Happy Valley: Episode #2.2

"We all know you're not a killer."

Two funerals, a murder and Clare falls off the wagon. In short, another very packed episode of Happy Valley.

A few thoughts about the second series, stylistically. For one, there are flashbacks now. Flashbacks that you didn't even know you wanted until they're there, in fact! I think Catherine's taser situation, Ann remembering Bateman street and Catherine and Ilinka meeting for the first time, all worked very well in flashback, in that they were edgy, interesting and unexpected, and, in the case of the taser scene, even humorous.

Also, the scene structure has, at times, been augmented with a technique used in a comedic-structured show. For instance, a scene will be taking place until it's interrupted by another (unsuspecting) person entering -- thus changing the subject and preventing the scene from a neater conclusion. (This happens when Winnie comes over to the Cawood's house in the middle of the scene where Catherine is told Ryan knows his aunt is an alcoholic now, thanks to Daniel.) This new feature adds to the already complex tone in ways I could only have dreamt for! It's as if now we are asked to reconcile a bit of quirky humor in the mix of the more challenging Happy Valley emotions. It's very gutsy writing (amazingly even more so than before) and, to me, it's wonderfully successful. This is but one effort by Wainwright to make Happy Valley season two more darkly comedic, in general. (Also notable: the sheep scenes in the opener, as Billie described in her review of Episode #2.1.) Is it an effort to offset the fact that what's to come is going to be more disturbing than last season? Uh-oh.

In fact, the show is differently paced now, all-around, in that it's actually faster -- and more messy. And Wainwright is using different directing choices this season to allow the show to be as impactful as it can. The first close-up in this episode doesn't come until the end of the first act (a full 10 minutes into the episode) when Catherine takes the phone call letting her know Tommy is going to be let out to go to his mom's funeral. The camera doesn't move from her face as we watch her process multiple emotions on her way to understanding what's being told to her. It's completely riveting!

Also riveting is the way the stories are unfolding. The trafficking storyline pointing towards a deeper corruption of a prominent crime family, the introduction of Miss Wealand who managed to tutor Ryan and show up at Ms. Dewhurst's funeral, John spiraling completely out of control by the episode's end and killing Vicky, were all compelling dramatizations of how the things that can go to hell quickly are also hiding in plain sight. I particularly liked the connection between Winnie and Ilinka. (I really liked the subtle detail of Ilinka waiting to tell the police, not Catherine, about potentially being followed. And how it's not exactly clear why she did that.)

So, while it's very great to watch those little victories when Catherine gets the upper hand on things (which she did, often, in season one), I don't think that is what this season is about. Catherine's life feels more loose than before, and funny enough, not least of all because she is a suspect in Lynn Dewhurst's murder. But on that subject, it is fascinating to see her not defend herself madly and shout to the heavens how purely ridiculous it is that she's a suspect at all. I think it's because in her mind/heart, she is not exactly wholly not guilty, mostly because of her involvement in Tommy and Lynn's life. And the life of Happy Valley, in general. And now, her topical issues are in her own home, and I think Ilinka is a wonderful metaphor for where work and home intersect for her. Both places are riddled with issues, presently.

So why did Catherine go to Tommy's mom's funeral? What's so great is that she doesn't have to know and neither do we. It feels okay to be in something messy with her.


-- I loved the scene with Catherine schooling that kid about how people cultivate marijuana in and around Happy Valley. It was just perfectly Catherine.

-- Ahh, Miss Wealand, what are you up to?

-- Loved the short work Catherine made of the policeman who made the terrible joke at her, Lynn Dewhurst's, women of the world and humanity's expense.

-- Charlie Murphy is really so great as Ann, right? I'm thrilled for the smart and organic way Wainwright has allowed us to stay in her life this season.

-- One of my favorite non-plot driven scenes was with Ann and Nevison in his bedroom. The lighting was so warm. Their conversation makes us believe they can heal from Helen's death.

-- The establishing shots scream 'WE HAVE MONEY!" this season. Good job.

-- How lovely is Winnie? And funny and wise?

-- I'm intrigued to see how Catherine and Clare mend Clare's most recent trip back to her addiction. The scene of them on the street makes this show better and richer than most.

-- There's a The Shield quality to Happy Valley and I mean that as a high compliment. To both shows!


Clare: "No. He'll think you're someone who gets the wrong end of the stick."

Catherine: "Did she boil his bunny?"

Clare: "Just one day -- just for one day, will you stop going on at me?"
Catherine: "No, Clare, this is the day I need to go on at you."

This was a great episode. Four out of four signs that say "Traffickers this way."


Billie Doux said...

Terrific review, Heather. I was really interested in what you said about the stylistic changes this season because I often don't notice this stuff.

Miss Wealand/Frances is disturbing. Good job by the actress. And I was completely thrown by Catherine going to Lynn's funeral. Like, what is she doing? Was it a subconscious choice, knowing she would completely freak Tommy out? I was also thrown by Clare falling off the wagon because it showed really well how she is a completely different person when she's high, and we've never seen that before.

And Winnie is so lovely that I was immediately worried that something terrible would happen to her. I'm sure that's what the writer had in mind.

Heather said...

Re: Catherine at Lynn's funeral -- she did seemed ever so slightly satisfied by Tommy's violent reaction (causing him to be restrained). Upon more thought, I think she was mad that Tommy would get the chance to attend a proper ritual that is designed to help people manage grief. It's as if he shouldn't be entitled to the same civilized customs the rest of us are. I think, too, a part of her wants to make sure he ends up back in his cell after since he's so damn squirrelly.