Episode 2 of Last Tango in Halifax in season 3 of this BBC series is a painful one. Pain from old wounds and betrayals still unforgiven come forth from the past to color and hurt again today. It begins mere minutes from where episode 1 ended.
Every spoiler imaginable ahead.
Alan (Derek Jacobi) meets his son Gary (Rupert Graves). Gary is quite excited about meeting Alan. Alan tells him how much his mother reminded him of Celia – her laugh, her walk, the light in her eyes. Alan thinks Mary should have told him about the pregnancy, but she left without doing so.
Celia (Anne Reid) and Gillian (Nicola Walker) take a shopping day. Actually, Gillian is keeping Celia occupied so Alan can meet Gary. Celia mentions that John (Tony Gardner) is staying at Caroline’s (Sarah Lancashire). Celia says she wouldn’t let him darken the doorstep if it was up to her.
Kate (Nina Sosanya) goes to birthing class and John tags along. The midwife assumes he’s the father. That’s not okay with Kate!
When Celia returns from shopping, Alan tells her he wants to take the big adventure trip she proposed.
Alan tells Gillian that Gary wants to have a meal with all of them. Alan will have to tell Celia. Gillian says Caroline thinks Celia will react badly because of the way she was cheated on and lied to by her first husband, Kenneth.
Kate’s upset about John being around. She’s upset with Caroline for letting him hang around after they begged, borrowed and stole to buy him out of the house. Caroline goes to tell him to leave but Lawrence (Louis Greatorex) is so happy to have him there she puts it off until tomorrow.
Kate is frightened and nervous about the baby. What happened to Judith’s baby scared her. Caroline is reassuring and tells her everything is going to be all right. She promises to ask John to leave.
Alan begins the agonizing process of explaining about Gary to Celia. He says there’s a lot about each other they don’t know. He has a skeleton in the cupboard he never knew he had. He worries she’ll think he’s like Kenneth.
I’ve got a lad, a son I never knew I had.
Celia reacts as predicted when she learns Alan had a fling while he was married. He tells her that Mary reminded him of her. He says they were together once and then Mary left.
Alan and Celia stay up all night arguing. Celia gets even more upset when she realizes the shopping trip was a ruse to get her out of the way so Alan could meet Gary. She says, “This is what adultery does to people. It turns them into liars.”
In the morning, Gillian talks to Raff (Josh Bolt) about how he and Ellie (Katherine Rose Morley) aren’t communicating. Ellie’s quit school and taken a job at the grocery where Gillian works. It upset the whole family. Gillian also tells Raff about Gary.
Things are tense at breakfast. Alan tries to convince Celia to come meet Gary. She’s stony and unforgiving. Alan tells her Caroline knows about Gary. This makes Celia even more angry. She asks if everybody knows about it.
Celia drives off and calls Caroline. She says she hated how everyone knew Kenneth was mucking about on her, how everyone laughed at her behind her back. She thought Alan was better than that.
Caroline says this isn’t about Celia and she should try to step back from it. Celia is also hurt because Caroline didn’t tell her. Caroline says she thinks Alan’s a good man who is trying to do the right thing. Caroline wants Celia to see that what happened so long ago isn’t a reflection on her.
Alan tells Celia he’s not Kenneth. He asks if they are friends and she says yes. He wants to show Celia what he found on the internet about Gary. Gary is a successful businessman. Celia’s not impressed.
Cheryl (Rachel Leskovac) strolls into the grocery in her police garb. Cheryl heads for Gillian. There are a lot of customers around, plus Ellie and the store manager. Yep, quite a crowd.
Cheryl says she knows Gillian’s fooling around with Robbie (Dean Andrews). She gives Gillian a big box of condoms and – since she’s so desperate for sex – a buzzing, huge purple vibrator. Gillian cannot turn the vibrator off – she makes it vibrate louder. Her manager doesn’t take kindly to any of this. This scene was so well done and so funny. A laugh was needed in this heavy episode and Cheryl hand delivered one.
Gillian angrily explains to Alan why she quit her job. Alan calls her a pillock. Then he shows her the internet info on Gary, and says they are going to dinner on Friday at Gary’s home.
Celia appears, suitcase in hand. She doesn’t want to meet Gary and is going to Harrogate.
