Last week saw the long-awaited return of Sally Wainwright’s Bafta award-winning crime drama, Happy Valley, promising to be as gripping as ever.
We re-join the drama around 18 months on, and with the psychopathic rapist Tommy Lee Royce safely tucked-up behind bars, we return to the daily life of the no-nonsense Sergeant Catherine Cawood.
However, as usual in the (not so) Happy Valley, a new bombshell soon drops on Catherine: this time in the form of the decomposing corpse of Tommy Lee Royce’s mother.
This series’ cast is rejuvenated with a new CID dimension, primarily focused on detective John Wadsworth (Kevin Doyle) and his unsettling mistress (Amelia Bullmore), both of whom featured strongly in Scott and Bailey, another of Wainwright’s successes.
Despite this, the action still focuses on Catherine and her team of uniform officers, rather than the detectives who ‘sit on their arses all day bending paper clips’, who tend to dominate the majority of police dramas on our screens.
This is just one of the ways in which Happy Valley is wonderfully distinct as a crime drama, furthered by its West Yorkshire setting and host of northern actors; a welcome change from today’s multitude of London-centric dramas.
Writer Sally Wainwright continues to champion strong female roles, evidenced by Sarah Lancashire’s stunning performance as Catherine Cawood, accompanied by her new protege, Ann Gallagher, who adds to the show’s wealth of female talent.
Additionally, though there are many light-hearted moments punctuating the drama, a consistent level of threat is maintained.
Whether this is conveyed through John Wadsworth’s abduction by his mistress, or Tommy Lee Royce’s chilling obsession with his hatred for Catherine, as viewers, we are never quite allowed to relax. Not only is Wainwright’s writing up to its usual sharp, witty brilliance, the intricacies of its intertwining plotlines also make for fast-paced and highly entertaining viewing.
A stand-out modern crime drama, Happy Valley is certainly worth a watch, even for those who missed the last season.
Image: Tony Webster