‘Last Tango in Halifax’ Christmas Special Recap: Part Two

A Buttershaw family Christmas seance  (Image courtesy of BBC/Red Productions/Matt Squire)
A Buttershaw family Christmas seance  (Image courtesy of BBC/Red Productions/Matt Squire)

Previously on the Last Tango in Halifax Christmas special, Caroline was changing jobs and moving to a new house with her mother, step-dad and youngest son in tow. No one seemed pleased about it. Robbie suffered a potentially fatal injury which convinced Gillian that her deceased ex-husband was haunting their barn. Last but not least, a local am-dram troupe flattered Celia by asking her to step into their production of Blithe Spirit. This snowballed into Celia recruiting Alan to join the cast when another member fell ill at the last minute.

In this second and final holiday episode, we learn more about Caroline’s motivation for taking on a new job at a challenging school. Gillian’s guilt finally gets the better of her and the Halifax Players face yet another set-back, but who will come to the rescue?

Caroline

When we first heard about the new headship, Caroline made it out to be a brave, shiny, altruistic adventure. However, on a Christmas dinner shopping run, Caroline admits to Gillian that eight months earlier she was told her performance at work had been “understandably” sub-par since Kate’s death. A sabbatical was suggested, but Caroline read between the lines and understood it to mean she would not be welcomed back. Now she’s scared she won’t be able to handle the new position.

We are also let in on how Olga entered Caroline’s life and let’s just say the normally discerning headmistress let her guard down with this one. Olga plowed right into Caroline’s SUV with her delivery truck as Caroline waited to merge with traffic. Olga freaked out and, as usual, Caroline was the level-headed one as they exchanged details and waited for the police. Did you notice Olga’s ears visibly perk up when she heard Caroline explain that her partner gave birth to Flora?

So it’s no wonder Olga showed up late at Caroline’s door with a case of wine and something more in mind.  Caroline appeared to regret this hookup almost immediately when she discovered Olga had been texting her very recentl ex-girlfriend who had accused her of cheating. Caroline felt she had betrayed Kate by having a fling with this flaky woman who was obviously on the rebound. Nevertheless, she did feel comfortable enough with Olga to tell her about her career woes which is when this practically complete stranger encouraged her to take her talents to a state school where her expertise is sorely needed. Olga should know, she had teachers who were overworked or didn’t care. Gillian seems to agree with Olga that this career adjustment is meant to be.

Even later Olga reveals that Wyatt, the sixteen-year-old boy who was driving the car that killed Kate, may have had something to do with Caroline’s decision to change jobs. He contacted Caroline from the juvenile offenders’ unit asking if he could apologize in person. It reminded her why she got into teaching and she continues to visit him. Gillian tells Olga that she should remind Caroline of this since she seems to be doubting the wisdom of her decision to move to Huddersfield.

Gillian

Gillian (Nicola Walker) faces the reality of her future  (Image courtesy of BBC/Red Productions/Matt Squire)
Gillian (Nicola Walker) faces the reality of her future  (Image courtesy of BBC/Red Productions/Matt Squire)

Meanwhile Gillian is struggling mightily with her own issues. At Christmas dinner, she finds out that Caroline already knew about their parents’ plans for final arrangements. In fact, Caroline is the executor of her mother’s will. Of course, Gillian has not been entrusted with the same responsibility by her father. Remember when those two used to be so close? How painful must it be to realize your dad doesn’t have faith in you?

Of course, the root of Gillian’s problems resides in her guilt over killing her first husband, Eddie. She looks for proof of his spirit poisoning their lives at every turn. Her granddaughter Emily (aka Calamity) has an imaginary friend she calls Grandad in who lives in the barn. During the Christmas evening séance led by Celia, the spirit who takes over the Ouija board claims to be called Spike which just so happens to be the name of a cat Gillian killed when it got caught up in their combine.

Back at home that night, Gillian can’t take it any longer. She tells Robbie she wants him to leave for his own good and, to convince him of her claim, she finally admits to him that she killed his brother. She wants to face what she did and get some peace even if that means he has to arrest her.  Robbie doesn’t want to believe her at first, but finally agrees to leave.

Not long after, the couple meet up in a coffee shop. Gillian says that Eddie would have eventually killed her if she hadn’t killed him first and that Robbie knows what his brother was like. Robbie is just sad – for his brother and for himself, but he doesn’t see what good sending Gillian to jail will do. Gillian concedes that she should have married Robbie instead, but he reminds her that she was obsessed with Eddie. He mentions selling his house and traveling to Canada, perhaps permanently. A depressing ending to be sure because Robbie could have been good for Gillian, if she only felt she deserved him. Dean Andrews' performance as Robbie in this scene broke my heart. 

Celia and Alan

Celia (Anne Reid) holds court as Madame Arcati with Alan (Derek Jaobi) at her side  (Image courtesy of BBC/Red Productions/Matt Squire)
Celia (Anne Reid) holds court as Madame Arcati with Alan (Derek Jaobi) at her side  (Image courtesy of BBC/Red Productions/Matt Squire)

fter being railroaded into joining the play, Alan is struggling with his lines and can’t relate to his posh doctor character. So nervous that he's having nightmares, Alan begs his friend Harry to stand in for him. After initially attempting to allay his fears, Harry agrees to take a look at the script.

As expected, Celia is disappointed by this turn of events, but Caroline takes Alan’s side saying perhaps he’s just not up to it. He is 78 years old with a heart condition after all.  Celia just keeps on being her sassy self, letting go f-bombs in front of Flora and taking the view that if you can’t swear at her age, when can you?  Celia is happy to hear the entire extended family has plans to attend the show and asks if Olga is coming as well as she has taken a shine to her.

Finally it’s opening night and the curtain is about to go up. Harry shows up in his tux and more than a little tipsy – for his nerves, he explains. Predictably, as he’s about to make his entrance, Harry takes a tumble which results in a compound fracture of his arm. An ambulance is summoned and, for a moment, it looks to Alan as though the play will be called off. But Celia is having none of it. Her husband is given the script and told to go out on stage and read the lines if he must.

And, to his own surprise, he does rather well. Alan is actually able to remember the lines for the most part and his beloved wife gets to shine as the comedic, eccentric medium. At the curtain call, the couple exchange a smooch to the delight of the audience. This inspires Olga to steal a kiss from Caroline as well.

Just before the credits roll, we see a montage comparing Caroline’s first day at her new job with Gillian’s first day facing her new life without Robbie. Caroline strides through the schoolyard and hallways with confidence and authority and, dare I say, a bit of her mother’s attitude. She’s ready for the challenge and sure of her choice. Gillian, the other hand, seems a bit more tentative about what’s ahead. But as she approaches the barn and resolutely locks the door, you can see she is mentally shutting away her past life with Eddie and the hold her guilt had over her. By leaving, Robbie has given her the ability to start over. I truly hope for Gillian's sake that she makes the best of this second chance. 

Meanwhile the inside jokes continue as Alan and Celia discuss the next play they should undertake. Celia suggests the role of King Lear which of course Derek Jacobi has portrayed to great acclaim along with several other Shakespearian plays in his career. Anne Reid has an impressive stage resume as well including musicals such as Into the Woods and A Little Night Music. Celia settles upon Antony and Cleopatra for their next foray into acting as they drive off through the Yorkshire countryside. Let’s just hope they have a happier ending than that tragic pair did!

So ends this chapter of Last Tango in Halifax. At this point, the return of the series is in question. If it turns out this is the end, are you satisfied with how things worked out for the characters? I have to admit, it seems like a finale to me. Share your take on the specials, the characters’ journeys or the series as a whole in the comments.

Happy Christmas!