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.
I do love Derek Jacobi and Ian McKellan, who are starring together in the PBS comedy Vicious. The comedy in Vicious is about a bickering old gay couple with a funny love-hate relationship. But Jacobi and McKellan are charmingly themselves making this announcement.
If you are in New York in June and attend PRIDE events, give them a wave from me.
Check out the BBC’s brilliant treatment of previews of the coming seasons for many of our favorite shows. Mixed among the previews are clips of shows from the past and present.
I predict a rush to copy this style of preview sharing by all the networks. It’s a fantastic way to use the technology. They may not all be lucky enough to get Benedict Cumberbatch doing Shakespeare to hold the narrative thread together, but you can bet they’ll try to equal this.
I’ve only mentioned Call the Midwife in passing, but it’s excellent. You can catch up with several seasons on Netflix. Mostly women characters and wonderful ones at that. It’s also on PBS.
There’s a clip from Happy Valley but no preview. As far as I know they haven’t started shooting series 2 of Happy Valley.
The clip from The Fall is different from the two I’ve already published here. Gillian Anderson is simply outstanding in this show. Don’t forget Archie Panjabi is also in the cast.
And Last Tango in Halifax! what’s up with Gillian (Nicola Walker) in what looks like a wedding dress? And Alan (Derek Jacobi) in a tux? All the while Caroline (Sarah Lancashire) changes a tire in a very nice pair of heels. Is Gillian getting married?
The final episode of season 2 of Last Tango in Halifax lurches to a grim beginning and works its way through a lot of laughs to a mostly happy season conclusion.
On the farm, the morning after her confession to Caroline (Sarah Lancashire), Gillian (Nicola Walker) prods Caroline awake.
Caroline struggles to sit up. Gillian asks immediately, before Caroline is even upright, if she is going to turn her in to the police.
They are both wrecked, hungover, puffy. They look beautiful: real and honest. They conduct a raw, open discussion of the humiliations Eddie did to Gillian. Gillian says, “If I hadn’t done it to him, Caroline, he would have done it to me.”
Celia (Anne Reid) and Alan (Derek Jacobi) spent the night at Muriel’s (Gemma Jones). They’re having breakfast when Murial suggests she’d like to do some sort of hen party for Celia the night before the wedding.
Celia and Alan tease Muriel about wanting a wild night – in Amsterdam – with strippers and lap dancers and pole dancing. Muriel says she doesn’t mind going to Amsterdam for the art galleries. Alan and Celia have a hilarious conversation at Muriel’s expense.
Caroline and Gillian move to the table – nursing their hangovers with tea – still processing Gillian’s confession. Caroline thinks Gillian told her because she needed to tell someone.
Caroline asks if Gillian wants her to turn her in. “No. No.” Gillian says, “Now I’ve buggered everything up.”
Caroline says, “I’m not going to turn you in.”
Celia and Alan drive away from Muriel’s. In spite of their teasing, they like the idea of a stag night for Alan and a hen night for Celia. Celia even plans to invite Muriel.
Caroline and Gillian drive to the hotel where they left the Land Rover and Caroline’s phone the night before.
Kate (Nina Sosayna) arrives at Caroline’s house with Lawrence (Louis Greatorex) in tow. He called Kate the night before when John (Tony Gardner) disappeared on him. Kate says he left messages for his mother about where he was but refused to call John.
John offers lame excuses for why he went out, leaving Lawrence alone. The home phone rings.
Caroline shouts, “Where’s Lawrence!” John says he’s fine, minimizes the whole event and shuts the door in Kate’s face. Kate stares at the door, says, “No problem. Anytime.”
Caroline calls John an idiot. He tells her that Lawrence slept at Kate’s, an idea suggested by William.
Caroline hangs up. Before she leaves the hotel, she turns to Gillian. “I think you’re right about you and Robbie.”
“Yeah, I really like him,” Gillian answers.
“No. You said it could never be a good idea – you and him. Move on. You’re a nice person, you’re a good mother, you work hard. Something appalling happened. Move on. If I’m keeping a secret for you, you need to stay away from him. Surely you can see that.”
When Caroline reaches her home in Harrogate, John is still hanging about fixing soup for Lawrence. John tells her that Judith (Ronni Ancona) won’t get rid of the baby. Caroline says, “You’ll be divorced. You could marry her.” John says that won’t be happening.
Caroline gets cleaned up and takes flowers to Kate, to say thank you about Lawrence. Caroline asks Kate if she can come in.
She asks if Kate has a birthing partner (yes, her mum) and if Kate has anyone (no).
Caroline wanders nervously through a story approximating what she did the previous night and why she didn’t respond to Lawrence until she gets to her real point. Caroline and Kate had something really nice between them, Caroline says, and asks one more time for Kate to take her back. She promises to do better.
“No. Thank you.” Kate answers gently. From my seat, I don’t see how she can resist the painful pleading in Caroline’s eyes, but she is firm in her refusal. Kate’s breaking Caroline’s heart and mine, too.
Alan and Harry (Paul Copley) explain an elaborate plan for Alan’s stag night involving an overnight trip on Harry’s boat which will bring them to the hotel by 10 AM. Harry’s boat needs a lot of work before then.
Celia tells them that her party with Caroline, Gillian and Muriel will be paintballing. She’s not serious, but Harry wants to go to her party.
Later, Caroline and her mom are in the kitchen at Harrogate. Celia suggests maybe John could walk her down the aisle – give her away. Caroline gives all the reasons why that can’t be. She mentions all the tricks Celia has played on John over the years.
Celia has a good laugh remembering the time John snapped all the tendons in his ankle, the time she let all the air out of his tires, and some other wonderful memories which eventually prove to her that John wouldn’t be the best choice for walking her down the aisle.
Harry and Alan are in Halifax, figuring out their speeches for the wedding and what stories Harry is permitted to tell about Alan.
Gillian enters and says she wants to go to the cemetery tomorrow for her mum’s birthday.
Next day Alan and Gillian sit on a bench at the cemetery with little Calamity in a carrier. Alan admits that when his renters didn’t have enough money to buy his house, he didn’t have the heart to toss them out to put the house on the market. That’s why the deal on the bungalow fell through. Gillian thinks he’s always been too kind for his own good.
