Review: Happy Valley (S2 E3/6), Tuesday 23rd February, BBC1

WARNING: Embargoed for publication until 00:00:01 on 16/02/2016 - Programme Name: Happy Valley series 2 - TX: n/a - Episode: n/a (No. 3) - Picture Shows: **EMBARGOED FOR PUBLICATION UNTIL 00:01 HRS ON TUESDAY 16TH FEBRUARY 2016** Catherine (SARAH LANCASHIRE), Ann Gallagher (CHARLIE MURPHY) - (C) Red Productions - Photographer: Ben Blackall
(C) Red Productions – Photographer: Ben Blackall

The last time we saw Catherine Cawood, her world was falling apart. The re-emergence of Tommy Lee Royce and subsequent confrontation at his mother’s funeral made her superiors question her sanity, while her sister Clare’s spectacular fall off the wagon and her son Daniel’s failing marriage means that her home life is also in chaos. There’s only so much Catherine’s broad shoulders can take.

The episode started in unconventional fashion, with Catherine sitting in front of a psychologist, talking about her life and career. It was a fascinating, intimate scene on a few different levels. On a narrative level it was a good device to help catch up with the action and deliver exposition in an elongated conversational framework. It was established that this session was happening two weeks after her sister, Clare, went off the rails, and Catherine got to talk – reluctantly at first – about her life, her sister, her family and, of course, Tommy Lee Royce. The psychologist probed, Catherine parried, often one-word answers. She saw the whole exchange as a challenge and a duel, and viewed the psychologist with extreme suspicion, but slowly opened up in only the way she knows how: with flinty stoicism. But she did open up slowly but surely, which gave the scene an element of character progression too. Catherine, if she continues, will finally begin to confront the demons that haunt her.

With flashes forward explaining why she was made to go to counselling (not surprisingly showing up at Lynn Dewhurst’s funeral was the main driver), it was slightly out of kilter with the linear narrative flow used in rest of the series (it was a bit like the very first, opening scene where Catherine and Clare sat in the garden smoking and talking about the sheep rustling incident), but it was an important one.

There was a knock-on effect from Catherine’s counselling sessions – she felt vulnerable and a bit paranoid about her immediate daily life. She leapt down her friend and colleague Joy’s throat when the latter treated her to a curry. Catherine opened up even more to her during the meal, but when Joy pleaded with her to get her alibi sorted out, the sheriff misinterpreted concern for an agenda. Thankfully, even though scolded by Catherine’s accusations of plotting behind her back, Joy came up trumps and found the alibi that Catherine needed to get herself off the hook.

Elsewhere, we were left wondering what John was going to do after he callously took out his mistress, Vicky, in last week’s episode. He did what any coward would do – he covered things up to make it look as though Vicky was murdered by the serial killer. This meant he mutilated his lover post-mortem and then dumped her body in an undesirable part of town.

What a shameless, awful creep.

But there was some payback (there will be more, undoubtedly) when, thanks to a macabre twist of fate, he was asked to be part of the autopsy observation team when a colleague had to drop out. As he watched the procedure, colour drained from his face and sweat beaded at his temples. He had a grandstand view of the death he had caused. But there was also more to John’s story – he had found his wife in bed with another man, which strangely gave him (at least in his mind) the moral high ground in his relationship. He admonished his wife in front of his children, calling her a slag and a whore and a trollop. At work, he also asked Ann out for a drink (Ann, best to stay away – you’ve already enough run-ins with psychos). Even though he’s a coward and a murderer, it felt that John was beginning to use his guilt and shame as a springboard to transform his character; into something more confident. Or at least as confident as a man like him could get.

So, at the half-way stage, we have three separate story strands – the serial killer investigation, John’s murder and Tommy Lee Royce’s disciple, Frances, who was beginning to make inroads into Ryan’s daily life. Throughout the episode there were great examples of Sally Wainwright’s folksy humour, too. While Catherine and Joy were out for a curry they had an hilarious conversation with the waitress about look-alike covers bands, and, upon learning that her colleagues had an unflattering nickname for her, she relentless quizzed Ann as they looked over the corpse of one of the Kazanovic brothers, who had committed suicide by hanging.

It may be slightly uneven in this places, but this often delicious mix of the macabre and surreal farcical makes Happy Valley the closest thing to Fargo this country has.

Paul Hirons

For our episode one review, go here

For our episode two review, go here


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