Happy Valley

I’m Catherine. I’m 47 years old. I’m divorced. I live with me sister who is a recovering heroin addict by the way. I’ve two grown up children. One dead, and the other I don’t speak to, and a grandson.

That’s our lead character in the brand new Netflix Mini-Series called Happy Valley. Set somewhere in a rural Yorkshire County valley, in the UK, she’s Catherine Cawood. In the local parlance she’s a copper. Actually she’s the uniformed sergeant in the local constabulary, and she’s in charge of a team.

She’s a no-nonsense kind of sergeant who believes a strong word here and there is better than a soft or mild dressing down for the staff when appropriate. With outsiders, she’s polite, fair, and fearless. In Episode Two, watch how she arrests a city-councilman who refused a breathalyzer test after an automobile smash-up.

With her ex-husband, Richard, she gets along well. They’re divorced and maybe it was them, or maybe it was her job as a homicide investigator, bad hours and all, or maybe it was the death of their daughter that pulled them apart. However, the fires haven’t gone completely out for either of them.

There’s a moment when she had met her ex-husband for a drink, and one thing led to another and Sgt. Cawood tells Richard, “You’d better come in. I’m too old to be shagging in a car…”

Then there’s the dead daughter to consider. She was raped, got pregnant as a result, and once the child was delivered, Catherine’s daughter took her own life. The good Sgt. is still haunted by it.

Of course there’s a case, and without giving away too much:

The accountant. When he lies to the police, notice how red his cheeks get...

The accountant. When he lies to the police, notice how red his cheeks get…

There’s an accountant who needs more money to send his daughter to a better school. So he asks his boss for a raise. When it isn’t forthcoming, this accountant (half in anger and half being deadly serious) mentions to a certain someone –  there could be big money to be had via an abduction.

To the accountant’s surprise – he’s taken up on the offer, and before you know, he’s up to his eyeballs in a conspiracy – the kidnapping.

Which goes south, and then all hell breaks loose.

And that’s your set up.

Now I really like this drama. Even though it is an English drama set in the North of the UK in Yorkshire, sometimes I feel like I needed subtitles. But that’s just a here and there; meaning for the most part, you understand what’s being said.

The story was written, produced, and directed by Sally Wainwright. The lead actress Sarah Lancashire gives a riveting and commanding performance. Among the supporting players watch for James Norton as Tommy Lee Royce, Joe Armstrong as Ashley Cowgill, and Steve Pemberton as Kevin Weatherill. Also watch for Julia Ford as Jenny Weatherill, Jill Baker as Helen Gallagher, and Siobhan Finneran who plays Catherine’s sister Clare.

James Norton as Tommy Lee Royce

James Norton as Tommy Lee Royce

In fact, top to bottom, the show is filled with amazing actors – all of which are important to the story whether they have big or small roles. This is certainly a production where we Americans, won’t be familiar with the cast, and it does help immensely.

The story itself is smart, nicely paced with a high quotient of suspense as well as some action. Lancashire will simply charm your socks off with her strength, her tough love for those she cares about, as well as her fearlessness.

At this point I am four episodes completed, just two remaining, and I’m heartily and strongly recommending this series. Don’t be mislead by the title, While the Yorkshire countryside is indeed, idyllic, this series is no walk in the park. For those of you with a Netflix streaming account, I’ll call this one a must see. In a bit of irony, there’s a moment on the screen, in the opening credits when we see, a Netflix Original Series. Which is immediately followed by A BBC Production. But in all honesty, that’s hardly a complaint, serious or otherwise.

If I’ve not convinced you yet, then have a look at this teaser trailer (30 seconds) from Netflix.

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