Photo Credit: http://www.bbc.co.uk
‘In this trouble town/Troubles are found’ – well, ain’t that the truth. The lyrics for the Happy Valley theme song tell you exactly what’s in store. Though ‘troubles’ is putting it pretty mildly, given what’s happened over the course of the three series.
Happy Valley Season 1
The first series of Happy Valley debuted on BBC One in 2014 and almost immediately became a huge critical and fan hit, owing to its stellar cast and action-packed multiple plotlines. Written and created by Sally Wainwright (who won the RTS Writer of the Year Award in 2009 for mini-series Unforgiven and has also created Scott & Bailey, Last Tango in Halifax and Gentleman Jack), the crime drama is set and filmed in West Yorkshire’s Calder Valley. Which, despite its stunning scenery, is home to a multitude of crimes both large and small.
What Is the Plot of Happy Valley?
The first series introduced us to Sergeant Catherine Cawood (Sarah Lancashire), who, as she memorably says to a troubled twentysomething in the first scene, is 47, divorced, lives with her sister, Clare (Siobhan Finneran) – a recovering heroin addict - and her grandson Ryan (Rhys Connah). Cawood’s daughter, Becky, took her life eight years ago, just weeks after giving birth to Ryan, and her son, Daniel (Karl Davies) doesn’t speak to her.
Cawood is a no-nonsense copper who’s (very) nearly seen it all. She and the local force are dealing with a plethora of drug problems in the area, from the users to the dealers, and she’s about to be faced with Tommy Lee Royce (James Norton): the man she believes caused her daughter to kill herself and who is Ryan’s father.
Royce has just come out of jail for drug-related offences and falls in with local businessman Ashley Cowgill (Joe Armstrong), who is, on the face of it, a caravan park owner, but has some, let’s say not very legal ‘side hustles’ on the go. Ashley is persuaded to kidnap Ann Gallagher (Charlie Murphy), the daughter of local millionaire Nevison Gallagher (George Costigan), and demand a sizeable ransom, by Gallagher’s accountant, Kevin Weatherill (Steve Pemberton). While they have Ann captive, Tommy does a host of increasingly brutal things, from raping Ann to cold-heartedly killing a young police officer, Kirsten McAskill (Sophie Rundle).
Nevison has been told by the kidnappers not to involve the police, so it’s four days till Catherine Cawood finds out what’s happened – although by that time she’s already spotted Tommy and looked round the house she saw him heading into, finding bloodstains in the basement and sending them off for analysis.
She discovers Ann being held in Royce’s mother’s basement, and frees her, but not before Tommy nearly kills her in the process. Tommy manages to escape the police cordon and holes up with one of the other kidnappers, then hides out on a narrow boat, having made contact with Ryan, whom he’s found out is his son – Catherine’s previously made it very clear that Royce should have nothing to do with him.
Having murdered two other men (his co-kidnapper and the man who’d been hiding them) and sustaining a knife wound before leaving and finding the narrow boat, Tommy is delirious with sepsis. He tries to kill himself and Ryan by dousing both of them with petrol, before Catherine discovers the boat and saves both, making sure that Tommy is arrested.
Happy Valley Season 2
Eighteen months after the first series, episode one kicks off with Catherine telling Clare a funny story about trying – and failing – to kill a sheep that’s been mauled by dogs. As usual with Happy Valley, it’s not an isolated incident and the sheep has been stolen by kids high on drugs. The sheep’s unhappy demise also brings in two of the key characters, Alison Garrs (Susan Lynch) and her son, Daryl (Robert Emms) who own the farm from which the sheep was stolen.
Thought Tommy Lee Royce couldn’t do any more damage to Catherine and her family because he’s in prison? Think again. This time, he’s manipulated a woman, Frances Drummond (Shirley Henderson) to infiltrate Ryan’s school, befriend him and start dropping in mentions of ‘his dad’ and the potential for forgiving him and building a relationship with him. She falsifies her identity and becomes new teaching assistant ‘Miss Wheland’. Tommy also tries to get Frances to take drastic action against Catherine.
Tommy’s storyline isn’t confined to prison, though – his mother, Lynne, whom Catherine had dealings with in the first series, has been murdered. And as Catherine left a threatening message on her phone recently, she needs to provide an alibi, which she seems curiously reluctant to do. However, when the bodies of several prostitutes are discovered over the following weeks, it’s clear that there’s a serial killer targeting vulnerable women.
