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.
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!
The episode opens with Celia (Anne Reid) and Alan (Derek Jacobi) having a cup of coffee on their way to Celia’s. Celia tells Alan that Caroline told her when she was 18 and home from her first year at Oxford that she was interested in a woman. Celia said she didn’t want people pointing and saying things. Alan wanted to know what happened. Celia revealed there was one girl but Caroline never brought her home. In a few years Caroline met John and Celia thought it was forgotten.
Caroline (Sarah Lancashire) arrives home after taking a drunk and bloody Judith to the emergency room. Kate (Nina Sosanya) is there waiting. Caroline asks how the boys are. Kate says do you want the bad news first or the even worse news?
Kate tells Caroline that Gillian (Nicola Walker) rang and warned about Celia coming home. Kate says Celia is apparently taking the news badly. Plus, Lawrence now knows about Kate.
Caroline goes up to Lawrence’s (Louis Greatorex) bedroom. He is in tears and hugs her fiercely, saying he doesn’t want people being mean to her. She hugs him back and says, nobody is going to be mean to her, she can handle mean. Since we saw her effectively shut down the male teacher who tried to intimidate her, we know she’s right. Lawrence appreciates the reassurance, however.
At the farm, John (Tony Gardner) wakes up in Gillian’s bed. He goes outside to find her working on the clutch. Paul (Sacha Dhawan) is sitting outside reading a manual on Land Rovers while Gillian works. John comments that Gillian is up early. She says, “Early? It’s half past 7.”
“We made love,” John says. Gillian says, “You were upset. It was my birthday. Go pour yourself some tea.” John seems to want to process the night, Gillian doesn’t. She lets him know with her attitude that it was nothing but sex and she’s not interested in anything more. Paul’s a bit jealous. Gillian isn’t interested in that either.
Caroline goes to her mother’s cottage in the early morning. She looks like a child, steeling herself to face an angry parent. She says she’s sorry Celia heard what she heard the way she heard it. Alan tries to leave them alone, but Celia insists he stays.
Alan looks at Celia in dismay. He doesn’t like the way Celia is dismissing Caroline.
Caroline tries to explain how she and Kate became close and how things developed. Caroline said, “She thinks the world of me, and I think a lot about her.”
Celia raises her voice and calls it sudden. Caroline says it isn’t sudden, that she tried to talk to her mom about it when she was in university. Celia ignores that and says, “Why did you marry John?”
Caroline answers that she married him because she like him and thought they could have a good life, which they did until he ran off with Judith.
Caroline wants her mother to get it. Caroline says, “I’m too old to pretend anymore.” Celia is untouched by the pain in Caroline’s face. Caroline says, “I’d like both of you to meet Kate.”
Celia says, “No thank you.” Caroline insists they must. She says she’s called Kate McKenzie, which prompts Celia to ask if she’s Scottish. Caroline answers, “No, she’s Nigerian.” The Brits are far more enlightened about race that we are here in the states, but the implications of the word Nigerian wash across Celia’s face in an unpleasant way. Celia announces that she and Alan have decided against the school chapel and will make other plans.
Celia says it would be better if she moved out. Alan watches her walk away from Caroline with a horrified expression on his face.
Alan arrives back in Halifax on the train, where Gillian is waiting to pick him up. They stop in a pub where he tells her the story. Gillian says, “Why does she have to move out so fast? Is she afraid she’s going to get infected with lesbian spores?”
Alan explains that he told Celia that Kate seemed like a nice person and that was what mattered. He says it’s nothing these days, people don’t bat an eye at lesbians.
John arrives home. Caroline says, “I specifically asked you not to tell my mum.” He says he’s sorry. He says he went to Halifax to talk to Gillian. Caroline says, “I knew you were infatuated with her.” He keeps quiet about the sex with Gillian. He offers to apologize to Celia.
Then Alan asks her about the hundreds – thousands – of times they had sex. He wants to know what she was thinking about.
She says she can’t remember. She says, “I was a good wife. You blew it, not me. I liked having sex with you. I’m sorry if that doesn’t compute but it’s true. I liked you. I loved you. I wanted to have children with you.”
He says he feels used. She talks about how sordid Judith’s flat is and how vulnerable Judith is. When John asks what she was doing with Judith she answers, “I was having sex with her.” He believes it for a moment, but she quickly adds, “That was a joke.” She explains about Judith accidentally slashing her wrist in the garden, William fainting, and how it was a memorable birthday.
At the farm, Paul and Raff (Josh Bolt) are on the couch playing video games like old friends when Gillian and Alan arrive.
Alan and Gillian go in the kitchen where Alan continues to worry over his disappointment in Celia. He says, “She reads The Daily Mail.” Gillian turns very seriously and says, “How long have you known this?” Then they giggle. They talk about Celia’s honesty and plain spokenness, which Alan normally likes. Alan says he was shocked by how unkind and unthinking she had been toward Caroline. Gillian says, “You’re not going to fall out with her.” He doesn’t answer.
Celia comes to Caroline’s door and asks to talk to her. She says it’s been several days since she talked to Alan. He wants Celia to meet Kate. Caroline says she can cook dinner for Kate and Celia and Alan. Celia mutters Oh, god, under her breath as Caroline leaves. She’s only doing it for Alan.
