Brereton, deserved a better plot.
Of course, watching this all from a post-Bridgerton era, it looks rather tame for a Regency romp.