DCI John Wadsworth (Kevin Doyle) is one of the detectives on the investigating squad. He’s been having an affair with Vicky Fleming (Amelia Bullmore) which, it turns out, isn’t going to end well for either of them. When he attempts to end it, she drugs and blackmails him with compromising photos, threatening to send them to everyone in his contacts list. Furious and with his personal and professional life in jeopardy, John kills her and then stages the body to look the same as the serial killer’s victims, before setting her flat on fire to destroy evidence.
Catherine, meanwhile, is tasked with investigating a human trafficking operation and is helped by her neighbour, Winnie, who takes in one of the Croatian girls. The Kneževićs – the criminal gang from the first series – are behind the operation.
More connections within the community are revealed when Clare’s new boyfriend Neil (Con O’Neill) tells her that he, too, was blackmailed by Vicky Fleming in the same way. Could the man they’ve arrested for all of the murders not actually be guilty of hers? Was she murdered by another man she’d been blackmailing?
It turns out that it’s actually Daryl, Alison’s son, who has murdered the prostitutes. He confesses to her; horrified, and knowing that Daryl won’t survive being in prison, Alison shoots her son dead and attempts to kill herself, but is saved by Catherine. She tells Catherine that Daryl was insistent he hadn’t killed Vicky Fleming. The connection between John Wadsworth and Vicky is finally discovered; he makes a panicky flight from the station with Catherine in hot pursuit. Cornered, Catherine tries to talk him down from a railway bridge, but Wadsworth can’t face a life of shame and losing everything and takes his own life.
Although Frances is arrested for fraud, it turns out that Ryan has, in fact, written a letter to Tommy Lee Royce in prison, establishing contact between the two…
Want the full recap before bingeing season three? The BBC have you covered:
Happy Valley Season 3
Both the first and second series won the BAFTA for Best Drama Series, so it’s fair to say that there was a huge amount of anticipation for the third – and final – series of Happy Valley. Creator and writer Sally Wainwright had waited for six years between the second and third series for two reasons: one, because she wanted to have Sergeant Cawood on the brink of retirement and two, because she wanted actor Rhys Connah, who played Catherine’s grandson, Ryan in the first two series, to have aged up enough to play the character as a teenager.
Wainwright told the BBC, ‘I waited six years because I wanted to get to a point where Ryan would be old enough to start making choices about whether he wanted to have a relationship with his dad or not. And could he have a relationship with his dad, and how would Catherine feel about that?
‘I really wanted to be able to explore that. It’s just the right period of time because he is now 16, so he can travel places by himself, he can make choices. He can do things behind Catherine’s back.’
The Happy Valley trailer made it clear that old adversary Tommy Lee Royce would once again be at the centre of things, together with introducing new characters and intriguing new plots – all soundtracked by the brooding menace of Joy Division’s suitably-titled ‘Atmosphere’.
If there’s a drama with a better opening than series three of Happy Valley this year, we can’t wait to see it. It’s got everything: younger colleagues revealing that when Catherine gives advice, you need to stick to it; a long-dead body in a reservoir; male colleagues being patronising and Catherine nailing that the remains are those of a gangland murder victim – and exactly how long it’s been there – through a few crucial pieces of physical evidence.
Plus, she reveals who it is, and how she knows, with the deadpan humour we’ve come to know and love. And exits the scene with a memorable, yet succinct, verdict on the colleagues who’ve underestimated both her policing and her knowledge of the area’s criminals: ‘Twats.’
If you hadn’t watched it before, then that surely convinced you that Sally Wainwright is one of TV’s sharpest writers. Equally brilliant, throughout the whole three series, have been the conversations between family members, particularly Catherine and Clare. This series in particular sees Clare having – in Catherine’s eyes – betrayed her by taking Ryan to see Tommy Lee Royce in prison, and some volcanic rows between the two. Making up is generally achieved with a cup of tea and a maximum of four words and a shrug. Believably capturing the way that people speak to each other is rarer than it seems – especially with characters like Catherine, who often struggles when it comes to expressing her deeper emotions, and Wainwright has perfected the art.
Catherine’s typically low-key summing up to Clare after the astonishing final encounter with Tommy Lee Royce, that, ‘We’ve had another bit of a tussle. I won, obviously. I think I might’ve singed one of your crochet blankets’ will definitely be going head-to-head with Tanya from White Lotus’s, ‘these gays, they’re trying to murder me’ for meme-able line of the year.