Gillian goes off to the grave of an uncle who was killed in the war. Alan has a graveside chat with his dead wife and says he hopes she approves of him getting wed again. Why didn’t he do this months ago, if it needed doing?
Like a blessing, a gust of wind blows flowers from a tree where Alan is standing. They rain around him like snow. He catches one blossom in his hand and takes it as a sign.
A montage covering several months shows us Harry and Alan working on the boat with Celia’s assistance, shows us Caroline alone and lonely, shows us Gillian alone and lonely, and finally a boat that is ready for use.
Near Christmas, Caroline learns that Kate’s gone to the hospital with some bleeding. Caroline rushes off to be with her. She finds Kate sitting alone in the waiting room. Caroline sits down beside her. They don’t touch.
Caroline assures Kate that she’s fine. She’s 20+ weeks now. However, four miscarriages would make anybody jumpy and Kate is scared. When they call Kate back she allows Caroline to go with her.
Kate clutches Caroline’s hand as they begin the ultrasound. As Caroline looks at the ultrasound readout with Kate’s hand in hers, we see a light in Caroline’s eyes for the first time in months. Kate’s fine. The baby is fine. Kate asks about sex and learns the baby is female. As Kate relaxes from her fears, she realizes she’s holding Caroline’s hand and drops it, saying, “Sorry.” Out goes the light in Caroline’s eyes.
Caroline, Lawrence, Alan and Celia have dinner in Harrogate. Alan explains that his brother Ted can’t make the wedding because he broke a leg.
Celia wants Caroline to call Kate about the wedding because she offered to play “The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba” for it. Caroline tells Celia to call Kate herself.
William arrives home from Oxford, with his laundry, and sits down at the table. William’s looking very grown up with a new hair cut. He has a girlfriend he wants to bring to the wedding.
Lawrence says, “Does she know you’re a puff?” and William says “I’ve been meaning to break this to you, and I know you’ll be disappointed, but I’m not gay.”
Alan, Lawrence and William whisper some secret plan when the woman are clearing the table. Ted (Timothy West) calls and Alan talks to him about the weather as Gillian sneaks him in Caroline’s door.
Alan jumps up in surprise, hugs his brother. They laugh about how surprised and happy they are that he made it. Ted hugs Celia and grabs her ass. “Always a handful!”
Alan, Ted, Harry, Raff (Josh Bolt) and Robbie (Dean Andrews) share drinks at Alan’s stag party. As they laugh at silly jokes, Alan suggests to Robbie that he and Gillian should get back together. Raff agrees.
The hen party is more elegant but just as funny. It includes Celia, Muriel, Caroline and Gillian.
I’ve been waiting for a serious scene between the formidable duo of Anne Reid and Gemma Jones. We finally get it when Caroline and Gillian go off to the restroom together.
Celia tells her sister how miserable her marriage was. Muriel knows that Celia has never forgiven her for Frank but she’s truly glad that Celia is happy now. It might be the first honest conversation Celia’s had with Muriel in years.
The wedding scenes begin with a shot of Kate’s fingers on a piano keyboard. Celia looks lovely but I don’t like what Caroline and Gillian are wearing. (Nicola Walker didn’t like the dress either.) Caroline walks her mom down the aisle.
As Alan and Celia recite their vows (which Anne Reid does with extraordinary meaning, I must say) we see everyone’s reactions to the words. Gillian looks troubled, Caroline is stealing glances at Kate, Kate is stealing glances at Caroline, Robbie’s date looks hopeful while Robbie steals glances at Gillian. Kate plays them out with a ragtime tune and the party begins.
At the party, Caroline gives a beautiful speech that reflects my thoughts about Celia and Alan’s story exactly. Harry gives a charming speech. When it’s Alan’s turn to speak, he takes the microphone and leaves the table. No one knows what he’s doing.
Alan performs a song and dance, complete with backup dancers and singers attired in kilts. The lyrics are “If I said you had a beautiful body, would you hold it against me?” The song is perfect – funny and embarrassing – and the party is off to a great start.
Time to dance! Alan and Celia dance every dance. They do dance beautifully together, don’t they?
Kate comes up to Caroline and says she’s going. Kate says, “Have a nice Christmas.”
“How likely is that?” Caroline asks, then immediately regrets it. “Sorry. You . . . you have a nice Christmas, too.” Kate leaves the party.
Caroline and Gillian sit at a table, partnerless. It’s a beautiful party, but it’s passing them by. Gillian decides to cut in on Robbie for a dance. “Not Robbie,” says Caroline, but Gillian does it. A brief conversation and Robbie pulls her close.
Roberta Flack’s romantic version of “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow” plays and everyone snuggles in a slow dance.
Kate returns. She marches across the dance floor to stand in front of a surprised Caroline. “I got in, shut the door and turned round and came straight back. Do you want to dance?”
Their situations reversed, Caroline is the insecure one now. She wants to know if this is “forever” and Kate quips, “forever’s a mighty long time.”
The moment they’re close and touching, they kiss. A long, lingering, very public kiss. Lawrence covers his eyes, Gillian smiles, William beams, Muriel isn’t appalled, Alan is happy, and Celia groans. Caroline and Kate are oblivious to anything but each other.
There’s a beautiful exterior shot of the hotel, laced with snow early the next morning – Christmas day – and a room tour of the still snoozing guests.
Alan and Celia hold hands as they spoon.
Caroline and Kate finally shared a room at the hotel.
Cut for a beat to John and Judith, who are passed out on Judith’s couch with empty bottles littering the table in front of them.
Gillian wakes up in the hotel with Robbie and wonders what fresh hell she’s gotten herself into now.
Season 2 closes with smiles, some story lines tied up with gaily colored ribbons, and a few tempting issues to make us eager for season 3.
Bravo. Bravo to the cast and crew. Bravo to Sally Wainwright for her wonderful storytelling. Bravo!
Episode 5 of Last Tango in Halifax begins in Harrogate where the Elliots are packing a car with William’s (Edward Ashley) things as he sets off for Oxford.
A for sale sign is outside the driveway. John (Tony Gardner) and Caroline (Sarah Lancashire) take a moment to share a rancorous discussion about their divorce papers as John carries out William’s luggage.
