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

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