Sanditon seemed like a period drama that was doomed to end after just one season when well over a year passed without news of a renewal, but fans finally got some very good news this week with the news that the show will return to PBS with not just one but two more seasons, with Rose Williams reprising her role as Charlotte Heywood. Unfortunately, the news isn't all good. Just a day after the renewal announcement, Theo James, who played leading man Sidney Parker in Season 1, confirmed that he won't be back. But from where I stand, James not returning doesn't have to mean the end of Sidney. Why not a recast?
Part of why so many Sanditon viewers were frustrated with the end of Season 1 was that it ended on a doozy of a cliffhanger with Sidney chasing after Charlotte, giving a moment of hope that he'd seen the error of his ways in choosing Eliza Campion for her money and was making a grand romantic gesture to Charlotte. That wasn't the case, however, and fans who went into this Jane Austen adaptation expecting a Jane Austen ending for the leading woman and man had those expectations thoroughly dashed.
Sure, there were plenty of other dangling plot threads that should be picked up in future seasons, but the book felt very much still open on Sidney and Charlotte, and we'd seen enough of Sidney that it was hard to imagine he wasn't going to get an Austen-esque redemption of some sort and the heroine would get everything she wanted and deserved, even if not necessarily from him. Admittedly, Jane Austen's Sanditon was technically unfinished, so the show wasn't actually changing the ending by splitting them and breaking Charlotte's heart, but there just wasn't any closure, and Theo James' comments indicate that fans shouldn't hold their breath for him to reprise his role as Sidney.
In a statement (via PBS), James said:
Although I relished playing Sidney, for me, I’ve always maintained that his journey concluded as I wanted it to. The broken fairy-tale like ending between Charlotte and Sidney is different, unique and so interesting to me and I wish the cast and crew of Sanditon every success with future series.
I think "broken fairy-tale" is a pretty apt description of how Sanditon Season 1 ended for Charlotte! In Jane Austen terms, it was like if Sense and Sensibility's romantic hero turned out to be Willoughby, or if Pride and Prejudice's Mr. Darcy was every bit as despicable as Lizzie Bennett thought early on. Theo James wishing the Sanditon team success is certainly nice to see; couldn't Sanditon be successful in casting a new actor to step into Sidney's shoes?
PBS has admittedly already said that "Sidney Parker will not return" and an "abundance of romance and adventure lies ahead" for Charlotte, so it seems there are plenty of plans to shape Charlotte's future in an exciting way that doesn't pay off on the love story that many fans may have expected, or continues the Parker family story with Sidney in the mix after what he did for Tom.
And if Sanditon can pull that off, then great! Rose Williams and Theo James had sparkling chemistry with each other that would be hard to replace, but substituting in a new Sidney could still be the way to go, if only to deliver some closure to the storyline. Sidney could return with another actor playing the role to tie off some loose ends and not have the last time we see Sidney as his heartbreaking exchange with Charlotte that was very much not a grand romantic gesture. I also can't be the only one who wanted Sidney to have some kind of breakthrough about his brother and get to a place of letting Tom clean up his own messes.
Looking back at how Sanditon Season 1 ended and now looking ahead at the prospect of two more seasons, I would much rather suspend my disbelief and watch a Sidney who looks different continue the story rather than for Sidney to be plucked out of the narrative altogether. Whether this would simply mean tying off loose ends in just an episode or two before bowing out or creating new ongoing material honestly wouldn't matter all that much to me – there was just so much time and story put into Sidney in Season 1 that it would be a shame to lose it in one fell off-screen swoop.
This isn't even a Bridgerton situation like with Regé-Jean Page. There is plenty of source material that can continue Bridgerton that doesn't need Simon in the mix, and his story came to a natural resting place at the end of Season 1, even if it didn't feel like his story with Phoebe was over. Sanditon ended without resolution for Theo James' character, so my vote is for the character to go to another actor to either finish the story that was begun in Season 1 or carry it into another chapter. Considering what Sidney did to Charlotte at the end of Season 1, I'd be perfectly content with her getting closure and moving on.
Sanditon is about Charlotte more than any other character, and she has relationships beyond Sidney. In fact, my reaction to the news of Theo James' departure was dismay at first, followed by hope that this will mean more of Charlotte and Georgiana Lambe, and more of Esther and Babington. And of course more of Young Stringer, because obviously! Sanditon can survive without Sidney, and in fact he wasn't even Charlotte's only teased love interest. With two more seasons ordered, there is plenty of time for her to fall in love again, with the dashing James Stringer or somebody neither we nor she have met yet.
But just as Charlotte was and is more than her relationship with Sidney, Sidney has ties and relationships that don't need to be totally and abruptly cut because his character wasn't written out back when the original actor was still on board. Would it be hard to find somebody who looks similar to Theo James and can pull off the same degree of smolder? Possibly, but I'd like to see Sanditon give it a shot to at the very least deliver some closure.
I enjoy a good old-fashioned fractured fairy tale every once in a while, but I'd rather not get them from projects with Jane Austen origins and a heroine who deserves a happy ending, and there are ways to add some layers to the tragic romantic twist without just chopping the entire storyline. Whether Sidney really is gone from Sanditon for good, is recast for Sanditon Season 2 and beyond, or is just mentioned by his friends and family while conveniently off-screen remains to be seen.
Filming on Season 2 of Sanditon is expected to begin later in 2021 in and around Bristol in the U.K., with more casting announcements on the way, so hopefully some answers will come sooner rather than later. For some viewing options during the wait for more Sanditon, check out our 2021 summer TV premiere schedule.