Everyone comes outside to see William off, including Celia (Anne Reid) and Alan (Derek Jacobi) who are making tea in the cottage. Hugs and handshakes and Lawrence’s (Louis Greatorex), “Finally we get rid of him,” and William is off with John driving.
Caroline looks torn as her eldest drives away from the nest to begin college. Celia follows her down the driveway as the car disappears and wraps her in a hug. “Big day,” Celia says.
They talk about mundane things for a moment. Celia says she and Alan are going to Ripponden to help with the baby. She says, “It’s a shame that bungalow fell through.”
Caroline asks about Celia’s wedding plans. Celia says they are on hold because of Alan’s brother Ted in New Zealand. They can’t plan a date around all of them who want to come from there.
Celia wants to know if there have been any inquiries about the house. Caroline says not this week.
Caroline walks into the kitchen and stands there, utterly alone. Beautiful image, even though it’s full of pain. This kitchen, with its big window, has been a wonderful frame for some lovely shots, but this one is exceptional.
At the farm Ellie (Katherine Rose Morley) hands off the baby, dirty nappy and all, to Raff (Josh Bolt). He passes the baby to Gillian (Nicola Walker) for burping and a diaper change.
Everyone calls the baby Calamity. Gillian says, “Calamity, is there no end to your shining wealth of talents,” in regard to her dirty nappy. In spite of everything that’s wrong in Gillian’s life, and there’s plenty wrong, little Emily Jane makes her happy. Perhaps she sees a bit of redemption in her grandchild’s eyes.
Ellie has moved in at the farm, with cash coming from her mother to help out. Raff says he, Ellie and Calamity are eating at Robbie’s that night. Cheryl is cooking. (Cheryl? Who is Cheryl?)
The two young people leave for school and Gillian is alone with the baby.
Kate (Nina Sosanya) enters Caroline’s office. She sits down across the desk from Caroline and tells her she’s pregnant. She’s past 12 weeks now and is cautiously thinking about the future. She asks for arrangements to be made for her to work part time after the baby comes. Caroline asks for time to work out the logistics.
As Kate is leaving, Caroline says, “Congratulation.” Kate smiles and says, “Thank you,” but Caroline cannot look at her.
As soon as Kate closes the door, Caroline begins to cry.
Gillian loads a trailer with sheep as Alan and Celia arrive. She tells them the baby is with Harry (Paul Copley) down at the wharf. Celia goes inside to use the bathroom. Gillian tells Alan the relatives in New Zealand keep Skyping about a date to come to the wedding. Alan says Celia won’t set a date, but his story isn’t like Celia’s on this topic. He says it’s because of Celia’s sister, Muriel.
At the wharf, Harry has a boat where he plans to live. He’s going to install a stove, a satellite dish, and a drinks cabinet.
He says losing Maurice made him want to seize the day. He wants to take them for a spin and Alan is ready to jump aboard. Celia grabs Alan’s coattails and won’t let him go. She tells Harry he’s a dozy old sod. I’m not sure what that means, but I don’t think it’s a compliment.
Alan and Celia have dinner at the farm with Gillian. Gillian tells them Robbie (Dean Andrews) has a new girlfriend named Cheryl. She’s a cop like Robbie, blonde, gorgeous and 15 years younger than him. Celia talks about John being back with Judith like a bad habit.
Gillian says, “Celia, tell me about your sister. I didn’t know you had a sister. Shame the wedding plans have got bogged down because of her.”
Celia says it’s because of Ted. No, says Gillian. There’s no problem with Ted coming from New Zealand. You set a date, they turn up. Celia isn’t thrilled about her daughter-in-law calling her bluff.
Caroline and Lawrence are having a quiet dinner. He asks if he can move in with his dad. Caroline thinks this is a bad idea, but Lawrence says at least his dad isn’t boring. Before they can finish talking about Lawrence’s idea, Gillian calls.
Gillian tells Caroline that the wedding is bogged down. Caroline says, yeah because of Ted. No says Gillian, it’s because of Muriel. She wants to move it along for her dad’s sake.
Caroline says she’s not surprised. Muriel and her mom are chalk and cheese. Gillian asks Caroline to ring Muriel so they can get things moving. Caroline says it will be complicated.
Gillian goes into the living room where Celia and Alan are playing Trivial Pursuit. Celia says, “Sherlock Holmes, the Beatles, Shakespeare,” before Alan even reads the question because that’s the answer to everything.
Gillian suggests she and Caroline organize the wedding. They can check out venues, make up an invite list. Gillian says Celia can cross anyone out. Celia agrees just as her phone rings. It’s Muriel (Gemma Jones). Celia answers with false cheer.
Celia speaks with apparent warmth to Muriel, but it looks forced. Muriel is enthusiastic about Alan Buttershaw and how wonderful everything is. She asks when the wedding is. Celia says she and Alan were going to pop down to tell her all about it. That’s news to Alan.
Meanwhile Caroline calls back and tells Gillian that Muriel didn’t even know about the wedding. She says she will have to face Armageddon with Celia because of letting Muriel know. Gillian tells Caroline that she offered to organize the wedding. Caroline hesitates but Gillian convinces her to help.
Alone in their bedroom later, Celia complains about Muriel finding out. Alan says if you don’t want her at the wedding, we won’t invite her. Celia says why wouldn’t she want her there. Alan says, “It’s an impression you’ve given.”
Celia has a long list of old resentments about Muriel, which she airs to Alan.
In Harrogate, John arrives. He’s supposed to be taking Lawrence for the weekend.
John says, “Just so you’re aware. Judith’s pregnant.” Caroline says, “How? Is it yours? Does she want it?” He stumbles and stutters a lot, and says things may be a little bit fraught and it isn’t a good weekend to take Lawrence. Lawrence gets in the car and won’t be moved.
Caroline goes to the farm. She arrives just as Robbie and his new girlfriend Cheryl (Rachel Leskovac) are leaving with Raff, Ellie and the baby.
Caroline endears herself to Gillian by pronouncing Cheryl annoying. Caroline wants to take Gillian to lunch.
They pull into the same hotel where Caroline took Kate, but they are there to consider it as a possible venue for the wedding. They sit down for drinks and Caroline tells Gillian that Muriel stole a boy named Frank from her mom when they were younger. She married him. That’s two women who stole men from Celia. Ouch. And Celia does hold tight to her resentments.
