How Last Tango in Halifax Can Atone to Its Lesbian Fan Base

Sarah Lancashire in Last Tango in Halifax

Last Tango in Halifax offended its lesbian fan base mightily when the character Kate (Nina Sosanya) was killed in series 3. The latest word on when a 4th series might air is: a helluva long time from now. But there will be a 2 hour Christmas special this year, which begins filming September.

Since Happy Valley is airing on the BBC right now, I can’t help thinking about Last Tango in Halifax. Same writer – Sally Wainwright. Same star – Sarah Lancashire. The two are in the same filing cabinet in my mind.

So many lesbian viewers of Last Tango in Halifax swore never to return after Kate was killed. They were mad as hell at Sally Wainwright for making it happen.

There is a way for Sally Wainwright to atone to the fan base and seek forgiveness.

Give Caroline a new love interest. Not just any actress will do, however. Give her a new love interest who already has the loyal devotion of the lesbian fan base. Here are a few examples of English actresses who could work in the role.

  • Simone Lahbib from Bad Girls
  • Rachel Shelley from The L Word
  • Heather Peace from Lip Service

There are many other actresses out there who already enjoy the love and loyalty that could make all the angry viewers tune back in again for series 4 – or even for a 2 hour Christmas special. I’ll bet you could name a few actresses with the proper resumé yourself.

I know Sally Wainwright isn’t going to pay any attention to my opinions on what she should write and who she should cast in her dramas. But isn’t it lovely to imagine?

23 thoughts on “How Last Tango in Halifax Can Atone to Its Lesbian Fan Base”

  1. So you don’t think the messaging sent with the storytelling was a problem? That just replacing one “lesbian” character for another is all it takes to make everything A-OK after the events that happened? Are the lesbians you know really that shallow? I do know women that will continue to watch because they are enamored in one way or another with Sarah Lancashire’s Caroline and refuse to give up seeing that character’s life progress but that is a whole other thing than thinking it a simple matter to bring on a new female love interest.

    Also, do you think that lesbians are the only people that Sally needs to atone to for the mess she made of Series 3? That our TV characters are still marked as an Us vs Them situation because no straight people could have possibly been offended by the storytelling?

    Finally, I couldn’t help notice that of the 3 actresses you mention only 1 (to my limited knowledge) is non-English with a minority background (Simone Lahbib). So, yeah, Heather Peace sounds like a brilliant solution to all that ills that show. But, hey, as long as the actress is already a familiar lust-vehicle to enough lesbians then everything should be right as rain. Right?

    1. The best choice would have been to leave Kate in the story. But that mistake was made and now there has to be a way to carry on with something that will appeal to viewers. I’m not saying one character is replaceable with another. I’m saying there has to be some effort to fix the mess.

      And yes, I think (in fact I know) that straight people are offended by what happened in season 3.

  2. Hi Virginia, I was thinking about your list of replacements for Kate. Obviously they all have one thing in common: they have all played lesbian characters in the past on lesbian-centered shows. I was thinking that the two actresses who played Caroline and Kate- Sarah Lancashire and NIna Sosanya- had never played a lesbian before and yet they were an inspired choice. The show-runners just put the two of them together and magic just organically happened. It’s when the show contrived to bring in an actress from OITNB to play Kate’s mother that the whole thing seemed forced. I mean, was that so stupid or what? They changed the character’s entire backstory just to get Miss Claudette in there. So, I don’t envy Sally. She’s damned if she does and damned if she doesn’t replace Kate. You can’t replace perfection. Her “choice” for Caroline’s love interest has nowhere to go but down in most lesbian fans’ estimation IMO. No, the ONLY way to make this right is to bring back Kate, say in flashbacks.

    1. I like the flashback idea. That’s brilliant.

      I suggested those particular names because I know how loyal fans are to actresses who have played beloved lesbian characters. I was thinking the loyalty might help SW get herself out of the mess she’s gotten herself into. If that is even possible at all. I hope she learns from her mistakes, because it would be a shame if she threw up her hands and never wrote another lesbian character again in future projects.

