TV Review: Sanditon – Episode Four

I’m a day late with this as I just couldn’t face it last night – my hopes were no longer particularly high. Sitting down to it felt like to much of a ‘task’. I was more wondering whether the plot is going to advance in any way (spoiler: it didn’t). Sigh. I think this one might be it for me. I don’t know if sitting down to review Sanditon meant that I just ended up analysing it too much but it reached a fingernails on a blackboard pitch. My recaps have received quite a lot of traffic so I had hoped to drag myself all the way through but life is just too short. It’s just been four episodes of dullness and unpleasantness and the prospect of four more of the same – it’s not fun. I’m sorry. I tried.

The objective this week seems to have been to undo everything that happened in the last episode. So, Kris Marshall did not give the Hot Foreman the men and materials promised. Charlotte and Sidney fell out again. Georgiana went back on her promise to stop misbehaving. But the Incest Twins kept up their pouting. With the writers substituting sauce for any semblance of story, the programme’s defence of criticism seems to be that it’s just silly Puritans refusing to admit that people had sex in Regency Britain. I know that people had sex. So did Jane Austen. It’s just that her novels tended to have a bit more in them in terms of plot whereas this doesn’t.

I’ve found Sanditon to be both sordid and depressing. The only light relief is the comedy Parkers who contribute nothing to the story but sometimes trip over or say something silly. This week Dr Fuchs told them both to take exercise but by the end of the episode they’d decided not to. That was all. Kris Marshall is still having a nervous breakdown, spending too much money on his household and not enough on his building work. Still is a word that comes up a lot with Sanditon because nothing ever happens.

I think another problem is the frustrating central couple, Charlotte and Sidney. This week, she went skipping about dressed in pink and he came sloping back into town on horseback like a cowboy headed for the saloon. There’s zero chemistry between them and they feel like parodies of Austen characters rather than the real thing. Rose Williams spends too much time simpering beneath her bonnet and Theo James is as wooden as a post. Another actor might have managed to make Sidney appear attractive despite his appalling manners but it was beyond James. And the interactions between the two make no sense. Mr and Mrs Parker tell Charlotte that they’re glad that she has come to see Sidney’s better side, telling her that she has been too hard on him. I really wondered what on earth they’d been smoking since Charlotte has been all over Sidney since the first episode despite him saying dreadful things to her. No matter how rude Sidney was, Charlotte has been panting at his heels and somehow this is framed as some kind of Elizabeth/Darcy sparring. No. Charlotte, I won’t be watching again so please take this advice – the Hot Foreman is a much better bet and he’s clearly into you. Marry him instead! (I confidently predict that she will not)

Over at Lady Denham’s, the atmosphere is as cheery and uplifting as ever. Lady Denham is trying to get everyone married off but her charges are being less than cooperative. As a side note – despite the constant harping about her wealth, this is a little tricky to believe given that we only ever see one room of her house. Anne Reid is wasted here. Still, things ramp up a notch when Clara delivers a letter to the Incest Twins and catches sight of them en flagrante. Or if not quite flagrante, it was still pretty clear that they had been flagranting recently. Their secret is out. This actually gave the episode its sole moment of interest as when Clara teases Esther, the latter storms out out but when Clara follows, the two women have a moment of connection. Clara expresses genuine sympathy that Esther is wasting her time with a loser like Sir Edward and while Esther tries to ignore her, by the end of the episode she has clearly recognised that Sir Edward loves money more than her. It may be the end of the road for the Incest Twins and all their Incestuous Ickiness. Poor Esther – she’s the only character who can act.

Elsewhere, we’re firmly in anachronisms between Young Stringer (a.k.a. the Hot Foreman) trying to better himself by building a pagoda (actually not a euphemism) and Georgiana Lambe (still not an invalid) having a hot date with her secret lover. Charlotte is tricked into busting Miss Lambe out of Miss Griffiths’ clutches and into the arms of one Otis Molyneux. She is then stuck playing gooseberry during the romantic picnic that Otis has laid out, with Charlotte awkwardly offering around ‘tongue’ when the pair are about to snog. Sigh. I’m not going to miss the subtle-as-a-brick innuendo. It’s not surprising that we ended up on the slavery topic, but this storyline has already been done in Austen (and done much better) in the 1999 film adaptation of Mansfield Park. And again, I recognised one of the sets from the 2005 film of Pride and Prejudice. Nothing about Sanditon is original.