A wedding planner gives them brochures and offers to take them round to look at the venue after lunch.
At Muriel’s, Celia and Alan conduct a conversation in the car, as they are prone to do. Celia doesn’t want her sister to know that her marriage was unhappy. She doesn’t want her sister to know that Caroline plays on the girl’s team. Both Alan and I find Muriel perfectly acceptable, but every word poor Muriel utters irritates Celia.
Over tea, Muriel thinks Celia must be proud of William, wants to know what Alan’s daughter does, wants to know about Caroline and John and is full of questions. When she leaves to make more tea Celia says, “I don’t know how much more of this I can take.”
The wedding planner shows Caroline and Gillian around, talks about deals, offers them champagne. They’ve already been drinking wine at lunch.
Judith (Ronni Ancona) tries to work as John and Lawrence watch TV in her tiny flat. She can’t concentrate and goes out. Lawrence thinks she’s too old to be pregnant. John follows Judith out the door, ostensibly because she shouldn’t be drinking.
The conversation at Muriel’s moved to the garden, where they talk about Harry. Alan says he and Harry share a great grandchild, which makes Muriel ask about Raff still being in school and irritates Celia even more.
Caroline calls Celia to explain that she thinks Celia would love the hotel as a venue. The only available date is December 24. As Caroline is talking to her mother, Gillian realizes that the waiters and the wedding planner think that she and Caroline are the ones getting married. Celia asks Caroline to email photos as Gillian goes into a contagious giggling fit.
“They think you and I are getting married,” Gillian giggles. She acts coquettish with her hair, and says, “I’m going to finish with you if you aren’t careful.” Caroline continues the conversation with her mum by punctuating it with laughter, and can hardly say goodbye to her mother before she and Gillian burst out in loud guffaws. Another toast with champagne seems in order.
By nightfall, Gillian and Caroline must take a cab to the farm because they are both too drunk to drive.
Lawrence calls his mom and asks to be picked up because his dad is gone. He says, “I”m sorry I said you were boring.” Caroline’s forgotten her phone at the hotel bar so she doesn’t get his message.
At the farm, Gillian and Caroline flop on the couch side by side. Gillian asks what happened with Kate. Caroline says, “I booked two separate rooms for our romantic getaway.”
“You did not,” says Gillian.
Caroline says she’s tried to apologize but Kate won’t listen. “I really blew it. I only realize now how lovely it was. How precious. Now I’m in this box with bad written on it. But I’m not bad, just arrogant . . . inept . . . selfish . . . repressed . . . emotionally crippled.”
“What about you and Robbie?” Caroline asks. Gillian sits up, goes for more liquor.
Celia and Alan study the emailed photos of the hotel. Alan also looks at the photos on Muriel’s bedroom wall, including ones of Kenneth and Frank. He says Muriel seems fond of Celia, even though Celia isn’t fond of her. Celia drags out even more resentments about her sister. Alan has a more mature point of view. In a stroke of brilliance, he tells Celia that Muriel is very plain compared with her and hasn’t made him laugh even once.
Judith and John arrive back at her flat in the midst of a drunken argument. Lawrence is not there.
In Halifax, Gillian tells Caroline about going out with Robbie early on. She says she’s always been fond of him. But she says it will never work with Robbie.
“I’ve never told anyone this,” Gillian says.
“Don’t tell me something you’re gonna regret.”
“I want to tell. I . . . I murdered him. Eddie. The only proper family Robbie ever had. I murdered him.”
Gillian talks about her marriage to Eddie. He beat her, pinned her down and burned her with cigarettes. She says she’s shed blood in every room of this house. He knocked her teeth out. He humiliated her in ways she won’t name. Caroline listens without speaking, but her face says volumes. Gillian thinks her Dad and Robbie know there was more to it than what she told the police.
Nicola Walker is stunning in this scene. Stunning. In a show filled with outstanding actors and acting, this powerful scene stands out. Amazing performances from both Nicola Walker and Sarah Lancashire.
In the morning Gillian wakes up on a couch in her living room. Caroline is asleep on the other. Gillian runs to the kitchen and throws up.
She turns to look at Caroline with terror on her face as she remembers what she confessed the night before.
The precipitating moment setting off the story of Last Tango in Halifax was the reunion of Celia and Alan. Alan leaving the farm set off a chain of external events for Gillian, leading directly to last night’s confession. Caroline’s journey, on the other hand, is internal. It began before Celia and Alan even found each other. Caroline and Gillian have been yin and yang every step of the way.
Yet, here they are, because of their parents, telling each other things they’ve never said to anyone before.
It’s been fun watching Derek Jacobi on Sunday night’s on PBS. First in Last Tango in Halifax where he is a sweetheart of a man. Then in Vicious where he is a parody of a parody as half of a gay couple (with Ian McKellen).
I wrote this in last week’s recap of Last Tango in Halifax.
I know actors love the meaty parts, the villainous parts, because they are so much fun to act. I hope Derek Jacobi enjoys playing the charming and lovely Alan as much as I enjoy watching him at it. Charming, lovely male characters are so rare. We need more of them.
I want to expand on this idea.
Jacobi’s character in Last Tango in Halifax is kind, thoughtful, and generous. He’s supportive of the women in his life and of women in general. He’s the same way with the men in his life. I’m not sure when I’ve ever seen a man written quite this way in a film or TV show. Kudos to the show’s writer Sally Wainwright for creating Alan Buttershaw.
One reason why I love Last Tango in Halifax so much is because the relationship between Derek Jacobi and co-star Anne Reid is rare and beautiful. Not perfect, but perfectly loving. What a rare thing this is to see on television. Why isn’t there more of this? We need so desperately to see men who act this way held up before us as examples.
Vicious, on the other hand, is over-the-top satire. It pokes fun at the way gay men have been portrayed in film and TV for years by taking it to the extreme. It’s ridiculous. It’s supposed to be. The two men have been together for decades, yet can do nothing but cut and jab at each other. Most of the time.
Both of these Derek Jacobi vehicles make a point. They both look at what a man is, what a man should be. One by offering a palpable example of good. One by showing us just how silly past stereotypes are.
