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. Continue reading “Last Tango in Halifax S4 E2 The Christmas Special Pt. 2”
Last Tango in Halifax season 4, episode 1 is the first hour of the 2016 Christmas special for this BBC series. It’s been 18 months or so since the last episode of series 3 when Gillian (Nicola Walker) and Robbie (Dean Andrews) got married. Beware the spoilers! Continue reading “Last Tango in Halifax, S4 E1 – The Christmas Special”
The season 3 finale of Last Tango in Halifax takes place on Gillian (Nicola Walker) and Robbie’s (Dean Andrews) wedding day. The day is mainly a series of comic disasters overlaid with the faint aroma of horse shit.
There are spoilers. Continue reading “Last Tango in Halifax: S3 E6”
Episode 5 of Last Tango in Halifax starts with a bang when Lawrence (Louis Greatorex) pulls a prank on the boys at school who put the sign on his back. By bang, I mean he tossed some firecrackers at them and pretended to shoot them. A chase scene ensued, with wild music which was also used over the credits. Continue reading “Last Tango in Halifax: S3 E5”
This episode is about grief, about dealing with loss, about flailing for the right choice when all of the choices are wrong, and about being there for the people who need you.
There are spoilers ahead. Continue reading “Last Tango in Halifax, Season 3, Episode 4”
Be glad to start episode 3 of Last Tango in Halifax in your happy place because you’re in for a bumpy night by the end.
Every word that follows is a spoiler. Continue reading “Last Tango in Halifax, Season 3, Episode 3”
Episode 2 of Last Tango in Halifax in season 3 of this BBC series is a painful one. Pain from old wounds and betrayals still unforgiven come forth from the past to color and hurt again today. It begins mere minutes from where episode 1 ended.
Every spoiler imaginable ahead. Continue reading “Last Tango in Halifax: Season 3 Episode 2”
Last Tango in Halifax begins season 3 on Valentine’s Day. Several important things happen on Valentine’s Day that require a lot of processing on the part of the characters in Last Tango in Halifax.
I’m changing the way I recap Last Tango in Halifax for series 3. I’m going to be much briefer and rely more on images to tell the story. I’ll leave out most of the details and only hit the high points. Hope you like this way of doing it. Continue reading “Last Tango in Halifax, season 3 episode 1”
Warning: Last Tango in Halifax spoilers.
My mission on this blog is to mention, support, and promote things I like. I usually don’t mention things I don’t like. Today is an exception. I want to talk about something I don’t like: the kill-the-lesbian trope.
This subject is fresh on my mind because Kate McKenzie was killed off on Last Tango in Halifax in episode 4 of season 3, but I could have written about the topic once a month since the birth of the blog and still have plenty of subject matter.
When I recapped the episode in which Kate died, I did it as a straight report on the story as writer Sally Wainwright wrote it. It’s her story, her creation. She can write it as she wants. (I took to heart a tweet from Shonda Rhimes about fans who think they can tell her how to write her stories.)
I don’t want to tell Sally Wainwright how to write a good story. She knows. She’s written wonderful female characters in Scott & Bailey, in Happy Valley, and in Last Tango in Halifax. I thank her for all of them.
I think this character is part of a larger discussion about media in general and LBGT / woman of color representation in particular.What I do want to explore are the implications of picking this particular character, Kate McKenzie – played by Nina Sosanya – to die. I think this character is part of a larger discussion about media in general and LBGT / woman of color representation in particular.
Kate’s death means that a story about this lesbian couple – one of them a woman of color – is over. There will be no married life struggles, no child raising drama, no representation of two brilliant successful lesbians living a normal life in modern day Britain.
Kate’s death means that a woman of color in a leading role as a lesbian is gone. Her presence in this story, not just as a lesbian but as a woman of color, was significant to many people and to society as a whole. The number 1 search term that brings people to this blog is “Nina Sosanya.” The number 1 post on this blog week after week is about Nina Sosanya. This says to me that she represents something to a majority of people interested in Last Tango.
