Last Tango in Halifax S4 E2 is Part Two of The Christmas Special. Holy Moly! What an episode! Stirring, momentous scenes between Caroline (Sarah Lancashire) and Gillian (Nicola Walker) and between Gillian and Robbie (Dean Andrews). Beware the spoilers.
Caroline and Gillian are in the supermarket buying supplies for Christmas dinner. Caroline confesses that 8 months ago she was told that her performance at work had been lackluster since Kate’s death. It was suggested that she take a sabbatical. The unspoken message was they didn’t want her back. Caroline is actually terrified about the new job and the move.
That was when Caroline met Olga (Lorraine Burroughs). Olga rear-ended her. As they exchanged information, Olga asked about Flora – the adoption question Caroline is going to have to answer until the end of time. When Olga heard that Caroline had a female partner who died, she perked up.
Olga showed up on Caroline’s doorstep with a case of wine to apologize and they ended up in bed.
In the morning, Olga confessed she’d been texting when she ran into Caroline. Texting her girlfriend – ex, ex – since two days ago. The girlfriend dumped her because she was cheating on her. Caroline looks at her like what have I done?
Caroline explains to Gillian that she isn’t the sort to pick up strangers on street corners (like some we know). She felt unfaithful to Kate that she hadn’t been more discerning.
Yet later, over cups of morning tea, Olga put a bug in Caroline’s ear about working in the state sector where she could really make a difference. Olga had a terrible education: indifferent teachers, bad schools. Good people are needed there. Turns out, Olga and Gillian both agree that maybe the new job is meant to be.
Celia (Anne Reid) and Alan (Derek Jacobi) are running lines for Blithe Spirit. It is a hoot watching one of the greatest English actors pretend he can’t act. Alan is nervous about being roped into the play. He doesn’t like the idea of being on a stage with everyone looking at him.
Raff (Josh Bolt), Ellie (Katherine Rose Morley), Gillian and Robbie load up the car for the trip to Caroline’s for Christmas dinner. Emily (AKA Calamity) talks about Granddad. But she means the Granddad in the barn. Raff says it’s her imaginary friend. Gillian is sure it’s Eddie’s ghost.
Lots of things happen at Christmas dinner. Everyone is there, even people we wish weren’t there. Caroline reveals to Gillian that she knew about the will and the burial since last summer, because she’s her mother’s executor. It upsets Gillian to know that her dad doesn’t trust her with this – she doesn’t say it, but she knows it’s because of Eddie.
John (Tony Gardner) tells Caroline that things have worked out for the best with Judith (Ronni Ancona) and they are very happy.
Celia concludes that Judith and Ellie are terrible at charades.
Alan talks Harry (Paul Copley) into taking his part in the play.
Angus (Felix Johnson) has a driving license and shows up with a Ouija board. When they use it, the board spells out the name Spike. Spike is a cat Gillian ground up with the combine a few years back. Another reference to something Gillian killed. It’s piling up.
When Gillian and Robbie are back at home that night, a brilliantly acted, momentous scene happens between Gillian and Robbie.
They are in the darkened living room in the middle of the night. Gillian tells Robbie she can’t do it anymore. She talks about all the weird things in the barn. Robbie tries using logic with her, but she insists they shouldn’t have gotten married and she wants him to leave for his own good. He refuses to leave because of some imagined spirit in the barn.
Then she tells him the truth. She says, “I can’t be married to you because I killed your brother.” He wants details, which she gives. She says, “I could cope with it – just about – before we got married. I killed him and I got away with it. Except I didn’t. I need some peace. I need to face the consequences.”
Robbie is finally convinced to leave. He tells Gillian he doesn’t know if he’ll report her or not yet.
This thing that has burdened Gillian since the very beginning is finally out in the open. It explains so much of her daft behavior. Whether she goes to jail or not, she can finally move on.
In the morning, Gillian tells Raff that she and Robbie have split up. He’s supportive of his mom, even though he’s always cared for Robbie.
Alan’s morning chore is to tell Celia that Harry is going to take his part. Celia thinks this idea stinks and says “fucking” in front of Flora.
Caroline tells Celia she overheard Alan telling Harry how worried he was about learning his lines. How he was having nightmares about it. Celia finally accepts it.