It’s delightful watching Jacobi and McKellen do comedy. It isn’t something we see often. But I love the quiet message in Last Tango in Halifax more than the reverse-psychology message in Vicious. Not because Jacobi is playing a straight man in one and a gay man in the other. I’d love to see him play a gay man with as much character and love as we get to see in the Alan Buttershaw part. I have a feeling both he and McKellen would jump at a chance to play a part like that.
A Few Good Men
What we need are more examples of good men – both straight and gay. Good men instead of big-muscled killers. Good men instead of men who only use women as window dressing or as object.
This episode of Last Tango in Halifax begins in the cafe where Celia (Anne Reid) and Alan (Derek Jacobi) continue to talk about the death of Eddie. Alan says he is an accessory after the fact.
Celia says he probably did the best thing under the circumstances. He tells her that Robbie and the police asked lots of questions. He says that’s why, 10 years on, he doesn’t mind putting a little distance between himself and Gillian (Nicola Walker).
Raff (Josh Bolt) walks up the road from school and sees a strange car in front of the house. He finds John (Tony Gardner) inside, working at his computer, and watching the baby. Raff doesn’t understand why Gillian asked John to babysit. John’s explanation is a bit lame. Raff tells John he can leave, but John says he’s invited for supper.
John asks about Ellie (Katherine Rose Morley) and Raff explains that he doesn’t know how things are with her legally. He doesn’t know if Ellie left the baby with him or if she can just come back and take it.
John, because this is really his business – right? – tells Raff he must go to the registrar and get his name on the birth certificate. Because mothers have all the rights where kids are concerned, look at all the problems he’s having with his kids. Raff says, oh, I thought that was because you had a fling with Judith. Good one, Raff!
In Harrogate, Caroline is lining out Celia on the boys’ schedules for the weekend. Lawrence (Louis Greatorex) has a rugby game in the morning. Lawrence says he’s invited Angus (Felix Johnson) for a sleepover. When Celia hears the name Angus she asks, “Is he Scottish?” in a funny callback to the first time she heard the name Kate McKenzie. William (Edward Ashley) is going to work. (William’s back!) William throws down his newspaper and complains about his job.
John has assembled Raff, Ellie, Harry (Paul Copley) and Maurice (Roy Barraclough) in the registry office to get the birth certificate filled out for the little girl. No one seems to question his right to do this, although Harry and Maurice do want to know why he’s hanging about. He explains he’s writing a novel about farming and that he’s Celia’s son in law. Everyone groans.
They argue over names. John wants a literary name. Raff likes Elsie. Ellie does not. They finally agree on Emily Jane, which prompts John to quote Emily Jane Brontë. I’m the one groaning now.
John’s phone rings. It’s Lawrence, who learns that his dad is in Halifax.
John, Raff, and the newly named Emily Jane Greenwood Wallace stop by the grocery. They show Gillian the birth certificate. Raff says they put both surnames, because they couldn’t decide which to use. Gillian likes the new name, and comments that it’s a lot of name for a 6 and a half pound girl. That’s hilarious, because the baby they are hauling around, supposedly less than a week old, can sit up and hold up her head.
Caroline’s black SUV rolls down the highway toward the weekend getaway. The camera does love Yorkshire, doesn’t it? My gratitude to whoever finds these gorgeous locations. As they walk up to the hotel, Caroline and Kate (Nina Sosanya) talk about Celia wanting Caroline to call Alan Dad.
Caroline smiles happily at Kate and they go inside to register. Caroline tells the desk clerk, “We have reservations.”
In Harrogate, Alan and Celia are rehashing the Eddie story once again. Alan just can’t let it go. He keeps coming back to his notion that maybe it wasn’t suicide at all. Celia says, “Let’s live with what’s on the table.” The doorbell rings and Lawrence answers it thinking it’s Angus.
It’s Judith (Ronni Ancona). She’s looking for John. Celia says she doesn’t know where he is. Celia says, “So you’re her, eh? You’re the whore.”
Angus arrives, Alan’s phone rings. Judith suddenly realizes who Alan and Celia are and gets all gushy about how sweet their story is. On the phone, Raff is talking over very loud music.
In all the commotion Alan cannot hear Raff telling him the baby’s name. He thinks it’s Calamity Jane. He says, “You can’t name a baby that.” Finally, he gets the name right. Lawrence tells Judith that John’s in Halifax and she leaves.
Caroline is sitting alone in the hotel drinking wine. Kate walks up and asks if she can sit there.
Kate is very angry, which Caroline can see, but she tries to make small talk about Greg (Marcus Garvey) anyway, and tells Kate she looks beautiful.
Kate says, “You’re unbelievable. I was so happy to be here, that you were going to treat me like your partner when we were outside the house. And then you go and book two separate rooms. Mentally I’ve left. Physically I’m here because Greg’s coming.”
Caroline tries to explain and they talk over each other for a while. Kate says, “You’re not fooling anyone. It just looks sad.”
Caroline says, “I’m not trying to fool anyone.” She says, “I was going to book a double room when I rang but I couldn’t.” She whispers they can still sleep together.
Kate says, “Sod it. Sneaking around like a couple of idiots from a 1970s bedroom comedy. I’m not having it.”
Caroline says, “I panicked.”
Kate says, “You have a doctor of philosophy. You’re 46 years old. You have the welfare of 857 children on your hands on a daily basis. You don’t panic. You’ve blown it.”
Greg arrives, he’s checked in, he can stay for dinner. Kate’s really happy to see him.
At the farm it’s dinner time. Gillian is grilling John about the novel he’s writing. Gillian bounces the baby on one knee as she eats. This baby is in so many scenes, plus it’s handled so quickly at times, that I’m wondering if it isn’t a very real looking baby created in one of those studios where they build dinosaurs and vampires.
Raff wants to know if he’s in John’s novel. Gillian says, “Am I your muse?” She calls the baby Calamity, which Raff says he hope doesn’t stick. A knock at the door prompts Gillian to say in a silly voice, “Why, Calam, that sounds like a knock at the door.”
Could we have more Nicola Walker doing silly voices, please?
It’s Robbie (Dean Andrews) at the door. He says, “I’m sorry. I overreacted. It was a long time ago and you had a lot to deal with. I’m sorry.” So, Robbie didn’t dump Gillian as she assumed he would. Gillian introduces the baby by her new name as well as her Calamity nickname and invites him in for tea.
