Happy Valley: Episodes 3-6

All’s well that ends well then. Everyone was happy in Happy Valley. The series outstanding six week run ended with Sarah Lancashire’s Sergeant Catherine Cawood looking across a beautiful vista of Yorkshire countryside, finally at peace with almost everyone and everything.

After the first five weeks predominantly playing out as a police drama with added personal issues, the final episode and a half turned closer to home and more family issues. Finally dealing with the background to Cawood’s emotional turmoil. But let’s deal with the main story first.

Tommy Lee Royce was one of the most troubling, depraved, characters ever to haunt TV screens. Amazingly he was almost one of the most believable. For most of the series he was unsympathetic and committed the most horrific crimes (kidnap, multiple murder, rape, violent assault) with no remorse and no recognition of wrong. But so perfectly played was he by James Norton that when he finally spent some time with his “son” in the final episode there was genuine warmth between him and the wonderful child actor Rhys Connah and you got to feel some of the history to his character which was never directly addressed across the rest of the series. In this final hour the monster was made just a tiny bit human. Those final moments on the barge with Royce and Cawood were punishing, tense, and mostly satisfying.

After offing the guilty-by-inaction Lewis in the fifth episode, this week initiator Kevin (a beaten looking Steve Pemberton) got one final spin of guilt, and ringleader Ashley (a now less than cocky Joe Armstrong) got the ultimate payback. While victims of the relentless barrage of horrors, Anne, Nevison and Helen Gallagher had a couple of key scenes before fading into the background.

Even the real bit parts like Karl Davies as Daniel Cawood and Derek Riddell as Richard Cawood excelled in their scenes; the crushing family argument in the kitchen was heartbreaking.

And at the centre of all this and holding the entire series on her shoulders was Sarah Lancashire. Her performance though has only one other peer in the last few years, Line Of Duty’s key protagonist Lindsay Denton, aka Keely Hawes. That’s how good Lancashire was. It’s a bit trite to talk about the lack of good roles for women in film and TV but the success of these two shows make it clear that those types of role can, and do, exist, and exist in successful, mainstream, prime time, dramas. The complexity of the role could have overwhelmed another actress, as the stern but warm, in control Sergeant Cawood of the first half of the series gave way to the detached, lonely, depressed and vulnerable, Catherine of the latter episodes it never felt like acting, you felt like you were watching a real human tragedy, her most personal moments laid bare.

Finally, words for Sally Wainwright, the creator of this world, at times the most disturbing depiction of a small town, yes even more so that last year’s biggie Broadchurch, and at others the best portrayal of human emotions, weakness, and ultimately strength that you’ll have seen.
Now to the inevitable clamor for another visit to this most contrary of places, but really, do we need it? And how do you improve on perfection anyway?

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