We reckon Tortured Valley would be a more appropriate name for this show, though the Yorkshire tourism board might not be so keen.
In Happy Valley we’re headed to the land of dales, moors…and murders, apparently. At least it is in this town. Season one begins with us meeting our heroine, the strongminded police officer Catherine Cawood, played by Sarah Lancashire, who is struggling to come to terms with the suicide of her daughter Becky. She’s not having much luck in her personal life, it seems – she’s divorced from her husband and living with her sister who is battling alcohol and heroine addictions, whilst also trying to raise her daughter’s young son, Ryan, who is the product of rape, and neither her ex-husband nor their son Daniel want anything to do with him. Then the news breaks that Tommy Lee Royce, the man responsible for the rape that led to Becky taking her life after Ryan was born, is being released from prison after eight years serving for drug charges. She then becomes obsessed with finding him, tracing his moves and in the process becoming entangled with an ongoing investigation concerning the abduction of Ann Gallagher.
For an obviously brutal crime drama, this show is remarkably cosy. And we don’t mean that in the sort of snuggle down and switch off kind of way, rather the revel in the glory of British drama type of way. This show is superb from top to bottom: its writing, its setting, and its acting. Particularly brilliant is the characterisation of Cawood, played perfectly by Lancashire – she’s compelling and completely likeable, full of compassion for those around her and driven by deep, profound grief to seek justice wherever she can. And the show’s portrayal of these innately human emotions, and our flawed nature, is what makes it so watchable.
And oh happy (Valley) day, the series doesn’t fall into that all too common trap of having an amazing first season then falling flat on its face with the second. Season two continues with the brilliance, with another gripping investigation and more Cawood action.
They’re binge watching this in America, too, and battling through those thick Yorkshire accents, according to Variety’s Maureen Ryan. She says: “Happy Valley” does a fine job of conveying what it’s like to be a small-town police officer whose daily rounds allow her to confront the dumb, silly and awful things people do to each other, and to wrestle with what she herself is capable of.” And Sam Wollaston of The Guardian would agree, he says Catherine Cawood is “such a great creation, tough and Yorkshire and droll, but so very human, and brought to life so understatedly convincingly by Sarah Lancashire.” The Independent’s Daisy Wyatt praises the series for this complex portrayal of human nature, saying “A strange sense of optimism prevails despite the misery. The drama speaks right to the heart of what it means to be British. The characters muddle on through despite their lot, with the knowledge that a cup of tea can cure a thousand woes.”
First shown April 2014. You can watch the trailer by pressing play on the show image, or by clicking here.