One of the things about Last Tango in Halifax that I had forgotten in all the months since the first season is how almost deceptive it is in its brilliance. The first episode of the second season, for instance, starts right where we left off, with Alan recovering in hospital from a heart attack. Everyone is happy about his alive-ness; Gillian’s crying a little; they make somewhat fussy arrangements about his return home; he and Celia are still clearly head over heels. And it’s all very nice, and the English countryside scenery is as comforting as ever, but it’s not necessarily full of action or overwhelmingly exciting.
But then over the course of the next 50 minutes, everything about these characters and their lives seeps into you, and you wonder if you ever really left the world of Halifax and Harrogate in the first place, and the end of the episode comes as a shock, because you don’t want to go, and you need it to be Tuesday again right now.
A lot of this episode’s drama revolves, in one way or another, around the classic bumbling fool of John and his inability to use his brain or his penis properly. When Caroline returns home to gather some clothes for her mother, who’s going to be staying in Halifax with Alan for a while, she regards John in the perfectly dismissive way that he deserves until he mentions that he should apologize to Celia and Alan. When Caroline asks what for, he says that the heart attack was essentially his fault, because if he hadn’t told Celia about Caroline being a big dyke, and if Celia hadn’t gotten so upset about it, then Alan wouldn’t have become so verklempt about Celia’s bigotry and his heart wouldn’t have gone boom. Basically, lesbianism causes heart attacks, everyone. This does afford us Caroline’s first “Are you effing kidding me?” face of the episode, though, which is always enjoyable. She replies, “But it really is all about you, isn’t it?”
Caroline’s like byeeeeeee, and drives off to Halifax, canceling plans with Kate over the phone on the way. Kate’s disappointed face is heartbreaking, but Caroline assures her they’ll do something tomorrow, yeah? And Kate smiles and the world rights itselfs again.
With Caroline gone, John’s next act of buffoonery is to harass Gillian about how in love with her he is after their one night of drunken sex, taking her DO NOT TEXT ME text as an invitation to repeatedly text her and then make her get on the phone with him via a sneaky call to Celia. In his defense, DO NOT TEXT ME is pretty vague, right? Thus proceeds a hilarious conversation wherein he professes his adoration and whines like a little boy while Gillian talks to him in an artificially cheery voice as if he’s an irritating telemarketer. After she finally succeeds in hanging up on him, he takes only a few seconds to process the rejection before giving a call to Judith. Good plan, my man.
At the hospital, Caroline and Gillian share a heart to heart in the cafeteria, talking softly and intimately, and it all seems warm and fuzzy at first. After sharing some vulnerable thoughts about their dads, Gillian asks how Kate is. Caroline smiles to herself, but then says that it’s all kind of strange, that suddenly everyone knows, and she didn’t want it to be like that. Because they don’t even know exactly what they are yet themselves. Gillian nods. “And everybody’s gawking at you, like they’re expecting you to make an announcement.” Caroline says, exactly! Gillian shrugs. “Sod ‘em. Let them deal with it.” Caroline smiles. “Yeah.” And once more, to reassure herself: “Yeah.”