“Happy Valley”-No One’s Idea of Happiness

Happy Valley

This compelling and addictive police drama stars Sarah Lancashire as  the middle-aged Yorkshire police sergeant Catherine Cawood,  who struggles daily between remembering  the suicide of her teenage daughter and developing love for the young boy her daughter left behind.  Divorced and estranged from her son partly because of that tragic death, Catherine  is determined to capture her daughter’s lover/killer/rapist, but the search almost spirals out of control when the perpetrator, Tommy Lee Royce (played by James Norton) is released from prison.  Her pursuit of Tommy Lee Royce becomes an obsession.

A popular BBC production distributed by Netflix on August 20, Happy Valley consists of  six episodes, which  do not involve any hunting for clues, since we know the heinous nature of the crime from the first episode.  But the characters are so sharply drawn and the situation so suspenseful that binge viewing is the way to go.   . The proliferation of drugs, corruption of government, and police complicity are part of the  problems  she faces every day.

Cawood is the type of woman we rarely see on television:   self-aware at times,  unbelievably vulnerable and foolish also.  Occasionally, she is just out of control–both emotionally and physically–and recklessly puts herself in danger. Happy Valley

“Happy Valley”, like “The Fall” (also from the U.K. and distributed exclusively through Netflix) as well as The Killing and The Bridge (American adaptations of two Scandinavian shows)—not to mention the mother of them all, Prime Suspect—suggests just how much a thriller can be designed focusing on  a woman  police officer, who is damaged but tenacious in accomplishing what she needs to.  Season Two of this highly unusual drama is being produced now and scheduled for US release in January 2015.


Comments (4)

  • Thanks for the recommendation, Diana. Watching Damages these days with Glenn Close as a tenacious attorney. Incredible acting, character depth and one is never sure who the antagonist/protagonist is. I’m only in the first series……

  • Sorry to be off the topic, but I can’t help commenting about another exceptional series. Just finished watching TRUE DETECTIVE on NF. It was phenomenal in terms of acting, plot, unique story line, etc. Superb lineup of seasoned very talented actors. Highly recommend this thriller with intense character development . I have never been a fan of Matthew McConaughey, but I am one now. Couldn’t believe the depth of his performance. Just remarkable. Emmy winning as far as I’m concerned. Complex, engrossing, many layered mystery and characters.

    • Yes, “True Detective” was quite absorbing. Cary Fukunaga (director/producer) is from Oakland and I have been following his work ever since the Oscar-nominated “Sin Nombre”, a fabulous movie about immigrants crossing the border into the US, both timely and heartbreaking!
      Thanks for your comment!

  • Happy Valley is truly an engaging and intense series. Catherine Cawood certainly brings to life this character “who is damaged but tenacious in accomplishing what she needs to.”
    I agree, this is yet another example of a thriller that is focused on a woman.

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