At the hotel, Greg and Kate share a grand time talking about the good old days and people they know. Caroline is in misery.
Judith knocks on the farmhouse door. She introduces herself and Gillian says, “Well, well, well,” and gives her a once over.
Judith carries a handful of typed paper. When she sees John she says, “You bastard. You stole my story.” They argue at length about who had the idea to write a novel about Alan and Celia’s story and to include the sheep farmer in the tale. Each claims the idea as their own.
Judith gets really wound up and tells Robbie about how John and Gillian slept together. She gives Robbie the complete details about the night it happened.
John blusters, tells Robbie off, says he’s no good for the kind and wonderful Gillian. He says Robbie preys on her and tells him to get lost. Robbie asks Gillian if it’s true and after some hemming and hawing, she admits the part about sleeping with John is true.
Robbie slugs John.
Lawrence and Angus manage to get drunk and make a huge mess. Just as Celia is berating them about it, Alan comes in to say William’s in outpatient.
At the hotel, Greg is ready to talk about the baby. He excuses himself to go to the bathroom first. Caroline says she can’t stand Greg. Kate says, “Okay. Good night then.”
Caroline leaves to go to her room. She looks back sadly but doesn’t say anything. Kate stays at the table, clinching her teeth. If she had nails to crunch, she’d be spitting them.
Celia brings home a beat up William. He sits down with Alan as Celia goes to make tea.
William tells Alan he left work because he couldn’t stand it. He was getting cash to meet a girl he likes at a club when he was attacked by two guys who beat him up.
Alan gives him a talk about confidence and what a smashing fellow he is. By the time Alan finishes, William is feeling better. Alan is the best granddad ever, even to William.
I know actors love the meaty parts, the villainous parts, because they are so much fun to act. I hope Derek Jacobi enjoys playing the charming and lovely Alan as much as I enjoy watching him at it. Charming, lovely male characters are so rare. We need more of them.
In the morning, Caroline is eating breakfast when Kate comes in. Caroline asks her where she was last night. Caroline looked everywhere for her.
Kate says she went to Greg’s room for a night cap. Oh, Caroline says, you’ve made a start. Kate says no, we just talked.
Caroline apologizes. She says, “I was a coward. I won’t be again. But if we are going to be parents, this bloke is the wrong person.”
Kate says, “He’s perfect from my point of view.”
Caroline sighs, leans back in a long pause. Then she says she’s going to have to give up on the idea of keeping the house. It’s unrealistic.
Kate says, “I want to have a child. I don’t need your blessing. Not after yesterday. And what you just said about the house shows me you were doing for the wrong reasons anyway. It will always be about you.”
“Are you dumping me?” Caroline asks.
“I don’t think anything ever started, did it? Just embarrassed fumbles.” Caroline looks unbearably sad. Kate tells her she and Greg didn’t do anything last night but they plan to and she’s staying there again tonight. Kate tells her she blew it before Greg even showed up. Kate gets up to leave.
This is hard for me, Caroline says. “Yeah, well, grow up. You think it’s easy for anyone?” says Kate.
If season 2 is about Caroline learning to be out and proud, she’s made a big mess of it so far.
At the farm, John has a bruised eye matching almost exactly the one William has. Yes, he spent the night at the farm. No, I don’t know where he slept.
I know Raff slept on the couch with the baby beside him in a box because Judith drank two bottles of wine and all the medicinal brandy in the time it takes Gillian to tie one shoelace, then passed out in Raff’s bed.
Gillian tells Raff that Robbie’s fallen out with her again. Forgiving the distant past is easier than forgiving recent betrayals – I’m backing Robbie on this.
The phone rings at the farm. It’s Harry with bad news.
Alan and Celia are tormenting Lawrence and Angus with conversation about food as they lay hungover on the couch, rugby practice forgotten. The phone rings and Gillian asks to talk to Celia. She wants Celia to tell her Dad something that will upset him.
Celia takes Alan aside and tells him that Maurice died. Apparently it was a stroke.
Gillian and her dad cry over Maurice while 60 miles apart. She talks to John about it.
Alan cries about Maurice with Celia.
Caroline arrives home. Alone. She has tea in the cottage with her mother. Celia tells her about buying the bungalow and not giving her money for the big house. Caroline assures her it’s okay, she just didn’t want to face up to letting the house go.
Celia asks about Kate and Caroline says, “I’ve blown it.” Good lord, does she look sad. She’s had her face smacked into her own inadequacies in the relationship department by Kate. Will she grow from it or continue to squirm in her own fears? Now she’s finally facing the house issue realistically. Caroline, I cannot wait to see what you do in the next episode.
Move forward a few days to Maurice’s funeral. Alan speaks. He mentions how badly he feels about not having Maurice at the wedding because he wasn’t able to choose between Harry and Maurice as his best man.
Caroline enters a classroom where Kate is picking up papers. Caroline looks like she wants to say about 100 things, but she asks about Greg and Kate says they did the deed.
Caroline seems to want to say more but Kate says she finished what she came into the room to do and she’s leaving it. She walks out without another word, leaving us looking at another broken-hearted expression on Caroline’s face.
Everyone from the funeral has gone out to a pub for a drink in Maurice’s honor. Alan says that he and Celia should get married again – a big do – invite everybody. He asks Harry to be the best man. Harry hesitates and Gillian says, do it. Then she asks to make sure she’s invited.
Alan thinks to ask Celia if she’ll marry him again. She says yes and gives him a kiss. Raff says, “Get a room,” and the episode ends with a laugh.
This episode of Last Tango in Halifax opens with the two great granddads (Derek Jacobi and Paul Copley) as well as Alan’s other sidekick (Roy Barraclough) with the baby at the pub. They talk about what the little girl should be named.
Both of Alan’s sidekicks think they were asked to be the best man and are hurt because they weren’t invited to the wedding. Alan tells them neither of them were asked to be best man and they should let it drop.
Celia (Anne Reid) is in Harrogate picking up bits to take back to Halifax. She’s in the kitchen telling Kate (Nina Sosanya) about how shocked and unprepared Raff (Josh Bolt) and Ellie (Katherine Rose Morley) are to be parents. Celia thinks they are scared of the baby.
John (Tony Gardner) comes in to ask Celia several questions about Gillian (Nicola Walker), all of which Celia ignores. As far as Celia is concerned, John isn’t even in the room.
