'Last Tango in Halifax' Episode 2 Brings a Visit From Alan's Brother Ted (RECAP)
It’s no easy task for a TV writer to juggle a large ensemble of characters of different ages and backgrounds. On top of that, you have to make them interesting, complex and even sympathetic if you want viewers to keep tuning in. Sally Wainwright, Last Tango in Halifax’s writer supreme, finds ways to do all of that. As if she hadn’t already tossed enough balls in the air for Alan and Celia (Derek Jacobi and Anne Reid) in the Season 4 premiere of PBS’ fun and witty family saga, Episode 2 brings the anticipated arrival of Alan’s brother Ted (Timothy West) from New Zealand.
But first we return to the Yorkshire farmhouse where we left off last week. Celia had interrupted the festivities at the joint birthday party for her and Alan’s daughters, Caroline and Jillian (Sarah Lancashire and Nicola Walker), to scold Gillian for asking her father to loan her £5,000 for necessary home repairs. It will mess up Celia’s kitchen renovation plans!
After they leave, Alan and Celia reach a tentative truce while sitting in their cute red car. Digging deeper into their problems, Celia shifts from lion to lamb when she asks Alan if he applied for the supermarket job because he wanted to get away from her. “I know things haven’t been the same between us since we couldn’t agree about Brexit,” she adds, bringing up their differing political views. The left-leaning Alan assures his more conservative wife that’s not the case – he just wants to get out of the house and be around more people. But the expression on Celia’s face as they drive away suggests she’s not reassured.
The next day everyone is together again to meet Ted at the airport. He arrives in the company of two young women, Mia and Alyssa (Catherine Campion and Sophie McIntosh), whom he met at a stopover in Hong Kong, and hopes his brother and sister-in-law won’t mind if they stay a couple of nights. Alan, of course, is quick to say yes; Celia’s response is an aggrieved expression.
Back at Gillian’s farmstead, Raff (Josh Bolt) encounters an unexpected work of art when he goes to feed the chickens: Someone has painted a large giraffe wearing 3D glasses on the side of the barn. Ellie (Katherine Rose Morley) is excited because she figures it could be a Banksy worth a lot of money, but Gillian reacts with annoyance and fear, thinking her late husband is haunting her.
The barn, of course, is where Gillian’s first husband Eddie died in what was ruled a suicide. But Gillian later admitted to Caroline that she killed him, and made it look like he killed himself, to stop his physical and sexual abuse. It’s not a a place she wants to draw attention to.
Meanwhile Alan and Ted, who’s glad to be back in England, reconnect at a pub. “I dream about this,” Ted tells his brother. “It’s what gets me to sleep at night. A Yorkshire pint, in a Yorkshire pub, on a Yorkshire hillside.” When they go to the supermarket, where Alan has learned he’s landed a job, Ted reveals he’s back for good – he came on a one-way ticket and doesn’t seem concerned about his daughter and the other family he left behind.
At least Ted is making some bold life choices. All John (Tony Gardner) can do is passively long for what he doesn’t have. A day after accepting Judith’s (Ronni Ancona) sudden marriage proposal because it was easier than saying no, he’s calling Caroline to tell his ex-wife, “I wish I was still married to you,” adding that he doesn’t think she can be “completely gay” because of how successful they were as a couple. Which doesn’t explain why he was unfaithful in the first place.
Back at Alan and Celia’s, they’re trying to decide what to do about their suddenly crowded home. Celia plans to get rid of Mia and Alyssa after a few days, but Ted proves the bigger problem when Alan tells Celia that he intends to stay in England – he’s even brought his late wife’s ashes with him. Surely he’ll be looking for his own place…right?
Perhaps Ted should try camping, which is why John and Caroline’s slacker son Lawrence (Louis Greatorex) and his mate Angus (Felix Johnson) are going to Gillian’s farm. After unsuccessfully hitting up each parent for 30 pounds, Grandma Celia is eager to shower them with cash. As a bonus, Celia gets the young New Zealanders off her hands when they dash off to go camping with Lawrence and Angus.
Caroline has less adventurous plans for Saturday night...or does she? She’s invited a school colleague, Ruth (Lu Corfield), over for dinner to discuss interview questions for Judith when the bestselling young adult author and alcoholic visits their school. Ruth isn’t a lesbian, but Caroline can’t help finding the younger woman attractive.
They get on well, laughing and giddy as the wine flows and they talk trash about Judith. Then Ruth asks about young Flora (Issacah Hatzer), the mixed-raced daughter Caroline’s late wife gave birth to five years ago, and the evening turns chilly. Ruth, unaware of Caroline’s sexual orientation, seems to think Caroline invited her over because she wanted to sleep with her.
That night, when Alan and Celia are in bed, he explains that Ted never wanted to go to New Zealand, but his girlfriend was pregnant, both sets of parents were angry, and it seemed like the best solution. “It saddened me, the idea that all this time they never stopped wanting to come back,” he tells a sympathetic Celia.
The next morning there’s no sign of Ted…and the French doors have been left open in the rain.
Quote of the Week
Celia to Mia and Alyssa: “You can’t not have heard of the Brontë sisters – even in New Zealand!”
Last Tango in Halifax, Sundays, 8/7c, PBS