Caroline Dawson, Last Tango in Halifax
Caroline Dawson (Sarah Lancashire)
In the first season of British romantic drama Last Tango in Halifax, Caroline Dawson was introduced as a headteacher who was dealing with the break-up of her marriage to her husband John and the establishment of a new relationship with her colleague Kate, and struggling to come to terms with her sexuality. Much of her storyline was driven by her need to “be true to herself”; and though at one stage she considered re-uniting with her husband, actress Sarah Lancashire explained that “she’s spent so many years having to conform, denying to the outside world who she really is, I think taking him back is her trying to keep that up.” – BBC UK Media Centre
At one point, Gerard Gilbert of The Independent called the relationship between Caroline and Kate “One of the most normalized lesbian relationships ever shown on the small screen” and though lead writer and executive producer Sally Wainwright had always intended Caroline’s love-life to provide a source of drama, she believed also making this a gay relationship would be a more interesting story. Caroline’s sexuality is a source of contention for her mother Celia (series protagonist Anne Reid) across the series, their arguments are “vicious”, and Caroline is wounded by her mother’s non-acceptance after she decides to marry Kate.
In the third season, Wainwright decided to kill off Kate, as she felt this the only way to reconcile Celia with her daughter, leaving Caroline a widow and single-mother.
In an interview with Diva magazine, Wainwright explained that while she had been conflicted over the decision, she felt that it was ultimately the best one for the drama and that it allowed “the performances with the people left behind to become increasingly magnetic and extraordinary.”
In answer to a question regarding why it’s always the lesbian getting killed off, Wainwright responded: “I think that’s a myth! People get killed off all the time.” However, Wainwright’s narrative decision to make Caroline a widow also drew criticism; Kaite Welsh writing in The Guardian felt the writer had decided to “privilege a toxic biological relationship over a happy queer marriage.”
Last Tango in Halifax aired a 2 episode Christmas special in December 2016, set 18 months after the end of season 3.
Caroline had taken a new headship at a state school, and was planning to sell the house and move. She also had a new lover: Olga, newly broken up from an ex she had cheated on, rear-ended Caroline, then showed up at her doorstep with a case of wine and they ended up in bed. Caroline broke up with Olga before she moved, and told her it had been “nice but never meant to be”.
The show then cut to 6 months later, with Caroline moved into the new house and while at dinner, she got a surprise guest: Harry (Paul Copley) who introduced his new girlfriend, Olga. Caroline made it clear that she wasn’t happy to see her, while Olga seemed determined to get back together (despite the new boyfriend).
The show ended with the relationship between Caroline and Olga in limbo. In their last scene together, Olga surprise-kissed Caroline while at a play (Caroline pulled back with a “don’t”). It was never clarified whether Olga was still with Harry.
- 20 episodes.
Female love interests:
- Kate McKenzie 💀 (Nina Sosanya, main cast, 18 episodes)
- Olga (Lorraine Burroughs, guest, 2 episodes)
Relationship story arc with a woman: Yes
Male love interests:
- John (Tony Gardner, main cast, 18 episodes, ex-husband)
Relationship story arc with a man: Yes
Filter Relationship Arc:
Storyline during sweeps? No
 A relationship story arc is defined as explicit, developed on screen, and lasting more than 3 episodes. It is listed as questionable or subtext if romance is only implied, mentioned instead of shown on screen, part of a dream sequence, or otherwise not explicit for the viewer.
 Sweeps episodes air in February, May, July and November, the periods when advertising rates are set. A character is marked as "sweeps" when there is a very limited number of episodes that address their sexuality, all air during sweeps period, and the storyline is otherwise ignore/dropped.