Happy Valley Series 1 & 2 DVD – Review
By Sarah Morgan
I feel slightly ashamed to admit it, but there was a time when I wasn’t impressed by Sarah Lancashire. I didn’t have anything against her, but it seemed to be that since bursting onto the TV scene as Raquel in Coronation Street, she had trod water for years, delivering decent performances but nothing remarkable in a string of lacklustre TV dramas. It felt as if the obvious skill she’d shown as Raquel was a one-off.
But everything changed with Happy Valley. Her prowess as police sergeant Catherine Cawood proved what a marvellous actor she is, and in the process, turned me into a dedicated fan.
Immediately prior to playing the character, Lancashire had worked with writer Sally Wainwright on the gentle drama Last Tango in Halifax; Wainwright then penned Happy Valley, and it’s clear that together, they’re a formidable partnership.
Wainwright writes extraordinary stories and characters, and Lancashire breathes life into them, making Cawood – who could have come across as unsympathetic in less skilful hands – into a hugely flawed but believable woman; and she has viewers on her side all the way.
The first series of Happy Valley received some complaints about its depiction of violence against women, but it was a massive ratings and critical success, so it came as no surprise when a second run was commissioned.
Both follow Cawood as she continues her one-woman crusade against Tommy Lee Royce, the local criminal she holds responsible for the death of her daughter, who committed suicide after he raped her; Cawood is now raising their son Ryan.
There are other cases to solve too, including that of a terrifying kidnapping and a possible serial killer.
Although Lancashire is certainly the dominating force, there are other superb performances that deserve to be mentioned, including Siobhan Finneran as her recovering alcoholic sister Clare, and a pre-fame James Norton as Royce.
But it’s young Rhys Connah who steals every scene he’s in as Ryan – expect big things from this little man if he stays in the business. Let’s hope he does because he seems a natural.
The boxset contains a behind-the-scenes documentary as well as interviews with the main cast (Norton sounds remarkably posh; his accent certainly doesn’t sit well with the fake prison tattoos required for his role), but it’s worth buying for the series alone – here’s hoping the rumoured third run will be heading our way soon.
‘Happy Valley: Series 1-2’ from the BBC is out now from Amazon and major supermarkets