Review: Last Tango in Halifax – Series 2, Episode 4

Lina Talbot
  • By
  • Arts
  • Last updated: Wednesday, 11 December 2013 at 11:53 pm
tango 4 300x158 Review: Last Tango in Halifax – Series 2, Episode 4

“Let’s live with what’s on the table.”

Spoiler alert: this review assumes you have already watched the fourth episode of the current series.

A mixed episode this. In the first half things go frantically wrong, as some key characters discover more than they would like about the other folk around them. Great fun to watch, whilst safe in the knowledge we viewers would never be so stupidly open about our own private affairs.

Why on earth does Derek Jacobi’s sensitive Alan continue to confide in Anne Reid’s judgemental Celia? Of course one’s ability to learn from experience diminishes greatly with age…

In the second half there is far less energy. Everyone seems to have accepted that they’ve been let down by certain others, and it’s only Maurice’s funeral that brings a sense of togetherness to Alan’s circle, where he moots the idea of a second wedding.

We still don’t know exactly why Alan thinks Gillian (Nicola Walker) may have bumped off her abusive husband Eddie in the barn. A place Alan now fears to tread. His doom-laden remark: “If it were suicide” is left hanging in the air. Methinks Alan is too quick to put t’blame on his own daughter. Not something Celia would do to her daughter Caroline…

A more involving two-way conversation follows between John and Raff, an unlikely pair of strangers of very different ages, but Tony Gardner and Josh Bolt pull it off nicely. Then on to the charming scene in the Registry Office, where John (no relation), Harry (maternal grandfather) and Maurice (his mate) try to think of a name for Ellie and Raff’s baby. Heart-warming. Even Ellie (Katherine Rose Morley) softens around the edges.

Neither opening subplot is revisited in this episode, but both will doubtless pop up again next week. Instead we are entertained by a fearsome five-way conversation between Alan and Celia, respective grandsons Raff and Lawrence (Louis Greatorex) – and John’s “bit on the side” Judith (Ronni Ancona),  – enough to give any viewer a headache. But a delight to watch Anne Reid as Celia clearly enjoy having a go at her son-in-law’s fancy woman.

The “mucky weekend” takes place in an interesting Jacobean hotel in West Yorkshire, not too grand but certainly a unique setting. Yet Caroline (Sarah Lancashire) shows both her lack of commitment to her relationship with Kate (Nina Sosanya), as well as her intolerance towards friends of friends who happen to possess the odd annoying habit. To be precise, the friend Kate has proposed to be the father of “their” baby, whose only sin was to speak of past events and old acquaintances. Caroline should have been more generous – but didn’t have the right role models growing up.

I admit to never “feeling” that Caroline was sexually interested in Kate, and now with her fateful error in booking two single rooms… I knew it!

Whereas John and Gillian are getting on well – nothing better than sharing a sense of humour, such as being able to call “w**ky” exactly that. Things are awkward enough when Robbie (Dean Andrews) turns up to apologise and realises he’s been outplayed. But the addition of Judith as a rival writer accusing John of stealing her ideas, and vice versa – the “ideas” sitting at the table with them – is just too good. This the most enjoyable scene of the episode, as the warring writers spill the beans about their unknowing subjects.

Later, William – John’s older son, (Edward Ashley) – throws in his work because he couldn’t stand the stupidity of his supervisors, and gets mugged at the ATM – a tale rather pulled from nowhere. Perhaps the intention is to show Celia’s bigot genes working their way through the generations. Celia and Alan have a rough time trying to look after John and Caroline’s kids – ha ha – and Kate tells Caroline where to go. That Caroline calls Kate’s ex-boyfriend a jerk is frankly unbelievable.

Alas poor Maurice. He of course is the other “uncle” – a best mate of Alan’s played by Roy Barraclough. We’ve seen him in the pub as one of the alternative best men for Alan’s wedding to Celia. But with a rather inconspicuous role – even compared with Uncle Harry’s (Paul Copley) – his character has had little chance to engage us. From the point of view of plot therefore, his death proved less than moving, though I was all ready to weep for another I thought might have met a sorry end. I wonder if other viewers expected a different name to arise after Celia put down the phone?

We take a last look at the unhappy Caroline, who now seems out of her depth with what’s happened between her and Kate. Perhaps she really is a lost soul when it comes to being close to people, preferring to keep them at a distance as the supremely confident headmistress. It can get awful lonely at the top.

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  • pentacostalist

    I like the remark-”Great fun to watch, whilst safe in the knowledge we viewers would never be so stupidly open about our own private affairs.” So true. I am open and transparent in my discussions with friends—only to find that they never, ever reveal their thoughts or experiences. Why are the English so withdrawn, and not forthcoming when speaking about their faults and fantasies?

  • tallise

    Is this a review or a synopsis? How about commenting on, for example, Derek Jacobi’s brilliant portrayal of an old man’s hearing of the death of one of his oldest friends?

  • greggf

    “Caroline should have been more generous – but didn’t have the right role models growing up.”

    Nonsense Lina, in fact Sally Wainwright has portrayed the stereotypes to a “T”. Kate’s “manfriend” is quite obviously a jerk and would invite the description “common” by Caroline’s mother.
    Perhaps its you yourself who “didn’t have the right role models growing up”.

  • Lina Talbot

    It’s a weekly review blog – and I don’t wish to repeat the obvious. The calibre of the acting is certainly high. Please see eps 1 & 2.

  • Lina Talbot

    Hello Caroline.

  • Lina Talbot


  • greggf

    Please see my posts on eps 1, 2 & 3.

  • Lina Talbot

    And thanks for them – nowt to disagree with. I too hoped for more story, but enjoyed the battle of the writers this week.

  • greggf

    Yes, I wonder if Judith, John’s “bit on the side”, is going to get a bigger role…..?

  • pentacostalist

    British. Born in Rhodesia. Lived here for 34 years. Really like your coruscating style.

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