Release date: In Britain, 2019; in U.S., February 2020.
Review, short version: All thumbs down.
Review, long version:
One of my shortcomings is, when I read a book or watch a movie, if the ending doesn’t satisfy me – it spoils the whole experience.
Even if I enjoyed that book or movie throughout, an unsatisfying ending equals time wasted.
Which leads to my being pissed.
I’m not saying I’m always looking for a happy ending. What I’m looking for is an ending that makes sense – yes, this series of events happened, and those events led to this ending.
OK – I’m somewhat lying.
I do like happy endings.
Which brings me to Sanditon.
I watch PBS frequently, and when I saw previews for a program with the strange name of Sanditon, I was immediately interested. I learned it was based on an unfinished novel by Jane Austin, and I’d never heard of it. It was a 2019 British historical production, and the Brits are masters at these period pieces.
Sanditon: Set in early 19th century England, glorious scenery, wonderful costumes, and six hours of drama to wallow in.
I was in.
That was February 2020, and I recently – finally–got my hands on the DVD.
Now I was in, and I was so ready.
And from the first scene, Sanditon didn’t disappoint. Sanditon is a fictional English coastal town where the story takes place – glorious scenery. The costumes are wonderful – elegant, empire-waisted dresses and bonnets for the women; thigh-hugging pants, knee-high boots, and top hats for the men.
And, of course, there will be a ball – perhaps more than one:
Love and lust, plots and sub-plots, the English upper class with all its inherent snobbery, and, as the PBS website says, “Sidney and Charlotte’s swoon-worthy love story moments.”
I’ve mentioned that the program was six hours, and that’s a lot of time to invest. I watched about an hour a day, so the story and the characters were in my life for almost a week. Throughout all that time, I saw the romance budding, then building, between the handsome but stern Sidney and “lively but levelheaded” Charlotte:
The romance continued to build, and then, in the last episode came a surprise I did not anticipate at all. A surprise can be a good thing.
Until it isn’t.
Sidney was on the verge of proposing to Charlotte, when family financial issues obliged him to instead become engaged to a wealthy widow.
Charlotte was crushed, but I was not – “Of course they’ll work it out,” I thought. “Sidney will get unengaged and he and Charlotte will end up together.”
I knew. I was positive.
I was wrong.
At the end, broken-hearted Charlotte packs her bags and takes a carriage home, far from Sanditon.
Time was running out for Sidney and Charlotte.
Then – suddenly Sidney appears, on horseback.
“Finally!” I thought. “Here’s where they get back together!”
Sidney dismounts, Charlotte steps out of the carriage…
And I’m ready for another “swoon-worthy love story” moment…
I have, after all, invested nearly six hours of my life in this.
I’m about to get my satisfying ending.
Only, I’m not.
Sidney hasn’t disengaged from the wealthy widow.
He’s come to say goodbye to Charlotte.
End of story.
I was stunned. Completely and totally stunned.
British period pieces don’t end this way.
Jane Austin stories don’t end this way.
Remember Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy in Austin’s Pride and Prejudice, newly married, riding off in their carriage into happily-ever-after?
Yet there goes Charlotte, riding off in her carriage – alone:
I sat, staring, as the final credits rolled. The video reverted to the playlist, and stopped.
I sat and stared some more.
I could not believe what just happened.
So I headed to my computer to find a Sanditon synopsis. “I missed something here,” I thought. “I’ll read a synopsis and find out the story didn’t really end the way I just saw it really end.”
I didn’t find that, but I found plenty of this from unhappy British viewers:
[Sanditon] “incurred the Twitter wrath of many viewers thanks to its ‘devastating’ ending that many complained was not very Jane Austen.”
“Viewers of Sanditon were left ‘fuming’ over the series finale last night, as they raged that Jane Austen would be ‘turning in her grave’ over the programme’s ‘heartbreaking’ ending.”
“I feel so played; main Jane Austen couples always end up together!! Where is my happy ending??”
So I wasn’t alone in being pissed – the Brits were pissed, too, and it was headline news:
Who decided to end Sanditon on such a sour note?
Since Austin hadn’t finished Sanditon, it was up to the producers/writers/whomevers to decide how to end the story.
The why they ended it that way was answered in a blog, ArmchairAnglophile.com, and the writer had this to say:
“This whole thing was clearly a setup for a second season…An ending that was such an obvious, greedy setup by [screenwriter] Andrew Davies to get another payday, I actually feel somewhat offended by it. This was mediocre, at best. And it doesn’t warrant a second season.”
PBS has confirmed there will be no second season for Sanditon.
And there is my satisfying ending.