The Escape Artist
Tommy Lee Royce, meanwhile, is planning a daring escape from prison, and is determined to come after Catherine, as well as persuading Ryan to run away with him to Spain.
Catherine’s other cases include a woman, Joanna Hepworth (Mollie Winard) whose husband, Rob Hepworth (Mark Stanley), shops her for having non-prescription Diazepam. Catherine suspects Hepworth of domestic abuse; it doesn’t help that he’s Ryan’s PE teacher, and is rude to him, bordering on violent.
Joanna’s Diazepam is being supplied by local pharmacist-on-the-make Faisal Bhatti (Amit Shah) who rapidly finds himself under pressure from members of the gang Catherine calls the ‘Halifax mafia’, the Kneževićs.
Joanna and Faisal plan how to kill Rob, so that she and her two daughters can escape the abusive situation. However, when it comes down to it, Joanna doesn’t want to go ahead, at which point Faisal, furious that she’s almost tricked him into committing murder, impulsively grabs a rolling pin, bludgeons Joanna and… murders her. Not for the first time in Happy Valley, owing to everyone’s suspicions about Rob Hepworth, the wrong man will be in the frame for a woman’s murder.
Tommy Lee Royce’s escape from court, facilitated by two of Darius Kneževićs’ more gormless henchmen in episode four has all the drama of the iconic ‘urgent exit required’ escape and chase from Line of Duty. However, the Kneževićs prove themselves to be no slouches in this department; Tommy dons a fetching lycra courier’s outfit stashed in a nearby newsagents, picks up a fancy bike and cycles briskly past all the police in pursuit to freedom. He's then picked up by Darius himself, who deposits him in a local safe house.
Tommy contacts Ryan that night and puts the Malaga plan to him – will Ryan do the right thing the next day and tell the police? Thankfully, he does, and in the process, Catherine has the answer to the question that’s haunted her since he was born – will nature, or nurture win out with her grandson? He also begs her to make things up with Clare; it’s not just Catherine who looked after him when no-one else would: ‘She’s always been there.’
In the meantime, Darius has decided that Tommy’s obsession with killing Catherine makes him too unstable a prospect and sends three of his men to pick him up, ostensibly to move him to a different house. But Tommy susses the plan – pity the poor farmer who discovers three dead bodies in their field after Tommy’s dispatched them. He’s been pretty banged up in the fight, though, with ankle and wrist injuries and – once again – a stab wound in his abdomen.
The final denoument sees him breaking into Catherine’s house and looking at photo albums showing the happy, stable life that Catherine has created for Ryan. Tommy knows he’s ‘dead meat’, so intends to end things. But not before he and Catherine have a showdown in the kitchen where he also gives her a vital piece of information that could take down Darius. In an echo of their confrontation in series one, Tommy empties a petrol can over his head; this time, though, Catherine can’t stop him from setting himself alight, though she throws a blanket over him in an attempt to save him.
It all makes for a highly dramatic last day at work. Catherine, true to form, opts out of her own retirement party. But not before her superior, DSI Shepherd (Vincent Franklin) reveals that Hepworth has been charged not with his wife’s murder, but with having indecent photos of a boy from school on his phone. Shepherd had previously flagged the issue of who was supplying Joanna with Diazepam. Catherine, of course, had the answer: Alison Garrs’ probation officer had also been getting knock-off pills. Her supplier? Faisal. Who, Catherine had established, lived not 100 yards from the Hepworths…
Catherine goes to visit her daughter Becky’s grave one last time, before heading off in her Land Rover (seemingly to the Highlands rather than the Himalayas as she’d suggested was her plan at the start of the series – perhaps she wanted to make sure the vehicle would make the trip.) While she’s there, she gets a text: the hospital have called. Tommy Lee Royce has died of his injuries – Catherine and her family are finally free.
Can’t get enough of Happy Valley? Watch this BFI Q&A with stars James Norton and Siobhan Finneran, producer Jessica Taylor and executive producer Will Johnston.
Who Composed the Happy Valley Soundtrack?
The Happy Valley theme soundtrack is Nottingham artist Jake Bugg’s ‘Trouble Town’. The track was the lead single from his debut album, Jake Bugg, which was released in 2012. It wasn’t written for the series, so hats off to the music supervisor who picked up on the lyrics and married them perfectly to life in the Calder Valley for Catherine and co.