The night of the dinner, the boys are helping with the table, Kate is helping make salads. Celia and Alan are in her cottage waiting for 8:00 to go to dinner. He tells her he thinks she’s bigoted, small minded and old fashioned. She denies it and claims she is not. She’s bewildered by his opinion.
Robbie (Dean Andrews) arrives at the farm. Gillian greets him with a big smile. Robbie’s brought wine for dinner with Gillian. He’s a bit surprised to see Paul still there, but he accepts it. Their dinner will include Robbie, Gillian, Paul and Raff. It’s odd, but it works for Gillian.
At the other dinner party at Caroline’s, Kate is trying very hard, talking to Celia and Alan about how wonderful their story is, which she calls uplifting and extraordinary. Celia is being difficult. Alan keeps attempting to jolly Celia in to behaving better. He says William and Raff put their names on Facebook. Kate says, “I know all about it. Caroline told me.” She takes Caroline’s hand when she says this. Celia looks horrified.
Alan reminds Celia to ask Caroline about using the chapel after all. She acts reluctant to ask. Kate offers a choir – seems she runs the choir at school.
William mentions he’s in the choir. Lawrence says that’s because William is a puff. He says William fainted.
Kate asks what music they would like and Alan mentions “The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba.” Celia is still reluctant to talk about this with Kate. By now Caroline and Celia are shooting daggers at each other with their eyes.
Celia asks why William fainted and Lawrence says, Judith slashed an artery and he got sprayed in mad alkie-woman blood. Kate tries to make light of it, which lets Celia know she was there. Kate asks about honeymoon plans.
Caroline asks to talk to Celia in the other room. They leave the room, but everyone can hear them arguing. Caroline says, “Why are you being like this?” Celia says, “I can’t stand seeing you make a fool of yourself.”
Celia says that Kate is only being nice to Caroline because she wants a promotion. She says that Caroline doesn’t love Kate, a fact she thinks she knows because Caroline didn’t say it outright the other morning. Kate hears this and looks hurt. Alan is mortified on Kate’s behalf. Celia says, “It turned my stomach when she touched you.” Caroline says, “She touched my hand.”
Celia goes back to her cottage. Alan lingers. He asks Kate if she’s all right. She says she’s tough as an old boot. Kate calls a cab and goes outside to wait for it. Caroline chases her outside and asks her to stay. Kate says, “I always knew you didn’t feel the same about me as I feel about you.” She leaves even as Caroline asks her again not to go.
At Celia’s cottage, Celia says, “Well, that’s done.” Alan says, “Yes, that’s done,” in a sad voice. She asks if he’s all right. He says, “No, I’m disappointed.”
Morning in Halifax and Alan has come home on the train again. Gillian and Alan stop at the pub for a talk. He tells her that he thought Celia should try to get on with Kate. He was hurt because Celia told him that her relationship with Kate wasn’t any of his business. He told her they’d reached the end of the line. Celia answered that she couldn’t feel something she didn’t. Gillian is sorry that he thinks it’s ended. He looks terribly sad.
At home, Celia is sitting alone. It looks as if she’s been doing it for hours. Let’s hope she’s doing some soul searching. When Caroline gets home from work she asks to speak to her. She says Alan’s dumped her. Caroline just says, “Oh.” Celia says it’s all because of Caroline’s business. Caroline says, “Don’t you dare blame me.” Celia says, “I’ve been so happy.” Caroline says, “If it’s any consolation, Kate’s finished with me.” Kate handed in her resignation, which Caroline has in her purse.
Caroline calls her mother a nasty, small-minded old bitch. Celia recoils as if she’d been slapped. John comes in and says, “Don’t speak to your mother like that.” Caroline counters, “I haven’t got a mother.” Celia, who was already miserable about Alan, is clearly hurt deeply by Caroline’s venom. Then Caroline runs up to her room where she starts sobbing.
Gillian and Alan are on the couch at the farm. Gillian tells Alan that Robbie asked her out, proper. She reminds Alan that he apologized the other night. We learn that she went out with Robbie before she married Eddie. She says she always liked Robbie. Alan and Celia seem to have lost their second chance at love. Caroline seems to have lost her second chance at love. Here we are in the last episode of the season and we learn that Gillian is hoping for her own second chance at love. The writing on this show is so good!
Alan is rubbing his chest and dismisses it as indigestion when Gillian is concerned.
Celia goes to Kate’s house. Celia talks about her unhappy marriage, about how Caroline was the one thing that kept her going. She talks about how Caroline reminds her of her dad, whom she still misses. Celia says, “The thing that worried me when she told me when she was 18 – what worried me – was I thought it was my fault, by being so disappointed in Kenneth. I thought it was my fault.”
Kate says, “Celia, that’s not how it works.”
Celia says, “Now I know that.” She adds, ” I just want her to be happy.” She give’s Kate a plaintive look. “Don’t leave her.”
The next thing we see is Celia and Kate arriving at Caroline’s door. Caroline opens it and realizes what’s happened. Celia leaves and heads for the cottage. From Celia’s viewpoint outside the house, we see Kate and Caroline on a couch touching and laughing. Celia smiles.
At her own cottage, Celia sees Alan inside and she’s suddenly joyful, but when she gets the door open and turns on the light, he isn’t there.
