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Last Tango in Halifax, Series Two, BBC One | reviews, news & interviews

Last Tango in Halifax, Series Two, BBC One

Last Tango in Halifax, Series Two, BBC One

Sally Wainwright’s story of septuagenarian love continues with quietly smouldering passion

The happy couple (Derek Jacobi, Anne Reid): the scenery couldn't be better, though the families could be

No one seemed quite sure whether it’s a journey of 60 miles or 40 from Harrogate to Halifax, but we’re going to be seeing a lot of the M62 in this second series of Last Tango in Halifax. It’s a journey in more senses than one, leading from the genteel prosperity of the former, where you’re expecting arrivals from an Ayckbourn or a Bennett play any moment, to a rural farm outside the latter, where the grim atmosphere rather resembles The Village (okay, pushing that a bit).

Sally Wainwright’s story of septuagenarian love rekindled between childhood sweethearts whom life has separated continues with quietly smouldering passion. We’re over the dramatic closure of series one which saw Alan (Derek Jacobi) and Celia (Anne Reid) quarrel and cancel their wedding plans – after The Paradise, final-episode nuptial readjustments are becoming par for the course in this part of the world – and Alan suffers a heart attack. Hospital bed reconciliations open series two, and with a new sense of life’s frailty the two leads start planning to enjoy life in the glorious countryside that surrounds them. First off, they will get hitched after all, though in private, without telling anyone – a decision which we feel is not going to go down well in either’s extended families.

Room for development is going to be restricted, while the playing is of the highest order

While Jacobi and Reid purr on like finely-tuned engines, competing with each other as to who can get the most out of a line or a facial expression, the real meat of the material is roasting in the relationship between their respective daughters Gillian (Nicola Walker) and Caroline (Sarah Lancashire). They’ve only got as far as the hospital canteen before they’re having a heart-to-heart, Gillian confessing she’d slept with the other’s philandering husband John (Tony Gardner). She was pissed, apparently, while he was “such a twat”, and suddenly we’re in a Mike Leigh improvisation. They even go meta-textual, riffing on Pulp Fiction of all things: “I’m Samuel L Jackson, you’re John Travolta. Then we go out and shoot some students.” Crikey.

As bonding experiences go, it had a lot of oomph, though when one of them asked, “Are you laughing at me, or with me?”, it was hard watching at home to know which. The darkness of the scene’s comedy came from the fact that Caroline would hand John over to the very first taker – she’d pay to have him removed, which actually is probably going to be what happens: her marriage is long defunct, and she’s discovered much stronger affections, of a different orientation, for fellow teacher Kate (Nina Sosanya). But there's a lot of plot resolution to get through, starting with the thorny question of where the soon-to-be-married couple are going to live.

Last Tango in Halifax hovers on the edge of soap opera but, with only six episodes per series, room for broad development is going to be restricted, while the playing will be of the highest order. The women, Gillian especially, look like they’ve got the most to get their acting chops into, though out-thesping Sir Derek is sure to be a challenge (pictured: Nicola Walker, Anne Reid and Sarah Lancashire).

You can’t help feeling there’s going to be a car crash coming along somewhere soon; after all, when Alan and Celia first got back together at the start of proceedings, it was a car chase that helped get their emotional juices flowing. This time, it’s more likely to be of the emotional kind. More than once in this opening episode you felt like shouting at the screen, in the literal sense, “Keep your eyes on the road!”. Screenwriters should be warned against setting too many scenes of conflict behind the wheel, especially at night. Gillian looks lucky in one thing: she’s the one driving the Land Rover.

Screenwriters should be warned against setting too many scenes of conflict behind the wheel, especially at night

rating

Editor Rating: 
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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