The season 3 finale of Last Tango in Halifax takes place on Gillian (Nicola Walker) and Robbie’s (Dean Andrews) wedding day. The day is mainly a series of comic disasters overlaid with the faint aroma of horse shit.
There are spoilers.
Most of the episode is devoted to Gillian explaining to Caroline (Sarah Lancashire) why she cannot marry Robbie. It’s done with flashbacks. I’ll indicate the flashbacks with “Gillian tells a story about . . . .”
John (Tony Gardner), who actually shaved, and Greg (Marcus Garvey) arrive at the wedding venue with little Flora as the other guests pull in to the parking lot. Why is John with Greg, and why is he carrying Flora?
$Gary (The correct pronunciation of $Gary is Mr. Nutso Moneybags.) and his family are there. $Gary’s (Rupert Graves) wife Felicity (Kate Isitt) thinks John and Greg are a gay couple with a baby. Right baby, wrong couple.
In Halifax, Alan (Derek Jacobi) and Caroline wait impatiently for Gillian. Finally, Caroline finds her in the bathroom. She’s pacing the floor saying she can’t do it. She didn’t want a big do. It’s only because of other people that the wedding is out of her control. And because she felt guilty about $Gary.
Gillian tells a story about $Gary, who wanted to know why everyone is so upset with him. Gillian told him it’s because he humiliated Alan.
Even Raff (Josh Bolt) told $Gary he humiliated Alan. $Gary thinks if anyone should be embarrassed, it’s him, not Alan.
Gillian told him, “Surely you can see that you pointed out to everyone who can read that he was unfaithful to his wife, my mother.” Raff says the same thing, only he changes it to “my granny.” $Gary doesn’t think that’s the way to see it, but Raff says that’s the way Alan sees it. $Gary thinks it must be Celia (Anne Reid) turning Alan against him.
Gillian makes Raff seem like a hero when he turns down $Gary’s full time job and says he’s going to college as planned.
Gillian explains that $Gary went to make a rather lame apology to Alan. He claimed nobody read the Courier.
Alan was angry. He told $Gary that everyone read the Courier. $Gary blamed it on a journalist. Alan said $Gary knew damn well what he was doing. Alan said $Gary did it because he’s angry about his mum and for Alan not knowing $Gary existed. $Gary said that was rubbish and left.
After hearing this story, Caroline performs her first feat of magic of the day by convincing Gillian she’s just feeling normal wedding day nerves and everything will be okay.
At the hotel, Robbie is feeling bad. Everyone thinks it’s a hangover, but Robbie thinks he’s coming down with the flu. We learn that $Gary is sending Robbie and Gillian to Majorca to one of his houses for their honeymoon.
Lawrence (Louis Greatorex) and Angus (Felix Johnson) take note of $Gary’s two teenaged daughters. There is interest on both sides.
In the car on the way to the hotel, we learn reason number 2 why Gillian thinks she shouldn’t marry Robbie. Gillian tells a story about an argument with Robbie.
They were both holding axes. (Not a good storytelling tidbit for our Gillian.) They argued about $Gary paying for the honeymoon. Gillian wanted to be in control of her own wedding. Robbie told her to stop being a twat.
At the end of that story, Caroline stops for gas. Alan goes inside to pay. Gillian says there’s more to it than that.
Gillian tells a story about shagging a bloke at work in the back of his pickup. (Yes, it’s Ollie, played by Jaz Martin. Knew that was coming, didn’t we?) That was about 4 weeks ago. But only because Robbie called her a twat.
Caroline’s feat of magic number 2 is to talk Gillian out of that excuse because it was just an “old thing” and Ollie won’t kick up a fuss. Although Gillian did invite him to the wedding. Caroline tells her to move forward.
Celia rings Alan because they are so late. Alan says they are in Sowerby Bridge and will be there in 20 minutes. Celia wants Alan to get over being angry at $Gary.
Gillian tells Caroline as they start away from the gas station, it wasn’t just Ollie. It was John. And it was Caroline’s fault.
“My fault?” asked Caroline. Gillian answers, “When he thought you were shagging Greg.”
Gillian tells a story about John coming to the grocery acting pathetic. She went for a pint with him over lunch. He mounted a gigantic pity potty to talk about Greg, and about how he wanted Caroline to get back together with him, and about how he didn’t know Judith was an alcoholic.
Gillian gives John an idea. She suggests he go to Caroline’s house. When he does, he finds Greg caring for Flora.
Flora 2.0 is cute as anything, and apparently somewhere between two and six months old now, although she seems to grow exponentially the same way Emily did. Anyway, back to Gillian’s story. John shows up bearing lunch and befriends Greg. They have lunches, take Flora places, become real buddies.
John insinuated him self into the daily routine so much that one day Caroline came home to find Greg gone and John watching Flora.
The way Gillian tells the story, John just becomes part of the family again. Caroline is planning a trip to New York to take Flora to see Ginika. The fellows talk comic books. Very homey. John’s made himself invaluable, according to Gillian.
At the end of this story, Caroline almost sideswipes another car as it comes over a hill in her lane. She jerks over to the side and avoids a collision. The back tire goes flat. By a muddy field. Next to piles of horse manure.
At the hotel, everyone makes small talk. Celia talks to Ollie without knowing who he is.
Everyone gets out of the car and makes preparations to change the tire. No one has cell reception. Caroline will do the work. Alan wanders off looking for a signal on his mobile. Caroline asks Gillian about the rest of the story about why she can’t marry Robbie on account of John.
