REVIEW: Happy Valley (S3 E6/6)

Here we go then. The final episode of one of the most talked-about and critically acclaimed British crime dramas of all time.

I’ve thought long and hard about Happy Valley over the course of the week. It’s great to see it transcend genres, get huge press coverage and get people talking about what’s going to happen in the finale. I’m all for it, and it’s a testament to Sally Wainwright’s writing and, certainly, Sarah Lancashire’s iconic performance as Catherine Cawood that this has been the case.

Leading up to the finale, I was well aware that it had a lot to clear up, and I really hoped that it could land successfully. Perhaps not a happy ending – when and what in Happy Valley has ever been happy? – but something satisfying, and emotionally engaging.

The showdown with Tommy Lee Royce, the fate of the lead characters, the Kneževićs and the Faisal case… all of these had to be tied up. And they were – in unexpected, moving, and very human ways.

The first big unexpected element to this final was the fate of Tommy Lee Royce. The Kneževićs wanted to move him from the safe house after their two hapless thugs were caught with the money, but seeing a car full of gangsters who initially wanted him to get into the boot of their car presented a number of red flags. He went back to the safe house, took a knife from the kitchen and then concealed it up the sleeve of his hoodie. What followed was absolutely brutal. Fearing for his life as they drove along the back lanes, he decided to take the initiative, repeatedly stabbing the thug in the back seat and then slicing the throat of the person in the passenger seat. He and the driver then tumbled out of the car into a field (with sheep all around) and battled to the death. Tommy was stabbed in the stomach but prevailed.

His plan of escape was in tatters, his life on the line.

He went to the only place he knew that would be empty: Catherine’s house.

Up until that point Catherine had been in reflective mood, visiting Becky’s grave and aware that it was her last day on the job before retirement. She also heard from Ryan what she needed to hear: that he never had any intention of running off with his dad, he just wanted to see for himself what he was like.

And so back to Tommy Lee Royce. There he sat in Catherine’s empty house, bleeding out and knowing that he was close to death, poring through the photo albums that Catherine had herself leafed through earlier. There he saw his son as a baby and perhaps saw in that moment what things could have been like for him. As a father, as someone who hadn’t thrown his life away. He also saw pictures of Becky, and he wept.

Whether this was because of guilt and remorse or self-pity we don’t know, but it was a poignant moment nonetheless. Perhaps that’s Sally Wainwright’s greatest achievement in all of this – giving Tommy Lee Royce grey areas, human areas, hitherto unexplored.

When the showdown came, Tommy was on his last legs. There was no fight, no Catherine in peril. But what a scene. Emotionally charged with two people so obviously hating each other – Catherine because of what Tommy did to Becky and her family, Tommy because he claimed that he loved Becky and that it was Catherine who had ruined his life.

In the end, Tommy Lee Royce set himself on fire after telling Catherine what the Kneževićs had done. And afterwards, Catherine strode down the street, as she always does, but this time collapsing as her colleagues surrounded the house. She wept until Clare came and held her. “We’ve had another tussle,” she said matter-of-factly, through the tears. “I won, naturally.”

The other loose ends? The two thugs got theirs, Rob Hepworth was arrested – not for the murder of his wife, but for having indecent images on his computer – and Alison helped the police locate Faisal. But all of these side-stories seemed inconsequential, almost irrelevant at times, to what was the main event. This has always been my slight uneasiness about Happy Valley – that the Fargoesque side stories don’t fit with the battle royale between Catherine and Tommy Lee.

One brilliant bit of writing at the end: when Catherine asked her boss who would be looking after the Hepworth girls, he told her, “there’s a grandmother”.

In that moment, Catherine knew what this meant. There’s always a grandmother.

To finish on, we saw Catherine standing by Becky’s graveside in civilian clothes. She looked softer, happier, the weight of the world having evaporated from her shoulders. Let’s hope it stays that way.

I have to admit: I’m not as high on HappyValley as many others. I enjoy it and I love, love, love the dialogue, the character of Catherine Cawood, the superb ensemble cast and the way it transposes the Western genre into a sleepy Yorkshire market town. These elements all work very, very well indeed. As does its forthright and welcome subversion of this genre. Not just a geographical subversion, but gender subversion. Instead of the male sheriff, bestriding his town, we get Catherine – in her thick police trousers she may as well be wearing chaps straight out of a Western film.

