Last Tango in Halifax – Series 2, Episode 1
Spoiler alert: this review assumes you have already watched the episode 1, series 2 of ‘Last Tango in Halifax’
I worry for Last Tango in Halifax. The first series made a cracking start with credible non-clichéd characters – in particular the two “oldies”, Derek Jacobi as Alan and Anne Reid as his long lost sweetheart Celia. Alas there exists no positive term for this age group – “elderly” and “pensioner” being yet more damning. There was heart, tension, and a romantic tale to smile over, and the misconceptions about the older generation held by their own offspring made an interesting motif. But then the series seemed to lose its way in a maze of partially shared secrets and overlong recriminations.
Now, with the new Series 2, there is hopefully more for the excellent cast to work with than on/off romances and disclosures from the past. Would Scott and Bailey survive without its police procedures, or Doc Martin without solving any medical cases?
Jacobi and Reid start well with their empathetic portrayals of a man with a serious heart condition and the woman who, late in life, has fallen in love with him again – and now worries how much of a future they might have together. The two daughters – Caroline, played by Sarah Lancashire, and Gillian, by Nicola Walker – come to an understanding as well, though from different sides of the railway track. Gillian, as the one always fearing rejection, is touchingly vulnerable, and Caroline accepts that she herself is a “snotty b***h”. All that should gladden a viewer’s heart.
But then Caroline wonders about the casual sex people around her (unfortunately including Gillian) seem to engage in. She confides in Celia, who confides in Alan, who is of course Gillian’s dad. So it’s back to the merry-go-round of distrust and blame, which tends to land Gillian in the mud.
The drama is of course peppered with gorgeous shots of undulating green pastures and the hills of the Yorkshire moors in’t distance. With its setting and gentle pace, and the working life on Gillian’s sheep farm, Last Tango brings back memories of Peak Practice. As for subject matter – girls pregnant at 15 and lesbian relationships – the portrayal of “life up North” hasn’t changed that much…
On the down side, Caroline’s husband John, played by everyone’s favourite baddie Tony Gardner, is gratingly two-dimensional. Yes there needs to be a fly in the ointment, but this one may prove bigger than the ointment jar.
I confess I began to drift after Ladstone Rock, having noticed the wind doesn’t blow for the close-up shots of Alan and Celia. These were presumably not taken by a flying cameraman then… But after the poignant conversation about the mutual friend who moved to California, with whom Alan stayed in touch and intended to visit but, “he had Parkinson’s at t’finish”, much of the action seemed, regrettably, rather banal.
Without a doubt, seeing events from the perspective of Celia and Alan’s older generation can be both fascinating and shocking. As when Alan dishes the dirt on his daughter’s early pregnancy, in her presence, to his new nearest and dearest Celia – something which might strike a chord for many a viewer. Can sons and daughters ever truly redeem their past mistakes in their parents’ eyes?
Following this plot development the two stepsisters-to-be, Caroline and Gillian, have another engaging heart-to-heart – struggling with their inner prejudices whilst trying to sound accepting and oh-so-reasonable.
The final scenes also have charm. Gillian and Caroline return to work, herding their respective sheep and schoolchildren, oblivious that their parents have planned the wedding without including them… Again, whose expectations are reasonable? Do the parents owe their children a role in their new lives? How sensitive we humans are when those once closest to us move a significant step further away.
But my worries remain. Whilst this episode does deliver rewarding insights into the humanity of its four main characters, a hook to hang these on and grab the viewer has still to make an appearance. Not that I’m suggesting solving a Moors murder mystery or starting a campaign to save some Brontë memorial site… but the repercussions of a one night stand gives the characters scarce sustenance for an entire episode. More meat please.Tagged in: Anne Reid, Derek jacobi, Last Tango in Halifax
Latest from Independent journalists on Twitter