Happy Valley series 1 is a 6 episode British drama starring Sarah Lancashire as a Yorkshire police sergeant. It began airing on Netflix on August 20. I will be writing reviews of all 6 episodes over the next few days. There will be spoilers! Continue reading “Happy Valley S1, E1”
Netflix announced it has acquired the British drama Happy Valley. It will be available on Netflix starting August 20.
The six part series stars Sarah Lancashire as a police officer in a small town in Yorkshire.
I originally mentioned this series here. In addition to Sarah Lancashire, the series also stars James Norton as Tommy Lee Royce, a rapist and murderer who is not only a criminal on police radar, but a personal nemesis of Lanacashire’s character Catherine Cawood.
Siobhan Finneran, whom you may know from Downton Abbey, is Catherine’s sister Clare Cartwright. Clare and Catherine live together and jointly care for Catherine’s grandson.
The series was written by Sally Wainwright. In true Sally Wainwright fashion, there’s a lot going on, a lot of threads squeezed seamlessly into 6 episodes. There’s a current crime (a kidnapping) plus an older crime that haunts Catherine that resulted her daughter’s suicide, a broken marriage that followed the older crime, a grandchild to cope with as a result of the older crime. There are numerous characters related to the current crime – it’s a large cast and a wide-ranging tale.
Sarah Lancashire has done many British costume dramas, and she’s good at them, but she’s truly marvelous at the contemporary roles. Rose and Maloney, Last Tango in Halifax, and Happy Valley are the three contemporary pieces I’ve seen her in. Her age, her fortunate association with Sally Wainwright, the current status of women in television, and her brilliant talent have all combined to make this her moment. She’s in a very good place in contemporary entertainment and she deserves all the awards and praise she earns as a result.
If you have Netflix, you simply must watch Happy Valley.
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!
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.
The link led to to an article about a new 6 part series from writer Sally Wainwright featuring Sarah Lancashire as a Yorkshire police officer, Happy Valley.
Sally Wainwright and Sarah Lancashire together again!Some days, I long to be a Brit where BBC One is available to me, because nothing I could ask for in terms of storytelling sounds better than this.
PBS better grab this one and bring it to American audiences! (ADDENDUM 8/20/2014: Netflix acquired Happy Valley and series 1 is currently available for streaming from that source.)
Here’s how the story begins. Catherine Cawood (Sarah Lancashire) is a cop. She’s raising her grandson because her daughter committed suicide shortly after the boy’s birth. The child was the result of a rape. The man Catherine is sure is the rapist has just been released from jail. He is Tommy Lee Royce (James Norton).
A disgruntled accountant named Kevin Weatherill (Steve Pemberton) has arranged for some drug dealers, Tommy Lee Royce among them, to kidnap his boss’s daughter. Catherine works the case.
. . . the story isn’t really about Catherine’s job as a police officer but Catherine trying to find a way to come to peace with herself.
Euros Lyn, who directed episodes of Last Tango in Halifax directs several episodes, and Sally Wainwright takes a turn as a director in one episode. The series started on BBC One on April 29, 2014. If it does come to PBS in the U.S. I’m sure it will be months, but I’m certainly hoping it will make it.
You can learn more and read several interviews at the Happy Valley site from the BBC.
Scott & Bailey is a British detective series from iTV. It’s run for 5 seasons. It makes its way across the pond to American TV on PBS. Some local PBS stations may have episodes you can watch right now, but it depends on your locality. You’ll also find every episode available on YouTube.
There are so many things about Scott & Bailey that I really enjoyed, a list seems in order.
1. The Main Characters are Women
Suranne Jones is DC Rachel Bailey, Lesley Sharp is DC Janet Scott, and their boss is Amelia Bullmore as DCI Gill Murray. There are a lot of men in the police department and in the women’s lives, but the police procedural stories which form the bulk of the drama are the cases that Scott and Bailey take the lead on.
Janet Scott, Rachel Bailey, and Gill Murray are real women. Smart, tough, dedicated and thoroughly flawed. Scott and Bailey are great friends and understand each other very well.
In the flaw department, Bailey excels completely, to the dismay of her co-workers and to the detriment of her personal relationships. She makes up for it by being a brilliant detective. She has an older sister who helped raise her, a younger brother just out of prison, and a horrifyingly awful mom. Alison, the older sister, is played by Sally Lindsay who is also one of the writers on the series.
Scott is a bit older, with a husband, teen aged daughters, and a mom who is around a lot. She’s unflappable and efficient, but does manage to have a few issues of interest going on in her personal life.
Bailey calls the boss “Godzilla” but she’s one of the best bosses I’ve seen. Like Scott & Bailey, Gill Murray is a brilliant detective. She’s also capable of leading a large team of investigators straight in to a confusing morass of information and bringing them out with an answer.
2. The Writers!
The series was written mainly by Sally Wainwright and Diane Taylor. You may know other shows that Sally Wainwright has done, especially Last Tango in Halifax. Diane Taylor also acted as producer and police consultant on the series. Other writing credits go to Sally Lindsay, Suranne Jones, Amelia Bullmore and Nicole Taylor.
Nobody had to remind these writers to write “strong female characters.” They couldn’t do it any other way. They’ve created some of the most interesting women on television.
