Sanditon season 2, episode 1 wastes no time explaining Sidney Parker’s (Theo James) fate and it’s the right solution that opens up new possibilities.
Warning: SPOILERS for Sanditon Season 2, Episode 1
The way Sanditon handles the absence of Theo James’ Sidney Parker is the best thing for season 2. James broke hearts when he chose not to reprise the role of Sidney, Sanditon’s dashing male lead opposite Rose Williams’ Charlotte Heywood. When Sanditon was renewed for seasons 2 and 3 thanks to the devotion of its fanbase, James immediately announced he would not be participating, much like Bridgerton season 2’s Regé-Jean Page exit. James cited the “broken fairytale” between Sidney and Charlotte as an ideal ending for their romance in his view. Sanditon had to alter its creative plans and move on without its main heartthrob, but the PBS Masterpiece series has made the best of the hand it was dealt.
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Sanditon season 1 introduced Sidney as the mercurial brother of Tom Parker (Kris Marshall), the visionary behind the picturesque seaside resort town of Sanditon on England’s southern coast. Sidney was a successful businessman with many contacts in London and abroad. He was also the caretaker of Georgiana Lambe (Crystal Clarke), an heiress from Antigua who possessed 100,000 pounds and resented the strict and domineering way Sidney watched over her. The Jane Austen heroes, Sidney and Charlotte, clashed right away but underneath their hostility was a burgeoning attraction. The pair fell in love with each other before they knew it. Unfortunately, Sanditon and Tom were on the verge of financial collapse and it was up to Sidney to find the funding to keep his brother’s dream alive. Sidney’s tragic solution was to marry his old flame, Eliza Campion (Ruth Kearney), whose family had the money to save Sanditon. Of course, this meant Sidney and Charlotte could not be together in spite of their hearts’ desire, and they both left Sanditon (and each other) at the end of season 1.
Related: Why Theo James Not Returning For Sanditon Season 2 Is So Disappointing
The opening minutes of Sanditon season 2, episode 1 waste no time establishing that Sidney Parker is dead. He perished from yellow fever while visiting Antigua, and he died in 1820 when he was 32. (Charlotte, meanwhile, is aged “three and twenty” in Sanditon season 2.) While Sidney’s death is a heartbreaking state of affairs, it was also the best possible solution so that Sanditon and its characters, especially Charlotte, can move on from Sidney. After all, Theo James was simply not going to return for Sanditon seasons 2 and 3, so there was no point in keeping Sidney offscreen but still alive, which would dangle the possibility that he would someday return. Mr. Parker being killed off definitively makes any comeback impossible but it also allows Sanditon to move forward while keeping his memory alive and maintaining Sidney’s importance to the main characters of Charlotte, Tom, and Arthur (Turlough Convery), the youngest Parker brother.
Like Matthew Crawley’s (Dan Stevens) death in Downton Abbey, Sanditon killing off Sidney is also a smart move because of all of the story possibilities that spawn from it. Charlotte is, understandably, in a period of mourning so that the audience can commiserate. Understandably, Miss Heywood remains haunted by the final words Sidney spoke to her, which Sanditon echoes to the audience by using Theo James’ voiceover from Sanditon’s season 1 finale. But Charlotte must also find a new life for herself in Sanditon without Sidney. Mr. Parker’s death also offers possibilities for Georgiana, who now has to fend off a number of fortune-hunting suitors without Sidney’s protection, even if Miss Lambe bristled under his wing. With Sidney gone, Arthur also steps up to a new role and responsibilities by replacing Sidney as Tom’s right hand in his business affairs. This creates interesting new dynamics for the Parker family and Charlotte, their houseguest.
Cleverly, there’s also a mystery surrounding why Sidney was in Antigua, to begin with, unlike when Downton Abbey’s Lady Sybil died because Jessica Brown-Findlay exited the series. It could tie into Georgiana and her fortune, but it’s also possible the handsome Mr. Parker was on the island to help Sanditon. Perhaps he was seeking some sort of way to find the money to help Tom finance his resort town so that Sidney could ultimately end his marriage to Eliza and be with Charlotte. Or there could be a completely unexpected reason that Sidney was drawn to Antigua. Even in death, Sidney remains vitally important to Sanditon, and the series wisely used killing off its main hero to create opportunities for intriguing new storylines in Sanditon season 2 instead of just inelegantly writing Sidney Parker off.
Next: Sanditon Season 2 Cast & Character Guide
Sanditon Season 2 airs Sundays @ 9pm on PBS Masterpiece.
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John Orquiola is a Features staff writer and interviewer who has been with Screen Rant for five years. He began as a director’s assistant on various independent films. As a lover of film and film theory, John wrote humorous movie reviews on his blog, Back of the Head, which got him noticed by Screen Rant. John happily became the Star Trek guy at Screen Rant and he leads Feature coverage of the various Star Trek series, but he also writes about a wide range of subjects from the Marvel Cinematic Universe to Cobra Kai. His other great nerdy love is British TV series like The Crown, Downton Abbey, and Killing Eve. John can be found on Twitter @BackoftheHead if you want to see photos of the food he eats.
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