Holby City: You’re a good girl, T-Lo

tara holby(Series 15, ep.27) Apparently Jing Lusi knew right from when she auditioned for the role of Tara Lo what the outcome for the character would be. This being the case, you have to applaud her and the writers for not taking the easy route of making Tara completely lovable, sympathetic and sweet (Chantelle, basically) so we’d be devastated by her departure.

Instead, Tara has often been spiky, self-absorbed, stubborn and annoying. Although undeniably beautiful and although the situation she was in evoked sympathy, it was hard to warm to her as a person (unless you were Ollie – which I’m going to spell that way from now on because Tara did). And still we were devastated by her departure.

tara lo holbyThe masterstroke in this episode was that we were given two different perspectives on Tara’s operation. There was the operation itself, which looked absolutely horrifying – equipment like a sterile and sanitised torture chamber and the stomach-churning notion of being awake while someone else is poking about in your brain. Tara was being kept happy and comfortable by drugs – she even initiated a singalong – so the situation was possibly even more traumatic for Oliver and for Tara’s mother, who had to stand by and watch.  

elliot hanssen holbyThe other perspective was of Tara and Ollie’s colleagues and friends throughout the hospital, waiting for news. Writer Martha Hillier deployed Hanssen beautifully, having him turn up before the operation with – almost surreally – some home-made baklava for Tara. “I’m perfecting the recipe,” he said. “This is to ensure a swift recovery.” That such a stern-seeming man could do something as warm and homely as baking for her said more about his personality and his feelings for Tara than any amount of speechifying. Elliot and Hanssen discussed baklava while they waited for news. Jac and Jonny didn’t exactly wait together, but they were never far apart.

holby cityThere were non-Tara-related scenes, too. Malick’s son Jake found out (thanks to Serena and Digby dropping clangers) that Malick is gay. Gemma was about to leave but was called back into work during an emergency. I couldn’t tell if these scenes were a welcome distraction or not. I was impatient to get back to what was happening with Tara, but at the same time the scenes in the operating theatre were so intense that it was quite nice to get away for a few moments, especially when the moments involved Digby.

ollie holbySome of the most emotional scenes were the ones in which Ollie and Tara’s mum argued over who should be in the operating theatre with her. You could see both viewpoints, but Tara’s father supported Tara when she said Ollie was her future. She needed to hang on to the idea of a future and there was even a little scene where she scribbled future dates in her diary – Ollie’s birthday, Christmas shopping. In the end, the surgeon needed to test Tara’s Chinese language as well as her English, so the mother was called into the theatre. Asked to write something in Chinese for her to read, Tara’s mum wrote something down. Tara said she didn’t know what it was, and then just as she slipped into unconsciousness, she said, “Love. It says love.”

James Anderson has beautiful eyelashes, and they almost seemed to acquire an acting presence of their own as, in close-up, Ollie realised before anyone else that Tara had gone. He insisted that they checked her pupils, and got the dreaded response, “Fixed and dilated.”

jac holbyThe most moving part of the episode was the reaction of the other staff members to the news. Hanssen received a call and Elliot understood what had happened from a glance. Jonny told Jac, and her eyes filled with tears. Chantelle told Digby and Malick that something awful had happened. When Hanssen gave the news to Gemma, Michael and Sacha, his voice choked on the word “dead.”

In the final scene, Mo went to check on Tara, her body still being kept alive so her organs could be transplanted as she’d requested. There’s such a tenderness about Mo sometimes. “You’re a good girl, T-Lo,” she said. “We’re going to look after you.”

Not a dry eye in the house.

Posted by PLA           More Holby City here

10 Comments

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10 responses to “Holby City: You’re a good girl, T-Lo

  1. Ann S

    Beautiful resume -as ever.

  2. glanbraint

    Yes probably the most poignant moment was when Mo said she would take care of her. Mo can be very cold and tactless sometimes, but she went up in my estimation yesterday. “You’re a good girl, Mo”

    • pauseliveaction

      I love Mo – she’s down to earth and real. It was a beautiful ending. It would have been more obvious to have ended on a scene of Ollie looking handsomely sad and alone in the Linden Cullen Memorial Shrubbery, but this was pitched just right.

      • Hazie_Dora

        Ah the Linden Cullen Memorial Shrubbery…And there was no one on the stairs looking through the Window of Regret either. All in all a really good episode I thought and loving your work on here, as ever!

  3. I found last night a bit of an anti climax tbh. I never liked Tara much, but found myself wishing she would survive the op, have a few minutes awake and speaking to family and Ollie then have a sudden fit or something which led to her dying. Dying in theatre kind of put me off surgery. You know it happens but don’t want to see it happen, if that makes sense.

  4. Dreamer

    I loved this episode due to the reasons you’ve stated above, but from a PoC PoV, I found some bits problematic:-
    1) It seems Tara (mix of Manic Pixie Dream Girl and other tropes) was only brought in so we could see the Pain and Tears of another White Dude on another show; whenever a PoC is involved, we’re usually represented as – hyper-/de-sexualised/geniuses/idiots/need to be saved or bettered by White Person, and my personal favourite – A Terrorist,
    2) When Hanssen tells the trio on AAU that Tara is dead, Gemma HAS to make it about her with her line about not getting info the proper way or something,
    3) Yeah, Tara’s mother is over-bearing (ergo Tara’s personality), but she and her husband had to live with the knowledge that their (only?) daughter (child) might die any time – so Ollie had no right to be a douchebag about it. In fact, it seems he didn’t even get the ‘respect your elders’ memo.

    Yeah, I know it’s just TV and I shouldn’t read much into it, but it gets annoying when stories about PoC are always limited in their representation. And for some reason, we Asians (Asian definition) are always out to get the West.

    • Hector

      With respect, Dreamer, I’m not sure that’s an entirely fair accusation. Yes, there were acknowledgments of Tara’s Chinese identity – having her speak Mandarin in certain episodes etc, but in some ways her race was irrelevant. Also Holby must be one of the diverse casts on TV – Ric, Malick, Nathan, Jake, Mo, Michael etc and these are characters portrayed not as ‘terrorists’ or as defined by their ethnicity but as figures in authority – senior level surgeons who are brilliant at their jobs. I also disagree that Tara was a manic pixie dream girl – there were few attempts to make her lovable, and she was defined more by her stubbornness, keenness, and ambition. I agree there are many appalling examples out there of stereotyping PoC on TV, but I’m not sure this is one of them.

  5. holbylover819

    The bit that stood out for me the most was the fact that they were able to afford to pay Gemma because Tara died. I don’t know if it’s sad that through Tara’s death Gemma could continue working but it was definitely… weird/poignant. I mean they could have just had Gemma rehired but this was just so strange. But good. I think. I’m really not sure how I feel about that.
    “Darwin’s loss is AAU’s gain.” as Hannsen said.

  6. Oli

    I thought it was pretty inconsiderate of Hannsen saying that to Gemma. Wonderful episode. On the subject of wonderful episodes of medical drama PLA, Last Saturdays’ Casualty was one of the best I’d seen in months. It’s on the I-Player until tomorrow if you missed it…

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