John bought a gift for the baby. He’s sweet with Kate and says he knows she’s been upset about Judith. Kate softens toward him.
Everyone in Halifax argues over vibrators, condoms, and job quitting while preparing to leave for Gary’s. Robbie comes in and apologizes. He says Cheryl moved out. Gillian doesn’t want her family to realize she’s been fooling with Robbie, but they get the idea immediately.
Celia unloads all her pain about Alan, Gary and Kenneth to Caroline. In addition to all her old hurts, she’s jealous of how excited Alan is about Gary.
When they arrive at Gary’s home, it’s a palatial estate. He’s rich. Gary’s charming. He’s full of funny stories and wants to know everything about Alan.
Caroline wakes up on the wedding day to find that Kate hasn’t been able to sleep because she couldn’t get comfortable, had heartburn, and had to pee 19 times. Kate says, “In 3 hours time, we’ll be shackled to each other forever.”
Caroline falls back to sleep after finding a particularly comfortable spot. The thought of being shackled to Kate forever seems quite agreeable to her.
When Alan arrives for the wedding, Celia announces she isn’t going. She can’t stand there smiling while Caroline marries a woman. Plus she’s spent the night thinking about where Alan and Mary had sex. She’s full of lurid imaginings. Again, Alan says, “I’m not Kenneth.” She tells him about Kenneth being out with another woman the night she gave birth to Caroline.
Kate and Caroline are dressed and ready to go. Kate’s hair looks fabulous! Caroline tells Kate how grateful she is to her, for giving her a chance, for giving her courage. Kate says, “You’re magnificent.” Caroline says, “You’re very pretty,” and they have a laugh about their snog in Caroline’s office when they first spoke those words.
Alan delivers the news. There’s a problem with Celia. Caroline heads for the cottage.
Celia is adamant. She won’t go to her daughter’s wedding. Caroline reminds Celia that what’s going on with Alan is separate from her wedding. She recounts a story about when Celia didn’t come to her graduation. Her father did come. She told him, “You really don’t need to be here if she’s not here.” Caroline talks about how much she’d looked forward to that day, how gutted she was that Celia didn’t come. She says, “If you do this to me again, there’s absolutely no point in pretending we have any kind of a relationship.” Celia won’t move.
Lawrence finds Celia in her robe. He says he doesn’t want to go, either. Alan tries to persuade them both not to do this to Caroline. He says, “You’ll regret this. Caroline doesn’t deserve this.”
At the wedding venue Kate, William 2.0 (Dean Smith), and Caroline watch Alan get out of the car alone. No Celia. No Lawrence.
When Alan explains that Celia and Lawrence won’t be there, Caroline says the same words she said to her father years ago, “Well, there’s no point in you being here then, is there? She’s not here.”
Caroline turns her back on Alan. Kate looks back and mouths, “Sorry.” Alan is hurt.
First, I must mention the acting. Celia is at her worst, her most unforgiving, in this episode. Anne Reid was brilliant at playing it. Alan is so full of pain and regret for the harm he’s causing he can hardly bear it. Derek Jacobi was brilliant at playing it. Caroline is wounded once again by her mother and she strikes out at the her best ally in the Celia department – Alan. Sarah Lancashire was brilliant at playing it. Cheryl is kick ass in her scene in the grocery. Rachel Leskovac was brilliant at playing it.
Caroline and Kate are in a wonderful place. So warm and loving with each other. I found it particularly meaningful that Caroline expressed her gratitude to Kate, thanked her for the second chance, for loving her, for making her happy. Please don’t let anything come along to ruin that. I know there’s no drama in people being happy, but please, Sally Wainwright, let them have a little happiness.
Forgiveness is the theme of this episode. All kinds of unforgiven wounds fester to the surface and cause mayhem. Getting past them will be painful. Healing is painful, hard work. What comes out when these old wounds are exposed is harsh, cruel and vicious. Celia and Alan seem broken. Celia and Caroline seem broken. Even more reason to let Caroline and Kate be happy for a while.
“I’m not Kenneth.” That’s today’s mantra. It’s suitable for every conversation.
We didn’t quite get to the wedding in episode 2. It’s coming next time.