In the morning Celia drives to the farm. Only Paul is inside. He tells her that Alan had a heart attack. He says the paramedics brought him back from the dead.
Celia rushes to the hospital where she finds Gillian and Raff in Alan’s room. Gillian is crying, she says she didn’t ring because they split up and he was so unhappy. Celia says she’s put everything right and she needs him to know.
Gillian explains what the doctors said and how bad it is. He hasn’t been conscious at all. Celia wants to sit with him and tell him that she’s put things right. Gillian tells her to go ahead.
Celia sits down and talks to the unconscious Alan telling him that it turns out that she’s not bigoted or small minded, but that she blamed herself for Caroline being “the other way inclined.” She says, “I’ve been on the road to Damascus, come out the other side. They’re back together, the ladies. I’m assuming you and I are back on.”
Caroline arrives at the hospital. She hugs Celia and they apologize to each other. She asks how Alan is and Celia whispers, “Not good.”
Alan is dreaming about their youth, about the time he asked Celia out, the time he asked her to meet him on the bridge at 6 PM and she agreed.
Alan awakes saying, “I always knew you’d turn up eventually, even if it took you 60 years.” Celia says, “Hello.” Alan asks, “Did I come to see you last night or were I dreaming?” He says he loves her and he doesn’t care. She says, “I went round to Kate’s house last night and they’re back together.” Celia says, “You’ll never guess. Kate can play the organ. She can play The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba.”
Alan laughs. Celia smiles. The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba plays in the background. The first season ends on a happy note.
This is Caroline and Gillian’s episode. It’s the rainy evening when Alan (Derek Jacobi) and Celia (Anne Reid) are trapped in the spooky hall they scouted as a wedding location. Gillian (Nicola Walker) is outside with firemen who responded to her flaming Land Rover. She returns to the house, anxious because her dad isn’t home yet and isn’t answering his phone.
Paul (Sacha Dhawan), in all his bloody, beat-up glory on her couch, asks how the fire started. She says they don’t know, but he says someone torched it.
In the old hall, Celia and Alan found candles, food, a deck of cards and a bed. They are on the bed, still wearing their coats. They sing and talk to the creaking noises that might be a ghost. Alan is having chest pains, which he hides from Celia. Alan says, “Do you think anyone’s realized that we’re missing?”
Indeed, pretty much everyone will know they are missing before long. Gillian calls John (Tony Gardner) looking for the two tardy lovers. John gives the phone to Caroline (Sarah Lancashire), who takes note of the fact that John has Gillian’s number and she has his while talking to Gillian about calling her mother. Celia doesn’t answer her phone either.
Gillian mentions that her dad doesn’t have his heart pills and shows her worry, which gets through to Caroline.
Celia flushes a noisy toilet in the old hall, while Alan stands guard with candles and a guide book to the age of this ancient structure they’re stuck in. Drafts and noisy spook them a bit.
Gillian calls her son Raff (Josh Bolt) looking for Alan. Robbie (Dean Andrews) offers his usual trash talk about Gillian and Raff actually stands up for her. Raff offers to go to the farm and to help find his grandad.
Caroline sets off for the police station, as the fears about the missing parents have infected her too.
The fearful spookiness of the hall is making Celia angry and she’s talking about suing. They climb back into the big bed as candles move around and doors open themselves.
Raff and Robbie reach the farm. A couple of Alan’s friends show up, mainly for comic relief. At least they notice Paul sitting on the couch, which is more than Robbie and Raff have mentioned yet.
In the car, Caroline is on the phone with Kate (Nina Sosanya), who brings up Caroline’s suggestion that they go away for the weekend. Kate is looking at a web site about Barcelona and is ready to book a getaway. Caroline says, “Can we talk about it later?” When she reaches the police station, the two old buddies of Alan’s are still about, still bringing the comic relief. Robbie explains that police cameras will tell them where the car was last seen. Gillian suggests they all go home.
Caroline goes with them to the farm. Caroline points at Paul on the couch, asks who he is. Robbie and Raff explain that he’s Paul, an idiot, who was beat up because he’s “not popular.”
Robbie follows Gillian into the kitchen and they finally have the conversation they’ve needed to have for days about what she’s doing with Paul. She says, “It’s been 10 years, do you seriously think I haven’t slept with other people?” He stumbles around and finally admits that all his lashing out was because he likes Gillian himself, a fact obvious to everyone but Gillian all this time. He basically apologizes and she says she appreciates it.
A phone call informs them the car was seen driving on Godley Lane. There’s a discussion about what’s on that road. Nobody knows why they are there, until Paul says, “You can get married at South Whatever Hall.” (I still can’t get the name.) They realize then that Alan and Celia were there looking for a wedding venue.
Cops arrive outside the hall where Alan and Celia are now sleeping peacefully. The cops find the empty car parked there but don’t think to look inside the hall because the manager of the place tells them the Hall was closed all day.
John, home with his boys, talks about not wanting to get a divorce. The younger son gets quite upset over the idea of a divorce.
Caroline and Gillian are cleaning up the kitchen at the farm, washing dishes. They talk. Really talk. They talk about Raff, Paul, John, themselves. Caroline isn’t holding it together very well and welcomes the offer of brandy with enthusiasm. They are starting to care about each other. If two women ever needed a friend, it’s these two. Happy as I am that Alan and Celia found each other, I’m even happier to see these two connect – they both desperately need someone to talk with.
