Note: This article contains spoilers for season two of both Sanditon and Bridgerton.

Last year, I wrote an analysis of how Sanditon could learn from Bridgerton going into season 2. Some diehard fans of both shows might not like the comparison, but given the success of both programs, comparisons are inevitable. Despite their similarities, there is more than enough space in the period drama genre for both series (as well as for others to take parts of each production to create new series). There are multiple aspects in which one could compare the two shows, so this article is going to focus on comparing Georgiana Lambe to Kathani “Kate” and Edwina Sharma, since both shows relied on featuring characters of color to attract new viewers.

While Bridgerton Season 2 has the upper hand on international accessibility, South Asian representation, and advertising dollars, Sanditon Season 2’s advantage is using tropes and archetypes directly sourced from other Austen novels and a commitment to recreating the Regency era closer to how Austen would have experienced it. Sanditon Season 2 also has something to offer critics of Bridgerton and multiple structural improvements to address concerns raised by Season 1 Sanditon critics.

Georgiana starts Season 2 with more confidence in her ability to exercise power and influence in Sanditon. She has definitely grown in the space between seasons, but Season 2 has fine-tuned her righteous anger, which was often misinterpreted by white fans as teenage brattiness in Season 1. The sugar boycott plot, which my previous article explored in more detail, was the best example of the difference having Black history experts advising the writers made on Georgiana’s trajectory. Sanditon successfully fictionalized real events and also finally gave Georgiana the best opportunity to call out Lady Denham’s racism.

However, Georgiana’s trajectory this season was limited by the show's failure to completely reckon with the power dynamics in Season 1. Sidney’s death resulted in Georgiana still having white guardians who do not understand that the racism she faces from Lady Denham cannot be countered merely by good behavior. Season 1 already laid the groundwork for damage control by having Sidney rescue Georgiana from Otis’ gambling debt collection, andSidney’s death in Season 2 occurs not in England, but in Antigua, where he’s taking care of affairs with Georgiana’s inheritance. The details are not fully revealed until the end of the season, but this plotline positions Sidney as the good guy, while obscuring the fact that he was responsible for ignoring Georgiana’s exposure to Lady Denham and other racists in Season 1. Season 2 also posits that Georgiana grows closer to the remaining Parkers, but brushes aside Tom and Mary’s failure to use their influence in Season 1 to protect her interests. Arthur is the only Parker that has shown consistency in helping Georgiana, but even this season he makes mistakes that endanger Georgiana.

Georgiana’s sugar boycott campaign brings her even more scrutiny from Lady Denham and highlights the main weakness in Sanditon Season 2: isolating the characters of color. Mrs. Wheatley, Colburne’s housekeeper, is the only other character of color and she never meets Georgiana. In addition, Mrs. Wheatley’s main role in the plot is to advise Colbourne, which is dangerously close to the “mammy” stereotype for Black women characters. Some fans have speculated Mrs. Wheatley may be Georgiana’s missing mother, but that likely is the result of attempts to fill in the void of her backstory beyond her occupation.

Charles Lockhart presents a complication in Georgiana’s plans to reject every single marriage proposal in Season 2. He’s an artist, and eager to offend the social elites by praising Napoleon at dinner parties. Georgiana initially insults him and rejects him, but he wears her down with his request to paint her portrait and also by manipulating Arthur. Lockhart’s fascination with Georgiana’s “natural beauty” borders on treating her as an exotic object, which is the kind of racism she spent Season 1 trying to avoid. In contrast to Season 1, however, the script is much more aware of how a Black woman would experience microaggressions and racially prejudiced speech.

Lockhart’s plot twist not only denies Georgiana a happy ending once again, but also partially repeats Otis’ interest in controlling her inheritance. Lockhart’s motive for marriage also reveals another historical phenomenon less frequently explored in Regency fiction. Interracial marriages were never outlawed in British colonies or inside of Britain. However, white relatives did occasionally challenge the legitimacy of Black and mixed-race spouses, partners, and children to inherit property, especially if the deceased had no white sons. Although Lockhart’s subterfuge was exaggerated fiction, differences between the law in British colonies and within Britain did leave biracial heirs vulnerable to theft.