Celia wants to know who has tickets for the performance. Caroline says, “Everyone.” Celia asks if Olga is coming. She likes Olga. Caroline asks her why, but we don’t get to hear the answer. Damn, I wanted to know why. Oh, I’ll bet it’s because she’s so fond of lesbians!
Robbie and Gillian meet in a cafe. Gillian talks about how bad it was with Eddie. She asks Robbie if he’s going to take her to the police or if she should report herself. He says he won’t report it. He talks about selling his house and traveling – maybe to Canada – maybe to stay.
An aside: look how Dean Andrews feels about getting to do such deep and meaningful scenes with Nicola Walker.
— Dean Andrews (@Deanoandrews) December 20, 2016
It’s the night of the play. Harry is roaring drunk. He falls and breaks his arm. Alan has to do the play after all. He carries a script in his hand, but doesn’t seem to need it.
Gillian and Olga are both a bit late. They meet outside and decide to have a drink before going in. They talk about Caroline and the new job, naturally. Olga says it wasn’t just because she suggested Caroline work in the state sector. It was also because of Wyatt. Gillian and the entire audience are asking Who’s Wyatt.
Wyatt is the 16 year old boy who was driving the car that killed Kate. He wrote to Caroline and asked to see her. He told her how sorry he was. Olga said it really shook Caroline and made her remember the real reason for being in teaching. Caroline continues to go visit Wyatt.
Harry is carted off in an ambulance. He says Alan is in the play. Gillian and Olga rush inside. The play goes well. Celia is a big hit. Alan does fine.
The sweetest thing about the play is Lawrence (Louis Greatorex). He’s been teasing about a play full of old bags and asking who would want to see it. But he’s loving it.
During the applause at the end, Olga gives Caroline a kiss. Olga tells her she hasn’t made a mistake. She’s going to be brilliant in the new job. Caroline didn’t want the kiss much, but she looks at Olga with appreciation for her words. Is she reconsidering her ability to discern character?
There’s a lingering shot of Gillian watching Caroline’s response to the kiss and the encouragement from Olga. I’m not sure how to interpret what Gillian is thinking, but it would be interesting to find out.
There’s a trademarked Last Tango in Halifax montage of Caroline and Gillian getting to work in the morning. Gillian loads up a trailer. Caroline parks at her new school. Caroline walks through students. Gillian walks through chickens. Caroline lets her secretaries know how things are going to run. Gillian locks the barn door from the outside. It’s a new day for them both.
The final shots are Alan and Celia in the Lexus driving through the gorgeous Yorkshire hills. The top is down. They are talking about what to do next – King Lear, perhaps? The number of jokes Sally Wainwright can make about King Lear and Derek Jacobi seems unlimited. Or maybe a musical? (Would a new album of duets be close enough to a musical? Because that happened. You Are the Best Thing That Ever Has Happened to Me)
This episode of Last Tango in Halifax was directed by Juliet May and written by Sally Wainwright.
An episode such as this of Last Tango in Halifax is a perfect example of why I love Sally Wainwright and Sarah Lancashire and Nicola Walker. Write powerful emotions, give them to powerful actors, and you end up with magic. Magic.
The car crash scene where Caroline met Olga reminded me of the amazing episode of Lost Girl where we met Vex (Paul Amos) for the first time. It was a true grand entrance for Lorraine Burroughs, as it was for Vex. Olga was all over the place, panicked, jumping up and down, shouting at the passing cars, freaking out over the leaking petrol. When Caroline and Olga sat down on a bench, Olga settled down a bit and caught her breath. She noticed, actually noticed, the woman sitting beside her. And when she learned that Caroline was gay a little sizzle ran up her spine. It was quite a performance.
Last Tango in Halifax is now and has always been a story about second chances. Will Caroline have a second chance at love? Will Gillian have a second chance at a guilt-free life? Will Celia and Alan find new amusements to keep them busy? Will the new home and the new school prove to be a good decision?
Have any predictions or suggestions about who should play Wyatt?
We simply have to keep on going with these characters, these actors. They are all so good at what they do, and Last Tango in Halifax is chock full of interesting things to do. I don’t know what needs to happen for the BBC and Sally Wainwright to get themselves in action to create more like this. Whatever it is, I hope it happens soon.