Happy Valley: Episode #1.2

"You love it. You know you do."

The kidnapping of Ann Gallagher goes very sideways, all on its own, but Catherine's determination to dispatch Tommy Lee Royce plays a major role. God, and you are really never not rooting for her.

One of my favorite things about Catherine Cawood is that she's not afraid to feel her feelings. Whereas much tv drama is derived from characters avoiding theirs, she is not afraid of, well, being afraid -- and it's quite something to behold as a viewer. Yeah, she'll whip out her truncheon and apply force when the situation calls for it or get kicked in the face with nary a complaint, but by and large, to me, her wherewithal to process her emotions, full-hearted, is what make her so heroic.

This quality of Catherine's makes her plan to eradicate Royce that much more vibrant (including how frank her articulation is of said plan). As she tells her sister, her method will be effective, not rational. That's a very subtle and nuanced distinction between two concepts that seem like close cousins! As a quick aside, Catherine's talks with Clare are among my favorite moments of this series. The visual of them sitting out in their small space, big style concrete garden, smoking cigarettes and/or drinking tea, is one I find so cozy each time we're treated to it. Clare provides a slightly more reflective surface, for Catherine, than the others in Catherine's life, and it's one that's uniquely female, and familial, in tone. And the show is truly stronger for it.

Also adding to the strength of this series is a characterization of Cawood contained somewhat simply in one of the action lines in Wainwright's script for this episode. It reads: Considering she's just been kicked in the eye, she's remarkably calm... It's as if Catherine operates at her most efficacious when she is surrounded by chaos. And to look at her surroundings, at times, it appears as if she might just be holding the whole town together. To add to her saint-like status, her detective skills are eerily on point (one of my notes says, 'her instincts are fucking amazing'). Yet, she's genuinely human, as well. Have I gushed enough? Okay, onto the particulars...

I assert that Wainwright and Lancashire's brightness are what allows the disturbing plot and pretty deep dive into the psyche of Tommy, or Ashley or Lewis or Kevin or two ice cream truck drug dealers, for that matter, even possible. I mean, the amount of dread I am filled with whenever Ann is even mentioned, much less on screen, is gargantuan. Lewis' recognition of what's happened to her at the hands of Tommy is very upsetting, and excellently executed. (To say nothing of the unexpected way Ashley handles the phone call from Lewis about the troubling situation.) It's all very newly realized, from the page to the screen, not a tired trope in sight, as far as I can tell. (That adds to its disturbing nature, come to think of it.) There's something present in the metaphor of Ann and the way she's treated that is very hard to stomach -- and not just because she is a woman. She was dehumanized even before she was kidnapped, and that flavor has only deepened over her hours in captivity.

Then there's Kevin and Nevison, who share a handful of parallels between them. Both have ailing wives, daughters they cherish, lives that look a certain way on the outside. (Even Richard comments on how regular and nice the Weatherhills seem.) The juxtaposition of them revealing to their wives what's happened was very well-done, right down to Kevin's wife's attempt to think up a way for Kevin to walk away from this being essentially commensurate with his level of involvement in the kidnapping. Between these two men and the men currently 'responsible' for Ann, there's a fairly wide sampling of male energies, imploding in on themselves, rapidly ushering this Fargo-esque scenario into an energetic wood chipper.

Then there's the councilman whom Catherine coolly consigns, perhaps, on some level, because he called her young female officer "a stupid little effing something-beginning-with-C" in a fit of ego-driven anger. It's not men behaving badly, per se, nor is there a clear line drawn to separate the genders as all good or all bad. Remarkably, the show avoids that cliche. Even as Catherine's ex-husband cannot see the difference between Ryan's birth being the cause of his daughter's suicide or the rape that preceded Ryan, Happy Valley doesn't fall into an uninspired trap degrading one sex or the other. (Maybe it's a British sensibility since The Fall is also very good at balancing the serviceable qualities of both men and women, while showing their differences.) It still remains, unpredictably, wholly compassionate to the human condition.

Bits:

-- They really nailed that casting of Kevin Weatherill (Steve Pemberton) and Nevison Gallagher (George Costigan). Watching both become unraveled during all of this is a very special kind of uncomfortable for the viewer. One aspect of a conceit of Happy Valley examines the stuff that we're really made of -- what we're capable of living with. There is a crevasse between Tommy and Kevin's level of tolerance for criminal activity. And somewhere in between them falls everyone else in on this.

-- The stuff with Ryan's extended family not acknowledging him as their genetic material is so sad.

-- There are a few comments in #1.2 where Catherine complains about being low on the totem pole of law enforcement. It'll be interesting to see how that lament plays out over time. Because as discouraged by the red tape as Catherine seems, she is extremely savvy and agile in understanding the way things work.

-- James Norton is very good, chilling, compelling and frightening as Tommy Lee Royce.

Quotes:

Catherine: "Rationally? I've got no intentions of dealing with it rationally. I'm amazed you think anybody'd expect me to."

Ryan: "Granny's been in a fight... she was chasing this scrote and he kicked her in the face."
Clare: "Did he get away?"
Ryan: "Hell, no!" (Haha, he really knows his grandma.)

Richard: "I'm not his granddad. You shouldn't have told him that."
Catherine: "Okay. Fair enough. Except. You know. You are."

Four out of four well-used truncheons.

4 comments:

Billie Doux said...

What an excellent review, Heather.

I also love the way Catherine and Clare support each other, and the way Clare is the one to say that Catherine is proud of her war wounds, like a red badge of courage. Except for Catherine and Clare, everyone in this episode acts selfishly -- especially Kevin, dumping his guilt on his wife Jenny; Jenny for not insisting he go to the police; Marcus the higher up who refuses to believe that laws are for everyone; Richard, who refuses to acknowledge that he is Ryan's grandfather. Even the rest of the family for treating Ryan like he's not welcome at a family do.

Catherine is again such a bloodhound! She doesn't even know someone's been kidnapped, but it's like she can feel that Tommy is doing something wrong. I thought it was again so interesting that Catherine went from Kevin right to Tommy, like she could feel the connection between them in the ether somehow.

Poor Ann is so terrified. Showing the panties on the cellar floor, the bucket that Tommy won't even let her use, is actually more upsetting than showing a violent act. It's obvious that Tommy is planning to kill her, and that he's looking forward to it.

Heather said...

Billie,
I was thinking about your bloodhound comment, from the first episode review, multiple times while watching this one!

Thomas Ijon Tichy said...

Seems I have some pretty damn big shoes to fill. Awesome review, Heather ;)

Mallena said...

That scene was so sad when Catherine is asking her Ex to step up and be a grandpa. Tears are streaming down her face because she knows that she can't make him accept Ryan, but she has to try for Ryan's sake anyways. Kevin's wife should have called the police, but I can kind of see why she didn't. Her whole world would have imploded. Even if Kevin made a deal with the cops, he would have still lost his job which would lead to more hardships. She already had MS to deal with. Kevin made a huge mess of their lives with one stupid, self-centered move.