I rarely review TV shows on my blog because well…I don’t really watch a lot of them, and the shows I do watch are already years old. However, recently I have been watching more shows and have discovered a few gems along the way, like ABC’s ‘How To Get Away With Murder‘ staring the amazing Viola Davis who I just adore, or Netflix’s original show ‘Scream’ based on the iconic Wes Craven movies.
But there’s one show that’s really stood out from the rest, stuck with me for weeks, even months, and overall inspired me when it comes to my own aspirations for writing scripts. And that show is…
A British crime drama set in the Calder Valley in West Yorkshire, written by Sally Wainwright and stars Sarah Lanchaster and Siobhan Finneran as the main characters.
I discovered Happy Valley, as I do with most shows, later than a lot of people. It was only when my Granddad was watching an episode that I got interested and decided to catch up on the episodes I had missed. It was already series two, but I decided I’d just watch all of series two anyway seeing as I had already watched a few episodes.
So yeah…I watched the second series before I watched the first. I know that’s a huge sin, I mean I used to get stressed when people would read books in a series out of order, and now I’m basically doing the same thing. But at least I watched it. I really wouldn’t of wanted to miss out on this.
If you haven’t seen or heard about Happy Valley, I’ll give you an overview to what it’s about. The series follows Catherine Cawood, perfectly portrayed by Sarah Lanchaster, a police Sergeant still affected by the death of her daughter Becky, that happened around eight years before. She’s divorced from her husband and lives with her ex-drug addict and alcoholic sister, Claire (Also perfectly portrayed by Siobhan Finneran) and they both help to bring up Ryan, Becky’s young son who Becky became pregnant with after she was raped.
Now, if you can’t tell already, things in Happy Valley aren’t exactly all that happy. Neither Catherine’s ex husband or son want anything to do with Ryan, and in fact her son barely speaks to her at all. Tommy Lee Royce, the man who brutally raped Becky, fathered Ryan, and eventually drove her to suicide is released from prison in which he was serving time for drug charges. Understandably Catherine becomes obsessed with finding him and making sure he never comes near her or Ryan.
As we know, I love anything that focuses on the gritty, dark stuff of life. Whether that be murder, crime, psychopaths, the paranormal…I’m drawn to it. And Happy Valley definitely has a lot of darkness, but what it does so well is how it shows it to us.
The character of Catherine is probably now one of my favorite characters of all time, and definitely serves as inspiration when it comes to my own writing. Catherine is flawed, she is harsh and blunt, she is strong-willed and brave. She takes no shit from anyone, yet also puts herself out on the line to deal with other peoples shit. She’s the type of person you could rely on, the type of person you would put your life in their hands and know that she’d drag herself through the mud to make sure you were safe. She goes above and beyond what anyone is expected to do, even as a police officer, and sometimes breaks the rules…but this is honestly what makes her so great.
Catherine feels like a real person. She makes mistakes and she has real life worries and real life issues. Despite the plot of this show also being incredibly engaging, Catherine for me really drives everything, brings the life and the vitality to the show, sets it apart from the rest. In my opionon, many gritty British crime dramas like Happy Valley don’t focus enough on characters or character development. Usually everyone is a bit of an awful person and essentially the characters are just…forgettable. But not the characters in Happy Valley. Average, every day, normal people are what this show gives us in the most brilliant of ways. We get to see the ins and outs of these people, their bad qualities, their good qualities, the mistakes they make, their heroic actions. The realism in Happy Valley is really what I enjoy most.
Tommy Lee Royce, played by James Norton, is the perfect criminal for a show like this. He looks like any young lad you might see in everyday life, yet he’s so disgustingly twisted and psychopathic it really makes you ache for Catherine even more. Any time Catherine was face to face with Tommy I was tense, my stomach tightened, silently hoping Catherine would be okay. Happy Valley doesn’t have these terrifying criminals with scars on their faces, or criminals that run massive illegal operations, killing people left right and center like it’s nothing. The violence is up close and personal, makes you look, makes you feel sick, and makes you realize this could happen to anyone. What happened to Catherine, what happened to Becky, it could be real, and it is real, for a lot of people. It’s gut wrenching, its suspenseful, it keeps you on edge, without needing all the fancy extras to create it.
Sally Wainwright is an excellent writer and her writing talent is truly showcased in this show. Her creation of the characters is so brilliant I forget they even are characters, and instead find myself talking and thinking of them as if they were real. But that’s exactly the point. These people could be real. Coupled with amazing acting by pretty much everyone involved in the series, I honestly think Happy Valley is one of the best crime dramas out there.
If you haven’t seen it, give it a watch, season 1 is now on Netflix!
Let me know in the comments if you’ve seen Happy Valley and what you think of it!