Last Tango in Halifax – Series 2, Episode 5

Lina Talbot

tango 5 300x187 Last Tango in Halifax – Series 2, Episode 5Spoiler alert: this review assumes you have already watched episode 5 of the current series.

It’s all about the women in this week’s episode, as none of the menfolk are given the chance to set the pace. Apart from a brief moment for Paul Copley as Harry, determinedly seizing the day as he prepares for his new life on a canal barge. Anne Reid’s Celia doesn’t approve of that, even if she can’t justify her reaction. And she’s hen-pecking her Alan (Derek Jacobi) – who appears to need daughter Gillian to stand up for him.

Three months have passed since last week… Three damaged women present themselves and their secrets – which might never have come to light if it were not for the alliance of two sets of grandparents and the involvement of subsequent generations. Now they face a major family get-together which will reconnect disparate relatives. Celia’s partially disclosed secret concerning her sister appears the most intriguing, hinting at a vulnerability early in life that she has since learnt well to conceal. Not such a straight-talking Yorkshire woman after all, our Celia.

But Gillian and Caroline’s day out to the “mucky weekend” hotel makes the most engaging viewing. We can well believe that they are genuinely enjoying the liberty of going off together on a mission away from all the problems presented by their home environments. Even Caroline is positively joyous just to be on her own at Gillian’s farm – no self-obsessed sons or wastrel ex or even the shadow of a lost relationship lurking in the corner.

Which all goes to show how lonely both women really are. Where are their female friends? – and where are ours, we might reflect. Writer Sally Wainwright speaks truth, that women in particular find it hard to keep up with friends from the past. Even when someone like Caroline is embedded in the social hierarchy of her community as head of an independent school, it seems.

Sarah Lancashire is certainly engaging and credible in the role of a sophisticated woman, who at long last is facing her difficulty in relating to people. “Emotionally crippled” she calls herself – so we trust she’s on the road to redemption now. Perhaps the first step will be to look her lost love Kate in the eye next time they talk – and she is moved to tears. Nina Sosanya as Kate now appears strong by comparison, though 12 weeks pregnant, and perhaps heading into social purdah as a single lesbian mum.

Nicola Walker must have enjoyed the rare opportunity to smile broadly, indeed laugh…. It’s both lovely to witness as well as a relief from her usual worried or stressed out character. In the middle of this gaiety I particularly enjoyed Caroline’s line: “My pelvic floor is not what it was”. Sadly Gillian has to revert to tragic mode not long after as she contemplates losing Robbie, and tries to convince herself it would never work anyway. Another Wainwright point to contemplate – can one case of poor judgement, one past action – ruin an otherwise meaningful relationship?

OK, it was murder… As I presupposed in last week’s review, Gillian’s action appears to have been justified by her husband’s violence towards her. Though at first shocked into silence, Caroline looks relatively understanding, as she has been for much of this second series. It’s her mother who wins in the intolerance stakes.

With John (Tony Gardner) seeing little action, there are few laughs to be had this week, though the discussion with fellow writer Judith (Ronni Ancona) on women causing war has its moments: “Name one war started by a woman.” “The Falklands.” “That’s the one.” John’s lounging in front of the TV with son Lawrence (Louis Greatorex) reminds me too well of one’s own domestic chaos prior to Christmas to be other than uncomfortable.

Then there is Ellie (Katherine Rose Morley) and Raff’s progress in learning to live together. Josh Bolt’s charismatic performance as Raff – a schoolboy who has matured rapidly to become both supportive partner and son – has won me over. And Gillian can indeed be proud of her son. The arrival on the scene of the “dippy” Cheryl (Rachel Leskovac), Robbie’s new partner, has the opposite effect. But what has happened to Raff’s paternity test – after three months…?

Our “oldie” couple give a particularly subtle performance in this episode. They have a lot of rather earnest talks, which become the more intriguing as they keep things back from each other. Some of the dialogue I found wearing – how many times can you say: “down at t’wharf”? But the talk in sister Muriel’s guest bedroom has a lot behind it – subtext, so to speak. What emotions connected Celia and Muriel and Muriel’s dead husband Frank? Although Gemma Jones as Muriel appears sympathetic and might hang a photo of her sister’s wedding on her wall, Celia certainly wouldn’t return the favour. I look forward to seeing this part of their past history unravel next week.

All in all, we can look forward to a “nice Christmas”.

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  • greggf

    “OK, it was murder… As I presupposed in last week’s review, Gillian’s action…..”

    Right, so now there are 3 people who appear to be ‘accessory after the fact’ to this murder.
    This bit of Gillian’s past history might present enormous opportunities for “unraveling” for the entire series!

  • Tribeless

    Fabulous performances and a script to die for. The fully expected misunderstood marriage arrangements when Caroline and Gillian arrived at the venue unravelled with perfect timing. I’m enjoying this series just as much as the first.

  • Tribeless

    That’s if it doesn’t get axed like the superb Ripper Street. Honchos at the Beeb often defy belief.

  • Tribeless

    “Gillian’s action appears to have been justified by her husband’s violence towards her.”

    It may be mitigatory but it isn’t a justification as she wasn’t attempting to defend herself when she murdered him.

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