Georgiana’s plot this season overall still suffered from decreased screen time for her story. The addition of Alison, the soldiers, and Colbourne dashed the hopes fans of color had for Crystal Clarke to be billed as an equal lead to Rose Williams this season. Although once again Georgiana is unlucky in her search for someone who doesn’t care about her fortune, the reveal that her mother may still be alive gives fans something to look forward to, and with Alison married, Georgiana may have a larger role next season.

In comparison, Kathani “Kate” and Edwina Sharma on Bridgerton Season 2 may be outsiders to the Ton but they have each other, their mom, and Lady Danbury as a more culturally-competent chaperone. They also meet Queen Charlotte and see several other non-white members of the Ton and the royal court. Once Edwina is announced as the Diamond of the season, no one contests their presence. No one outside of Edwina’s mean grandparents mistreats the Sharma sisters in ways that can be considered micro or macro aggressions. The personality and romance conflicts remain the focus of both of their stories. South Asian traditions such as drinking chai and Hindu pre-wedding rituals are normalized.

Bridgerton Season 2 is based on alternate history; the source material books are modern Regency romance novels, not any of Austen’s works directly. The series picks and chooses aspects of Austen's Regency England to feature or ignore. In fact, the Prince Regent who the era is named after does not, so far, exist in Bridgerton (he was mentioned during Season 1 of Sanditon). Bridgerton Season 2 largely avoids the questions Season 1 raised about how Queen Charlotte’s marriage ended slavery and racism. During this era, the British East India Company was already making moves beyond trading goods to take over parts of the subcontinent. The silks and muslins in Madame Delacroix’s shop come from India. Everyone drinks tea, another product of India. Does the British East India Company exist in the world of Bridgerton? Sanditon Season 2, on the other hand, makes it clear that British colonial involvement in India exists in their story by having the army reassign Colonel Lennox’s regiment to India. Bridgerton also frames the clause in Edwina and Kate’s inheritance as a punishment for Lady Mary seeking true love, and not a statement indicating Lord Sheffield’s underlying racist bias. It’s also arguable that the absence of this discussion makes Anthony’s desire for Kate more problematic, as he at times sees Kate as an exotic object of beauty.

In terms of the romantic conflicts, Edwina pursues Anthony, but it is clear he is much more attracted to her “spinster” older sister Kate. Kate and Edwina are the ones who need to marry for financial security which very different from Georgiana calling the shots on suitors. In addition, Georgiana is motivated primarily by survival in a hostile society, and not conflicts over familial duty. While Kate finally finds the love she denied herself for so long, Edwina’s hopes of marrying well are dashed — for now. In this regard, there is a parallel between Edwina and Georgiana, with both women ending the season single, albeit with contrasts in motives fueling the respective breakups.

The one area in regards to romance where both seasons are similar is a decrease in sex scenes compared to the initial season. One must keep in mind that the perception of Austen to be “clean and PG-rated” is in itself a social construct invented by Victorians reacting to the excesses of the Regency, but old stereotypes die hard. Many Austen fans, especially in the UK, believed Sanditon Season 1’s depiction of Edward seducing Clara was “disrespectful” to the Austen tradition. Sanditon Season 2 showed Clara struggling with single motherhood outside of marriage and Georgiana’s chaperones prevented her from being intimate with Lockhart. Bridgerton is based on a series of open door (describing sexual situations) romance novels which are not beholden to these perceptions, but Season 2 also cut back on the number of sex scenes because the relationship dynamics were different: Anthony and Kate’s relationship was about mutual desire that could not be fulfilled without social consequences. Anthony and Kate consummating their relationship is shown on screen in order to emphasize that both characters are acknowledging the mutual attraction. Sanditon Season 2 will definitely attract audiences who still don’t want open-door Regency romance.

While Sanditon Season 2 overall has the edge on Austen recreation and addressing historical issues, Season 3 of Sanditon can still take some lessons from Bridgerton Season 2. Hiring more actors of color as well as improving talent diversity behind the scenes can continue to attract new viewers to Sanditon: a more diverse cast and crew also lead to more diversity within the fandom. What can Bridgerton learn from Sanditon? Bridgerton can learn that there’s room for inserting real history into an alternative history scenario. In addition, Sanditon Season 2 hired Black history advisors. This move would make the disconnect between fantasy and reality a more manageable divide. We'll just have to wait until next season, for both shows, to see how they continue to improve over time.