“The Accident”–Unexpected Trauma

The Accident Hulu series

The Accident , a four-part  British series, plunges into a  Welsh community’s fight for justice after an explosion on a construction site kills several local teenagers.

The town of Glyngolau, Wales is comparable to many Appalachian  coal mine and steel mill towns. Most have lost their main employers, leaving everyone in financial ruin. To the rescue is a large real estate developer, Kallbridge Developments.  It  swoops in,  promising a thousand local jobs, and the residents breath a sigh of relief.  Iwan Bevan, head of the town council, has worked hard to secure the project.

Fifteen-year-old daughter, Leona Bevan,  rebellious and bored, has experimented with drugs and is looking for a good time in a town with very little going on.   In the opening scene, Iwan’s wife, Polly (Sarah Lancashire of “HappyValley” and “Last Tango in Nova Scotia”), catches Leona in bed with a forty-year old man and warns her of the father’s reaction. Sullen, Leona takes eight of her teenaged friends to sneak into the Kallbridge building site, to vandalize the yet-unfinished interior,  and most of all, to annoy her dad. A tragic accident occurs and legal recourse follows.

Harriet Paulsen (Sidse Babett Knudsen of “Borgen”), the senior vice-president of Kallbridge, is responsible for the construction site and is implicated. Polly, who understands her husband’s tempestuous behavior all too well, suspects Iwan is culpable in the accident as well.  Harriet, romantically involved with a junior employee she supervises, soon reveals her moral compass in defending her position as do Polly, Iwan, Leona and individual residents.

As the town mourns the tragedy, attention towards the grieving parents shifts to who is to blame: A fellow townsman who managed the construction? Harriett Paulsen fronting the greed of the Kallbridge corporation? Or ,the councilman and some of his peers?  What price is worth pursuing justice?  Does the cost seem too high when the grieving parents put up their houses as collateral to cover the legal expenses?

The Accident is about who is to blame, the power of greed and relationships crumbling to save oneself.  The ending is somewhat weak, but the performances and the narrative, for the most part, support the drama and the suspense.

Availability:  Hulu streaming and Channel 4 (BBC).

Note: There are powerful, deeply disturbing, and– unfortunately,– convincing  scenes of domestic violence and the battered woman syndrome. Distressing to witness and  certainly harrowing.

“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.