“You got him”
(C) BBC/Red Productions
Sally Wainwright and Sarah Lancashire bring the sure to be award-winning series, Happy Valley to a close after six weeks of tense thrills, scary – shout at the telly and hide behind your hands moments – to the heart wrenching human dramatics of a woman in grief in a demanding job in search of her own justice, who continues and falters to get on with things the best way she knows how – with grit and determination.
Tommy Lee Royce has dug himself into so much trouble, if he was in prison he could have probably dug his way out by now. He’s murdered young police officer Kirsten, attempted to murder Catherine, kidnapped and raped Ann Levison, killed his accomplice Lewis along with his random friend, and then decides to top it off with luring his son to a barge he’s hiding out in so he can set him alight so they can die together. I don’t condone violence, but I did give a cheer when Catherine arrived to save the day and kick the crap out of him considering all the suffering he’s caused.
Happy Valley has been a delight of great British drama at its best. Admittedly Lewis’ friend taking Tommy’s side wasn’t very plausible but I can overlook that as it didn’t make much difference to the conclusion of events we’ve followed throughout the series. Sally Wainwright’s writing otherwise was unblemished. As with all her drama’s her characters are complex, well written but more than anything, so very relatable. Catherine and her family, although not traditionally conventional was filled with love but also a lot of anger, grief and confusion caused by a single past event – the death of her daughter, and Ryan’s mum Becky.
It will be interesting to see how Wainwright continues the tension and interest in the second series that she is planning. The one staple of the drama is Catherine’s relationship with her family, especially her grandson Ryan. Rhys Connah and Lancashire portrayed a very complex relationship but despite this and the arguments the love was clear. Note should also go to James Norton, whose portrayal as a tortured character whose heinous acts knew no bounds; which was displayed in polar opposite to Lewis’s mental disintegration as he got pulled further into becoming something he wasn’t.
The violence in the series has come under some scrutiny via complaints to the BBC, but it’s inevitably a catch 22 situation. Without it the series would have appeared unrealistic; violent crime is not something to be taken on lightly, but it’s also not a subject that writers should be afraid to tackle. The violence, although shocking in places, forced us to see the type of character Tommy is and the lengths he’s prepared to go to. At no point does the series glorify the violence or play down the seriousness of the crimes, which makes the final scenes all the more satisfying and just. It also gave enough closure to lift Catherine’s character into a different mind space for a second series – another series of Catherine being angry and depressed would soon get tiresome for viewers no matter how realistic.
British drama is on a high, and Happy Valley is certainly the top drama of the year so far amongst many great hits such as Line Of Duty. As dubious as I am about a second series working, I have faith in Sally Wainwright’s writing to pull it off.