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Last Tango in Halifax – Series 2, Episode 2

Lina Talbot

TANGO 300x168 Last Tango in Halifax – Series 2, Episode 2Spoiler alert: this review assumes you have already watched episode 2 of the current series on BBC.

Three cheers for Last Tango. This week the actors show us what they can do with a larger helping of story, when the sudden revelation of pregnancy followed swiftly by the onset of childbirth brought out the best and worst of their characters.

But first there’s the wedding, which is far from being the perfect day Alan and Celia might have hoped for. Derek Jacobi makes an endearing Alan, not bothered about paying the odd £20 to his witnesses. After all, the blood-smeared halal butcher and the policemen are working chaps whose time means money. Anne Reid’s Celia appears less in touch with the real world – and quicker with the accusation of “fleecing pensioners”. Social awareness score … Alan 1, Celia 0.

The entrance of daughter Gillian (Nicola Walker) is so over-the-top that I considered she might be having a breakdown, which isn’t far from the storyline. Mortified by her father’s outburst last week, and by his keeping his distance since, Gillian clearly needs to talk things through. Instead, it’s Celia who appears contrite and Alan who says “just ignore her”. Tut tut… Alan 1, Celia 1.

If only Gillian were as emotionally temperate as Caroline (Sarah Lancashire) appears to be. She even has the supportive Robbie (a winning Dean Andrews) lending an ear, as well as actually proposing and being ignored… She doesn’t value what she already has. But then once more, the united front of Celia and her dad confronts her and – to put it bluntly – they lie to her face. Alan should give her some father-daughter time, and Celia should not be telling her how to speak to her own father. No points for either of them.

Though Robbie and Gillian also appear not to be paying much attention to the younger generation. Neither notice that Gillian’s son Raff, played by the talented Josh Bolt, has a hugely pregnant girlfriend. Puzzling one that.

Sadly the self-conscious banter between Celia and Alan only makes me think of cloud-cuckoo-land and leaves me cold. But fortunately Caroline is colder still, with her small request for a hundred grand bringing them back down to earth. Then naughty Celia confides in her – though she didn’t let Alan have alone time with his daughter. Alan 2, Celia 1.

The stolen time during school assembly, used by Caroline and her partner Kate (the regal Nina Sosanya from Silk) to discuss house finance and a future baby, is a truly gorgeous, engaging scene wittily juxtaposed with the children singing their hymn. In fact this episode is altogether funnier and sparkier than last week’s, with more credible moments – outside of the birthing room. Even John (Tony Gardner) gets short shrift from his “bit on the side” – yay!

There’s the additional puzzle of whether Raff really is the father, which Celia slanderously debates on the phone with Caroline. She also drags poor Gillian through the mud over asking for money from Alan to help her son complete his schooling. If you ask me, Celia is the “muck lump” here. Final score: Alan 3, Celia 1. Alan will have to watch out with that “s**t-stirrer” around…

You have to smile as two teachers stroll through the school grounds discussing, well, the mechanics of how two lesbians have a baby. Caroline shows a little jealousy and Kate is a little defensive, but thankfully no histrionics are required. Caroline delivers a lovely line about Kate “not getting sperm from just anywhere”. Yes, we girls should think about the genetics before accepting a man as a possible father… ahem.

So I wonder if writer Sally Wainwright has a message for us in all this, that no-one is perfect, and there’s too much judgement passed over the lives of other people, who we can never really know that well. And that class consciousness is alive and well in Britain today, perhaps reinforced by a glaring disparity in schools – or at least in school buildings.

Yet, back in the day, both Celia and Alan were shop assistants, the one in the Co-op, the other in Jessops. On a par, you might think. Perhaps it was Celia’s first marriage which hoisted her to a higher station in life. Let’s hope that it wasn’t her less well-developed sense of fellow feeling.

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  • greggf

    “So I wonder if writer Sally Wainwright has a message for us in all this….”

    Certainly she has; times have changed, and she’s making hay while she can!


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