Kate’s death means that Celia – played by Anne Reid – doesn’t have to grapple with her homophobia, her racism. Kate is gone and with her an important and much needed character arc for Celia.
Kate’s death means that Caroline – played by Sarah Lancashire – will live without love from now on, will grieve for what she’s lost from now on.
Interviews, Quotes, and Comments
Sally Wainwright’s first interview after the episode was with Diva Magazine. When asked why she killed off Kate she said,
It was a really massive decision. And it just felt it wasn’t as… [long pause]. It didn’t give the series as much emotional impact as we normally like to give the audience. I suppose that’s why we made that decision. But I am sad, and I’m really aware that I’ve upset a lot of people.
Later, she was asked why Kate and not John (played by Tony Gardner)? Her answer,
The narrative was that Caroline and Celia had fallen out so badly with Celia not going to the wedding. They weren’t going to speak to each other ever again. Narratively, nothing can ever bring this mother and daughter back together again. And then of course when there’s this huge, massive catastrophe in the family, people do rally round. People do get back together. So it was a narrative decision. It was more about the relationship between Celia and Caroline, and what that gave us.
Celia and Caroline fight regularly and viciously. And make up. That’s been part of their narrative all along. I find it hard to believe that someone had to die for them to make up.
When asked if Caroline would meet another woman, Sally Wainwright answered,
No. And she’s not going to meet another man either.
Nina Sosanya’s first interview after Kate’s death was with Cultbox. When asked for her reaction when she heard about Kate’s death she said,
I was warned before I read the script – which was kind of them – and my honest initial reaction was ‘oh that’s a good idea!’, because the drama is great, but then slowly it dawned on me that I wouldn’t be in it anymore! So that was a bit of a slow burn, but it was off for me because from an outside opinion I could completely see why that’s a great story turn.
But it was quite devastating to have to say goodbye to that relationship, particularly with Sarah, because you build up a working relationship that’s quite unique. It was really sad.
Nina didn’t know at the start of series 3 that she was going to be off the show is how I read that. Assuming she really is off the show. In episode 4 – the funeral episode – she was there as she appeared in Caroline’s grieving visualizations. She may be around for a while in Caroline’s imagination.
When asked about playing Kate as a ghost she said,
Yes, that’s quite an interesting thing to play, because you’re not really playing the character anymore, you playing it as imagined by someone else. So that was a challenge, it was quite good really.
And would she work with Sally Wainwright again? Yes, definitely!
A powerful post on Lady Parts deserves a reading. It’s titled Lesbian Lives Matter. Read the entire post, please. Here’s a bit of particular interest.
There is great division in the lesbian fan community right now. Some people are very angry from years of disappointments and have banned the show, much like they did with “The L Word,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Chicago Fire” and countless other shows that let us down. Some do not want to bite the hand that feeds us and are worried that the show might be canceled and Caroline might never get another chance at happiness.
Well, I don’t want the show canceled, but I do want this to be a teaching moment, for Wainwright and everyone who follows her. I want us to scream loud enough, I want them to hear, and I want to finally earn their respect. Lesbian lives matter. Queer lives matter. Stories on television matter. They give voice to those who are struggling to be heard, and they give a face and a familiarity to the Other.
I Want to Have Them Here
A Tumblr blog called “I Want to Have Them Here” posted an piece called In Memory of Kate McKenzie. They suggest an action that would be an example of what Lady Parts called a teaching moment.
. . . it wouldn’t be right to let this wonderful couple and all that they represent, simply fade away without their significance being recognised therefore we are proposing a highly visible demonstration of our gratitude for the gift that is Kate & Caroline and our appreciation of the two sublime actresses who portrayed them so skilfully and honestly.
We are co-opting the phenomenon of Lovers’ Locks, a symbol of everlasting love. It says a lot about how we would have preferred the script to have gone as well as a warm embodiment of our feelings for the characters and their relationship as lesbians.
