TV Review: Last Tango in Halifax, Series 5

The short and sweet fifth series of Sally Wainwright’s excellent Last Tango in Halifax is a much-needed shot of the warm and fuzzies 

“I’m not deluded. Nice things do make me happy”

With an almost unerring sense of timing, Sally Wainwright gave the nation a shot of the warm and fuzzies with the perfectly short and sweet fifth series of Last Tango in Halifax. Having to wait for three years for it certainly built anticipation but it also had a powerful effect on the storytelling. In a series that has long been rooted in everyday life, allowing so much of that life to happen before revisiting them (as opposed to the laziness of a time jump) really deepens the context. Also, the official confirmation of the Wainwright shared universe was a real delight, how I would watch these avengers assemble!

So the ‘opposites attract’ element of Alan and Celia’s late-blooming relationship is now manifested in deeper ideological differences on subjects such as Brexit. And Derek Jacobi and Anne Reid play this sense of shifting priorities beautifully as his attention turns to his new job at the supermarket and hers is swallowed up the potential of a new kitchen. And as their families look on slightly aghast, there’s a real sense over the four episodes that this core marriage might actually be in peril.

The other key relationship of the series is the rather brilliant friendship that has developed between step-sisters Caroline and Gillian, Sarah Lancashire and Nicola Walker portraying their deepening affection as they deal with their differing realities as single parents. Caroline’s ongoing journey of embracing her sexuality (aided by an excellently performance by Lu Corfield as Ruth, unafraid to get sharp when needed) and Gillian ploughing her way through ongoing financial strife and unexpected giraffes – they’re a delight whether together or apart.

I particularly loved the final episode of this season, which expertly mixed its trademark bittersweet realism with something closer to an all-out hug. Things got particularly bleak with the resolution of Alan’s brother’s journey (poor Ted, poor mentally scarred Harrison) but cycled back to surreal with Judith’s unexpected declaration of love (Ronni Ancona doing good sozzled) and glorious with Gillian’s overt thirstiness (and who wouldn’t, Jonathan Halliwell as your handyman) and an ecstatic visit to Hebden Women’s Disco (spin-off series in the making, surely!). The final grace note simply underlined the inordinate chemistry between Reid and Jacobi and if that really is the last Tango, then its a gorgeous way to wrap up.

 

Photograph: Matt Squire/BBC/Lookout Point

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