A phone call tells them they’ve found the car, but not Alan and Celia. The police think Alan and Celia have killed themselves, to which Gillian answers, “They’re in love. They’ve never been happier.” Robbie reassures everyone about the situation and offers to go to the hall.
Morning comes and Caroline and Gillian sit outside drinking coffee (tea?). Again, they have a meaningful conversation. This time about Gillian’s husband’s death, about how beautiful what their parents feel for each other is. Gillian talks about how much it bothers her that her mother didn’t pass on the message from Caroline’s mum. Caroline tells her that her mother was a teenager then, and it shouldn’t be held against her. Gillian’s parents were happy. Caroline’s were not. They talk about that, laugh that they might have been sisters.
Celia and Alan wake up, snuggled deep in the covers of their borrowed bed. Celia complains about being stiff but is in a hurry to get out of there. When they get downstairs there are people there who tell them that you have to dial 9 for an outside line and the door was open yesterday for a delivery. Celia wants to call home and finds out the police have been looking for them.
Caroline talks to John about how things are at home with the boys as the phone rings at the farm. It’s Celia calling to say everything is fine. Caroline runs outside with Raff to tell Gillian. There are happy hugs all round, including Gillian and Raff, who definitely needed the shared moment.
John tells his boys they can stay home from school and he heads off for the “supermarket.”
Caroline and Gillian help Paul up the stairs and into bed. This removes him from the living room, but, alas, installs him in Gillian’s bed. Gillian tells him he’ll be out on his ass sooner than he can say compound fracture if he says anything vulgar to Celia.
Alan’s first thought on getting home is for the Land Rover. They go in for tea and Alan’s pills. Gillian explains why Paul’s car is in the yard.
John’s in a coffee shop, where he gives Judith (Ronni Ancona) money for her rent. She wants to be a writer and thought he was going to be a help to her. He tells her she has to put in the work or it won’t happen. She’s mad. He’s busy trying to dump her for good.
Tea in hand, Celia still wants to sue. Caroline points out that you can’t accept the very classy venue free of charge for the wedding and sue at the same time.
In the kitchen, Alan, Gillian and Raff have a family discussion about Paul. Alan says, “You always did pick ’em.” To Raff, he says, “You can’t be stopping with Robbie.” Raff answers he doesn’t mind his mom having a boyfriend but why can’t she pick on somebody who, A, isn’t a dickhead; B, isn’t 300 years younger than she is; and C, isn’t engaged to somebody else. After this most excellent speech he exits. This gives Alan the opportunity to say he wants to go to the doctor. He makes light of his condition, but Gillian knows it’s serious. She makes him promise to call immediately.
When Caroline leaves Gillian hugs her and tells her not to be depressed. Instead of going straight home, Caroline stops for coffee. She watches a happy family and smiles – some decision made, she relaxes visibly.
Alan tells Celia he’s poured her a bubble bath. She says he’s spoiling her. He gives her a kiss. He offers to have coffee ready when she gets out of the bath and heads for the kitchen, where we see him stunned by more chest pain.
Caroline arrives home where John is being cloyingly nice. He brags that he promised himself never to lie to her again, and tells her about giving money to Judith. Everyone is exhausted from being up all night, but John is invigorated by his honestly. Caroline says, “This can work. We can be civil for the boys. I’m seeing someone.” Boom! She won’t tell John who it is. John yells and rages. William comes in and John asks who Caroline could be seeing at school. William instantly realizes it’s Kate, but doesn’t tell his dad that. He’s been so angry with his dad for cheating on his mom. I hope he doesn’t transfer that anger to his mom, because I think his little brother really needs him now. John won’t take finding out about Kate well and Caroline isn’t the best at explaining herself to her children.
Whee! What did you think of this week’s developments?
Last week, Caroline (Sarah Lancashire) drove off with her two boys and Celia (Anne Reid), leaving John (Tony Gardner) standing in the middle of the road at the farm. That’s where we start up this week, with Caroline having an emotional breakdown in the car as she drives erratically away.
Caroline stops the car and gets out. Her oldest son, (Edward Ashley) follows and says he’s sorry about telling her about his dad having Judith in the house. The younger son (Louis Greatorex) follows and the three of them end up in a hug.
Alan (Derek Jacobi) arrives at the police station, where Gillian (Nicola Walker) is waiting for the release of her son Raff (Josh Bolt). Gillian asks her dad is he is angry about her mother’s trick. He says no, he has no regrets. Policeman Robbie (Dean Andrews), who is Raff’s uncle – the one who blames Gillian for his brother’s death – brings Raff out. Robbie makes a remark that Gillian ignores about Paul and they leave.
When Gillian, Alan, and Raff get home, they find John half drunk in the living room. Can’t let all that booze from the engagement party go to waste, now can he? Gillian and John chat in a commiserating way.
Gillian goes to check on Raff. They have a brief exchange. He won’t tell her what Paul was saying about her, and she doesn’t attempt to explain her relationship with Paul.
Alan offers to drive John home in the morning. He asks him not to drink any more. He doesn’t want John throwing up in the new Lexus before Celia’s even had a chance to ride in it! John explains to Gillian about Judith. Gillian says his house is half his and doesn’t see how Caroline can throw him out. He needs to stick up for himself.
