Happy Valley is back but did it deliver?

by | Feb 9, 2016 | All, Reviews

I have a confession to make. I only started the first series of Happy Valley on Friday and I finished it last night (Monday). I’m ridiculously ashamed of myself for taking so long to watch what is one of the best dramas ever produced in the UK. I couldn’t get enough of it, and with the final episode wrapping everything up so neatly I was immediately worried about tonight’s opening episode to series two.

There was a horrible feeling shake off, and I’m sure many of you thought the same in that series two was only being made because the first series did so well. It’s something the US has been guilty of for years, but we’ve become just as bad of late. If something strikes up conversation on Twitter or gets huge ratings we don’t know when to stop and leave something alone. It happened with Broadchurch, another drama that can easily be placed as best of British. The first series did so well that a second was commissioned and it turned out to be absolutely dreadful. Just because shows are good does not mean another series should be made.

I know Luke our editor has heaped praise on tonight’s opening episode, but whilst it’s far better than the second series of Broadchurch I can’t say I was completely won over.

I think is partly because there’s so much going on. We’re introduced to a number of new storylines within the first ten or so minutes and it’s pretty unclear to see which one is going to be the main one. Similarly with the amount of characters presented to us, if it hadn’t been for series one it would be pretty tricky to see who we should be caring about the most. I personally think this episode has a lot of problems and can only hope they’re explained or sorted out in the next episode.

Let me first take the storyline of Tommy Lee Royce (the ever brilliant, sadly more bald, James Norton) and his admirer (Shirley Henderson). Royce is locked up, presumably thanks to the admirer’s arrival at King’s Cross Station, in a prison in London due to his actions from last series. Here, he is told about the murder of his mother and straight away assumes it was Catherine (the Queen of Happy Valley, Sarah Lancashire) who is to blame.

Now the Tommy Lee Royce from series one clearly detested his mother, he beat her and treated her like rubbish, yet series two Tommy Lee Royce is absolutely devastated by her death. Am I the only one who thought this was too much of a change of character? Sure he’d have some emotions for her, but uncontrollable sobbing? That’s not how I thought he’d react at all. However his assumption of Catherine having something to do with it is believable, even if (no matter how much the episode tries to test our opinions of her character) it’s pretty obvious she would never do anything like that. Of course the admirer agrees with him, and at the end of the episode we see her creepily watching Ryan outside Catherine’s house, even though she had just arrived in London. Makes sense.

Then there’s the suspicion of Catherine committing the murder as mentioned above. Of course she didn’t, we know it and the police investigating know it, it’s also just routine procedure as mentioned a number of times. But then why does her character continually drop hints that maybe she did do it? Her actions and comments during her interview with Jodie Shackleton (Katherine Kelly) and her chat with Ann Gallagher (Charlie Murphy) try to make us believe that maybe there was a chance she was involved, but I really can’t see how that can even be a possibility.

Later in the episode it’s discovered that the murderer could actually be a serial killer so the suspicion on Catherine is, depending on the timeline she gathers together, all but gone. Now at this early stage we obviously have little idea who the killer could be, but there has already been a few suspects presented to us.

Firstly we have Sean Balmforth, played by Matthew Lewis. The only things we know about him is that he’s been let go by Nevison Gallagher (George Costigan), he likes to drink and drive and he presumably wanted to pick up a prostitute but was scared away when seeing Catherine talking to them. Does this mean he knows her and knows that she’s in the police?

Next, and a bit more out there for a suspect, we have Tommy Lee Royce’s admirer. Obviously there’s something about her that we immediately don’t trust and she definitely comes across as a bit of an oddball. Lastly there’s Vicky, played by the superb Amelia Bullmore. Again, at this stage it’s a bit of a long shot but we do know she has a dark side to her. In this first episode we she sets about drugging her married boyfriend Detective Sergeant John Wadsworth (Kevin Doyle) and taking some compromising photos of him, she is certainly one not to be trusted. And what about the sheep farmers, Alison and Daryl Garrs (Susan Lynch and Robert Emms)? Did anyone actually believe them at the police station when they claimed the teenagers on acid had beat Daryl up?

While a cracking opening to the episode with the sheep story, the farmers are on my list of suspects purely because I don’t believe a word they say, and of all the storylines their’s is the one I want to know more about.

Happy Valley now boasts a number of actors who have already worked together on the likes of Downton Abbey, The Syndicate, Cucumber and Twenty Twelve. For me this is a good indication for the quality of performances we’re going to get regardless of storyline. With the cast already knowing each other fairly well, the relationships and chemistry between them should come pretty naturally and therefore make for a better performance. We already know Sarah Lancashire is going to steal the show again, but it’s good to see supporting characters holding their own and being fantastic in their parts.

In all I found the opening to the new series to be pretty standard. I do have my qualms but I did enjoy the episode and will definitely be back next week for more. This opener throws a lot at you as a viewer. That’s not to say it’s difficult to follow, but I’m a little bit concerned it might be just too full of story for one to shine through. Saying that it’s the opening episode and we all know from the first series what Sarah Lancashire and Sally Wainwright are capable of. To it’s credit it was always going to be difficult to match the level of expectations set by that stunning first series back in 2014, and unlike Broadchurch, I’m glad Happy Valley has returned for a second series.

Happy Valley Continues Tuesday at 9.00pm on BBC One.

Contributed by Kay Dekker 

Kay Dekker

Kay Dekker

09/02/2016

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