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Happy Valley: Episode #1.6

Is all well that ends well?

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.

"I knew something wonderful was going to happen," said Bobbie, "but I didn't think it was going to be this. Oh, my Daddy, my Daddy!" "Then didn't mother get my letter," Father asked. "There weren't any letters this morning. Oh, Daddy. It is really you, isn't it?" The clasp of a hand she had not forgotten assured her that it was. "They've caught the man who did it. Everyone knows now that it wasn't your Daddy." "I always knew it wasn't," said Bobbie.

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.

"You're going to start believing all this Holy Saint Becky of Assisi shit yourself next, dad. Same as her. ... Becky was a loser. She ran rings around you! She hung around with wasters and pill-heads and bloody idiots and she was asking for it. She was asking for it, Mother! She liked him. She told me. She were that stupid. All my life, I behave. I do well in school, well enough. I keep me head down, never give you a minute's bother, either of you. And what thanks do I get? I get, 'why didn't you die, Daniel? Why wasn't it you?' ... And nobody believes all this bereavement crap. Nobody that matters. We know, we were there. We know it's not sorrow. It's guilt. And you couldn't stop her. Becky was off the rails, she were driving you up the wall, and there was nothing you could do!"

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.

"Losing a child, it's just.. The only way you can cope with it, I suspect, is to go a little bit mad. And it's never fair on other children, your other children, to see a parent like that and to have to put up with the things that are said. And I'm sorry that happened to you. I know she wasn't perfect... And Ryan, every day, I dunno, he'll do something, he'll be in trouble, he'll drive me up the wall and I don't know that I made the right decision but... I genuinely don't know what else I could've done." - "I know." - "Had him put in care?" - "No." - "Even though you all hated me for it." - "Mum... Nobody hates you."

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.


  1. There's a lot about this episode that is very powerful. The truth about Becky as Daniel sees it is a big one. Did Catherine really tell Daniel that she wished he'd died instead of Becky? Did she ever mean it? Did Catherine love Becky more because Becky was so troubled? Ryan's behavioral problems undoubtedly remind Catherine of Becky all the time, something I hadn't considered until this point.

    Tommy's deep need to connect with Ryan creeped me out for so many reasons. Tommy truly believes that it would be better for an eight year old to die horribly than to live with a grandmother and great-aunt who love him and care deeply for him. I loved the parallel to the pilot with the fire extinguisher. It was pat, but perfect.

    For me, though, the strong connection between Catherine and Ann, and Ann's choices, her refusal to let Tommy ruin her life, were the best part of this episode. I also loved how Clare was just *there* for Catherine, being smart, competent, and supportive. Their relationship is special, and I am hoping that Clare ignores Catherine's hurt suggestion that she move out. They need each other.

    Wonderful review, Thomas. I'm so glad you decided to join Heather and me in reviewing this series. On to series two!

  2. Yes, Billie, I think we got a lot more "meat on our bones" with this one. It was a really strong finale. Catherine might be worried for Ryan both because his mother was unstable and his father is a sociopath. The comment by Daniel, "she liked him, she was that stupid" gives some explanation to Tommy going "me and Becky, we had a thing," which just comes off as true and staggering sadism when you watch that scene the first time (well, it still does, but you understand his warped perspective a bit more.) It also adds another possible layer to Becky's decision to keep the baby.

  3. Thank you thank you BillieDoux reviewers who put me in the direction of this series. It has been absolutely exquisite, wonderful, creepy, and perfect! Loved it!

    And season two doesn't disappoint. It is, if possible, even better:)

    It also made me check out Mark Greig's other recommendations. E.g. - Line of Duty - another excellent Brit series that will have you on the edge of your seat throughout...

  4. It's The Railway Children :-) https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Railway_Children Thanks for these reviews I've been really enjoying them .... can't wait to see what you make of season 2. I hope it's not to spoilery to say that Tommy has not even started to reach his epically creepy potential yet.

  5. I stumbled across Happy Valley last fall and was hooked immediately. I also tried Broadchurch and it was great, also. They both made me fall in love with British crime dramas.

  6. So.

    Great review for this first series' finale! Billie and Thomas, it's been so great doing this with you. I've enjoyed reading both of your reviews very much, as it's increased my enjoyment of and my respect for Happy Valley tenfold.
    Cheryl, maybe I can convince the others to gather again for Broadchurch?! I really loved that show, too!


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