'Last Tango in Halifax': Series 3 Episode 1 Recap

Alan and Celia in "Last Tango in Halifax" Season 3. (Photo: Courtesy of Ben Blackall.)
Alan and Celia in "Last Tango in Halifax" Season 3. (Photo: Courtesy of Ben Blackall.)
Welcome back to the new series of Last Tango in Halifax! It’s less than two months since Alan (Derek Jacobi) and Celia (Anne Reid) were wed in that lovely Christmas ceremony. But as you know, things can never run smoothly for long in the Buttershaw/Dawson clan.

This week viewers witnessed an engagement and an infidelity from an unlikely character with unexpected consequences. Also a family friend finds himself in legal and financial trouble.

We start off on Valentine’s Day and romance is in the air – for some of our characters at least. The newlywed Buttershaws are out for a nice meal and Alan sheepishly tells his bride a slightly naughty joke. Caroline (Sarah Lancashire) and her partner Kate (Nina Sosayna) have settled in for a romantic night at home watching University Challenge on TV and eating chocolates. And Gillian (Nicola Walker) has a date with a handsome fella she met at the store where she works– or so she thinks. My first thought is what happened to Robbie (Dean Andrews) after that sexy slow dancing at Alan and Celia’s wedding reception? More on that later…

Gary Jackson (Rupert Graves) has asked Gillian to meet him for dinner, but much to her disappointment, romance is the farthest thing from his mind. In fact he didn’t even realize it was Valentine’s Day. Rather he wants to talk to Gillian about her father who Gary has been informed by an elderly aunt is his biological father. His aunt told him that his real father was already married when he had a fling with his Gary’s mother, Mary Kershaw. The newspaper coverage of Celia and Alan, the reunited sweethearts who married after sixty years apart, made him easy to track down.


Finding this allegation ridiculous, Gillian jumps to her father’s defense insisting that he isn’t nor ever was like that. Gary asks if she will take a blood test a request to which Gillian bristles and declines. He assures her that he doesn’t want anything from Alan; he just wants to know the truth.  Gillian again asserts that her dad was not the cheating kind, but you can tell something is niggling at her about his story.

Meanwhile, in another part of Yorkshire, Caroline proposes to Kate, specifically it would seem because Kate’s due date is nigh. Of course, she happily accepts, but Caroline still has the unpleasant task of telling her mother about the impending nuptials. When given the news the next morning, Celia asks her daughter if she will be the baby’s father.

Celia goes on to make distasteful comments to Alan about the lesbian and bi-racial nature of her daughter’s relationship stating at least the baby will learn her colors. While his wife laughably maintains that she is broad minded, Alan gives her a knowing look, but essentially keeps his mouth shut on the subject of her obvious prejudice.

After having a while to think, Gillian phones Caroline to discuss Gary’s accusation against her father.  As a girl, Gillian remembers coming across a photo of a woman called Mary hidden away in a tin box in the bureau. However, due to Alan’s heart condition, Gillian is afraid to bring all this up to her dad. She wonders if it would be better coming from Celia. Caroline nixes the idea reminding Gillian that even though Alan didn’t cheat on Celia, her mother’s previous experience with an unfaithful spouse will color her opinion of him and hurt her greatly. We already know how forgiving and “broad-minded” Celia is.

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Amid all the possible adultery drama, Alan’s friend Harry (Paul Copley) needs his support as he faces a day in court for intoxication and sinking his house boat in a canal lock. For his crimes, the judge has imposed a hefty fine and invalidated Harry’s insurance. He needs to sell his house in a month in order to pay what he owes to the court.

While Alan and Celia are visiting the farm to support Harry, Gillian decides to introduce the topic of Mary Kershaw to her father.  When asked outright whether he had a fling after he was married, Alan first appears dumbfounded. Gillian shares the story of her meeting with Gary Jackson and his paternity claims. Alan becomes indignant and then finally admits to his indiscretion saying he didn’t know about the baby. In one short admission, the saintly, long-suffering Alan Buttershaw is revealed to be a fallible human who should possibly have more understanding for his promiscuous daughter.  What do they say about the apple and the tree?