Happy Valley is also an unshamedly and brilliantly feminist drama. And it’s all about survival. We see survivors everywhere – Clare conquering her addictions, Anne surviving sexual abuse, and Catherine – of course, Catherine – surviving the kind of combination of ongoing trauma that would floor any other person. All survivors of violence meted out by men. The message, I think, of Happy Valley is that men’s capability to cause violence is everywhere. It’s appallingly unrelenting both in the real world and here, too, in the world of Happy Valley.

But there has been some pleasing, clever and nuanced character development in this final series when it comes to Catherine. In early episodes, she often swaggered around the town. She knew everyone, and she dealt with issues with an almost matter-of-fact way, able to cut through any bullshit and solve any problem. Looking after and protecting Ryan widened out to the whole town – this was her purpose, this was what she was made for. So when we saw Clare question this purpose and wondered if Catherine’s my-way-or-the-highway approach, it was a plausible development – noble intentions and a fierce matriarchal need to protect became twisted to the point that she elevated herself above everyone, family included.

Catherine unravelled a little in this final series, and she needed to. Her healing required it. She had shed the shield, in every sense, and can now be human once again, willing and able to let others in.

Paul Hirons

Episode rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Series rating:

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.






Happy Valley is shown on BBC One and BBC iPlayer in the UK

REVIEW Happy Valley (S3 E5/6)

I’ve always said that Happy Valley feels like a Western. And in this penultimate episode – the quiet before the storm – those comparisons were only strengthened.

Tommy Lee Royce, the Big Bad, had broken free of his shackles thanks to the Kneževićs and was now holed up in a safe house after informing Darius that before his planned escape to Spain, he had business to take care of. And that business, of course, was Catherine Cawood.

Now, if I were Tommy Lee Royce, I’d be forgetting about his nemesis and getting out of Dodge while I had the chance. Even Darius Knežević thought that going after Catherine was a bad idea. But Tommy Lee was adamant – this was the moment he’d been waiting for, lusting for. This says a lot about his character – his synapses overwhelmed by a compulsion to cause violence, even when he has a chance to make a new life for himself. From that moment on, we knew that there was to be an almighty showdown between the two in the last episode.

And this is a very western trope: the Big Bad consumed with rage, focused on one thing and one thing alone – getting what perceives as revenge for being wrong, when in fact, he is the guilty party. This behaviour is sociopathic, narcissistic and highly delusional.

There was another familiar Western trope present in this episode, too. With the news that Royce was now at large and likely coming for them, the clan Cawood – Clare, Neil, Ryan and initially Catherine – were holed up at Nevison Gallagher’s house. Much like a family in a small dusty town, with the saloon doors flapping in the wind and a tumbleweed blowing across the street, waiting for the gang to come.

This is what this episode felt like – moving the pieces into position for the end game. Both entities spinning out of control, both obsessed for different reasons, and both on a collision course with each other.

Anne Gallagher put it all on the line for Ryan in the most simplistic terms when it came to what his dad had done (a very powerful scene from Charlie Murphy), so he now knows exactly what his dad is not only capable of but his heinous behaviour towards to both his mum but also to Anne.

The complex emotions expressed by Ryan leads me to believe he’s now so remorseful, so guiltridden that he might do anything to make amends. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if he actually becomes the avenging angel Catherine so wants to be and end his dad’s life. That would be the perfect, heartbreaking end to this saga, one that would perpetuate Catherine’s rage and grief until the end of her days.

Other possibilities? A lot of the press is speculating about who will live and who will perish, but I do get the impression that it will come down to those three: Catherine, Ryan and Tommy Lee. And I’d be very surprised if Tommy Lee made it out of this alive. It’s just a case of who will do it. Not a whodunit, but a whowilldoit. Will Ryan kill him and Catherine take the blame? Again, a very plausible, very Happy Valley ending for a character who has sacrificed everything to protect her grandson.

