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Happy Valley: Episode #2.5

"Omniscient and ubiquitous. God, I'm good."

This week, in this trouble town, the serial murder plot gets blown open, Catherine and Ann go out drinking and Frances practices making molotov cocktails.

A big shout-out to Sally W. for portraying addicts/alcoholics as having a straight-up allergy to alcohol. That's not a very widely-accepted or understood idea about one facet of what alcoholism is about outside the recovery community, but alcoholics sure know that to be true. For many, alcohol in their system creates an entire different personality. Happy Valley has done a good job narrating this. A few episodes back, Clare showed her Mr. Hyde and in this hour, we see Neil, as we've never seen him before. (I like how Catherine's touch in both of these situations is a compassionate one, stern but ultimately loving.) But Sean, too, to an extent, is featured here as experiencing blackouts from drinking -- another signifier of said allergy. The first time I saw this season, I was surprised to see how several stories were about people dealing with the disease of alcoholism. It's actually a very smart and interesting juxtaposition with other characters who are basically just making bad decisions. Seeing these two types of characters, side by side, takes moral judgment off the table when understanding an addict. (This is done to a lesser extent in this series with prostitution, as well.)

Alcoholism and... parenthood! Both are big in 'Episode #2.5'. Daryl's mom, seeing no other merciful way out, makes a shocking decision to put a bullet in the back of her son's head in the show's final scene. Eek, even typing that sentence gives me the chills. This might be the most jarring scene I have seen in recent memory, in fact. Alison is incredibly calm. It's a spot-on dramatization of the flinty side of motherhood. I think the map of this storyline was very well-designed. From the jump, when we first meet these two in 'Episode #2.1', we are intrigued and compelled by their circumstances. The misdirect with Sean, while trope-y as hell, does not lessen the tension with Daryl and his mom. Watching Alison put together the facts and handle them in the best way she knows how has been fascinating. Fascinating and also so sad.

And then we have Catherine who's actively mothering Ann these days, for lack of a better term. I really liked the scene in the teaser with Catherine and Ann on the curb. Yeah, Ann was drunk and vulnerable, but she was very articulate in her characterization of Catherine. I even liked the follow-up with Daniel and Ann, the morning after. (Daniel continues to be a complex character, who's really grown on me!) Ann remembers what she said to Catherine the night before and has a flash of embarrassment. I thought that was such a nice moment because, in hindsight, one might be a little bashful at the effulgence of those statements about what God is and the like. But moreover, it furthers my love of Ann and the pureness of her spirit.

Ugh, then there's Frances whose language can simultaneously influence a 10 year-old and make an adult shudder! I do find myself listening to her words very carefully when she's talking to Ryan. Mostly curious if there is a real method to her manipulation -- which of course there is! How about her altar to Tommy (and Ryan)? Shite.

As for the serial killer business, I think showing the erratic fragmented nature of investigation, through John's eyes, is very original. Especially given that he's a detective. Lord, the scene with him berating his wife in front of his fairly young children was appalling. But, it was also riveting to see this grown man step on the other side of self-righteous the moment he thought he was going to get away with murder. Yet another painful scene to behold! The twist with another victim being found was just great writing.

Hard to believe that the season will be wrapped after the next hour with so much out there still to explore. In the case of Frances and John, you can really now feel how the show has been built to this upcoming finale. I think it's going to be a good one!

Bits and Pieces:

-- Have been remiss to not mention how great the opening credits are -- song and all!

-- I love the use of 'our' Clare or 'our' Daniel, in this show. It's very dear.

-- Oh my god, the girls' night out (plus Shafiq!). Those stories of the policewomen back in the day-- holy hell. And you just took it -- you had to.

-- Does anyone else find it unnerving that Frances can look like a 12 year-old boy on camera?

-- That pavement's gonna get very chilly if you stay there much longer, and you do know it's where the doggies do their wee-wees.

Wonderful penultimate episode here. 3 out of four replaced but unwanted Scalextrics!


  1. Those dramatic scenes of a mother deciding that killing her own son was a better solution than letting him keep hurting others, or watching him go to prison...that is what this show does so well. It is horrible, but still a fascinating human drama. Happy endings are not what you will find, in this valley.

  2. Mallena,
    Exactly. As an aside, two people recently asked me if this show was a fun British comedy, based on the name. Haha no.

  3. Heather, you could always recommend people watch Sarah Lancashire's other show, Last Tango in Halifax. That one can be pretty funny, at times.

  4. Mallena, I'm a big fan of Last Tango. I keep thinking about reviewing it, but I've been trying to take a good-sized writing break and I'm running out of summer. :)

    Wonderful review, Heather. The situation with Alison and her son Daryl was just so gripping. I didn't realize what she was doing when she was distracting him with the possibility of running away to the United States, and wow. Wasn't that similar to what happened in Of Mice and Men?

    How about Daniel being a born detective like his mother and Clare? It was Daniel who noticed that Ryan was always bringing up his father right after he got home from school. I was also freaked by Frances hanging around outside and experimenting with a possible molotov cocktail.

    Seems like an obvious observation, but John is an ass, lording his wife's infidelity over her head when he actually killed his own girlfriend. What a jerk.


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