“Happy Valley” – One of the best dramas I’ve ever seen

By J. Lynn Stapleton, 4th June 2014

Come visit Yorkshire!…we’ve got murder, mystery and mayhem… Probably not the kind of thing the Yorkshire and West Yorkshire Tourism board teams have in mind when they boast some of Britain’s most beautiful scenery; winding rivers and roads, hilly moors, spacious farms, caverns to explore, rolling hillsides dotted with villages and cities, and so much more.

Calderdale Valley, © Magnus Manske, wikipedia

Calderdale Valley, © Magnus Manske, wikipedia

Home to hosting various dramas such as Peter Robinson’s DCI Banks series, Val McDermid’s Wire in the Blood, Sally Wainwright’s Scott & Bailey, Unforgiven, Last Tango in Halifax and most recently Happy Valley, one might think that the large Yorkshire countryside is riddled with crime.

I sat down this morning, watching the finale of Happy Valley (working night shifts sometimes leaves me rather knackered on my days off, so when I get a chance to watch good tele I grab it when I can). I pointedly kept off social media last night to avoid spoilers. So, I grabbed my blanket and headed into the family room and watched it on the big screen TV (as opposed to watching on my laptop).

Sarah Lancashire as Catherine Cawood and James Norton as Tommy Lee Royce in Happy Valley. © Red Production Co., BBC, 2014

Sarah Lancashire as Catherine Cawood and James Norton as Tommy Lee Royce in Happy Valley. © Red Production Co., BBC, 2014

Watching Sally Wainwright’s drama, Happy Valley over the past six weeks has often been a roller coaster of emotions from story lines fraught with sometimes very intense drama, whether that be the internal family conflict, along with the external sources of drama due to the violent kidnappings and murders in the Calderdale area of West Yorkshire. At the end of the fourth episode that left Police Sergeant Catherine Cawood (Sarah Lancashire) battered and bruised, lying on the street following rescuing kidnap victim Ann Gallagher (Charlie Murphy) from Tommy Lee Royce (James Norton), I was left literally shaking in my seat, worried about Cawood & Gallagher’s outcomes.

Catherine’s resulting deep depression following learning that Royce and his tag-along, Lewis Whippey (Adam Long) were still at large was wonderfully portrayed by Lancashire. The effects of which affected not only herself but her interactions with her family. It also affected her work.

Fed up with the seeming inaction by her superiors in the police department to follow up on catching those responsible for the killing of Ashley Cowgill (Joe Armstrong), along with those in the drugs trade, and with the search for Tommy Lee Royce appeared to have stalled, Cawood takes it on herself to do something, anything, to catch the bastard. Despite everything he did to her and her family, Catherine’s innate sense of justice stops him from killing himself and taking her and her grandson, Ryan (his son) with him, though not without a few digs in. His death would be too easy a way out for the crimes he’s committed.

Siobhan Finneran as Clare Cartwright and Sarah Lancashire as Catherine Cawood, Happy Valley. © Red Production Co, BBC, 2014

Siobhan Finneran as Clare Cartwright and Sarah Lancashire as Catherine Cawood, Happy Valley. © Red Production Co, BBC, 2014

It was nice to see some more of the background reasons upon which Daniel Cawood (Karl Davies), Catherine’s son, who refused to talk to her for so many years and why exactly he’s refused to acknowledge his nephew, Ryan (Rhys Connah). The death of her daughter, Becky, who was by no means perfect, shook Catherine to the core years ago, so much that it shattered her family apart. With an infant grandson to raise, and only the support of her sister, she managed to go on with life. The continuing support that Clare (Siobhan Finneran) gives Catherine, even when everything goes to crap, is wonderfully portrayed. I also enjoyed the bonding between Catherine and Ann Gallagher. I could see some mentorship resulting from this connection down the road.

As Kevin Weatherill’s (Steve Pemberton) remains in jail for his part in starting the kidnapping plot, he continues his plight of not being the one to take the blame for the consequences of his actions, instead he blames Nevison (George Costigan) for not giving him the raise he asked for to help his daughter into an independent school. He doesn’t really seem to grasp how much crap he’s gotten himself into thanks to his desperate planning.

There is so much to this series that keeps you tied to your screen (big or small), that it’s absolutely breath-taking. I’ve quite likely over-used the word brilliant when referring to this series in previous posts & tweets, but in all truthfulness, it has been. The writing, casting, acting, producing teams have come together to create this perfect storm of a well-crafted drama.

With an overnight ratings of 6.2 million in viewing numbers, with more to come as people get caught up via BBC’s iPlayer and DVR recordings and downloads, that number will increase. Now that all the episodes are aired, and the DVD available for pre-order, I expect there will be many more people doing a six-episode marathon…including my parents.

For a second time this series, the hashtag was trending on Twitter last night, with people commenting on how they saw the show, with all manner of praising the series, along with Red Productions thanking people for all the tweets in support of the show.

There are talks on-going for a second series of Happy Valley. In the meantime I look forward to the return of Wainwright’s Scott & Bailey, though for the fourth series, Wainwright has handed over the reigns of writing to others but she remains on as Executive Producer, and a returning of Last Tango in Halifax late this fall (which will be starting to film within the next month).

Here’s hoping for a string of BAFTA Television awards for Happy Valley in 2015!

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About jlynnstapleton

I'm a Licensed Practical Nurse, photographer and writer. My focus in photography has been primarily landscapes, particularly water based images, both in colour and black and white. I love to travel when I can and sometimes find some unique treasures to photograph. I also enjoy writing these blogs and doing interviews when I can. I'm the oldest of three siblings. I grew up in St. John's, Newfoundland [Canada]. I came out as a lesbian when I was twenty-one, and fortunately I've had a supportive family, and friends.
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One Response to “Happy Valley” – One of the best dramas I’ve ever seen

  1. Since Happy Valley was acquired by Netflix, American audiences have been busy binge watching it. I’m writing up a recap/review of every episode on my blog. Your readers might like to take a look. http://oldaintdead.com/?s=Happy+Valley

    I enjoy seeing someone else’s perspective on Happy Valley and have read all your posts about it. Such a great series, I’m glad to find someone else who enjoys it as much as I do.

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