Kate asks if it’s really Raff’s and Celia says that’s been confirmed by the chemist. Ellie’s parents aren’t helping with the baby so Ellie and the baby are at the farm. Celia says the child hasn’t even got a name. Kate rattles off 4837 girls’ names as in a long monologue. Then she says, “I don’t know. It all depends on what Caroline (Sarah Lancashire) thinks.” Oops.
Celia and John both say, “You and Caroline?”
Celia doesn’t know how ladies have babies, although John opines that they do. Celia says Caroline wouldn’t want to go through all that again at her age. Kate glances down and says, “No,” but she points out that both of them are still capable of having a child. John asks if they are serious about a child and Kate tells him of course not.
Celia asks where Caroline is and Kate says she had to stay late for a school production of King Lear. Celia leaves saying, “Tell her to pop round, but not tonight. If she has to sit through King Lear she’ll just want to lie down.” Since Derek Jacobi recently did a production of King Lear and is an old hand at Shakespeare, I found this very funny.
John immediately calls Gillian. She’s squirting something into the mouths of her sheep, but manages to answer the phone. He asks her how things are and she says, “Complicated.” He says he thinks about her all the time and she says, “About putting money in the farm?” He says, well, yes, but he’s been writing again. He’s writing about his real life and Gillian is the star of the story.
John asks Gillian out for a drink or dinner. She says, “I can’t. Too messy.”
Alan and Harry arrive at the farm with the baby to find Raff and Ellie playing video games. When they don’t respond to the need for a clean nappy, Harry turns off the TV.
They complain and he says, “It’s not real. Me and your granddad lived through the Blitz.” Ellie smarts off and Harry says they know everything except how to avoid getting pregnant. Raff throws the game controller and runs upstairs.
Alan goes to him. He is the world’s greatest grandad. Raff is crying and scared and talking about needing to get a job and quit school. Alan encourages him to stay in school. Raff thinks going to school now is ridiculous.
Later, Alan and Celia chat on the phone. While they are talking, Celia’s on the computer. She books an appointment on a real estate web site to look at a house – a bungalow, she calls it. Alan talks about the mess things are in with the baby and Celia tells him not to get stressed. She says, “I’m missing you.” Celia brings up the topic of girls’ names again, and suggests Cordelia and Goneril from King Lear. The way she says Goneril it sounds like a social disease. Anne Reid is having fun with Shakespeare tonight.
Caroline arrives home. She sees Kate sleeping on a couch and smiles affectionately. She walks over to Kate, kneels down on the floor beside her, caresses her cheek to wake her up. When Kate opens her eyes, Caroline says, “You’ve been crying.” Kate tells her she was feeling a bit sorry for herself. Caroline says, “Was it John? My mother?” Kate shakes her head no. Caroline asks if Kate wants to tell her about it in bed, and Kate says yes.
Caroline gives Kate a brief kiss. Almost immediately, Kate says, “Have you been eating peanuts?” Caroline ate some popcorn during the play, which was peanutty enough to set Kate off into an allergic reaction. Kate lies down on the floor, panting and wheezing. Caroline grabs an EpiPen device from Kate’s purse and shoots Kate in the leg with it as she calls for an ambulance.
Lawrence (Louis Greatorex) walks by just as Caroline is bent over Kate, vigorously rubbing her leg to encourage the epinephrine on its way. Caroline’s been calm and in control through the whole scene, holding Kate’s hand while efficiently giving her the shot, but she gets flustered and funny when she tries to explain their position on the floor to Lawrence.
Caroline tells Kate she’s so sorry about the popcorn. Kate says she was crying about a baby. The conversation with Celia and John did upset her, after all.
Gillian tells Raff to get to bed. He’s full of excuses about why he doesn’t want to sleep in the room with Ellie and the baby. Gillian goes to get him a blanket and, from behind Raff’s back, signals to Robbie that she wants him to come upstairs. He will.
At breakfast the next morning, Caroline explains about Kate being in the hospital to Celia as John comes in demanding his computer and papers, which Caroline says she confiscated.
Caroline mocks John’s writing. He’s compared her to overripe fruit, but the sheep farmer in his story has the body of a teenaged boy. He also has 70-somethings in his story who reunite after 60 years. She threatens to ring Gillian to share the story she’s found, but finally tosses the whole mess, including the computer, across the counter to him. John grabs it all and leaves the room. Celia wants to know why he’s even there. Caroline says he has no where else to go and asks Celia if she’s made any decisions about the money Caroline wants to buy John out. Celia says no. Celia asks about Kate’s baby remarks.
Caroline chases off Lawrence, who’s in the middle of his cereal, and closes the kitchen door. By the way, William’s absence has been explained so far in series 2 by saying he has a job, but shouldn’t he be home for breakfast? I miss William.
Caroline first tells Celia that Kate’s house is on the market. Then she admits Kate does want a baby. Caroline says, “It’s unlikely that she’d get pregnant. She’s 42. She was pregnant 4 times when she was married to Richard and she never got past 12 weeks.”
Caroline plans to take her to a little hotel for her birthday next week and try to talk her out of it – for Kate’s sake, she explains – so she won’t be tearful and unhappy if it doesn’t happen. She asks Celia to watch the boys so she and Kate can have the weekend away.
Celia says she and Alan are going to look at a bungalow over at Ripponden.
They take the baby to see the bungalow. Alan is doing everything with that baby. The bungalow has a gorgeous view, they love the house, but they aren’t sure they can afford it.
After viewing the bungalow, they stop for tea and have an argument. They argue with so much love, even while being utterly honest. Celia wants him to offer his renters an opportunity to buy his house. Alan says Caroline should sell her great big house and move into something more suitable in size. Celia thinks Raff should be allowed to quit school and take responsibility for his child.
Back at the farm, Celia is in the kitchen looking at the web site with photos of the bungalow as Robbie (Dean Andrews) prepares dinner. Alan’s asleep in the living room. Robbie asks if Gillian and Alan are all right now. Robbie says something was up that whole 2 weeks you were in Harrogate. Celia says, it was something about Gillian’s mother being disappointed. “Oh,” Celia remembers, “I know what it was. Gillian had an abortion when she was 15. Had to leave school.”
