PBS’s “Sanditon” ended on Sunday, and, for fans of Jane Austen, the finale was a shocker — a double shocker, in fact. Don’t read ahead if you haven’t seen it yet.
Turns out Andrew Davies, the screenwriter who took Austen’s unfinished last novel and expanded it into a full “Masterpiece” story line, had some non-Austenian twists in mind — and I’m not referring to the sexuality or the incesty step-siblings. All season long, he teased us with a growing mutual respect and attraction between Sidney Parker and Charlotte Heywood, our hero and heroine. Initially, the pair intensely disliked each other but that was turning around, just as the initial friction between Lizzie and Darcy in “Pride and Prejudice” morphed into true love. There was even a kiss. The #Sidlotte stanners came out in droves online, rooting hard for the pretty couple.
But, in Shock No. 1, Davies had Sidney decide to marry a wealthy heiress at the last moment, in order to save his family from ruin, as is his wont. Poor Charlotte is left out in the cold in a modern-style ending about suffering, betrayal, and loss. OK, so perhaps Davies was stretching out the process, keeping Charlotte and Sidney apart longer in order to eventually bring them together later in the series, in a future season. Perhaps he wasn’t merely using Austen’s name — a major franchise for PBS — to sell a very non-Austenian tale.
But, in Shock No. 2, the UK show was canceled by ITV in the fall for poor ratings. So even if the proper happy ending for the couple was on the way, it will always be on the way, a case of permanently delayed gratification. Unless there’s a miracle, unless the show was so popular during its run in the US that it somehow resumes production, TV’s “Sanditon” now ends in an unhappy place forever.
Ah, PBS, you got us on board knowing we’d be left at sea. You got us hooked, then told us our supply was gone. You owe us an elegant costume drama with a big fat happy ending, as long as it’s not, you know, “Romeo and Juliet.”