Sally Wainwright’s award winning BBC One drama Last Tango in Halifax, returned to our screens for a two-part Christmas special and overall it was a successful return without ever being a sensational one.
The problem with it only being two episodes was that it thus lacked the gradual momentum that you get with a longer series. For instance, there was no thrilling, tense series finale. Furthermore, with Gillian’s(Nicola Walker) big secret now finally being unearthed to Robbie(Dean Andrews), in the much stronger second instalment, then you have to ask yourself has this show now reached its own natural conclusion, i.e. run its course? You could argue that maybe this would be a good place to end it. Nevertheless, I guess a more fitting ending would be when one of our two elderly love birds in Celia(Anne Reid) and Alan(Derek Jacobi), finally and sadly croaks it!
Speaking as a big fan of the show, then within a few minutes of watching this first episode I was instantly reminded as to why I like this drama so much. The superb writing of Sally Wainwright made it feel like I had just slipped on my favourite pair of comfy slippers. I laughed out loud when snobby Celia said in reaction to her daughter Caroline(Sarah Lancashire) moving schools(she’s a headmistress), ‘It’s a state school….oh hells bells, I don’t think it’s in a very nice area’.
Consistently throughout, the mixture of humour and more moving dialogue was spot-on. The narrative yet again needs applauding for dealing with the subject matter of grief. A year had passed since Caroline’s wife Kate had died in a road traffic accident but Caroline was still struggling to cope with it all. The portrayal of grief was very realistic, empathetic and some of the scenes were extremely touching. Sarah Lancashire like all the cast in this drama do, they need praising for their fine performances once more.
The narrative centred around three big story strands. The most amusing one was to do with Celia joining a local am-dram group where she would be performing in a play in the coming days. Not wanting to upset her, the much forlorn Alan reluctantly agreed to be in the play as well.
The second strand revolved around Caroline moving schools and homes, taking her family to the more downtrodden Huddersfield area. There was said to be a ghost in their new home and so this was the link to the third big storyline that featured.
Nicola was convinced that her late husband Eddie(a wife beater who she killed) was haunting one of her farmhouse barns. In her eyes it was his ghost that made her almost accidentally kill her new husband Robbie(Eddie’s brother), which therefore led to her revealing her big secret to him about Eddie, i.e. it wasn’t suicide, she killed him. This revelation was huge in narrative terms because it was such a massive storyline and secret of the previous series. With this big secret at long last being revealed, again this aroused the feeling that this might mean that it’s now the end of the road for this fine series.
Last Tango in Halifax beautifully juxtaposes the countryside versus the city, humour versus the serious, and also the clash between the middle and working classes that exists in British society today. To think this is written by the same person who writes the much darker, grittier Happy Valley drama, is a true testament to just what a great talent and genius writer Sally Wainwright really is.
This Christmas special was not the best thing I have seen on TV, but also it was far from being the worst. I hope we get one final series of Last Tango in Halifax. GO ON SALLY, LET US ALL HAVE ONE LAST DANCE!! 4/5.