Sanditon fans got the kind of very good news that once seemed like it was never coming earlier this year: not only is the period drama returning for a long-awaited second season, but received an early renewal for Season 3 as well. The good news came with some bad, however, as leading man Theo James also confirmed that he wouldn't be returning as Sidney Parker, guaranteeing that the unhappy Season 1 ending to the romance with Charlotte Heywood (Rose Williams) was never going to get the happy Jane Austen twist that usually comes in adaptions of her writings. Now, the show has revealed how Charlotte will move on, and I'm already wondering: is it the right move?
Let's start with what's happening before getting into why it might have been a bad idea and why it definitely might not.
How Charlotte Is Moving On From Losing Sidney
Knowing now that there won't be a happy ending for Charlotte and Sidney may mean that the less said about how he broke her heart is for the best, and it seems that may be the very approach that Charlotte is taking in Season 2. According to the newest reveals for the next batch of episodes, Charlotte will return to the coastal resort with a new wave of people coming in. While it was pretty inevitable that a show called Sanditon that isn't switching leads every season like Bridgerton would bring Charlotte back to Sanditon, good for her for returning to the scene of her devastation and the people she left behind who didn't do her dirty.
When she returns, she'll attract the attention of two new men, which may mean bad news for poor Young Stringer (Leo Suter) if he's still in Sanditon, but nice for Charlotte to have some prospects. Her new suitors will be Alexander Colbourne, played by Industry's Ben Lloyd-Hughes, who is a mysterious man whose family history is complicated, and Colonel Francis Lennox, played by Tom Weston-Jones of Grace, who is a self-assured war hero.
And, if his rank is any indication, may have quite the age difference from Charlotte, although I'm admittedly basing that suspicion mostly on another Colonel from a different Jane Austen story, played in another adaption by the venerable Alan Rickman. The Army has arrived in Sanditon for Season 2, so it sounds like he won't just be loafing around and courting Charlotte. As an Austen fan, I definitely hope Colonel Lennox is more of a Sense and Sensibility Colonel Brandon than a Pride and Prejudice George Wickham! Then again, who isn't intrigued by a mysterious newcomer? Alexander Colbourne certainly has potential.
Considering that Charlotte was clearly planning on accepting Sidney's proposal if he'd gotten around to actually proposing, though, is her moving on, with two potential suitors in the mix for her to consider, in just the second season the right move? Let's break it down.
Why It Could Be The Wrong Move
Charlotte really did fall in love with Sidney in Sanditon Season 1, and her devastation at his decision at the end of the season went to her core. That's not to say that the Charlotte who viewers met in Season 1 revolved around this new man in her life, but she suffered a big emotional blow, and I find it easy to imagine that stinging for quite a while. In fact, I was on board with the possibility of Sanditon recasting Sidney after Theo James' announcement that he wasn't returning, mostly so that Charlotte could get some face-to-face closure before moving on.
Plus, fans who fell in love with Sanditon and have been waiting nearly two years already have had every reason to think of Sidney as the male lead and romantic lead, so Charlotte may not be the only one facing an adjustment with suddenly having him entirely missing. With Sanditon already guaranteed a third season and plenty of time to spice up Charlotte's love life again down the line, it might have been too fast to introduce not one but two love interests, neither of whom is Young Stringer who already had a charming introduction in Season 1. All of this said...
Why It's Probably The Right Move
Charlotte Heywood may have fallen in love, and Sidney smoldering across rooms at her may be one of the most memorable elements from Season 1, but her existence didn't depend on him. And quite importantly, he's not coming back. There's no reason why she should be a shell of herself for a full season because of her heartbreak. Plus, Sanditon could very well introduce a time jump to explain away why she may be able to at least entertain the possibility of moving on in Season 2.
And I know I don't want to watch the heroine who deserves happiness wallowing in misery for episodes at a time! She can and really should feel the effects of the loss and his absence when she first returns to Sanditon, but it doesn't need to make her deeply unhappy for a full season. She can be sad sometimes without dwelling on it as she moves on.
Plus, I do like the sound of her new prospects mixing things up in the seaside resort, and the description of Season 2 makes it clear that Sanditon will have plenty going on beyond Charlotte's love life. In her last summer season before turning 21, Georgiana Lambe (Crystal Clarke) gets mischievous for the sake of love, but at the risk of ending up even more lonely than she was before in the process of trying to forge her own identity. Hopefully this involves more bonding scenes with Charlotte, because I for one loved them in Season 1.
For his part, Tom Parker (Kris Marshall) will be working to rebuild Sanditon, hopefully more responsibly than how he handled it in Season 1. The Season 2 description does confirm a lot of unforeseen issues ahead for him. The Denhams will be back too, with plenty of secrets and lies that weren't already uncovered last season. With the Army in the mix with the potential for new relationships – platonic and otherwise – as well as Charlotte's younger sister Alison (Rosie Graham) coming to Sanditon, there will be plenty going on. Maybe we'll all be thinking "Sidney who?" before too long.
Or maybe not, but all the new information has me changing my tune from wanting a Sidney recast to being ready for Charlotte to move on and embrace the future without dwelling too much on what she lost. All of the news broke as Season 2 begins production, so the show is moving forward, and the characters (and fans) should as well. It would have been nice for Sidney to have gotten a stronger goodbye than the Season 1 finale, but it's not the end of the world when there's so much ahead.
Also joining the Sanditon cast in Season 2 are the handsome and charming Captain William Carter (Maxim Ways), the courageous Captain Declan Fraser (Frank Blake), and the flamboyant Byronic artist Charles Lockhart (Alexander Vlahos). Returning from Season 1 are Lady Denham (Anne Reid), Mary Parker (Kate Ashfield), Sir Edward Denham (Jack Fox), Esther Denham (Charlotte Spencer), Clara Brereton (Lily Sacofsky), Arthur Parker (Turlough Convery), Mr. Hankins (Kevin Eldon), and Dr. Fuchs (Adrian Scarborough).
With Season 2 only just beginning production, however, there is still a wait before seeing Charlotte and Co. back on screen on PBS, so be sure to vote in our poll below about whether you think Sanditon is making the right move, and swing by our summer TV premiere schedule for what you can watch in the meantime, not to mention what's on the way when the weather cools down in the fall.