Last Tango in Halifax – Series 2, Episode 3

Lina Talbot

tango 3 300x168 Last Tango in Halifax – Series 2, Episode 3Spoiler alert: this review assumes you have already watched Episode 3 of the second series.

This week’s Last Tango presents us with an episode of shifting allegiances between Celia, Alan, Caroline and Gillian – who are not even “intending to deceive” but still manage to give the pot a good stir. Especially Anne Reid’s Celia, who is truly born to gossip.

First there is her throwaway remark about the paternity test from the chemists. Presumably not meant ironically, it seems to bypass Kate and John (Nina Sosanya and Tony Gardner), who may have learnt to take such comments with a pinch of salt. Celia follows up with a damning prediction for the Sixth Form’s performance of “King Lear” at her daughter’s posh school. The schoolchildren probably use effigies of their headmistress’ mother as pin cushions…

Thankfully John provides some scarce moments of fun. Sitting there, not minding his enquiries about Gillian being totally ignored by the questionable chumminess between Kate and Celia… he knows his time will come, when Kate once more floors Celia  – babies anyone? – and he can sidle in and play the empathetic one again.

Yet he has the cheek to view the lives around him blatantly in terms of fiction. And though his description of the impeccable Caroline could have been much more barbed than “a flaccid, over-ripe fruit of a woman” – to envisage Gillian as Bathsheba is a master stroke.

I am baffled by Celia referring to Sarah Lancashire’s Caroline as Madame Lazonga. According to Wikipedia, she was a fabled rumba dancer in a 1941 comedy film who was expected to help create a musical band’s fortune, but who herself went broke. Since Celia said this, I suspect it’s to do with money – which is something she knows how to keep…

Whereas she has no idea how to keep her peace – and leaks confidences in all directions. Derek Jacobi may look and sound endearing and straightforward as Alan, but his character is also not entirely blameless. Nicola Walker’s embattled Gillian deserves a lot of credit for running farm, family and second job all on her own, yet Alan is still outspoken about her wild younger years – which should no longer be a topic for decent discussion. Both “oldies” irk so much with their muckraking, that when they declare “I love you” at the end, I can no longer feel it.

Back at the start of the series, Anne Reid spoke commendably in an interview for Breakfast about the annoyance of being called an “old age pensioner” – of being written off as someone no longer contributing to society, a perception as dated as the epithet. I hope she doesn’t mind “oldie”. A teenager told me he would use “old woman” instead. This may be the truth, but another term is clearly well overdue.

And now Gillian is out of the frying pan and into the fire, as Robbie (Dean Andrews) hears about the abortion she had years ago when they were first together. I  forgive Gillian her rant, she has earned it! In fact, she is the most sympathetic character, and if she had more to do with her husband’s death than not calling the ambulance, I for one am confident she had good reason.

Caroline’s youngest, Lawrence, played with charm by Louis Greatorex, deserves a mention this week for making us smile at his insight into his mother’s efforts to conceal her lesbian affair at school. As does Josh Bolt, playing Gillian’s sensitive son Raff, who has been caught in the same situation as his mother was, but has less control over it. Writer Sally Wainwright neatly mirrors the weaknesses and strengths of the parents in their children.

And so we end with John again, turning up at t’farm, winningly empathetic and even prepared to babysit. If only he weren’t such a bare-faced liar… Given the well-judged performance by Tony Gardner, many of us would fall for his smooth talk as well.

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  • Alexander42A

    It’s worth adding that Nicola Walker has demonstrated her superb acting skill in the role of Gillian, so very different from her previous incarnation as Ruth in “Spooks”.

  • greggf

    Watch out for the nut allergy of Kate the black girl-friend, and her man-friend.
    Both these themes will be exploited to the full….

  • wrinkledweasel

    After last week, I couldn’t steel myself for another hour of people shrieking at each other.

  • Lina Talbot

    Only a justifiable short-lived Gillian shriek. I would welcome seeing Nicola Walker in a refined, self-confident role for once – if she can be spared from neurotic duties.

    Still hoping for some knowledgeable comment on Madame Lazonga…

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