We’ve seen all of season 1 of Last Tango in Halifax now. It’s a good time for some reflections and personal reactions. There are many – I’ll list them randomly.
- Credit for creating, directing and producing this show falls to Sally Wainwright. She won the BAFTA TV Award for Best Writer: Drama for the series. The show itself won the BAFTA TV Award for Best Drama Series. Derek Jacobi, Anne Reid and Sarah Lancashire were all nominated for BAFTA TV Awards. I think the awards and nominations were well deserved!
- Except for Derek Jacobi, every face in the cast was new to me. Every performance was outstanding. I’m particularly enamored with Sarah Lancashire. She projects great strength and grace and is positively luminous.
- Nina Sosanya is fabulous. She’s had roles since 1992 – over 20 years as an English actress – and I’m just discovering her. She was in a number of TV series as well as Love, Actually which I must rewatch and look for her.
- It’s frustrating to be in the U.S. and want to see TV shows with these English actors and actress and not be able to get them.
- I really enjoyed the way the story explored the parallel lives of Caroline and Gillian and other characters. From the first episode when we saw Caroline sweeping down the aisle in her cap and gown as headmistress of her school while Gillian swept through the aisles of the supermarket, we knew we were in for a look at their two parallel worlds. The fact that they shared the same birthday, that they were both so lonely, and that they reached out to each other so quickly really worked for me. It’s like they are the sisters they laughed about being if their parents had lived different lives.
- I loved the way Celia’s happiness gave Caroline permission to find her own happiness.
- Gilllian was so capable and self-reliant while still being vulnerable and way too impulsive about her choices in men. She built walls and backed up tractors and installed a clutch without batting an eye. What a woman! She is one of the most interesting and most messed up characters I’ve seen in ages. All props to Nicola Walker for making her so fascinating (although she always looks like she’s checking the oil when she’s supposed to be installing a clutch).
- I loved that Celia and Alan found each other again using Facebook! Technology changes our lives in so many ways, particularly in the way we connect with others. I’m an elder myself, and I know that many elders use technology like Facebook and blogs on a regular basis – it’s a very ordinary thing – and it’s good to see it treated as ordinary in a TV series.
- The relationship between Celia and Alan was simply a delight. I loved that Celia and Alan were in their 70s and still vital, engaged, in love, and great dancers.
- I liked the sets and the houses they used and the way the sets were lit. The lighting was wonderful. I loved the scenery around the farm and the landscape vistas we got to see. The costumes were perfect.
- Celia’s transition from homophobic judging and condemning Caroline to accepting her choices – even though it was forced by Alan – was important. It happened really fast (we only had one episode for her to have an epiphany and grow) but it showed that a woman of 75 can be flexible and adaptable and evolve. That is a big deal. Anne Reid’s performance in episode 6, where all the drama over accepting Kate takes place, was stunningly good.
- Celia and Alan fell in love as teens. Caroline told her mother at 18 that she was interested in women. Decades pass in which those early realizations and attachments don’t come to pass. Yet they remain as strong a pull on the heart as ever. When those buried emotions finally make their way out of the subterranean world where they were stored, they are as true as ever they were. This is another example of the parallel story telling that works so well in this series.
- I love that Celia had to deal with Kate not just as a woman but as a woman of color. Celia had to deal with both issues as part of her character development – a lot to tackle in one episode. (Race relations in England are very different from the sorry state of race relations in the U.S., but it still seemed to be a hurdle for Celia.)
- The three boys, Gillian’s one and Caroline’s two, were so protective of their mothers. They hit it off immediately when they met at the engagement do at the farm. In the same way that Caroline and Gillian are connected, I think the boys connected as well – another parallel storyline.
- Alan and Gillian’s relationship as father and daughter was so loving and supportive. Inspiring.
- John (Tony Gardner) worried that Caroline faked it with him, and that she was thinking of a woman when they were together. His questioning of his entire sexual history and manhood when he learns that Caroline is seeing a woman is beautifully done and rings true. If it had been another man he would have been hurt or jealous or territorial. But another woman really rattled his world. It was important that Caroline reassured him, told him she’d loved him and enjoyed sex with him. It was important partly because he needed to hear it but also because we needed to know that Caroline accepted her choices and her past without blame or regret.
- In a series about second chances, I like that we waited until the final episode of season 1 to find out what Gillian longed for in terms of second chances. Gives us something new to look forward to in season 2.
- Assuming Celia and Alan do get married in season 2, I’d like to see Caroline and Gillian kind of adopt each other as sisters. This will depend on how Caroline reacts to the news (you know she’ll find out) about Gillian’s little birthday boink with John. Try as I might, I cannot predict how the writers are going to have Caroline respond to this information.
- Judging from videos I’ve seen on YouTube, PBS cuts out small bits and even whole scenes of the BBC version to air on PBS. I guess it’s a time constraint problem, but I wish we could have seen every second of this show without any snipping.
- Anne Reid and Sarah Lancashire have played mother and daughter before, in a series called Rose and Maloney, which I don’t find available for streaming in the US. (See also Sarah Lancashire in Rose and Maloney.)
Reviewers are supposed to find things to criticize, things that are not well done. I simply don’t find anything about Last Tango in Halifax that isn’t wonderful storytelling. Season 2 cannot get here fast enough!
Season 1 of Last Tango in Halifax is available on DVD from Amazon on November 12, in case you know someone who’d enjoy getting it as a holiday gift. It’s also available from iTunes.
Do you have some reflections on season 1? Share them in the comments!