The suggestion is to put lover’s locks in a fence near the Red Production offices at in Salford in England. (The address is in the article.) I think this is a quiet, gentle act that could build into news that many writers and producers would notice and think about.
The final quote comes from a piece on After Ellen by Elaine Atwell. Elaine is mad as hell and doesn’t want to take it any more, as are many fans who are fatigued by the kill-the-lesbian trope. Here’s a quote:
. . . writers, producers, and showrunners have no qualms at all about taking our faith and our love and our loyalty and shoving it right back in our faces. Sure, they love us when we offer nothing but praise. They collect the GLAAD awards like Greek gods courting temple sacrifices. They eagerly repeat the stories of how their characters gave real life people the courage to come out. They pat themselves on the back so hard and so often it’s a wonder they’re not all in a constant state of cramp. But when we dare to object, when we express fatigue or frustration with being force-fed the same tired cliches again and again, then the same queer women who formed a vital part of their fan base become a nuisance. When we complain, they call us shrill. And when we try to sneak the characters under our T-shirts and spirit them away to the worlds of Tumblr or fan fiction, places we know we can at least keep them safe, they call us crazy.
Shows with lesbian characters should all be bowing before “After Ellen” and thanking them for all the support, the articles, the recaps, the free publicity, the interviews. When “After Ellen” gets mad, much of the lesbian population gets mad with them. A teachable moment.
What is the kill-the-lesbian Trope?
There’s a wiki called TV Tropes. It has a page called Bury Your Gays. This page, with it’s links to other similar pages, is an education in the frequency with which the trope is used to kill off gay characters. Read and get educated. A quote (emphasis mine):
Please note that sometimes gay characters die in fiction because in fiction sometimes people die (this is particularly true of soldiers at war, where Sitch Sexuality and Anyone Can Die are both common tropes); this isn’t an if-then correlation, and it’s not always meant to “teach us something” or indicative of some prejudice on the part of the creator – particularly if it was written after 1960. The problem isn’t when gay characters are killed off: the problem is when gay characters are killed off far more often than straight characters, or when they’re killed off because they are gay.
Under that are examples from anime, comic books, fan works, film, literature, TV, music, theater, video games, web comics, web original, and western animation. Open and look at all of them. If you’ve heard of this trope before but never really seen it documented, open and look at all the examples. An educational moment.
In the TV section alone, examples come from Chicago Fire, True Blood, Will and Grace, Ally McBeal, The Andromeda Strain, Battlestar Gallactica, Bramwell, Cold Case, Damages, Dark Angel, Dirty Sexy Money, Foyle’s War, Hex, Hollyoaks, Emmerdale, House, Lost, The Sopranos, Supernatural, Veronica Mars, Warehouse 13, Boardwalk Empire, The Tudors, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Hemlock Grove, The Killing, American Horror Story and more and more. Now Last Tango in Halifax can be added to the ever growing list.
The Issue of Representation
Pop culture and representations of society and its multitude of individuals in our media matter. LBGT representation, women’s representation, men’s representation, the representation of the handicapped, the disabled, the old, the representation of people of color, the representation of races, religions, belief systems: it all matters.
Television, film, YouTube, advertising, media of any kind teaches us who we are. Teaches us what our culture believes we are. Teaches us what we can and cannot be.
Taking the route of killing off yet another gay character teaches us that gay people are expendable and not worth keeping around. It’s a plot device that needs to be examined by every creative person who writes for TV, film or any other medium. It matters how LGBT characters are handled in the media. Representation matters.
Why Are We So Attached to Kate?
Update: 8/20/2015: Why do we mourn so angrily when our favorite characters are killed off? Here’s a fascinating article at The Mary Sue called The Psychology of Fandom: Why We Get Attached to Fictional Characters that explains what’s happening in our brains and thoughts when a favorite character departs suddenly.
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!