We know that Gillian dated Robbie before Eddie, but Celia doesn’t. Her remarks hit Robbie hard.
Caroline and Kate snuggle in front of the TV. (This is the sort of homey relationship stuff I wanted to see in episode 2.) Kate says she asked Greg – her sperm donor of choice – to pop over for her birthday. Caroline says, “I made plans for your birthday.” Kate thought Caroline would want to meet Greg. They go back and forth on the issue a bit.
Caroline tells her about the weekend away plan and they decide they could meet him at the hotel. Caroline talks about what would happen if Kate did get pregnant and lost the baby. Kate wants to try anyway. Caroline talks about Kate’s career and that she has what it takes to move up. Career be damned. Kate wants to be somebody’s mom.
At the farm, Raff looks at Alan and Celia sleeping in front of the TV on the couch and says to Ellie, “Maybe we should get married.” She answers, “Don’t be daft.”
Robbie sits in the kitchen, waiting. The moment Gillian arrives from work, he leaves, saying there’s a casserole in the oven. “What’s up?” Gillian asks.
“Did you have an abortion when you were 15? Was it mine?”
Gillian says yes. She asks how he knows. He wants to know why she didn’t tell him. Gillian says there was no point in telling him. She said, “I’m sorry.”
He gets in his truck and she says, “Are you dumping me?” He answers, “I just don’t want to be here for a bit.”
Gillian says, “I was the one who had to leave school. I was the one who never got a crack at my A levels. I never told you but I never inflicted anything on you either.” Robbie drives off.
Gillian goes inside, furious. She sends Raff to get Ellie and says, “Robbie’s gone.” She tells her dad that Celia told Robbie about the abortion and that the baby was Robbie’s. Alan had no idea it was Robbie’s before now.
Celia says she’s sorry. She didn’t know.
Gillian is unusually articulate in her anger. “But what you do know, Celia, what you must know, is that’s a pretty indiscreet thing to be saying about somebody to people.” Celia apologizes again.
Gillian says, “That’s poisonous, saying something like that to somebody when you’ve got no idea of the consequences.”
Raff asks what’s going on and Gillian tells him the whole story. He’s shocked both by the abortion and by the Robbie revelation.
Alan says, “Celia made a mistake, she’s apologized.” Celia wants to go back to Harrogate and Alan says he’ll go, too. Gillian blames Celia, blames Harrogate, blames Alan for defending Celia.
Gillian talks about how much he’s changed and that she doesn’t like it. Alan gets in her face and says, “I’ve spent my life watching you go out with unsuitable buggers. Have I ever fallen out with you about it? Ever? Don’t you dare say anything about Celia to me.”
When Derek Jacobi puts power in his voice, you hear every imperial majesty he’s ever played hiding inside sweet, kindhearted Alan.
In Harrogate, Celia tells Caroline the story about how Alan put up with Gillian’s green hair and pink eyebrows, her shoplifting, her wild behavior, and all sorts of things that we hadn’t heard about before. Caroline offers to call Gillian, but Celia says not to because Gillian doesn’t like her. Kate leaves for school.
On the farm, Raff calls Gillian inside to answer the phone. It’s pouring rain and Gillian is stacking hay in the barn. Gillian may still be a mess all these decades after being so broken at age 15, but she works like a dog on that farm. Inside, Raff holds the baby awkwardly and says Ellie is gone. When Gillian finally reaches the phone, it’s Caroline. So much for Caroline listening to her mother.
Caroline was in the car with Lawrence, on the way to school when she phoned Gillian. Caroline apologizes for her mother. They have an unfriendly conversation. When Caroline asks about the baby, Gillian softens and says, “I don’t know what the hell I’m doing. I don’t know whether I’m coming or going.” She says she’s sorry for having a go at Celia and asks Caroline to apologize for her. Caroline promises to keep an eye on Alan for her.
Celia enters her little flat with both a Guardian and a Daily Mail and a carton of milk. Alan is on the phone with his renters, who do want to buy his house. Celia says, are you sure that’s what you want to do? I’m not forcing you, I’m not manipulating you. Alan says, “You can manipulate me any time you want.” Celia asks about Gillian and Alan says, “Bugger Gillian.” Celia doesn’t like all the bad feelings between them.
Celia will tell Caroline she won’t be giving her any money. She plans to tell Caroline after she and Kate get back from their weekend. Parallel to this, Caroline is telling Lawrence about the weekend away with Kate.
At the school, Kate is getting out of one car, Caroline and Lawrence out of another. Lawrence says, “Why don’t you and Miss McKenzie come to school together?” Caroline says it’s because they don’t always leave at the same time. Yeah, right.
Lawrence replies, “Everyone knows, you know. You need to stop kidding yourself because you just look like a hypocrite, which is not a cool message to be sending out to the 2.7% of the kids in this school who will one day turn out to be muff munching shirt lifters.” The promos and PR for season 2 talked about Caroline’s struggle to be out and proud. It would certainly be an interesting twist if Lawrence’s macho machinations are a precipitating factor for Caroline in that journey.
Caroline can only get out, “I see,” as Lawrence jumps out into the rain. Lawrence walks with a friend and invites him over to get pissed and trash the place while his granny is babysitting.
John arrives at the farm. Gillian called and invited him. They make tea. Gillian tells him she’s up shit creek without a paddle. “It’s a bit mad, you and me,” she says. She tells him the story we’ve heard before about Eddie’s death.
She also tells him that Robbie never cared for anyone but Eddie and her. She thinks she’s ruined it for good with Robbie and that she’s nervous about getting in any deeper with Robbie.
Meanwhile, Celia and Alan are in a lovely restaurant talking about how much they love each other and how happy they are. Celia feels guilty about what she told Robbie, but Alan tells her not to worry about it. Alan tells her more about the story of Eddie’s death.
Alan says Gillian actually finished Eddie off with a block of wood. She didn’t just stand and wait for him to die, as they said before. Robbie knew it and called the police. Alan has nightmares about it to this day. “I sometimes wonder if it weren’t even suicide,” Alan says. “The point is – I’ve done enough for her over the years. We’re buying this bungalow and I’m putting it all behind me.”
John’s selling his merits to Gillian and thinks they could be good together. He offers to watch the baby while Gillian goes to work. He says he can do babies.