In the morning, Alan delivers John to the big house. John blusters in loud and yelling about cooking breakfast and pancakes.
Alan has a bouquet of flowers and knocks on Celia’s door. She’s still in her bathrobe but brings in him and makes him tea.
In the big house John is playing the radio loudly, tossing pans about, singing, and generally acting like he owns the place.
Celia asks Alan if he believes in God. She says she wants to get married in a church. Alan says you don’t have to believe in God to get married in church.
Caroline comes down stairs and John and Caroline conduct a screaming argument that Alan and Celia listen to gleefully. They have a giggling fit while John and Caroline yell at each other.
Gillian tries once more to get Raff to talk to her, but he won’t. She heads off to work. As she’s heading in to the grocery store, Paul comes out. He says he told Raff about the wallpaper in her bedroom and the shoes in her closet to make him believe that he really knew Gillian. She goes into the store and pulls her hair in anguish. She can’t believe she’s involved herself with a fool who would brag to her son about getting into her bed. In a very poignant moment she thumbs through the contacts in her phone, wanting to talk to someone. She looks at Raff’s name and doesn’t call. She looks at her Dad’s name and doesn’t call. Just as she gives up on talking to someone, John calls her. He goes on about how he stuck up for himself and how happy he is with his behavior at home. He thinks Gillian’s a “sweet, exotic creature.” Oh, dear.
Caroline meantime is on the phone with Kate (Nina Sosanya) who gives her very sensible advice like “divorce him and sell the house.” Caroline isn’t quite ready to face this yet, but asks Kate to come over to talk to her.
Caroline goes outside and throws a bucket of water on John. Another loud argument the whole family can hear. She says the marriage is over, dead, and redundant. He refuses to leave.
Alan and Celia are parked on a beautiful scenic overlook holding hands and getting acquainted by exchanging stories. Her marriage was not a happy one. She tells Alan a story about a time when she could have killed her husband but didn’t. However, she vowed to do it if she ever got another chance. Alan is sad she had to go through all that. She asks him to spend the night in her cottage – in the spare room. He grins and says, “I’d have to buy a toothbrush.”
Gillian arrives home from work and finds Raff has moved out. He won’t answer his phone but she finds him at his Uncle Robbie’s. Robbie says he thinks the boy has finally figured out what a mad bitch she is and that he can stay with him as long as he wants. Gillian’s response to this latest upset is to call John. Oh, good grief, she calls John. Her loneliness already has her up to her butt in alligators with Paul, and she calls John. They have a long heart-to-heart about affairs, parenting and John’s marriage.
While John and Gillian are on the phone, Caroline and Kate are talking in the garden.
Kate complains that Caroline’s never really asked anything about her. Caroline seems to expect sympathy with nothing in return. They talk about Michael and how he tried to blackmail Caroline. Kate talks about “the effect” Caroline has on her. Caroline tries to explain her feelings. She talks about not knowing how to be a good friend to anyone or how to have a happy relationship. She describes her early life and how unhappy her parents were. Caroline talked about how different Celia is with Alan than she was with her dad, and how different her life might have been if her mother had loved her father.
Alan and Celia are in her cottage, asleep on the couch, holding hands.
Gillian comes out of the farmhouse in the morning to find Paul, bloodied and horribly beaten in her yard. It wasn’t Raff who did it. I couldn’t understand what he said when he explained who beat him up, but apparently he’s in some sort of trouble. [Note: this part of the story is explained in addendums and a comment. Keep reading.] Someone has threatened to douse him with gasoline and set him afire. She takes him to the doctor.
Caroline is having breakfast. Celia pops in to say she and Alan are going to Halifax. She says they slept together in her double bed, which Caroline is desperate not to hear about. Celia claims they had marvelous sex. (I’m wondering if this really happened or if Celia is exaggerating the truth. All we saw was snuggling on the couch.) Caroline holds her ears.
Gillian reluctantly takes Paul back to the farm after his doctor visit. He isn’t welcome at his own home.
In William’s classroom, Caroline comes in and sends the instructor (Kate) off. She touches Kate’s shoulder in a familiar way. She sits down to watch the students while the Kate is gone. The boy in front of William writes, “Your mum is a lesbian” on his hand and shows it to William.
Judith calls John and wants money. When he doesn’t want to give it to her, she threatens to come to his house.
Alan and Celia are sitting in a church, waiting to talk to the vicar. They have a very funny argument about religion, politics, The Daily Mail and pop songs at funerals. They end up laughing. Celia mentions she wants to walk down the aisle to the strains of “The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba” by Handel. These two are so lovely together.
Celia says she hopes the vicar isn’t a woman. So, of course, the vicar is a woman who questions them about why they want to get married in a church when they haven’t been churchgoers since the 70s. They leave – the church isn’t going to work.
Alan says, “Where would you like to get wed?” and Celia says, “Somewhere classy.” South something Hall – I didn’t get the name of the hall correctly.
Raff returns home to pick up his belongings and finds Paul on the couch, all beat up. Robbie, who drove Raff home, figures out that Gillian has been involved with Paul and tells Gillian she needs to have her head examined. Gillian asks Raff to stay and tells him that she can’t chuck Paul out. Raff leaves anyway.
