With only one episode left we’re starting to enter the final straight of this second series of Happy Valley and storylines began to be tied up, with characters preparing to position themselves for their final showdowns. But before then there was a scene so extraordinary and emotional – which acted as a stunning twist and part of the moving on process – that it had me gaping for a full 10 minutes afterwards.
NB: Much spoiler. Very give-away.
It all started off with another classic scene in the same bar Catherine and Joy spent their night out in last week’s episode, this time complete with a full ABBA tribute band. The female members of the team were out in force (no pun intended) to cheer Ann up. (Nevison had warned Catherine that his daughter had been drinking a bit too much since the death of her mother, so Catherine was to provide a safe environment in which for her to let her hair down.) Which basically meant that Catherine wanted to keep an eye on her. As an off-tune Waterloo drifted from the stage, Catherine had lost her charge – Ann was outside drunkenly shagging a random in an alley way and ended the evening vomiting enthusiastically against a tree.
Ann spent the night in Catherine’s bed, while she was back sleeping in the conservatory. Catherine’s ark was ever-expanding.
But as much as Catherine tried to keep a lid on her life and protect the people around her, there was menace in the air. Frances, stung by Tommy Lee’s angry and manipulative pleas for her to step up her game, was stalking the house. As Ann and Daniel had a heart to heart on the steps after her morning after the night before, and Clare came and went… Frances was lurking with some sort of petrol bomb. It was skilful editing, building tension all the time. But Frances didn’t go through with it.
Elsewhere, in the serial murderer case John was celebrating because Sean had been arrested for the crime, although Shackleton still believed that the Vicky Fleming murder was entirely separate. John, the coward, drove back to his family home listening to Queen in the car stereo at full blast, laughing his head off and singing along at a worryingly high volume, the relief evaporating from him palpably. When he got home, his neuroses and confidence gave way to bitter invective, as once again he verbally abused his wife, inexplicably taking the moral high ground in their doomed relationship. But soon his smile had turned into another terrified frown when another body was found, therefore exonerating Sean and placing the case back on his team’s agenda.
John wasn’t quite of the leash yet.
With three storylines still being spun like plates, there was some progress in two key storylines. First, Catherine managed to get hold of the CCTV footage from the toy shop where Frances had bought Ryan his birthday present, and Daniel deduced that Ryan only asked questions after he had come back from school. When Clare identified the person from the CCTV footage as the teaching assistant at Ryan’s school, you could almost see the steam coming out from Catherine’s ears. There will be a confrontation between Catherine and Frances next week, of that there is no doubt. Hell hath no fury like a Catherine Cawood scorned.
And then there were the murders, which spawned the astonishing final scenes that took my breath away. It was simply stunning in its quiet intensity and then explosive dénouement.
Alison was quizzing her son Darryl on a dry stone wall, telling him that the man the police had arrested for the murders was likely not the one who did it. They were looking for a red vehicle, she told him, and she was afraid that because the police had made a mistake once, they could make it again with him. He had better get his story straight before they came round looking, she said.
And then some extraordinary scenes. It seemed Alison had prized open the lid, and Darryl felt like he had no choice but to admit his guilt. He crept into his mum’s room at first light while she was sleeping and, like a child who knew he had done something terribly wrong, whispered to her that he didn’t want to go and tell the police about his car. She asked why, and he told her that he had done things. And then it slowly but surely all came out.
Each line was loaded. Alison and Darryl’s relationship was that of a mother and a small child, not an adult man – she coaxed things out of him with a kind, reassuring whisper and simple language like any mother would with a young son; he not quite knowing the words to express what he had done or why he had done them. She appalled and horrified at his crimes, as well as scared and terrified at what he might do to her all at the same time. But on top of all this there was a nurturing, protective motherly love; a need to grab him, cuddle him and shield him from the rest of the world. The strange, eerie scene continued downstairs in the kitchen, where she started to quickly come up with ideas of escape. She feared for her disturbed child in prison and how he would cope, so quickly came up with ideas of escape – a road trip, she said, just her and him. She made him his favourite breakfast. She told him that they could go to America, visit the Golden Gate Bridge like he’d always wanted to. As tears streaked down her eyes, Alison picked up a rifle from the other end of the kitchen.
“Can we go to Disneyland?” Darryl asked.
Then a long shot of the cottage. It was quiet all around. And then a shot from inside, blood exploding onto one of the windows. And then quiet again. Quiet.
It was an incredibly written, incredibly acted scene (props to the always fantastic Susan Lynch and Robert Emms). It showed a mother knowing what she must do to her own son. Her own son. The instant he admitted that he killed women in the worst way possible filled her with loathing for him, which clashed against her natural instinct to protect. But she knew she had to do, but did it in the most reassuring way possible for him. Make him comfortable. Make him dream of a future. Make him happy for one final time.
And as sure as the bullet hitting Darryl in the back of the head, it hit me too. This series is about motherhood and protection; the way a mother’s relationship with her son can change, alter and become perverted but still retain that element of fierce unconditional love. I’m sure it’s a coincidence that this episode aired on International Women’s Day, but it was the perfect accompaniment to the world-wide celebration, showing how women have to be strong every single day, and the heavy burdens mothers often have to carry.
For our episode one review, go here
For our episode two review, go here
For our episode three review, go here
For our episode four review, go here