After a busy (re)introduction to the world of Halifax and Sgt Catherine Cawood (Sarah Lancashire) last week, Happy Valley continues to lay out the foundation for the series to come, including one epic cliffhanger.
It’s hard to focus on this week’s episode when those final moments are living rent-free in my head. While Happy Valley is very busy setting up multiple storylines, the emotional core of the season is the epic battle brewing between Catherine and her sister, Clare (Siobhan Finneran).
Attentive viewers no doubt figured out last week that it was Clare and her boyfriend, Neil (Con O’Neill) who were taking sixteen year old Ryan (Rhys Connah) to the prison to visit his incarcerated father, Tommy Lee Royce (James Norton). This episode visually confirms it – for both the audience, as well as Catherine.
Of course, in true fashion, Catherine doesn’t just come out and talk to Clare about the deception. Instead she seethes. She makes Clare walk home, then sends her a vague text asking if someone has forced her to do something. Naturally Clare has no idea what Catherine is asking about, which prompts Catherine to go into full-blown stalker mode.
Come the weekend, Catherine borrows a truck and tails Clare, Neil, and Ryan (who has lied about playing soccer, despite being kicked off the team) to the prison. As Ryan and Neil go inside, Catherine follows Clare to a coffee shop and calls her, pretending to be elsewhere as she stares daggers at Clare’s back. Oof.
There are a few reasons why these scenes are so effective. Not only are both roles played by dynamite actresses, but Happy Valley has spent the majority of its two series building up the bond and the relationship between the sisters. They’ve always had each other’s backs, particularly in the hard times (Clare’s sobriety; Catherine’s grief over her daughter’s death).
As previously established, Catherine is bullish and stubborn, particularly when it comes to things she feels certain about. The Sergeant is also bitterly, sometimes even dangerously, possessive. There are two things that she will do anything for: the pursuit of justice and protecting the ones she loves.
But if you cross her? There’s hell to pay.
Of all the people Catherine cares for, the only one who ranks higher than Clare is Ryan. And there’s no one Catherine hates more than Tommy Lee Royce, whom she blames unequivocally for the death of her daughter.
So, in Catherine’s mind, Clare has committed the deepest possible betrayal. It will be interesting to see how they will get past this, assuming they even do. What Clare has done isn’t the kind of situation that can simply be walked back: Clare knows very well how Catherine feels about Royce, so even the best excuse is unlikely to suffice.
Which only makes their inevitable encounter next week so tantalizing. Unfortunately that’s a whole week away!
Of course there are other mysteries brewing to keep us occupied. First and foremost, there’s the domestic abuse case between Ryan’s soccer coach, Rob Hepworth (Mark Stanley) and his NA wife Joanna (Mollie Winnard), which escalates into full-blown physical assault this week.
Rob is already wound up because someone has defaced his car with the words “I love cocks” and an accompanying image of a phallus. Naturally Rob assumes that it was Ryan because of their altercation last week, but Catherine keeps her cool when she’s called in to answer for the vandalism. Her casual response that it couldn’t be Ryan because she knows how he draws dicks from family Pictionary is absolutely classic. It’s good for a guffaw in an otherwise dark episode.
After Joanna bears the bruises (literally) of Rob’s frustration, the housewife pays it forward by plotting his murder. She proposes an overdose via ketamine to pharmacist Faisal Bhatti (Amit Shah), whose situation has truly become…just awful. Shah is doing a solid job of selling this character’s miserable existence, even if this storyline still feels the least connected to the rest of the series.
Obviously it’ll come together eventually, but, for now, Faisal is firmly off in his own “no-good-very-bad-day” show, being blackmailed on two fronts. It will be interesting to see how he reacts to Joanna’s proposal next week.
- When they meet for coffee, Catherine warns her reporter ex, Richard (Derek Riddell) that his investigation into the Knezevic brothers is dangerous, and their ties to Royce’s case only confirms that. My guess: this is not so subtle foreshadowing and Richard will be dead before the end of the series.
- Royce’s smuggled contraband has got to be the tiniest cell phone I’ve ever seen.
- One challenge with the big lag between series is when characters like Allison (Susan Lynch) return. I had to hit up the Happy Valley wiki for the reminder of how she and Catherine knew each other. It turns out you mostly just need to know she’s a woman who made a tough choice for her son (murdering him), but she’s basically a proxy for Catherine’s brand of tough love mothering.
Happy Valley airs Mondays on BBC America, AMC+ and Acorn TV