Alan and Celia arrive at the Hall where they are thinking about holding the wedding. There’s no one about, so they wander through rooms full of an assortment of memorabilia. Alan tells about seeing a ghost in one of the upstairs rooms. They climb spiral stairs and wander through chapels and finally find the room where he saw the ghost. Odd dolls with strange eyes populate the room. There’s a flash of lightning and the lights go out. Celia gets uncomfortable and wants to go. I’m with her – this place is spooky. They race for the exit.
They are locked in. With no reception on their phones and a storm raging outside.
At the farm there’s a flash of light and a boom. Gillian rushes outside to find her Land Rover ablaze in the rain.
ADDENDUM: I wasn’t the only person who could not understand what Paul said about why he was beaten up. I’m seeing people show up on this blog who want to know what he said as well. If any reader could understand him and knows what happened to Paul, please fill us in with a comment. Thanks!
ANOTHER ADDENDUM: I found this on IMDB’s summary of episode 3: “Later a badly injured Paul arrives, beaten up by his girlfriend’s brothers, and she lets him move in.” So that solves the mystery of what he so poorly articulated, It also emphasizes the point, which I did not in my summary, that Gillian revealed to John that part of Paul’s unsuitableness as affair material was that he already had a girlfriend. I love how broken and troubled Gillian is, but I’m ready for her to do something smarter. Like maybe not let an already entangled dude who thinks it appropriate to brag to her teen-aged kid about banging her set up residence on her couch.
Downton Abbey fans, I found a tiny tidbit about season 4 to help tide you over. Hope it helps with the pain of waiting.
Season 3 of Downton Abbey ended with Lady Mary Crawley giving birth to a son as his father accidentally smashed his car into a tree and died.
Season 4 doesn’t begin on PBS until January, but people in the UK can watch it starting soon. A season 4 teaser video lets us see the problems Lady Mary is having dealing with the loss of her husband and her new role as a parent.
We begin back in the cafe where the two daughters went last week to retrieve their parents. They are shocked when the newly engaged Celia and Alan (Anne Reid and Derek Jacobi) announce to their children that they are getting married. Instead of congratulations for the announcement, Gillian (Nicola Walker) rushes off to the loo and Caroline (Sarah Lancashire) claims to be too busy to stay and chat.
Our old young lovers agree to talk tomorrow as the children rush them off. They look at each other with so much affection, it’s simply lovely.
In the car, Celia tries to convince her daughter Caroline that she’s serious. Caroline blows her off by saying she doesn’t have time to think about it. It’s clear that she doesn’t think a marriage will actually happen.
Gillian asks her dad what the hell on earth he thinks he’s doing. He tries to explain about how her mother tricked him by not delivering Celia’s note all those years ago, but he doesn’t quite get it out.
Next day at school Kate (Nina Sosanya) tells Caroline that she told another teacher named Michael about her relationship with Caroline. Kate said all she told was they kissed a couple of times.
Celia calls Alan and says she wants to come over. She asks Caroline’s errant husband John (Tony Gardner) for a ride to rent a car. He asks her to put in a good word for him with Caroline. She doesn’t say she’ll help, but instead asks what he thinks about her news.
At the farm, Gillian tells her father that she thinks she should tell her son Raff (Josh Bolt) that his father actually committed suicide because Raff’s uncle keeps raising the issue of the father’s death.
John calls Caroline at school to see if she will agree to go out to dinner with him. He says he finds the relationship between Celia and Alan life-affirming. Caroline still continues to blow it off. I have to say I agree with John on this one. When he hangs up the phone he finds his girlfriend Judith (Ronni Ancona) at the door. That can’t be good.
At the school, Michael comes into Caroline’s office. He tries to intimidate and threaten her with his knowledge about her and Kate. Her response is, “Sod off, you little prick. Do you really think you can humiliate me? Go for it, genius, spread a few rumors. It will say more about you than it ever will about me. This is 2012. I was single. She’s single. We’re adults. We had a fling. The ladies have landed. Quite a long time ago in fact. Get over it.”
At Caroline’s house, John and Judith are discussing their breakup. Judith wants him back. They start drinking. That can’t be good, either.
At the farm Alan drags a box of photos down from the attic. He and Gillian look through some of them. There are photos of her mother, and her mother with both Alan and Celia. Once again he muffs the chance to explain to her that the only reason he ended up with her mother instead of Celia was because her mother tricked him. Celia arrives in her rented car. In Alan’s eyes it’s like the sun just came out. They talk about where they might live after they are married. His little house, which is currently rented. At the farm. In her cottage at Caroline’s. Three choices, no decision.
Gillian is using rocks to rebuild a wall when her bad boy lover Paul (Sacha Dhawan) drives up. Just as he asks if anyone is at her house, Celia and Alan drive by on their way to lunch. Well, no one’s at the house. Quickie time for Gillian and Paul.
On the drive into town, Celia suggests to Alan that they sell both their small cars and buy one car – something they’ve always fancied. Alan may be dazzled when he learns exactly what Celia’s always fancied.
John and Caroline’s eldest son William (Edward Ashley) arrives home from school to find John and Judith drunk. In his eyes, his dad is now officially a wanker. Gotta say I agree with him, even though John technically is innocent of any wrong doing on this particular occasion. Just as Judith heads out the door, Caroline phones and says yes to going out to dinner with John sometime. I love the way the writers framed these two phone calls about a dinner date for the reunited married folks with Judith’s arrival and departure.