In a late night follow-up discussion, Gillian and her dad debate the pros and cons of telling Celia the truth about his decades’ old indiscretion and Alan agrees to consider meeting Gary. Also Gillian hears from Alan that Caroline and Kate are getting married, a fact her step-sister hasn’t bothered to mention in their recent phone conversations.

Back at wedding planning central…Apparently Caroline being Caroline, she’s kept her engagement a secret from more than just Gillian. Even her own son Lawrence (Louis Greatorex) doesn’t know anything about it until Kate mentions a registry office cancellation that could see the two women married in a fortnight. Lawrence has never been all that comfortable with his mother’s sexual orientation compounded by the fact that his mum is also the head teacher at his school. It only gets worse when a bully tapes a homophobic slur on Lawrence’s back and Caroline refuses to back down calling in the student’s parents for a disciplinary discussion. 

Alas thoughts of marriage must be put on hold momentarily when Caroline receives a call from her ex, John (Tony Gardner).  His girlfriend Judith has lost their baby in the thirtieth week of pregnancy. He asks to come round to the house and Caroline can hardly refuse. Though he didn’t even want the baby, he is in shock and saddened at the loss of his daughter who never got the chance to live.

The most Gillian-esque moment of the episode was when we find her and Robbie in bed having a heart to heart about her father’s affair. She also shares the obligatory wedding news about Kate and Caroline. How many times have we heard this now, five?  It’s like a game of telephone where no one whispers. It quickly becomes clear that Gillian and Robbie aren’t an official couple when he bemoans that his police officer girlfriend Cheryl (from the last series) wants him to buy something or other for their house. Gillian may not be good at love, but she’s sure good at sleeping around with people she shouldn’t. 

Later at the supermarket, Gary comes to see Gillian where she admits her father did have a fling with his mother. She agrees to do her best to convince Alan to meet with Gary. They also realize that they are brother and sister (pending confirmation by a blood test, if you ask me). Good thing you didn’t shag this one too, Gillian!

Covert action is taken as Gillian plots to take Celia shopping for a wedding outfit while Gary and Alan meet in Halifax alone. After confiding this plan to Caroline, Gillian congratulates her on her upcoming marriage. This makes it necessary for Caroline to invite her to the ceremony while down playing the size and importance of the event. It’s a practical thing they wanted to do before the baby is born, etc. Gillian reads between the lines, feigns other plans and declines the invitation.

The final scene finds Alan and Gary first setting eyes on one another outside the designated spot. Both seem happy to be to meeting despite the circumstances; a father and son reunion that we’ll surely get to see more of next week.



So the stage is set and there’s undoubtedly trouble ahead. Despite gaining a son, I have a feeling Alan and Celia will have to survive quite a rough patch as a result. Caroline and Celia seem as far apart as they’ve ever been regarding Kate. And Gillian? Her family is her life so I can imagine she’ll be sticking by her dad even though cheating on her mum feels like he cheated on her as well.

What are your impressions of this first installment? And just so you know, I do give a monkey’s what you think and getting shirty-bertie with anyone is not allowed in the comments section below.

Carmen Croghan

Carmen Croghan often looks at the state of her British addiction and wonders how it got so out of hand.  Was it the re-runs of Monty Python on PBS, that second British Invasion in the 80’s or the royal pomp and pageantry of Charles and Diana’s wedding? Whatever the culprit, it led her to a college semester abroad in London and over 25 years of wishing she could get back to the UK again.  Until she is able, she fills the void with British telly, some of her favorites being comedies such as The Office, The IT Crowd, Gavin and Stacey, Alan Partridge, Miranda and Green Wing. Her all-time favorite series, however, is Life On Mars. A part-time reference library staffer, she spends an inordinate amount of time watching just about any British series she can track down which she then writes about for her own blog Everything I Know about the UK, I Learned from the BBC.  She is excited to be contributing to Telly Visions and endeavors to share her Anglo-zeal with its readers.

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