      The thing that bugged me about Kate’s mother was that her father was Nigerian, so I assumed her mother was of English descent. Then a woman of color shows up as the mother and I felt thrown for a loop.

  3. Without bringing rain down on you, Virginia (you were only bringing us the possibilities,) I too want Kate back. As has been mentioned in other suggestions, there are ways, especially in the soap-like venue that LTiH has become. Flashbacks, dreams, re-dos, back story et al. But yes, awful transgressions were made in S.3., including whack-o story lines, attention paid to minor characters while decimating the major themes plus homophobia, racism.What bothers me most is the accolades it continues to get. Reminds me of the rapture for Donald Trump in the US.

    1. Soaps do anything – bring back the dead – no problem!

      Donald Trump is such a cavalcade of bullshit, I hate the thought that a female writer I like could be anything like him.

      Anyone can screw things up, even women who’ve written some of the best women characters on television. The question is, do you learn from it?

      1. It took a while, but I can separate most of SW’s terrific writing from whatever the hell she was doing in Season 3.It’s okay to admire what is admirable,but also to dislike what is not admirable.

  4. Why would SW kill Kate in the first place to bring in another lover. Could it be that the skin tone and hair texture is just not right. She would surely love the three choices you made.I`m just saying.

    1. I don’t think it was a racial issue. I think it was just short-sighted on SW’s part. She wanted to mend the rift between Caroline and Celia and thought Kate’s death would do it. I’m sure it seemed like a good idea at the time, but I’ll bet in retrospect she wishes she’d done it differently.

      By the time we get a 4th series on the air it will be probably two full years since series 3. Two years, maybe more. People move on. Life goes on. Caroline can’t be expected to stand still. Even if it isn’t one of the three people I suggested, I feel like Caroline should have someone.

      1. Sorry, Virginia, but I never bought Saly’s line that killing Kate was the only thing that would get mother and daughter to reconcile. She said at the Square Chapel event in September that she did it for the dramatic possibilities. She talked about the one-shot of Caroline crying on Celia’s shoulder and how great that was. She also kind of blamed her script editor and Nicola Schindler of Red Productions. No, I think she just got lazy and bored with Last Tango and wanted to shake things up. She never gave a thought to how using the most tired, lesbian death trope storyline would affect her many lesbian fans. The only thing she regrets is that “people are going on about it.”
        No, I think it is incumbent upon those of us who watch and comment on lesbian and POC representation in the media to keep putting pressure on Sally and Red Productions to acknowledge how TV shows like Last Tango which portray homophobic and racist characters are damaging and hurtful to many people all over the world. The message that we should be sending is that they will NOT be getting our financial support or praise until they prove that they 1) understand that such language can be devastating to those people; and 2) such language must be rebutted. The only way they can do that is by showing the characters who are hurtful to the lesbian and minority characters that it is not okay and to call them on it. You understand this, Virginai. I know you do. You review and give publicity to TV shows and movies that portray these underrepresented characters ( people of color and LGBT people) in a positive way. You even submitted a question (similar to mine) about whether Celia will “change her views” which got read at that Square Chapel talk but was later cut out. That is why I am disappointed that you would write a blog basically saying, “Well, all is forgiven, Sally Wainwright, if you simply give Caroline a new love interest played by some lesbian icon.” Please do not let Sally off that easily. She has some serious work to do to restore the trust she destroyed with that horrible storyline in Series 3. I for one will not be watching unless and until Celia and the other narrow-minded, unkind characters get their comeuppance in the Christmas special.

  5. Sorry, Virginia but simply giving Caroline another love interest, regardless of race, colour or creed, will not mend fences for me. Sally had perfection in Kate and Caroline and she recklessly chose or, as she would have us believe,was forced to destroy this beautiful couple. Anything else will be scrappy seconds. Caroline is not Caroline without Kate and vice versa. It will take an extraordinary story line to recover from these events and although SW is a brilliant writer at times (as proven by the current series of Happy Valley so far), I think it is even beyond her scope to put this back together to everyone’s satisfaction. I think we have to face the fact that Kate is lost to us. Caroline without a special love in her life is to sad to contemplate. Caroline with someone else, for me, is equally dismal. I will begrudgingly watch LTiH series 4(if there is one) or the Xmas special…the beginning at least… to see what direction it will take and because I am in awe of the talented Sarah Lancashire but I will be very surprised (and pleasantly so) if SW does pull off some sort of miracle.

