Yes, another police procedural. But, I really liked this one. Netflix suggested it to me because I liked the Fall. I can see why (police, strong female protagonist, evil man to catch), but they’re actually really different. Gillian Anderson in the Fall is very upper class, very separate from the common officers on the street. In Happy Valley, the whole show takes place at a working class level in a fairly working class area of Yorkshire.
It aired in April on BBC One, and was put on Netflix last month in the US. It has been renewed for a second season.
The show stars Sarah Lancashire as Catherine Cawood. And oh boy does she have a life I wouldn’t want. About 8 years ago, her daughter was raped and became pregnant. She delivered the baby, but hanged herself shortly thereafter. Catherine decided to keep and raise her grandson, against the objections of her husband and their son. Divorce and ostracism followed. The men of the family couldn’t look at the baby without seeing the rape and the suicide.
Now, Catherine still wonders if she made the right decision. Catherine and her recovering addict sister Clare (played by Downton Abbey’s Siobhan Finneran), and the two of them can barely handle the boy, Ryan, and their hectic lives.
Ryan has a bad temper, and you can’t hear that without wondering how much of his father is inside him.
Speaking of his father. He was just released from prison. Not for rape. He was never caught for what he did to Catherine’s daughter, so you can imagine that revenge on him is just about the only thing Cahterine cares about when she hears he is released. And, I can’t blame her, because he’s a sick and disgusting villain.
On the other side of town, in a little bit better neighborhood, lives Kevin Weatherill. And if he isn’t the world’s biggest asshole, I don’t know who is. Yes, I do, it’s Rupert Murdoch. But still. This guy is a douche.
He wants to send his daughter to private school, but he doesn’t have the money. So he asks his boss, Nevison, who he feels owes him something. His boss says no, because if he did it for Kevin, he’d have to do it for everyone.
You can see Kevin’s big flaw in just this little bit of information. He has a problem, and he wants someone to solve it for him. When the boss says no, Kevin sees it as all the boss’s fault. Some people would take a second job, or cut back on vacations, but not Kevin. Kevin thinks the world owes him. He’s angry, so, naturally, he suggests to a criminal he knows that maybe the boss’s daughter could get kidnapped and he could get a cut of the money. That’s his solution.
So the criminal, Ashley, gets together his two workers, Lewis and Tommy Lee Royce. Tommy Lee Royce, by the way, is the guy who raped Catherine’s daughter. And together they organize and carry out the kidnapping.
As you can imagine, these two sides of the story meet in the end. And it’s superbly done. Dramatic, tense, disturbing, sad. Enraging. By the end of the show, the person I was most angry with was Kevin. Even after it’s all said and done, and he’s dragged down his whole family in his ruin and disgrace, he still blames his boss. If his boss had just given him the raise, then the daughter would never have been kidnapped/raped/almost killed. He’s a complete loon.
Here’s what’s great about this show: The women. They are tough. Smart. Capable. Most importantly, they are survivors. We see the men commit mistake after mistake, miscalculate, break down, cry. We see the women push forward and do what they think is right. Not just Catherine. Ann, the kidnapped girl, is an absolute survivor. Catherine saves her life, and Ann saves her right back. The men cannot be depended upon, and none of them prove anything other than a disappointment.
Before you cry misandry, let me remind you how many shows feature an almost entirely male cast. How many shows feature women as victims, women unable to do more than cry? Even Broadchurch, which had a female co-star and smart detective, left us with the question of how could she be so stupid as not to know about her husband. Happy Valley leaves us with no doubt that Catherine will continue her work, will take down drug dealers and murderers, rapists and kidnappers, and whomever else she needs to. It’s great to see her on television. And it’s rare. So…deal with the tables being turned for once.