In an auto showroom, Celia and Alan are looking at a red Lexus convertible. You read that right. A red convertible. While they look at the car, they exchange stories about their kids. Celia doesn’t understand why Caroline let John come back. Alan reveals his son-in-law’s suicide. They have trouble getting the salesman to take them seriously and let them drive the car. Ageism is rampant even in the UK.
At the farm, Gillian and Paul have finished their little love fest, and she tells him to bugger off. After he goes, she looks in the mirror with one of those what the hell am I doing looks.
The car salesman is finally talking deal with our favorite lovers. It will cost them about 10,000 (euros? pounds?) each. Turns out Celia drives a hard bargain.
They decide to have an engagement party on Saturday at the farm.
The minute Gillian gets her dad alone again, she brings up the question of telling Raff about the suicide. Alan agrees that it needs to be done. He tells Gillian he thinks it’s wise, one of the kindest things I’ve ever heard a parent say to a child in a television show.
When Gillian does tell Raff, he asks several questions. She tries to reassure him. She talks about how everyone has demons, a line of thought that seems to apply to her more than her dead husband. She mentions that Raff’s dad had a wonderful side and a dark side, and assures him that he doesn’t have a dark side like that. He’s like her dad – kind, thoughtful, balanced.
Celia arrives back home and tells Caroline about the party on Saturday at Alan’s house. They talk a while, giving Celia a chance to explain her feelings and how she doesn’t see her behavior as “rushing.”
This episode is full of deep conversations between parents and their children.
On Saturday morning, as they prepare to go to the engagement party, Caroline almost tells John about Kate, then changes her mind and talks about being snotty to Gillian instead. Then she tells him he can start sleeping in the bedroom with her again.
The engagement party starts off well, conversation is flowing. Alan stands up to give a speech and finally tells the tale of the deception that lead to him and Celia losing touch. Gillian looks gobsmacked when she realizes the implications of the story. As they toast the happy couple, the new Lexus is delivered. Everyone rushes outside to see it. The two daughters finally share a moment of bonding as they look at each other in dismay over their parents car buying behavior.
During the excitement over the new car, the police drive up to take Raff away because he assaulted Paul. Seems Paul was talking about his mother in a way Raff didn’t like. Gillian doesn’t have time to explain to Raff and the police that she’s been shagging Paul. During the arrest, William tells his mom about Judith being at their house. Finally convinced that John is a wanker, Caroline leaves him standing in the middle of the road at the farm and tells him he can’t come back. Feeling guilty about Kate is one thing, but a wanker is a wanker is a wanker. John is yelling at Caroline that she can’t leave him there when Celia walks up and slaps him.
As if Gillian hasn’t had enough to deal with already, we can look forward to learning in episode 3 whether or not she will claim her relationship with Paul or continue to try to hide him from her family. I’m also eager to find out where Celia and Alan are going to live.
What did you think of episode 2? What do you think will happen next?
August: Osage County is the most promising movie, story, cast, whatever, to come along in a very long time. It’s a family drama with many strong women called together by a family crisis at their childhood home in Oklahoma. It’s based on a Pulitzer Prize winning play by Tracy Letts. Letts also wrote the screen play for the film, which debuted this week at TIFF, although it isn’t scheduled to be released in U.S. theaters until December 2013.
Take a look at the trailer.
What a cast! Meryl Streep is the family matriarch, Violet, who suffers from mouth cancer. Sam Shepard plays her husband – an Oklahoma poet who quotes T.S. Eliot. This couple have three daughters played by Julia Roberts, Juliette Lewis and Julianne Nicholson. Roberts is married to Ewan McGregor. They have a daughter played by Abigail Breslin. The sister played by Juliette Lewis arrives with a man in tow, played by Dermot Mulroney. The Julianne Nicholson character lives near her mother, something that probably makes her an expert on the family dysfunction in a way the two other daughters haven’t experienced. Other characters include Violet’s sister (Margo Martindale), her husband (Chris Cooper) and their son (Benedict Cumberbatch).
If that list of names isn’t enough to get your attention, the producer is George Clooney.
Early reviews coming out of TIFF are favorable. Julia Roberts in particular is attracting attention for her performance. It must be an intimidating proposition to try to stand out in a cast like this one, but Julia Roberts has apparently achieved that.
Abigail Breslin – if my math is right – is about 17 now. We’ve been watching her grow since Signs in 2002. She’s been in Raising Helen, Little Miss Sunshine, My Sister’s Keeper and much more. In every part she’s had, she’s demonstrated brilliant talent. Now she’s nearly “all growed up” and will be playing adult parts in the future. This may be the last time we see her as a teen or as someone’s daughter still under the parental wing.
August: Osage County is obviously complete or it couldn’t be playing in Toronto at a film festival. Yet we have to wait until December to see it. This means it will be released with prime Oscar nomination timing. The last thing we see in a year always has a better chance of getting the Oscar votes than something that comes out early in the year. Wouldn’t it be fun to see Julia Roberts get an Oscar nomination out of this one? Or how about a movie by a female writer and full of fabulous female characters getting a nomination as best picture? Now, that would be pretty damn wonderful.
