Season ReviewsTelevision

Unhappy Families – HAPPY VALLEY: Season 2

The psychotic population of Yorkshire explodes with the second season of Happy Valley. From unhinged stalkers to blind followers of evil incarnate; Sally Wainwright returns to give Catherine Cawood (Sarah Lancashire) some more reasons to feel a little bit on the verge of a mental breakdown.

Following a few murders of prostitutes that involved some mutilation, one of the victims turns out to be the mother of Tommy Lee Royce (James Nolan). After being discovered by Catherine, there’s a sneaking suspicion that she did it but doesn’t feel too fussed about finding an alibi. This gets back to Tommy, who unleashes and manipulates a woman obsessed with him to start emotionally tormenting Catherine by contacting his son Ryan. Whilst this is happening, the hunt for the real killer is at large and a Detective Sergeant at CID finds himself at the mercy of a blackmailing bunny boiler.

One of the big things regarding series one was the fact that you saw everything from every angle; so that instead of trying to build up a mystery it could focus on being more tense as you saw the good guys venture further toward the bad guys. Whilst this series still has that element in regards to Kevin Doyle’s tormented DS John; it tries to incorporate a whodunit element that I don’t think works as well as it could have. As the series tries to juggle these stories alongside the characters living their lives and anything Tommy related – it can’t focus on building up that ongoing mystery. There aren’t that many people it could be because of how it structures itself. It’s as if you have The Bridge and Cracker trying to play against each other at the same time. One of them is going to win over the other.

Happy Valley (2016) – BBC

But what does work works. Sarah Lancashire is mesmerising in every single scene she’s in. When she’s given a monologue or an extended piece of dialogue, she inhabits the character completely and it’s just completely watchable. I’ve gained a whole new level of respect towards Sarah Lancashire after watching this series, and I’m fully going to look into shows like Last Tango in Halifax and even Scott and Bailey to keep track of Wainwright and half this cast.

The characterisation of the cast is still very clever. You can enter scenes thinking one thing and then leave having the wool pulled over your eyes. Scenes like Tommy speaking to Frances start with the impression he can’t understand the concept of a slow subtle grooming that she’s doing to Ryan in her favour, but then he turns it around to play on her insecurities and manipulate her. It’s a clever way of changing things round, and it re-enforces just how twisted a character Tommy is. They never aim to humanise him – they still manage to show just how awful a human being he is. Another psychotic resident in Happy Valley.

The plot unfolds as the killer is revealed to be someone seen slightly throughout the series in a comedy side plot – and the twisted history of the killer and the family is revealed. The killer is the product of his mother’s rape from her own father and it ends up with her killing him due to his actions. The series ends on a real downer – as Catherine sees parallels in the situation with Ryan and Tommy. As Ryan gets older, the constant references to his behaviour are going to increase – what’s going to happen when he’s a teenager? A young adult? How will Catherine cope, and will Ryan learn what happened between Becky and Tommy?

Maybe this is the future of the series: Ryan is getting older. He’s perceptive and might be swayed by other’s opinions but he’s forming his own and making his own decisions based on different viewpoints he’s seeing. I hope they make more – as this is one battle I know Catherine will have trouble fighting.

One of the stronger modern British series in years – you can’t go wrong with Happy Valley.

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Unhappy Families – HAPPY VALLEY: Season 2
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