Last Tango in Halifax - TV review: Sally Wainwright's drama keeps viewers hooked

Episode 2: The drama continues to grow and develop without getting stale

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The Independent Culture

Just when you think that Last Tango in Halifax can't get any better, writer Sally Wainwright manages to hook you right back in. 

Sherlock actor Rupert Graves joins the Last Tango in Halifax family in earnest tonight as Gary, the secret love child that Alan (Derek Jacobi) never knew about. He’s also a wildly successful Alan Sugar self-made man type compared to the rather hapless Gillian (Nicola Walker) – but we’ll get to her in a minute.

Watching Graves and Jacobi together is interesting. As Graves usually plays older-ish characters, it’s refreshing to see him take on this role. The dynamic between the two men works. Graves plays the eager, young lad desperate to get to know his father. Alan, too, is keen to meet his long-lost child.

 

Wainwright is clearly trying to prolong the show for another series but this new development manages to avoid the soap zone. All of it feels very believable – and that’s the beauty of Last Tango.

Celia’s reaction to Alan’s fling and subsequent son is a prime example of how natural this show is. Instead of flying off the handle and descending into a screaming match – EastEnders style – it is a subtle reaction that goes from confusion to anger to sadness. It has all the shades of emotion: from adopting the stiff upper lip to collapsing into a heap.

Anne Reid gives a strong performance but it is Sarah Lancashire as her daughter Caroline (and the real matriarch of the show) that gives a stonking turn. But it’s really all down to the detail of Wainwright’s script.

Luckily there’s a bit of lightness thrown in courtesy of Alan’s enthusiastic Googling where he doesn’t actually use Google to search for Gary. Then there is the stand-off between Gillian and Cheryl (Rachel Leskovac), with the former miserably failing to turn off a sex toy in the middle of a supermarket. Brilliant.

The writing coupled with the magnificent cast continues to feed this show for another series. There’s constant growth as characters change and move forward. This is not about happy ever after. This is about real life and the challenges that are thrown up along the way.

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