Gillian tells the story about how poor pathetic John believes Caroline will want to marry him again. Gillian’s hurt because John just goes on about Caroline all the time. He never comes over just to see Gillian anymore. Gillian wants to talk to him about how her marrying Robbie might not be the right thing. How maybe that day when they both proposed to her, she chose the wrong person.
So Gillian shagged John in his tiny car. Or fumbled at it. But then she had to send him packing anyway. Obviously.
At the end of this story Caroline is struggling with the tire. Gillian advises standing on the tire iron. Which Caroline does. The lug nut gives, but when the wrench moves, Caroline falls.
When she falls, it’s straight into a pile of horse manure. (No stunt woman involved!) Not only is she covered with shite, she broke her heel. That’s when it starts to rain.
At the hotel, Robbie is drinking and looking sicker by the minute.
Felicity and $Gary argue quietly. He paid Harry’s (Paul Copley) fine for wrecking his narrow boat in a lock. £46,000. Plus he paid £10,000 for the wedding. $Gary thought it might make Alan less ill disposed toward him. It did not.
Gillian, Caroline and Alan arrive. Gillian wants to run to have a wee. Caroline goes with her but one glance in the mirror and she knows her look is hopeless.
Gillian tells a story about yesterday.
Robbie told Gillian he knew Eddie used to hurt her. But he was a coward and didn’t do anything about it because Eddie was his brother. He told Gillian he was convinced, back then, that she’d hurt Eddie because he knew what she was putting up with. He’s ashamed of not helping her.
Gillian asked if she had killed Eddie, would Robbie have blamed her. He says no. But he believes she didn’t. And he says murder is murder. She’d always hoped she could tell him someday and he’d forgive her, but now she knows she never can and he never would.
At the end of that story, Caroline finally realizes the real reason Gillian is trying to find an excuse that will get her out of marrying Robbie. She killed his brother. Caroline doesn’t remind Gillian that she told her this months ago, which is remarkably tactful for Caroline.
Caroline’s final feat of magic for the day is to let Gillian talk herself into marrying Robbie on her own.
The wedding begins. Robbie is sweaty as a miner at 2000 feet underground.
When they get to the part where Gillian says, “in sickness and in health,” Robbie pukes in a bucket. They resume the vows. When Gillian says, “till death us do part,” Caroline looks away with one of those haunted glances she’s perfected since Kate died.
After the ceremony, Robbie looks a little better. Maybe Gillian wasn’t the only one scared half out of her/his wits.
$Gary finds Alan. He tells him Alan was right about him wanting to lash out. Alan tells him he didn’t just write her mother off. He stayed late looking through all the filing cabinets for her address.
After $Gary walks away, Celia tells Alan to forgive him. She says, “We’re the oldest. Shouldn’t we try to be bigger about things?”
“What, like you are with Caroline?” Alan asks. Good one, Alan!
Celia admits she’s not perfect. Then she points out $Gary’s two daughters, whom Alan has not yet met. They are taking selfies with Lawrence and Angus. Celia tells Alan that $Gary wants to upgrade their flights to first class. She loves the idea. It’s a bloody long way to Auckland.
Caroline gathers up Flora and tells Gillian she’s leaving. Caroline gives Gillian a hug and a kiss on the cheek. Gillian and Robbie will fly to Majorca that afternoon. Caroline heads for New York on Monday, the same day Celia and Alan will fly out.
When Caroline is alone in the car with Flora, she begins a conversation with Kate (Nina Sosanya). She says she kept thinking about their wedding, their one day. She tells Kate that Greg’s been great. She assures Kate that she loves Flora. More every day. She says, “I wish you were here.”
Kate touches Caroline’s shoulder. She says, “I’ve got to go.” They seem to look at each other in the rear-view mirror. Caroline says, “I know.” Kate vanishes. Caroline gathers her strength and looks at Flora with a tiny smile.
Back inside the hotel, the teenagers grab glasses of champagne and run. Alan tells $Gary they will take the upgrade and that they should all have lunch when the trip is over.
Ellie (Katherine Rose Morley), who once called Raff daft for suggesting they get married, tells Raff they should get married. He likes the idea.
Alan and Celia drink a toast to themselves. They kiss in a halo of light.
This felt very like a real finale. There were no obvious cliff hangers to dangle before us and make us anxious for a 4th season. Since this is one of the most popular shows in the world – not just in Britain – I cannot imagine there won’t be another series.
We did say a final goodbye to Kate. If there is a series 4, I don’t think she will be back. Makes me sad.
It would be interesting to deconstruct each wedding for its symbolism.This is the 3rd wedding on the series. Celia and Alan’s wedding was warm and wonderful and happy. Caroline and Kate’s wedding was a disjointed and heartbreaking prelude to a tragedy. Gillian and Robbie’s wedding was almost Vaudevillian. It would be interesting to deconstruct each one for its symbolism.
Did you notice how all Gillian’s stories about shagging inappropriate men happen while she’s wearing the yellow polo shirt from her new job? She needs to stop taking lunch breaks.
Finally, after 3 seasons, Nicola Walker gets to wear something nice. The wedding dress is pretty, it fits her beautifully, she looks lovely.
The relationship between Caroline and Gillian is deep. They act more like sisters all the time. Gillian’s wedding must have been hell for Caroline: all the magic feats that are required of her as Gillian’s step-sister, all the reminders of her own loss. Yet she looked at Gillian with great love as she said goodbye at the end.
What did you think of the final episode of season 3? Or of season 3 as a whole?