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From Sidney Parker to Alexander Colbourne: Sanditon’s Hero Glow-Up

Sidney Parker is gone; Long live the true leading man of Sanditon.

Remember that annoying old adage “Hindsight is 20/20”? Of course you do. Well, I regret to report it’s the perfect way to encapsulate why Sanditon season 2 is superior to season 1. And if you’re already outraged by my take on this Jane Austen adaptation, just wait, it’s gonna get worse. Because the first half of Sanditon season 2 has already convinced me it’s a good thing–nay, a great thing–that Sidney Parker is no longer part of our heroine Charlotte Heywood’s life. Hot AF as he was, he was not The One for Charlotte. Now she’s free to meet a much better match for her, and I suspect she actually already has: Alexander Colbourne. That grumpy, taciturn widower has already stolen my heart. In fact, Mr. Colbourne’s achingly romantic scenes with Miss Heywood have led me to conclude we’re in the midst of a Sanditon hero glow-up.

The hard truth: Charlotte Heywood deserves better than Sidney Parker.

Now, none of us can be blamed for not realizing in season 1 that Sanditon‘s best romance was yet to come. Sidney Parker was gruff and inscrutable, and he was played by the undeniably tall, dark, and handsome Theo James. While he often snapped at and ultimately disappointed Charlotte, Sidney seemed like an honorable man with a good heart. His surprisingly sweet way with his nieces and nephews didn’t hurt either. Romance fans have been conditioned over many years (and many Jane Austen adaptations) to believe he was a Mr. Darcy type. Looking back, however, I see him as a cross between a Mr. Darcy and a Mr. Wickham, with the impulses of both.

Sidney is kind of a jerk to Charlotte for much of their short acquaintance, for one. While Mr. Darcy is awkwardly trying to make things right with Lizzie soon after his “barely tolerable” blunder, Sidney seems annoyed by Charlotte’s presence in multiple scenes. Worse yet, he tells her that he doesn’t care what she thinks or how she feels. Ouch! I’d also argue that, like Mr. Wickham, Sidney proves to be manipulative; he kisses Charlotte and appears poised to ask for her hand while keeping his options open with another woman, an heiress. 

Sure enough, when push comes to shove, Sidney prioritizes restoring his family’s finances over his relationship with Charlotte. His decision is clearly painful, and one I can’t honestly fault him for, but it’s not a romance-hero move. The hero that Charlotte deserves wouldn’t have given up on their future so easily. Not only does Sidney not fight for Charlotte, but he doesn’t even give her the courtesy of a heads-up before asking another woman to marry him. It’s maddening and tragic, and it’s not the way an Austen romance is supposed to go. It’s just not.

I was as sad as the next person to hear Theo James wouldn’t be returning for Sanditon season 2. Despite not having watched a single episode of the show yet myself, I had always planned to catch up, until this news made me question whether I still should. Knowing now how Sidney and Charlotte’s story ended in season 1, though, I am so glad I waited until season 2 to dive in. Because I really did benefit from watching season 1 with the understanding that Sidney and Charlotte were a doomed ship.

Unless his wife died, Sidney’s presence in season 2 would have been pointless, because he wouldn’t have been free to pursue Charlotte. And if his wife had passed away since we last saw her, Sidney’s past choices would have been a dark cloud hovering over them. Charlotte may have forgiven him for the hurt he caused her, but she would have never forgotten it.

My theory: Colbourne and Charlotte are endgame.

The other benefit to starting Sanditon as late as I did? I had already learned that Miss Heywood would have the chance to find a better match with an intriguing gentleman whom I’d glimpsed in a lovely fan video…

Alexander Colbourne isn’t totally dissimilar to Mr. Parker in terms of temperament, I will admit. Dubbed a “recluse” who has “all but withdrawn from society” by Sanditon gossips, Mr. Colbourne’s rather icy and brusque with Charlotte at their first meeting, when she interviews for a position as governess to his daughter and niece. Then on her first day, he proceeds to bark at her about what she should and shouldn’t be teaching them. Plus, the simple fact that he’s a father means you can assume that, like Sidney, he’s always going to put his family before anything or anyone else.

A few factors set Charlotte and Mr. Colbourne’s dynamic apart, however. First and foremost, Charlotte herself is a different person. No longer the starry-eyed girl who first arrived in Sanditon, she’s grown in confidence and maturity. Her own recent experiences with love and loss have given her more perspective and a window into the soul of Mr. Colbourne, a widower who’s obviously still grieving his wife’s death. Charlotte refuses to back down to her employer’s mercurial nature, challenging his opinions at every turn. From the way he chases after her with a job offer to the little smile that softens his face after they’ve verbally sparred, it’s obvious the cranky-but-tenderhearted lord of the manor is besotted by episode 2. Forget Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester comparisons; these two are clearly Beauty and the Beast. And I ADORE Beauty and the Beast stories.

As part of its resurrection from cancellation, Sanditon was renewed for a season 2 and 3 at once. That means Charlotte likely won’t get an HEA with Mr. Colbourne, or anyone else, any time soon. Yet I can’t help but get my hopes up whenever Colbourne says, with more feeling each time: “Until tomorrow.” Then there’s how he sweetly hands Charlotte a tiny bouquet of cornflowers at a picnic with the children, seeks out her company, reveals his insecurities as a parent, and constantly gazes at her longingly. He may be a moody bastard, but he’s become a quietly devoted one. Now the man just needs to prove can offer Charlotte a happy, fulfilling marriage in a way that no other suitor has managed.

I have faith he will, just as I have faith Charlotte Heywood and Alexander Colbourne are endgame. Sidney Parker is gone; Long live the true leading man of Sanditon.

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