The Happy Valley music on the score has come courtesy of the same composer for all three series: four-times BAFTA-nominated Ben Foster. Aside from working with Sally Wainwright and her team, Foster has also worked with David Arnold on Amazon’s acclaimed Good Omens and arranged Elton John’s songs for director Dexter Fletcher’s film Rocketman.
Plus he’s worked on Russell T. Davies’s Torchwood and Hidden Kingdoms for the BBC Natural History Unit. Foster is highly regarded as an orchestral arranger and conductor, having worked on projects for everyone from Pau McCartney to Peter Gabriel, Nick Cave to Michael Bublé, as well as renowned film composers such as John Williams, Johann Johannson, Mica Levi and Marc Streitenfeld.
Foster has composed with his brother, Nick, on many of his projects. Writing music together is something that started when they were children aged nine and eleven, composing music for Doctor Who. The pair used to visit a neighbour who had a synthesizer keyboard, ‘where you could put rhythms on and drums, sounds, different strings and that was our first score together.’ They’ve gone on to score more than 110 episodes of Doctor Who.
The soundtrack for seasons one and two of Happy Valley was released at the end of 2017. The score for all three seasons is distinctive, emotive and builds a mass of drama. Foster is known for his character-driven soundtracks, which is important when there are so many character-driven threads and plots across the three series.
‘Through this score I continually enhanced what the characters in the show were feeling – such as Catherine’s burning desire to bring Tommy to justice – with a “sound world”. The sound of this score is guitars, solo viola and lots of dirty, dark, fierce synth sounds from vintage synthesizers’, Foster revealed.
The orchestral soundscape features strings and heavy brass on tracks such as ‘Catherine’s Sorrow’ and ‘Kevin’s Descent’ from the first season, together with the brutal synths and pounding guitars, all of which create an unsettling listen that immediately places you in the middle of the show’s distinctive narrative and visual style.
The track listing for seasons one and two is:
- Previously on Happy Valley
- Catherine’s Sorrow
- Kevin’s Descent
- Tommy Lee Royce
- Tommy and His Son Ryan
- Tragedy in the Valley
- Catherine’s Theme
- Back in the Valley
- Drugging John/Miss Wheland
- There’ll Be Two Funerals
- Tommy On Day Release
- You Shouldn’t Have Done It
- Catherine’s Inner Strength
- End of the Road For John
- Remembering Becky
- Ryan’s Choice
- I Love You
- Catherine vs Frances
- John Falls Further
- Ryan Posts the Letter
- Grooming Ryan
- John Found Out
- John On the Run
- A Father’s Son
The Happy Valley season three soundtrack featured a few carefully-chosen needle drops, including RAYE’s ‘Love of Your Life’ at the end of episode 2, and ‘I’m Trying (Not Friends)’ by Maisie Peters as Faisal’s daughters do TikTok dances in the sitting room.
Probably the most impactful use of a track, though, is the acoustic, MTV Unplugged version of Nirvana’s ‘Where did You Sleep Last Night?’ which soundtracks Tommy getting a very impressive glow up for his court appearance, courtesy of a mate in the prison. It’s an old folk track, which has been recorded by many different artists – Nirvana’s take was based on the Lead Belly version. The song’s sinister, brooding lyrics fit Tommy exactly.
Happy Valley Season 3 Soundtrack
Season 3 Episode 1
- Trouble Town – Jake Bugg
- Kevin’s Descent - Ben Foster
Season 3 Episode 2
- Trouble Town – Jake Bugg
- I’m Trying (Not Friends) – Maisie Peters
- Catherine’s Theme – Ben Foster
- Love of Your Life – RAYE
Season 3 Episode 3
- Trouble Town – Jake Bugg
- Be The One – Dua Lipa
Season 3 Episode 4
- Trouble Town – Jake Bugg
- Where Did You Sleep Last Night (Live Acoustic) – Nirvana
Season 3 Episode 5
- Trouble Town – Jake Bugg
Season 3 Episode 6
- Trouble Town – Jake Bugg
- Caution – Ben Foster
Season three also featured some great Audio Network tracks, including ‘Dalina’, a Mediterranean folk dance by Cyril Giroux, Campbell E Browning, Pablo Love and David Bossan, followed by ‘Rugs and Spices’, an ebullient Arabic/Turkish dance from Igor Dvorkin and Ellie Kidd. And then there’s Ruhan and Sidhant Kapoor’s ‘Tum Miley’, a romantic Bollywood duet with an irresistible dance groove.
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