3. The Guest Stars
It may take more than one episode to solve a crime, which means a major guest star may be around for several episodes. Kevin Doyle, Mr. Molesley from Downton Abbey, is there for several episodes while he’s under investigation for a series of crimes. Josh Bolt, Raff from Last Tango in Halifax, was on one episode with a wild head of hair and a bad attitude.
Joe Bevan’s (George Costigan) nasty crimes took several episodes to investigate. Costigan made his character so creepy. It was masterfully done. (If you’ve seen Sally Wainwright’s drama Happy Valley, you can see Costigan in a much different role.) Helping the police with that investigation was his troubled and abused daughter Helen, played by Nicola Walker, who also worked on Last Tango in Halifax.
4. The British Style of Policing
A police procedural is such a common genre, but the British do it in their own way and it’s a refreshing change from American shows like Castle or Bones. Not that I don’t enjoy Castle and Bones or any other American police procedural like Rizzoli and Isles. But the style of inquiry, the method of interrogation, the lack of guns, and the calm attitude of the police toward the people under investigation is a window into how it can be done with less violence.
5. Great Performances
The acting is top notch from everyone in the series. There are many characters I haven’t mentioned who are played to perfection. The lead characters are excellently acted, completely real and believable. The show has an all-round outstanding cast. Nicholas Gleaves is terrific as DC Andy Roper, Tony Pitts is fabulous as Janet Scott’s husband, Liam Boyle is excellent as Rachel Bailey’s brother, Sean Maguire does a wonderful turn as Rachel’s mistreated love interest.
You might enjoy watching a few short promos and trailers for some of the shows and seasons. It will give you a glimpse of the characters in action. If you have seen the series, I’d love to hear your reactions to it in the comments.
On Christmas Eve, the BBC announced that a series 3 of Last Tango in Halifax is a go. The announcement quotes writer Sally Wainwright.
Writer and executive producer Sally Wainwright says: “I’m so happy we’ve got a third series, it’s so exciting to be able to take these characters further and to find out loads more stuff about them. What’s so great about writing for characters like Celia and Alan is that there is a wealth of back story to explore. Series three will be a whole new emotional ball game.”
The characters Sally Wainwright created in Last Tango in Halifax are hugely popular in America as well.
The third series of the drama goes into production in 2014, and will be broadcast later in 2014.
Awards for the series include 2 British Academy Television Awards (Best Drama Series and Best Writer). BAFTA nominations included Derek Jacobi, Anne Reid and Sarah Lancashire in the Best Actor, Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress categories. It’s received 3 Royal Television Society North West Awards. It’s been shortlisted for Best Drama Series at the Broadcast Awards 2014.
I know I have lots of feelings about this news, and I’m sure the dedicated Last Tango fans do, too.
First, where would it be set? I just made up the part about Santa Fe. It’s a cool place, there are ranches surrounding it, and a lot of films get made in New Mexico. It might be a sensible location for a series that needs both urban and rural settings along with great scenery. Diane Keaton has not asked for my opinion in this matter, however.
Who would be in it? Would Diane Keaton play Celia? She’s 67. What American actresses are in their 70s? Shirley MacLaine, Barbra Streisand, Faye Dunaway, Jane Fonda, Ellen Burstyn, Olympia Dukakis, Julie Christie, Candice Bergen are a few possible names. So we have talent in that age category, but American women don’t look their age. That’s a bit of a problem. Do we want to see anyone who doesn’t look as genuine Anne Reid in the role?
There are simply tons of older men to choose from for Alan. Robert DeNiro, Robert Redford, Harrison Ford, Peter Coyote and dozens more. But I so like Derek Jacobi’s sweet and loving Alan. Some swaggering American who is used to waving a gun around just doesn’t feel right. And 70 year-old American men still fancy themselves leading men who should be snaring women 30 and 40 years younger than themselves. That’s a bit of a problem, too. As for the feckless John, Tony Gardner was perfection in this part. Who could equal that?
What about Caroline and Gillian and Kate? Remember my dream actress pairing of Ashley Judd and Jennifer Beals? Think they’d make a good Caroline and Kate? Other actresses in their 40s abound, include Sandra Bullock, Halle Berry, Jennifer Lopez, Cameron Diaz, Julia Roberts, Jennifer Garner, Renée Zellweger and lots more. But I’m sort of convinced that Sarah Lancashire is irreplaceable as Caroline. Nicola Walker in her jeans and Converse sneakers brings such nuance and subtlety to Gillian.
Casting is a challenge. Adapting the dialog and locations will be a challenge as well. Diane Keaton has taken on a huge task to make this wonderful story American. I wish her well, and I wish her great luck finding the right people to do the writing and casting and create the sets.
I’m really attached to Last Tango in Halifax. Even so, Diane Keaton is trustworthy, in my opinion. If anyone can make a love story about older adults shine, it should be Diane Keaton. Who knows, I may love the American version of this tale of second chances as much as I do the British one.
When I get attached to a show, like the Millennium series in Swedish (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets Nest) I feel a vague dread at the arrival of American versions. Then I go see it (of course) and I like it on it’s own merit. It isn’t the same as the original, but it still has the characters and the story and I end up enjoying both versions. I’m ready to see what happens to this lovely British tale of second chances. Go, Diane!
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!