    1. But Sally and Red Productions do not have to pull off some sort of miracle. All they have to do is convince you to watch (unless you are pirating episodes). And they have done that.

    1. for Drea,

      Kate’s character was doomed from the day she walked into Caroline’s office! There was NEVER any hope for Kate!
      Caroline and Celia’s family didn’t accept Kate, nor wanted to accept Kate. And true ‘the blatant homophobia and racial bias on the program’ was never addressed. I don’t even think Wainwright had any intentions of addressing all those issues, because apparently the show was based on her Mother and the reunion of her long lost boyfriend! The family dynamics became the show and Caroline and Kate’s relationship became the show and the talking point for most of us.
      I think Wainwright could see that the story had fallen off its tracks and didn’t like what she saw and had to quickly pull it back onto the tracks, back to the boring old story of the conservative arrogant mother and the kind old gentleman on how they met!

      For them to say Kate’s role was NOT integral to the show was just totally bullshit! …one of many excuses as to why they killed Kate was another when Caroline and Celia’ s close mother and daughter relationship had be torn and seriously needed to be repaired! another cheat shot excuse!

      And yes I agree ‘Wonderful, kind Kate was the only truly compassionate person on the show’. Kate was the only one that brought the honesty out of all the other characters. I loved Kate’s character, because at one stage in my life I was a Kate. I was so blown away by the selfishness of Caroline! particularly around the time when she said to Celia about Kate wanting to have a baby – Caroline says “I’ll talk Kate out of it” …I ask What woman or best friend talks another woman out of wanting to have a baby?? I just thought that storyline was so thoughtless and insensitive…there was never any regard for Kate, and I don’t blame Kate for leaving Caroline…in fact Kate was too good for Caroline and her family! Celia only apologise to Kate because she was loosing Allan…
      Caroline was some sort of an airhead when it came any racial issues…and should have strongly demonstrated and stood up to Celia by telling her to well and truly sod off (as you say in the UK) but she didn’t!
      I truly don’t understand why Caroline needs to be in another relationship! why can’t she be a single mother? what is it, tradition? why do women have to rush into another relationship? Caroline is not an insecure character in fact she’s the opposite.

      So if this story is based Wainwright’s mother and is portraying a narrow-minded and bigoted person, then what does that say about the writer? which is probably why Wainwright can’t address those issues!!! I mean if your going to depict Kate’s ethnic background and racially and sexually discriminate ones character throughout all the seasons, well then surely you can’t be that lazy to even attempt to address some of issues!?!?
      Wainwright as a writer has always stressed the importance of strong female characters, but has contradicted herself with the three main female characters in LTIH…The show has been a total let down and particularly in relation to portraying strong black and white women!

      I have a feeling that we wont see much of Flora, because it relates to Kate & Caroline’s story…and I don’t think Wainwright will want to make too much of a whoa or fuss about flora and Caroline…
      The show did reflect certain parts of society, and you know with all its faults, the lack consistency and flow, I’ll admit I loved the show up until Kate got killed off! But for me, as a black woman I stopped watching, because my heart stopped for Nina…I felt for Nina Sosanya! and for being the only black actor on the show, I just knew exactly how she felt and know how hard it would have been to put on a brave face and carry on acting as a fucking Ghost!
      What an insult to the story and to the actor.
      I have had my suspicions about the show and still believe that there was other factors that resulted in Kate being killed off…Its just too obvious…

