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Happy Valley: Episode #2.4

"Some twisted little git has done it for him."

Another excellent, complicated episode, this time centered about an expensive birthday gift.

I feel more compassion for troubled ten-year-old Ryan with every episode of this series. Catherine was so upset about the gift that she expected him to understand some very complex issues, but he can't. He's a little boy who is intrigued by the existence of a father he barely knows, and who can blame him? We can easily assume that Catherine has never spelled out to Ryan in detail what Tommy did to Becky, Ann Gallagher, Kirsten McAskill and Catherine herself, because you simply don't tell things like that to a child, and Ryan cannot understand that depth of evil, even though Tommy actually poured gasoline all over him. Ryan must think that if Tommy is his father, a part of himself, Tommy must be a good man deep down and he just lost his temper and made mistakes, like Ryan often does in school. I really get this because I can remember feeling something similar when I was eleven and my parents were breaking up, but I didn't know why and no one could tell me.

Later, Catherine acknowledged that she should have just quietly disposed of the card and let Ryan keep the toy. She was right. By giving the toy so much emotional weight, she inadvertently pressed Ryan's rebellious buttons. And now Ryan is writing a letter to Tommy, and hiding it from Catherine. OMG.

Leaving that present on the Cawood doorstep for Ryan was such a devious thing to do, because no matter how the scenario turned out, Tommy would win. I was a bit shocked later in the episode when we learned that Tommy didn't even know about it. It appears that Frances did it to mollify Tommy, who is desperate for Frances to go ahead and murder Catherine for him. Gold acting stars for Shirley Henderson (Frances) and James Norton (Tommy), who did some excellent work in those little scenes in the visitor room. Frances is always so intensely focused on Tommy, leaning in, mimicking his movements, staring into his eyes, but when Tommy was insisting that Frances murder Catherine, Frances' body language changed; she pulled back from him, wrapping her arms defensively around herself. He sensed he was losing her, so he started buttering her up with that "two hearts that beat as one" crap.

It's somewhat disturbing that Frances was using the same body language while "undercover" at school with Ryan that she uses with Tommy. She told Ryan that she didn't believe his father did half the things he's accused of doing, which suggests that she does realize, possibly on a subconscious level, that Tommy is guilty of something. Is she ready to commit murder for Tommy? I have no idea what Frances will do next.

On to the serial killer plot. If it weren't for Catherine's compassion for those victimized prostitutes who felt that they could call her at four in the morning, Sean Balmforth wouldn't have been arrested. (Catherine completely lost it with the two "specials" who would have let him get away, and honestly, they deserved her ire. At least one of them, the better one, got the message.) When Catherine got back into her car after talking to Leonie, I was expecting her to "see" Becky's body in the back seat again, triggered by the victimization of another young woman. But no.

Clever detective Shackleton thinks that Vicky's murder doesn't fit with the other three, and that the fire in her flat was a clue that Vicky was killed by someone who knew her, which she was. It is obvious that Sean Balmforth raped Leonie (he didn't seem to think there was anything wrong with raping a prostitute) and that he is obsessed with prostitutes, which might be why another victim's hair was in his van. But Shackleton doesn't think Sean Balmforth is smart enough to have covered up four (okay, three) murders, and I agree.

Neil's middle of the night confession that he knew Vicky and that she blackmailed him and ruined his marriage was a fascinating little twist. And it was Clare who again put together the clues: that Vicky was blackmailing the man who killed her. Wow. Yay for Clare.

Honestly, I'm not all that interested in John Wadsworth and his marital troubles. While Kevin Doyle is doing an excellent job with the part, I'm just ready for John to get caught. And yes, he had a ton of stuff on his mind, but how could he stand up Ann when she's so vulnerable?

Catherine was inserting herself into Ann's life again, having lunch with Nevison and asking about Ann's drinking. Catherine meant it kindly, though. She's looking out for Ann, just like she looks out for Clare and Ryan and Daniel and Winnie and Ilinka. And the prostitutes at Kings Cross. It's what Catherine does.

Bits and pieces:

-- That birthday card on the mantle felt like a bomb about to go off, mostly because of the skillful way it was filmed. I was going, "Open the card, Clare!"

-- Another white van in the mix. And was John's license plate similar to Sean's on purpose?

-- Daryl, the sheep guy from the earlier episodes, was back again with a lump hammer (what's a lump hammer?) striking out at his sheep-stealing harassers. We were pointedly shown the dent in his old red car, weren't we? Must be a reason.

-- Again, Mike came off as a good boss, praising Catherine and Ann for going above and beyond, agreeing with Catherine when she brought in the birthday present as evidence.

-- Catherine: "You know how New Jersey has the Sopranos? Well, Halifax has the Knezevics."

How would you rate this one? I'm going with at least three and possibly four out of four birthday gifts,

Billie Doux loves good television and spends way too much time writing about it.


  1. I know I'm not really enjoying a character's story when I can never remember his name. That Downton Abbey guy is not my favorite subplot. Frances is creepy and intriguing, and Catherine needs to get herself together so she doesn't make things worse for her family. The situation is tough on Ryan too, she should think about that more.

  2. Billie, great great review. I agree that the way Ryan is written is becoming more interesting, heartsick and relatable (even as our tween selves). Catherine is walking incredibly hard territory here and it's hard not to feel the weight of the complexity of their situation.
    Frances is so creepy good. Perfect casting and the actress is wonderful.
    As an aside, isn't it humorous that the inmates wear magenta?! Sure makes for something visually interesting in those visiting scenes!


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