Last Tango in Halifax is a 2012 British series which started on PBS last night. There are only 6 episodes in season 1, so get organized fast to watch this one. Last Tango in Halifax is all kinds of love stories, chiefly one between Celia and Alan, played by Anne Reid and Derek Jacobi.
Here’s the basic setup. Celia and Alan were in love as teens. Through a series of mishaps, they failed to get together. Each married someone else. Fifty years later these two tech savvy elders find each other on Facebook and get together, with plenty of twists and surprises along the way. Reid and Jacobi are absolutely lovely together. It’s so wonderful to see a love story between people in this age group. I suspect that dwelling in the first bloom of love is going to make these two elders act as foolish as teenagers before this story is told.
Sarah Lancashire plays Celia’s daughter, Caroline. In the opening scenes we see her take back her philandering husband (Tony Gardner). She doesn’t show much enthusiasm for his return, and neither do their two sons, but back he is. Later, we realize she’s been filling in the time during his absence with a female teacher in the school where she’s headmistress. The teacher, Kate, played by Nina Sosanya, is dumped without ceremony because, “John is back.” The indications in the opening episode are that John’s stay back at home may be limited, and Caroline may not be fully finished with Kate. So, another kind of love story.
Alan’s daughter, Gillian, is played by Nicola Walker. When we first meet her she’s worrying over her son’s devotion to his Uncle and their penchant for dangerous motorcycle sports. There’s a lot of backstory involved in the relationship with the uncle and her late husband’s death that Gillian has to face with her son in the first episode. Gillian works in a grocery store, and we learn via her sale of a package of cigarettes that she’s sexually involved with a younger bad boy character played by Sacha Dhawan. It isn’t clear from the first episode if this can be called another love story or is more about loneliness and sex.
In addition to the romantic love stories and second chances that sprinkle Last Tango in Halifax, family love and parent and child relationships are explored. All kinds of love stories. I don’t know about you, but I firmly believe that the only good stories are stories about love – what ever kind of love that might be. It doesn’t matter if it’s romantic love, family love, friendship or even love for a pet. Maybe that’s why I recommended this series about love so enthusiastically.
PBS doesn’t put their videos on YouTube where it’s easy to pick them up to display here. But if you go to the PBS page for Last Tango in Halifax you can watch a couple of videos from episode one. Once the season is over, all the episodes will be available on pbs.org/tango.
I’ve never liked Jon Voight. I don’t have a good reason, he’s just never done anything for me. Of course I’ve seen him in a lot of things – there’s no avoiding the man. But, wow, he found the vehicle of a lifetime in Ray Donovan on Showtime. He is so perfectly Mickey Donovan – his walk, his tone of voice, his expressions, his questionable sincerity – his entire being is flawless in this part.
I, who would never see anything simply because Jon Voight was it in, am telling you to see this if you can because of Jon Voight. If you don’t have Showtime, file it away as a must watch on Netflix or Amazon or Hulu or someplace like that in the future.
The series is currently nearing the end of season 1. Here’s the trailer.
Voight aside, the entire cast is exceptionally good at creating the gritty and steamy world of Ray Donovan.
The title character Ray is played by Liev Schreiber. He’s an Olivia Pope from Scandal fixer sort of guy, except he uses violence more than cunning to do his job. Ray takes care of the illegal and misguided antics of the rich folks in L.A. while Olivia is keeping D.C. running smoothly.
Ray is a family man, as his father Mickey is attempting to be on his return from 20 years in prison. But Ray keeps his family in the dark about his less than admirable work life. This is a source of conflict with his wife (ably played by Paula Malcomson) and his two kids (played by Kerris Dorsey and Devon Bagby). Ray is close to his brothers, Terry (Eddie Marsan) and Bunchy (Dash Mihok). As the story gets underway, Ray learns that he has a African-American half-brother, who serves to help push the plot line involving Mickey’s devotion to black women and their asses. (Mickey definitely knows what twerking is.) The half brother, played by Pooch Hall – a boxer in real life – has been hanging around the boxing gym Terry runs. Terry and Bunchy both knew about the relationship for years, a fact that does not sit well with Ray.
That’s as far as family love goes with Ray. He hates Mickey for reasons that haven’t been fully explained yet. He doesn’t want his father near his own family or hanging around with his brothers – both things Mickey immediately does on getting home from prison.
The series is a rich drama with lots of stories intertwining from a past full of secrets and lies as well as Ray’s present unsavory work. Worthy of special mention as supporting players are Kerris Dorsey (you may remember her from Brothers and Sisters) as the teen-aged daughter, Katherine Moennig (from The L Word) as one of Ray’s assistants, Elliott Gould as a business partner hiding secrets from the past while quietly going cuckoo, and Paula Malcomson as Ray’s wife.
A woman, Ann Biderman, is the series creator and writer. This matters to me.
Showtime will let you watch episode 1 for free. I urge you to take advantage of the offer.
The web series WIGS created a documentary about Diana Nyad. It seems a fitting tribute to post it today. Yesterday the 64 year old swimmer achieved her dream of swimming from Cuba to Florida. She did it in 52 hrs, 54 mins and 18.6 sec without the protection of a shark cage. She is the first person in history to accomplish this feat of endurance and determination.