More pain in the Calder Valley as Happy Valley reaches its midpoint.

by | Jan 15, 2023 | All, Reviews

Happy Valley has always been Ryan’s story. That’s the main reason we had to wait such a long time for this final series. Sally Wainwright wanted to wait for Ryan (and the actor Rhys Connah) to be of age to tell the story she wanted. Following on from last week’s betrayal, where Catherine learnt that her sister and her boyfriend had been taking to Ryan to visit his dad in prison behind her back, Catherine is desperate for answers. Claire explains to an utterly shell-shocked Catherine that Ryan has been to his dad since he was ten. A tearful Claire says that Neil (Conn O’Neil) had agreed to take him to the prison to reconnect with his dad and that she was dead against it for the same reasons Catherine is, but she joined them on a visit and he seemed to genuinely want to get to know his son. The conversation between the two sisters starts brilliantly with Catherine just about holding it together as she reminds Claire (and the audience) of all the truly horrific things Tommy Lee Royce (James Norton) has done to end up in prison. Raping her daughter Becky (the shame of which led Becky to kill herself and leave Catherine responsible for her son). The kidnap and rape of Ann Gallagher (Charlie Murphy), the brutal murder of young PC Kirsten McAskill (Sophie Rundle), and beating Catherine (Sarah Lancashire) so badly she ended up in hospital. It’s hard to understand Claire’s rationale behind facilitating these visits and however she tries, talking about how he’s still Ryan’s dad and that it’s not like he’s ever going to get out of prison, it’s clear she’s grasping at straws and that the damage between the sisters may irreparable.

One thing Claire does bring up that Catherine possibly hadn’t realised is that in her fierce attempts to protect her Grandson from who his father was and what had happened to his mum, she had perhaps shielded him too much meaning that he has no reason not to visit his dad. Even when she drops his suitcase off at Neil and Claire’s (she won’t have him living with her if he continues to choose to visit the prison) she can’t bring herself to confirm to him that Becky committed her suicide despite Ryan asking her outright.  Throughout the run of Happy Valley, we’ve barely seen Catherine in tears. When she leaves Claire she breaks down and even sees Becky’s lifeless body in the street, before realising she’s overwhelmed. Has she done Ryan a disservice by not being honest with him about his mother’s death and the true horrors of what his ‘dad’ is capable of? If so, when would’ve been the right time to tell him? Why should he have to carry the burden of his genes? Catherine’s brief discussion with Ryan on Claire and Neil’s doorstep is a fascinating one because whilst she’s hurt, angry, and heartbroken that he has been visiting his father, she doesn’t lash out at him, instead, she assures him that he doesn’t have the ‘kink’ in his brain Tommy Lee Royce does. Despite her heartbreak at the betrayal, her instinct to protect Ryan is still very much there.

The news that Claire and Neil have gone behind Catherine’s back has further ricochets. It rocks Ann, who was looking forward to her first day in CID. Hearing the news sends her backwards and triggers memories of her kidnap. She can’t concentrate on work and Catherine overhears her throwing up in the toilets. Sally Wainwright has built such a world with the series that Tommy’s actions don’t just affect Catherine anymore. Ann’s father Nevison (George Costigan) is shaken by the idea of Tommy Lee Royce being part of their lives again and appears to have forgotten that Ann is starting a job in CID (possibly starting a dementia storyline). The police are still dealing with the death of the woman who fell from her window. They learn she was a blind woman who was being taken advantage of by the gang who used her disability and good nature to stash their goods in her flat. When she realised what was going on, they held her captive until she plotted her escape and fell to her death. Catherine and her team identify the house the gang is working from on behalf of The Kneževićs and raid it. Whilst in the loft, they discover a tunnel that connects to another house. Catherine, who is outside the house, sees a man making a run for it and takes up a chase. He resists her, and she ends up with a bloodied face. She takes out all of her frustration on the man who she punches in the face (much to the shock of the two men fleeing the house who are watching on in the safety of their van). Bloodied, she takes the opportunity to check in on Joanna, (Mollie Winnard) the woman she arrested after her husband Rob (Mark Stanley) found her with diazepam. Catherine’s call, which goes to voicemail, comes at a terrible time for Joanna who is laying lifeless on her kitchen floor.

There’s a hideous irony as to why Joanna has ended up here. We’ve seen how Joanna lives in fear of Rob. He looms over her on the bed demanding to know what pills she’s been taking, finds them, and then beats her up when he’s not happy with the answers. He beats up when she’s had a sip of wine, has a lock on the fridge, locks on the garage doors, and doesn’t worry about raising his voice to his wife when their young daughters are within earshot. But, in an awfully sad (but worryingly predictable) turn of events, the young mum ends up dying at the hands of the man she had initially to gone for help. In a further irony, pressured pharmacist Faisal (Amit Shah) had come around to the idea of killing Rob. This wasn’t in a heroic act where Faisal would help free the abused woman from her abuser but more because Joanna had told him that she’d told Rob that it was him she got the pills from. A white lie/piece of blackmail Joanna would pay the ultimate price for. Faisal, calmer than we’ve seen him to this point, describes in detail how he plans to kill Rob. Drugging his drink, injecting him with air, and dragging his body to his car to be discovered later. Surprisingly, it’s Joanna who gets cold feet. Reality hitting her all too late, she tries to convince Faisal that she hasn’t actually Rob about him, it all comes late. Faisal is, like so many men in Happy Valley, seemingly a man without any other option other than killing someone to save his own skin. Any rational thinking would tell him that Joanna is the least of his problems. It’s the men threatening his family he has to worry about.  There are so many parallels between Faisal and John (Kevin Doyle’s character in the second series) these weak-willed men with perfectly happy family lives who are driven by greed but don’t have the character to deal with the repercussions that result from that greed. The mess they’re in gets to boiling point and they snap to save their own skin. It didn’t end well for John and it’s hard to imagine that it will for Faisal. It is of course possible that when Rob reports his wife’s death, Catherine will make sure the finger of blame is pointed squarely at him. She knew Rob was an abusive husband from the moment she walked into their house despite Joanna choosing not to speak to her about her home life. Whatever happens, it’s hard to imagine the pharmacist getting away with any of his crimes and perhaps suffering an even more brutal death than he inflicted on Joanna.

Unbelievably, there are only three episodes of Happy Valley left. At the midpoint of the series, I can’t praise it enough. There is so much going on and all of it is utterly riveting. Joanna’s death, though sadly inevitable, takes things in an interesting direction. Then there’s Rob suddenly taking an interest in Ryan’s home life (despite referring to him as a sh*t stain and attempting to run him down his car) him becoming a confidant to Catherine’s Grandson could be really interesting. Mostly, I’m so invested in the relationship between the sisters. Is it too much to hope that that can be repaired and we can have another scene of them talking about the dangers of yoga? If I’m honest I know that’s unlikely and that there’s going to be more pain for everyone in the Calder Valley before the final episode.

Happy Valley Continues Sunday at 9.00pm on BBC One and BBC iPlayer.

Luke Knowles

Luke Knowles


Editor of the website and host of the podcast. A general TV obsessive. I've been running the site since 2008 and you can usually find me in front of the TV. My Favourite show of all time is Breaking Bad with Cracker coming a close second. I feel so passionately that television can change the world and I'm doing my little bit by running this site. You're Welcome!


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