      1. Jemah D,
        I think you make some great points. I too have wondered about SW’s own biases if she allows these racial and anti-lesbian epithets to go unchallenged. I think you put it perfectly. We all kept waiting for confident Caroline to say “Sod off” to her mother but it never happened. Why not is a question only Sally Wainwright can answer, but no one in the media is asking her.
        I urge you to write and tweet her and RED productions, write comments on interviews that depict Sally as perfect and wonderful, do whatever you can to speak out. As a black woman you speak from an experience I cannot. I wish we could hear what Nina REALLY thinks about that insulting ghost storyline, but she has to toe the line to keep getting jobs.
        I hope you are wrong about not seeing much of Flora on future Last Tango episodes, but I suspect you may be right. Maybe SW will surprise us and use Flora as a vehicle to address all of the racial and homophobia, but I can’t trust her to do what’s right. RED Productions is still using a still photo of Nina and a clip of her wedding to Caroline in a promotional video on their website. That is just wrong and I told them so in a comment on their website.
        Keep up the good fight to urge these showrunners to make underrepresented groups visible. It is so vitally important that we the audience hold their feet to the fire on social media because the mainstream press is just interested in fawning over these people to get interviews.

        1. Drea, thanks for your reply and your support to keep fighting…I have only just discovered your other comments on this site, so I am in the middle of reading those as well…
          I am not a writer, but I love to write, so forgive me if my writing sounds backwards or all over the place! cause I get excited writing about the all the injustices and the inequalities of the world…

          Oh I’m keeping up the fight! And I have written to Wainwright many times but no reply! I am blocked from her, Karen Lewis and Red productions on Twitter.

          YEAH how great would that be for Wainwright to use Flora as a vehicle to address all the racial and homophobic issues that present! I would become half a fan again to Wainwright!!! But it will never happen, she’s too narrow minded and snotty to even know where to start…

          I cant help but to think that there were many biases going on with Wainwright…We’ll just take a look at the cast of Happy Valley!
          I think its also a case of ‘Not what you know, But who you know’ too!

          I am a fan of both Nina Sosanya and of Sarah Lancashire. The fans say Sarah was robbed of a BAFTA for her role in HV 2015…and I say Nina was robbed as an actor playing the character of Kate in LTIH…as a fan I write in support of Nina.

          I watched the BAFTAS that night and read all the reviews about Sarah not winning! and how Sarah lost to Georgina Campbell (a young black beautiful and extremely talented actor) in ‘Murdered by my boyfriend’. – the reviews were sounding all too much like the Oscar’s!
          The look on Georgina’s face thou when she won was prue shock! Compared to the look on Wainwrights face which was full of shock and distraught!! I thought some of Sarah’s fans went a bit too far with the racial comments and some even wrote that she was disappointed that she lost to Georgina. I don’t believe Sarah is that type of person. I think Sarah would have been proud that they selected a young black actor. I wrote to Georgina shortly after ‘congratulating’ her on her BAFTA win and she kindly replied back.

          I was hoping for Wainwright to select Georgina to play a part in HV series 2! but that wasn’t the case and or with other Uk writers as well, so unfortunately for the majority of viewers seeking diversity, HV continues to keep it mainstream, and in true theme of revenge/spitefulness Wainwright selects Shirley Henderson who was also nominated in the same BAFTA category as Sarah and Georgina…!!!

          I hope I’m alive to see the world just STOP with all the nastiness and sufferings of the injustices, inequality, inhumanity and war amongst us all…
          And that TV writers represents a true depiction of today’s society!!!! Starting with Wainwright!.

          Jd

        2. Virginia, please accept my Apologies, I had no intentions of upsetting you, your viewers or site. I am someone who likes to write and not in a subtle way, I like to tell it like it is…again I do apologise for causing any stress. Jd

          1. Jemah, I didn’t intend my remarks for you alone. I just want to make sure the discussion on this post stays open and kind both from and for all the readers. (And on the post Drea wrote as well.) Thanks for visiting and for commenting. I appreciate it.

  6. As the owner and operator of this establishment, I need to step in. Although there haven’t been any comments on this topic I have refused to allow, some are pushing my limits. It’s okay to be disappointed in what happens on your favorite show. But making unkind assumptions about the writers or actors motives, intentions, and personal outlook is not. Let’s keep it civil, people.

  7. Yeah Sarah Lancashire! Enough of the violence on “happy valley”! She can focus on loving her favorite languages teacher. Now if only Ms Wainwright will consent to bringing back Kate.

    And remember, none of them have met the right woman……yet.

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