Sanditon Season 2 Ending Explained: The Set Up For Charlotte's Big Decision And What It Could Mean For Season 3

rose williams as charlotte in sanditon season 2 on pbs
(Image credit: PBS)

Warning: Spoilers are coming up for Sanditon Season 2! Maybe put on your finest fripperies and head to a ball so you don’t ruin a major surprise for yourself!

After an extremely long wait, Sanditon finally returned to our screens with Season 2, as part of the 2022 TV schedule, and gave fans a brand new set of romantic and dramatic adventures for the residents of the small seaside town. While the highly anticipated set of episodes made quick work of writing off Theo James’ Sidney Parker, Sanditon’s premiere tragedy opened up a lot of new avenues for Charlotte Heywood (Rose Williams), who returned to town upon learning of his fate.

With Sidney dead and no longer caring for Georgiana Lambe (Crystal Clarke) and her estate, those duties went to his brother and wife, which led to Charlotte returning to Sanditon from her home in Willingden to support her friend. But, seeing as how this is an adaptation of a Jane Austen novel, Charlotte quickly found herself in another sort-of love triangle with her boss, the moody Alexander Colbourne (Ben Lloyd-Hughes), and the supposedly respectable Colonel Lennox (Tom Weston-Jones). By the Sanditon Season 2 finale, though, lots of misunderstandings had been had, and Charlotte was back at home… announcing her engagement, which was to neither man! Here’s how Charlotte came to that decision, and what it might mean for Sanditon Season 3!

rose williams as charlotte in sanditon season 2 on pbs

(Image credit: PBS)

The Set Up For Charlotte’s Decision

At this point, I think it’s pretty safe to say that Colonel Lennox simply saw Charlotte as a challenge, and felt his proposal to her in Episode 5 was him doing her -- now a lowly working woman who’d sworn off marriage --  a great favor. Charlotte rightfully turned him down (he was truly a dick about it, too), but when Colbourne found out what happened it led to him finally telling her the whole sordid story about his and his late wife’s history with Lennox.

That, in turn, led to Charlotte and Colbourne basically admitting their feelings for each other by kissing (more than once). Unfortunately, Lennox was later able to play on Colbourne’s guilt over how he treated his wife upon finding out about her affair with Lennox, and Colbourne backed away from any possible future with Charlotte. He tells her that he was wrong to abuse his position by kissing her, and essentially fires her, leaving Charlotte crying alone and yelling, “Enough!” to herself.

In the last scene of the finale, Charlotte is joyfully dancing at the reception after her sister’s wedding, and with the gentleman we saw her dancing with in the opening moments of the Season 2 premiere. When they take a break and talk to some of her assembled friends and family, Charlotte introduces everyone to Willingden local, farmer Ralph Starling (Cai Brigden), and tells them that they’re engaged.

rose williams as charlotte and cai brigden as ralph in sanditon season 2 on pbs

(Image credit: PBS)

Why Charlotte’s Engagement Makes Sense

Believe me, I was just as stunned as many viewers likely were. And, with the exception of the fact that I gasped audibly, I was as speechless as Georgiana and the Parkers when Charlotte told them the news. But, while Charlotte has only recently gotten over Sidney marrying someone else to save his family from financial ruin, then had to deal with grieving him, and beginning to fall in love with Colbourne, I do think her decision actually makes a lot of sense. As head writer Justin Young told Salon:

Think about where we find her in that opening moment of Season 2. We find a young woman who's trying to move on. She's trying to be who her family needs her to be and then she's pulled back into Sanditon. That is what these two seasons are about. Everything she says to Colbourne in that scene at the end of that first episode about what she thinks a young woman should be with that independence of spirit, that conversation is absolutely key to Charlotte's journey across these two seasons.

So, here’s why Charlotte deciding to marry the very pleasant-seeming farmer Ralph makes so much sense. In a very short time, she’s had to get over her heartbreak at Sidney abandoning her, despite having previously told her he wanted to marry her, then dying. She decides to lower her station as a young woman of marriageable age by working as a governess and swearing off of matrimony, only to find herself falling in love with her boss, Colbourne. Then he abruptly cuts the beginnings of their love story off at the knees.

Charlotte has tried finding love on her own terms. She’s tried embracing her independent spirit by getting a fulfilling job and not living her life with only the hope of marriage and having her own children as her future. But, neither path has worked out for her. She’s now back at home, and (as she was at the start of Season 2) trying very hard to just get in line and do what her family and community expect of her. In the Regency era, what was left for a young lady to do but to hope someone decent decided she was still marriage material, and accept that ring, even when she’s in love with someone else?

charlotte and colbourne in sanditon season 2 on pbs

(Image credit: PBS)

What Charlotte’s Choice Might Mean For Season 3

Obviously, this farmer Ralph betrothal is, as Justin Young also noted, “the huge obstacle” when it comes to Charlotte and Colbourne getting back together in the next season. While Colbourne took his girls and abandoned his estate for parts unknown in the finale, we know that they’ll be back from the brief teaser of Sanditon Season 3 we saw at the very end. I can’t imagine that Charlotte will return and spend several more weeks in Sanditon and her new fiancé will never join her. So, Charlotte and Colbourne will be faced with their feelings for each other again, while also dealing with the fact that she’s promised herself to another.

Young said that fans will see Colbourne “be slightly reset when we meet him again at the top of Season 3,” which might actually mean that he’s finally in a better place emotionally to woo Charlotte, only to see that it won’t be possible. The head writer also admitted that his words at this year’s Television Critics Association press tour (where he said some of what we saw in the Season 2 premiere will pay off in the Season 3 finale) did actually apply to Charlotte and her choice to give up some of her independence to be what she imagines her family wants.

My guess is that there will be a big struggle in all of Season 3 for Charlotte, between fulfilling those expectations and staying true to what she really wants out of life. And, of course, Charlotte, Colbourne, and good ol’ farmer Ralph will be at the center of a lot of that internal battle.

We don’t know when Sanditon Season 3 will premiere on PBS just yet, but 2023 will see us be able to return to the intriguing town and all of its romantic drama!

Adrienne Jones
Senior Content Creator

Yennefer's apprentice, Gilmore Girl; will Vulcan nerve pinch pretty much anyone if prompted with cheese...Yes, even Jamie Fraser.