It was the logical conclusion of the first season to have Catherine and Tommy settle the score, and indeed that's the main plot of the episode, but for me, the meaty stuff was in the sidelines. This was a season finale which managed to wrap up all of its plot lines very neatly - perhaps too neatly, with everyone involved in the crime dead or imprisoned and all of the protagonists safe and *cough* 'sound.' Having lost relevance to the story Ashley is swiftly executed by his criminal peers merely warranting a footnote, as the other two accomplices are found dead and rotting in an apartment. Still, it's not as if you can accuse Happy Valley of not being 'edgy' enough, and it certainly feels like we've earned a somewhat uplifting final installment.
That's not to say everything in the episode was very jolly.
In the minor subplot of the aftermath of the crime, Catherine telling Nevison about Ann's rape was a scene only matched by Ann off-handedly remarking on it to her. I had the feeling Nevison knew all along something had happened, but still you could see the pain in his face at having it confirmed.
In contrast, Ann's comment about how it "said more about him than it'll ever say about me" was perfect. This is a woman refusing victimhood and this stuff is in dear and needed supply on most shows. My hat goes off both to George Costigan and Charlie Murphy for their great and always-believable performances.
The strongest scene of the narrative between Tommy and his son, I think, was actually Ryan listening to his teacher reading out loud of a book called The Railway Children.
Ryan's facial expressions clearly show us that he knows more about the situation than we've been let on. He knows his father did something bad, but he doesn't know exactly what, and as he's feeling abandoned - who could blame him? - he dearly hopes it isn't true. Obviously, that's also what Tommy takes advantage of.
I had suspected that the show would try to find some way to humanize Tommy through his connection with Ryan and to some extent it does so. Yet, at the end it only villainizes him further in a deliberate parallel scene to the pilot with him trying to set both himself and his son on fire and the lighter misfiring, allowing Catherine to overpower him. It really was 'all about himself' for Tommy after all - after the botched kidnapping he apparently feels that his son is the only thing worth living for, yet he doesn't even consider his own son's life to have any value as a person.
At the end of the installment, Tommy is taken into custody once again. It's clear that the series knew better than getting rid of such a solid performer, and one would assume there's still a lot of material to explore between him and Ryan.
Still, for me the tour de force of this episode was Daniel taking the sledgehammer to 'the shrine of Saint Becky,' because here we're finally let in on more of the reasons behind the family's troubles, and this is all stuff we're taking with us into the second season. Turns out, the one the most appalled by the entire situation wasn't Richard - it was Daniel all along. This really isn't a scene that leaves anyone coming out looking very good, much like how these things tend to work out in reality. I simply can't discuss it without quoting the dialog.
So... Daniel, having been made aware that his mom and dad have resumed a romantic affair, has a complete alcohol-fueled meltdown turning Catherine's birthday party into a total disaster and managing to come off as the perfect mix of a monster and a deeply hurt and abandoned progeny. Part of what he says - such as the line about Ryan, "that little thing that shouldn't exist," or that Becky was "asking for it" - is simply horrendous, but other points ring truer and even more uncomfortable to Catherine. When he accuses her of telling him "Why wasn't it you?", she claims she doesn't remember and that "if I ever said that, I've already apologized" - which really sounds like the subterfuge of a guilty soul. Afterwards, in private with her sister, she even admits to it, stating "so what if I did say that? It's true."
This is powerful, character-driven exposition explaining and expanding on a lot of previous events, and I applaud the show for having the guts to go there with such nuance. This is the setup for Catherine and even Daniel to emerge as actual strong and relatable characters - fundamentally decent people owning up and taking responsibilities for their flaws and their mistakes. So, this logically leads to the final conversation between her and Daniel at the coffee house in the closing minutes.
This is how we leave Happy Valley season one, with most of the involved characters having taken giant steps forward. It'll be inspiring to see what comes next.
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