(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.
The 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.
The 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.
There 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.
Some 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.”
The 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.
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