Welcome to our weekly column Can’t Miss Episode of the Week! Every Saturday we’ll be spotlighting a different episode of television from that week that we thought was exceptional and a must-see. Check back to see if your favorite show got the nod — or to learn about a new one! Spoilers ahead.
We haven’t even reached the finale of this show’s sophomore season, but Sanditon is already at peak period drama. Since Theo James’ surprising departure as Season 1’s romantic lead Sidney Parker, Season 2 seemed a bit shaky on unsteady legs, but with Episode 5, it has fully come into its own, and is the series’ best episode to date. (While the episode dropped on PBS Passport on April 11, it doesn’t officially air on PBS until April 17, so if you’re waiting for that, best to click out of this article and return once you’ve seen the episode!)
Adapted from the unfinished Jane Austen novel, the series follows farm-girl heroine Charlotte Heywood (Rose Williams) as she discovers love and heartbreak in the new stylish seaside town of Sanditon. While Charlotte had sworn off marriage in her grief over Sidney’s death, her resolve is tested multiple times this episode with the arrival of Sanditon’s annual ball. The first challenge comes from Colonel Lennox (Tom Weston-Jones), who most viewers have been suspicious of for at least a couple of episodes now. With both he and the prickly Mr. Colbourne (Ben Lloyd-Hughes) lobbing accusations at each other about their shared past, Charlotte has been confused about who to believe. We learn the truth about his character: Colonel Lennox plans to bankrupt Sanditon, as he has done many other times before to other towns.
Charlotte, though, has to learn about Colonel Lennox’s more sinister side on her own. As he corners her in the balcony at the ball to propose to her, it’s reminiscent of when Charlotte and Sidney stood there exactly a year earlier discussing their feelings for each other. Except this time, Charlotte isn’t overcome with love, and is quite perplexed by Colonel Lennox’s proposal, since she has made it clear to him multiple times that she has no intention of marrying. She hammers home her rejection by straight up telling him that she does not love him. Colonel Lennox responds by turning nasty on a dime and forcing a kiss on her. We’ve suspected Colonel Lennox is this awful, but this is the first time we’ve seen it. There is an excellent outcome to their encounter, though! It drives Charlotte right into the arms of Mr. Colbourne, who gets to act the concerned protector, which grows the intimacy between the two (more on that later). If you were unsure of Mr. Colbourne as a love interest before now, you’re likely to be caught up in the romance of the moment.
Charlotte isn’t the only one finding unexpected love this episode. Her sister Alison (Rosie Graham) begins to realize that despite being distraught over Captain Carter’s (Maxim Ays) lies to her, the person she should be with, Captain Fraser (Frank Blake), has been standing right in front of her all along. While this Cyrano-style plotline was pretty predictable, it is still immensely satisfying to hear Captain Fraser say to Alison, “true beauty needs no adornment.” Georgiana (Crystal Clarke) also has to consider her romantic future this episode, as the artist Charles Lockhart (Alexander Vlahos) proposes to her, and then asks that she travel the world with him. I’ll admit that I’m not totally sold on this pairing. Lockhart is good for a fling, but is hardly marriage material. I can’t be the only one hoping Georgiana’s Season 1 lover, Otis (Jyuddah Jaymes), returns. But since Georgiana didn’t get the chance to give Lockhart an answer, we’ll just have to wait until next episode to see what she decides.
The most ominous storyline entangles Esther (Charlotte Spencer), who is unknowingly being manipulated by her treacherous step-brother Edward (Jack Fox). We thought she’d successfully escaped him last season when she married Lord Babington (Mark Stanley), but he has once again found a way to insert himself into her life. It was cruel enough when he was hiding her husband’s letters from her, but in this episode he actually starts poisoning her so that she’ll appear hysterical. Clara (Lily Sacofsky) is aware of it, and we can only hope that she finally gives into her conscience and says something about it soon, and that Lord Babington returns.
Even in the final scene, the bombshells do not stop dropping. Charlotte, shaken by her encounter with Colonel Lennox, goes home with Mr. Colbourne and his niece Ms. Markham (Eloise Webb), and presses him to finally tell her everything about his past with the Colonel. This is how we learn that the young Leonora (Flora Mitchell) is actually not his child, but Colonel Lennox’s, and that the Colonel abandoned Mr. Colbourne’s wife, who he was having an affair with, when he learned she was pregnant. What’s devastating about this scene is that Leo is standing listening by the door.
The episode does end on a high note though, as Charlotte and Mr. Colbourne admit that their feelings for each other are the first they’ve felt since their respective loved ones passed away, and finally give us a kiss for the ages. There’s so much to work out, and there will certainly be fallout from all the action this episode–plenty to fill the finale next week.
Other observations we thought made this episode standout:
- It’s such a relief to see Tom (Kris Marshall) finally realize what he has in his brother Arthur (Turlough Convery), who is truly the best and sweetest character in the show.
Sanditon, Sundays, 9/8c, PBS