‘Sanditon’ Season 2 Episode 1 Recap: Charlotte Gets Bad News

An older and wiser Charlotte returns to the seaside in the season 2 premiere of PBS’s Sanditon. How will our heroine move forward after last year’s heartbreak? And what’s next for the residents of this up-and-coming resort town? There’s a lot going on in this episode, the first of six in the show’s surprise second season. Let’s dive right in.  

[Warning: This article contains spoilers for Sanditon Season 2 Episode 1.]

Sidney’s fate revealed in the ‘Sanditon’ Season 2 premiere

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Charlotte (Rose Williams) and Sidney’s (Theo James) fairy-tale romance went off the rails in a major way at the end of season 1. Though he loved Charlotte, Sidney decided to marry a wealthy widow to save his financially reckless brother Tom (Kris Marshall) from bankruptcy and debtors’ prison. Despite that, many fans believed the show would eventually bring the two characters together for their happily ever after. But any hopes that Sidney and Charlotte might still end up together were dashed when James announced he wouldn’t return for season 2. 

Now, the Sanditon Season 2 premiere has put the final nail in the coffin of Sidney and Charlotte’s relationship, literally. The opening sequence reveals that Sidney has died of yellow fever while in Antigua. What exactly he was doing abroad is a mystery to his family, though they’re determined to find out. Charlotte, for her part, is stoic when she returns to Sanditon for another season. However, a bad breakup followed by the death of her first love has hit her hard. Though her romantic younger sister Alison (newcomer Rosie Graham) has grand plans for husband-hunting, Charlotte has sworn off love, at least for now. However, the presence of a few new eligible bachelors in town suggests she might soon change her mind.   

Esther and Edward have an unhappy reunion 

In addition to Charlotte, Sanditon’s Season 2 debut checks in with a number of other familiar faces. They include Esther, now Lady Babington (Charlotte Spencer) and her rich, snarky aunt Lady Denham (Anne Reid). Lady Denham can’t figure out why the newlywed Esther wants to spend time away from her husband. But the reason soon becomes clear. Esther recently gave birth to a stillborn child. She hopes time away will allow her to recover and, she hopes, eventually get pregnant again, even though her doctors have told her attempting to have another baby could kill her. 

One thing that’s definitely not going to help Esther’s recovery? The sudden, suspicious reappearance of her scoundrel step-brother Edward (Jack Fox). Since being disinherited by his aunt, he’s joined up with the army, and his regiment has coincidentally decided to set up camp in Sanditon. A repentant Edward insists he’s changed, but neither Lady Denham nor Esther are buying it, because he’s obviously lying. Oh, and it’s no accident that his regiment is in Sanditon – he suggested it to his captain. Edward is clearly an agent of chaos here to get his revenge on his stepsister and aunt. The only question is exactly how he’ll go about doing it.     

Georgiana fends off suitors 

Georgiana,,wearing a blue jacket and yellow skirt, standing in front of a hotel in 'Sanditon' Season 2
‘Sanditon’ Season 2 | Courtesy of Joss Barratt © Red Planet

Charlotte isn’t the only person who’s returned to Sanditon following heartbreak. Wealthy heiress Georgiana Lambe (Crystal Clarke) was devastated last season after her romance with Otis Molyneux blew up thanks to his gambling debts and a kidnapping plot. Now, she’s keen to remain single. But that’s hard to do when she’s “besieged by fortune hunters” at every turn and everyone in her life, including her new guardian Tom, is pushing her to wed. Fortunately, Georgiana’s wealth gives her a bit of leverage, and she isn’t about to give up what little independence she has. 

“As for your proposal, I’d sooner be boiled alive,” she says to an unlucky suitor who takes her out of a carriage ride. But one man does stand out. Byronic artist Charles Lockhart (Outlander‘s Alexander Vlahos) makes an impression on Georgiana when she sees him in a tea room, though not a positive one. “He looks rather pleased with himself,” she says. When they meet later on the street, he calls her haughty. They’re acting like they don’t like each other, which can only mean they’re destined to end up together.    

The army arrives in Sanditon

Three army officers in red coats on horses in 'Sanditon' Season 2
‘Sanditon’ Season 2 | Courtesy of Joss Barratt © Red Planet

Aside from the return of sneaky Edward Denham, the army’s arrival means several new characters for Sanditon’s single ladies to swoon over. Alison is charmed by Captain Carter (Maxim Ays), especially after he rescues her following a carriage accident on the beach. Charlotte has a slightly cooler reaction to a shirtless Captain Lennox (Tom Weston-Jones). They meet when Charlotte, Alison, and Georgiana somewhat unbelievably wander unescorted into the army camp to introduce themselves to all the hot single guys who’ve just arrived in town. But there’s a definite spark between the show’s leading and the dashing captain. 

But Captain Lennox might have some competition in the form of Alexander Colbourne (Ben Lloyd-Hughes). After announcing she plans to remain single (much to Alison’s horror), Charlotte sets out to land a gig as a governess. (It’s the only acceptable employment for a woman of her class at the time.) Fortunately, the reclusive Mr. Colbourne just happens to be in need of someone to wrangle his two charges. His daughter Leo (Flora Mitchell) is a rambunctious 9-year-old who favors boy’s clothes and dreams of being a spy. His teenage niece Augusta (Eloise Webb) is a sullen brat. Charlotte talks her way into the job, which will of course allow her to spend time getting to know her Mr. Rochester-esque employer, who is surely not quite as brusque and unfeeling as he wants everyone around him to believe. 

What else happened in this episode of ‘Sanditon’

Elsewhere in this episode of Sanditon

  • Georgiana is leading a sugar boycott as a protest against slavery.
  • Tom Parker is still scheming to make Sanditon into a must-visit destination, despite last season’s debacle. He says he’s learned his lesson about taking risks, but that seems doubtful.  
  • One reason Charlotte is up for returning to the scene of last summer’s heartbreak? Her dad wants her to marry a dull but respectable farmer named Ralph, and she’s dodging his inevitable proposal.
  • After last season’s deadly fire, Young Stringer (Leo Suter) has decided to try his luck as an architect in London. (Suter currently stars in Vikings: Valhalla on Netflix. He opted not to return for season 2.)

New episodes of Sanditon Season 2 air Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on PBS. 

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