And we haven’t even spoken about the Kneževićs or the Faisal case (Faisal now high on the power of committing an act of violence, replaying the moments who bludgeoned Joanne to do death with an almost sexual jolt). There’s an awful lot to get through in the series finale.

Paul Hirons

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.





Happy Valley is shown on BBC One and BBC iPlayer in the UK

The 10 Best Crime Dramas This Week (Monday 6th – Sunday 12th February)

This week, we get Happy Valley’s replacement – The Gold – on BBC One, which dramatises the famous Brink’s Mat robbery of the early 1980s. We also get a couple of good-looking crime dramas thanks to Walter (one from Canada, the other from Switzerland), and there’s the return of You – Netlix’s high-profile serial killer drama. Enjoy!

S1 E1/6

Crime drama inspired by the true story of the 1983 Brink’s-Mat gold robbery, telling the story from the point of view of both the police and the criminals. When £26million worth of gold is stolen from the Brink’s-Mat security depot near Heathrow Airport, long-serving DCI Brian Boyce arrives from counter-terrorism and sets up a task force to investigate. Meanwhile, robbery ringleader Micky McAvoy tries to dispose of the bullion.
Sunday 12th February, 9pm, BBC One

S12 E3/4

Joel Kingston is a copper’s copper from a respected and notable police family, but when he is found dead, floating in a park lake, DCI Vera Stanhope investigates both sides of the thin blue line in order to find his killer. A complex family dynamic, tensions at work, and brushes with the underworld, paint a dark and complex picture. Joel was there to serve and protect but did his stubborn commitment to justice at any price lead to his death?
Sunday 12th February, 8pm, ITV1

S1 E3&4/6

Swedish narcotics detective Tuva Palsson continues her investigation into the possible drug smuggling and also makes inquiries about Bjorn. Aidan takes delivery of the fish-processing plant equipment and waxes lyrical to Ciara about his plans for the business, only to be interrupted by a call from Shane about Lenny.
Saturday 11th February, 9pm, BBC Four

S2 E4/10

Olivia’s plan to get Michael closer to the Baxters sees him invited to Jimmy’s 50th birthday party where he witnesses the return of Gina’s gangster father.
Friday 10th February, Paramount+

S4 E1-5/10

Starting anew in London, Joe vows to bury the past and be his best self. But on the rocky road to redemption, a new obsession starts to take hold.
Thursday 9th February, Netflix

6 The Wall: Cover Your Tracks *NEW UK PREMIERE SERIES*
S1 E1&2/8

Detective Céline Trudeau is assigned to investigate a strange homicide that has taken place in Fermont, a small mining town on the Labrador border. The body of a young woman has been found in a ventilation shaft with a mask concealing her identity. Upon arrival, Trudeau discovers `The Wall”, a massive structure protecting the town from the Arctic winds. The whole town is under suspicion over the death, while Celine is thrust into further uncertainty by an upsetting meeting with a face from her past.
Friday 10th February, 9pm, More4

Anne Dupraz, a respected prosecutor in Geneva, is arrested for shooting a man who is now between life and death. She admits her guilt but seems unable to explain her action. The case is all the more delicate by the fact that the man Anne shot is a troubled figure in the world of nightlife and prostitution.
Friday 9th February, All4/Walter Presents

S1 E3/4

After finding a tracker under Abbie’s car, Ryan is convinced that George is stalking her, and decides to tell Ed. Later, Ed is given a stark warning to leave the past in the past, before Claire confronts him and demands that he leaves the family home.
Wednesday 8th February, 9pm, Channel 5

S2 E7/7

There’s a whiff of murder in Sainte Victoire when Raffy Ozanne is found lying dead in his own shop, leaving his brother Raimund distraught. Jean and Dom arrive at Ozanne’s as Raffy’s body is being taken away. As well as the takings, an antique perfume bottle was stolen, and Caron needs Jean’s help to trace it to the murderer.
Thursday 8th February, 9pm, Channel 5

10 Murdoch Mysteries *NEW UK PREMIERE EPISODE*
S16 E4

Murdoch investigates the murder of a man found dead outside a burlesque show performed by Nina Bloom
Thursday 8th February, 9pm, Alibi