I found the Miss Lambe/Otis Molyneux pairing to be really awkward. First of all, the actress playing Miss Lambe makes her seem like a total brat so I find it hard to connect with the character. Then there’s the fact that her original character in the novel snippet was an invalid and here she is not so I’m not even sure what the writers are trying to achieve. The way that Otis thought he could just wander off with Miss Lambe was ridiculous given the social conventions of the time – this programme makes no sense whatsoever. Then there’s the charge that Sidney Parker is the barrier between Miss Lambe and Otis finding everlasting happiness which adds yet more dirt to his character. Charlotte is then duly appalled to discover that Sidney might be racist which seems a teensy bit anachronistic given that even the abolitionists of that era were racist too.

Anyway, for Sidney to be Charlotte’s true love and eventual husband (poor Charlotte, I don’t think she can escape him now), he will need to be cleared of the charge of racism because the audience for this show have twenty-first century sensibilities. In order for him to be cleared, concrete reasons for Georgiana to not marry Otis will have to emerge. Otis will have to be proved a cad. But surely splitting up the two characters of colour is also a bit tone deaf? Unless it turns out that Sidney was mistaken and then everyone gets to live happily ever after? Hmm. The bigger issue is that I don’t care enough about any of them. And with Charlotte asking open-mouthed about how surely slavery is long gone – are we supposed to think that she’s just stupid?

No, all things considered, I’m happy to be stopping here. Charlotte gets bawled out by Sidney for allowing the date and in fairness she also does a really weird impression of him that brings Sanditon to a whole new level of absurd. I will choose to imagine that this led to a permanent sundering between the two. When Charlotte subsequently went on her long walk with Young Stringer, when she says that she wished all men could be like him and he says he would never have her change – for me, the two then decided to marry, settle down and build pagodas together. The End. Girl with her Head in a Book is switching OFF.

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5 thoughts on “TV Review: Sanditon – Episode Four

  1. Ah well, at least you gave it a good shot, and you lasted two weeks longer than I did. Your negative reviews of the last two instalments were much more entertaining than the series itself though.

    1. Ah thank you! I always worry about negative reviews – a lot of people disapprove of them but I think sometimes they’re unavoidable. In this case I do think that it made it harder for me to enjoy the programme as I had to actually stop and think about all the ridiculous bits. And there were a LOT of ridiculous bits. Ah well. I’ll probably read someone else’s reviews to see what happens next but I realised I was dreading having to give up the time to watch it and then write a review. I don’t have enough spare time to watch something I’m really not enjoying.

  2. This my prediction for Sanditon. Sidney is so restrictive and harsh with Georgiana because he is in love with her. He proposes, and demands she entrust her fortune to another so that there may be no doubt if the purity of his intentions. Georgiana bestows her fortune upon Charlotte in gratitude for her unflagging friendship and support. Charlotte uses the money to invest in Sanditon and fund young Stringer’s foray into architecture; he and Tom, with Charlotte’s enthusiastic and creative contributions, proceed to build the town in the image of their shared vision. Babbington finally wears down Esther, after she attempts suicide (and is saved by Dr. Fuchs) and he tenderly nurses her during her recuperation. Edward and Clara realise their love for each other, much to Lady Denham’s consternation; however when she witnesses their sincere and affectionate devotion to each other, she softens, and leaves her estate to them. That’s all I can speculate – not sure what to do with Otis, Arthur and Diana, the Beaufort sisters, Mrs. Griffiths, Crowe, or the creepy vicar. Doubtless there will be more shocks and revelations, additional characters, and anachronisms! I’ve read several unfavourable reviews by Austin purists and those who insist upon historical accuracy, but so far I find the series a hoot and am surprisingly gripped by the characters. And it looks utterly fabulous. Rip those bodices please, and let’s see as many well-appointed rooms, electricity tower-free vistas and manure-free horse-drawn carriages as possible. And while we’re at it let’s hear as much stilted, “period” dialogue as we can stuff our ears with. Costume dramas – they ROCK.

    1. Hi – interesting theories and glad you’re enjoying it. I usually enjoy costumes drama too. I’m not much of an Austen purist myself but despite my best efforts I’m going with the general tide of opinion of this one. Enjoy the next four episodes!

  3. Well done to getting to episode 4, I gave up half-way through episode 3! I agree that I just couldn’t see any chemistry between Charlotte and Sidney. I’d rather they just presented it as a period drama and dropped any reference to Austen since I doubt she’d have written anything like that.
    I did enjoy reading your reviews, that was the best thing about the programme 🙂

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