“Last Tango in Halifax” recap (2.5): Muriel’s Wedding

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The first half of this week’s Last Tango in Halifax felt like a big gulp of comic relief after what has been a very heavy season. It’s as if Sally Wainwright said to herself, “OK, enough with Gillian losing her shit and Kate and Caroline being heartbreaking, let’s just laugh a lot!” But don’t be fooled, because alas! In typical Last Tango fashion, the last half then crashes over our heads and hearts with a devastating echo.

A few months have passed in Last Tango time since our last episode, and we begin at Caroline’s house. As the camera pans up her driveway, we see a bright red and white FOR SALE sign, a sign that really just shouts, “Remember how Kate isn’t moving in here anymore?” And I know it’s a big ridiculous house, and I know it makes the most sense for her to sell it, but oh, I love that house like I love Caroline, and this sign tugs at my heart. And then we see William coming out of the house with John, and giving teary goodbyes to Caroline, because BOOM, William is off to university. Oxford, to be exact. No big deal.

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Fine, William, be super busy with a job that you hate, show up once just when you’ve gotten beaten up and are feeling low, and then run off to college! It’s not like I miss you or anything! Caroline tells him that she’s proud of him. And then William says, “I’m proud of you.” Ugh, William. You are almost as perfect as your mother.

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Caroline also nags John about making sure he sends in his divorce papers. Finally! After the boys drive away, Celia casually mentions that the bungalow she and Alan were going to buy has fallen through. All of the British homes of my dreams are suddenly slipping through our fingers!

Over at Gillian’s, Ellie has moved in, she and Raff are still going to school every day, and they’re all taking care of Calamity the best they can. And at least Raff and Gillian are actually calling her Calamity, which makes me absurdly happy. It appears that Gillian is just existing on her own for a while, praise the good lord—still no Robbie, and no John, either. Robbie, in fact, has a new girlfriend named Sheryl who might be moving in with him. After Raff shares this news with Gillian, she says, “Right,” in that disappointed yet not surprised way that she does so remarkably and achingly well.

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We then turn to Caroline sitting in her office just as Kate knocks on the door. This will be the one Caroline and Kate scene we get this episode, and it’s a jarring one. While things seem less frosty than they were at the end of last episode, there is a separateness that is almost worse, as if they have never been anything other than co-workers. Kate shares the news that she’s pregnant. It’ll be 12 weeks this Saturday. Except she’s not telling Caroline just so they can process that together emotionally; she’s telling Caroline so that she can properly arrange her time off of work, assuming all goes well with the pregnancy. Because they are talking as if Caroline is just her boss. Caroline processes this with a blank face, and says she’ll need time to work out logistics.

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When Kate reaches the door, Caroline says quietly, “Congratulations.” And Kate can’t help but smile as she says “Thanks,” twice, a happy mother-to-be against all odds. Yet before the door is even closed, Caroline’s eyes glisten, and she takes a few ragged breaths, in that shaky but almost-controlled way that is almost worse than full on sobbing.

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