Last Tango in Halifax begins season 3 on Valentine’s Day. Several important things happen on Valentine’s Day that require a lot of processing on the part of the characters in Last Tango in Halifax.
I’m changing the way I recap Last Tango in Halifax for series 3. I’m going to be much briefer and rely more on images to tell the story. I’ll leave out most of the details and only hit the high points. Hope you like this way of doing it.
Warning: there are many spoilers ahead.
We begin in a restaurant where Alan (Derek Jacobi) is telling Celia (Anne Reid) a funny joke. Once the laughter dies down, Alan tells Celia that Gillian (Nicola Walker) has a date with a man named Gary (Rupert Graves).
Gillian seems quite struck by Gary. He begins the date by apologizing for asking her out on Valentine’s Day because he didn’t mean for it to be that kind of date.
Gary and Gillian sit down. He begins a long story about his mother, the dates on his mother’s marriage certificate, the date of his birth, and what his 88 year old aunt had to say about it all.
Caroline (Sarah Lancashire) and Kate (Nina Sosanya) celebrate Valentine’s Day by making out on the couch while eating chocolates.
Caroline produces a ring and proposes to Kate. Kate says YES!
Gary is finally nearing the end of his story. The big finish is that he thinks Alan is his father. Alan was already married to Gillian’s mom when Gary’s mother met him. Gillian refuses to believe the story. She had just been born when Alan would have been with Gary’s mother. She says her dad isn’t like that.
Gary shows Gillian a photo of his mother. Her name was Mary.
Caroline rather awkwardly explains to her mother that she and Kate are getting married. Very soon because the baby is almost here and they want to be married before the baby is born.
Celia, who claims to be very liberal, wants to know if Caroline will be the father. She doesn’t understand how the baby will be able to keep two mums straight and says a child needs a father. They argue about the quality of fathering from the various men they know. They argue about why Caroline turned out the way she is. Caroline quotes Lady Gaga and says she was born this way.
Celia takes tea to Alan and says, “The lesbians are getting married.” He’s delighted by the news. When she tells him how liberal she is – right before she starts complaining about the news – Alan’s wry smile says he doesn’t believe her.
She prattles on with homophobic and racist snark and Alan seems disappointed by her all over again.
Gillian makes an urgent call to Caroline at work. She explains about Gary and about the woman named Mary. She’s still in denial. She won’t believe it about her dad. She tells Caroline about a little tin box she played with as a child. It had a photo of a woman in it. “Mary” was written on the back of the photo. Gillian wants Caroline to explain about Gary to Celia so Celia can explain it to Alan.
Caroline says the news will upset her mother if she realizes that Alan is a cheater just like her louse of a husband was. She says Gillian will have to talk to Alan herself.
After work, Caroline arrives home to find a paint splattered Kate (she’s painting the nursery) talking about dates for the wedding. Lawrence (Louis Greatorex) asks what’s going on and Caroline tells him she and Kate are getting married. He’s not thrilled.
John (Tony Gardner) calls to say Judith lost the baby. She was 30 weeks and had to deliver it. He comes by the house to talk it over. He tells Lawrence how precious he is. Kate can hardly stand to hear him talk or to think about the loss of the baby. She’s upset by his story.
Harry’s (Paul Copley) problems are legal. He’s being sued over an accident in his narrow boat. Ellie (Katherine Rose Morley) is upset with him because he’ll have to sell his house to pay the legal fees.
Gillian calls Alan outside where they can talk. She asks him about Mary. She tells him Gary thinks Alan is his father.
Alan denies everything. Denies cheating on Gillian’s mom. Denies ever knowing anyone named Mary. He gets quite upset and starts to leave. However, by the time he’s almost outside of the barn, he stops and turns back to Gillian.
He admits it could be true. He says he never knew there was a child involved. Gillian just shrinks – deflates – when he tells her the truth.
That night neither Alan nor Gillian can sleep. They discover each other up in the middle of the night and have a talk. Alan doesn’t know if he wants to meet Gary. Gillian feels betrayed by his betrayal of her mother.
Alan is shocked and worried. He wants time to think about whether or not to meet Gary. Gillian tells him what Caroline said about how this will upset Celia. He doesn’t want to tell Celia.
Alan and Celia go to Harry’s house to help him with selling it. Alan is distant, quiet, and has no patience for Harry’s problems.
Lawrence is minding his own business at school, trying to process the news about his mom and Kate with Angus (Felix Johnson) when someone sticks this sign on his back. Lawrence attacks the boys and they have a fist fight.
Caroline sees the note, sees her beat up son, and wants to know who did it. Lawrence won’t tell but Angus does. Caroline wants the other boy’s parents to come in the next day.
Gillian and Robbie (Dean Andrews) have apparently been seeing each other on the sly ever since Christmas. Robbie is still with Cheryl. Gillian spends some quality post-sex time explaining all the news to Robbie and talking it through with him.
The amount of processing needed by the characters to make sense of the news in this episode is enormous.
Celia and Alan are out somewhere. He still looks worried but is very clear about one thing: he loves Celia. She says they should use the money they were going to spend on a house to go to Australia and New Zealand to visit family. He didn’t know she had family in Australia and comments that there’s so much they don’t know about each other. Hint, hint, we know so little about each other.
Alan definitely wants to get away. Leave your worries behind you: that sounds like a great idea.
Gary and Gillian meet for coffee. She tells him her dad confirmed that it could be true. She finally accepts that Gary is her brother. He wants to meet Alan.
Lawrence is worried about his mom’s upcoming wedding and about whether the parents of the kids he fought with will get Caroline fired. Caroline reassures him that nobody will be pushing her around.
Caroline and Gillian have another long talk. Caroline invites Gillian to the wedding, but she lies and says she can’t come. Why, Gillian, why do that to Caroline?
Gillian tells Caroline that Gary is her brother. Caroline says someone is going to have to tell her mum.
Alan decides to meet Gary. He lights up at the first sight of his son.
I’m happy to see Derek Jacobi walking well with no apparent limp or pain. I was worried about his knee injuries. Here’s to a good recovery! Derek Jacobi had to make a run through a dozen emotions in this episode. Shock, fear, anger, anxiety, disappointment, love. He’s a brilliant actor.
Speaking of acting: Nina Sosanya killed it in this episode. The way she stared at that ring box while Caroline made her inept way through a proposal. The way she reacted to John’s story about losing the baby. Why doesn’t Kate have a family? Her mum has been mentioned before. It’s like the only people who are going to be at the wedding are Caroline’s people. Shouldn’t Kate get to have some family around, more backstory?
Celia’s husband, John, Alan, Robbie. Wow, the cheating men are piling up. Surely it can’t only be men who cheat.
I loved the way the shots were framed and angled and composed in this episode. Some really beautiful images. Nigel Cole directed this episode. Is he the one who deserves the credit for the gorgeous photography? Kudos for the scenes in Caroline’s office, the way Gillian leaned over the table to tell Alan what a nice man Gary is, the backlit scene in the barn, the way Caroline’s proposal was shot over the mound of Kate’s pregnant belly, Gillian’s bare shoulders next to Robbie’s hairy chest, and many more beautifully organized images.
The interviews and previews and teasers for season 3 have showed Caroline alone with the baby. No Kate. The interviews also say that there is some catastrophe for Caroline this year. It better not be something to do with Kate dying. It better not be that.
Images ©Red Production Company