Way up in the North of Britain lies the beautiful Yorkshire County. North of Manchester and north of Leeds, this area is closer to Scotland than it is to London. West Yorkshire and the Upper Calder Valley is the setting of the Netflix/BBC TV drama Happy Valley.
Season 2 of Happy Valley aired in the UK beginning in mid-February; and when its run on the BBC ended, this six part series arrived on Netflix. If you recall, I wrote an enthusiastic review of Season One back in September of 2014. Well in the series, as well as our own calendars, 18 months have passed.
Actress Sarah Lancashire as Police Sgt. Catherine Cawood returns in the lead role. Returning from
Season One are James Norton as the sociopathic killer Tommy Lee Royce, who now spends his days incarcerated, Catherine’s sister Clare Cartwright portrayed by Siobhan Finneran, and a few of the local constables are also returning.
New this season are Kevin Doyle who played the beloved Molesley on Downtown Abbey for many years. Here, he is the Homicide Inspector DS John Wadsworth.
Also new for this season are Sean Balmforth (as a suspect) and Shirley Henderson (as an ally of Tommy Lee Royce), both of whom acted in some of the Harry Potter films, Vincent Franklin as DSI Andy Shepherd who heads up the CID investigation of a serial killer, and Katherine Kelly as DI Jodie Shackleton, round out the more prominent new members of the cast for this season. In the above photo, beginning with Balmforth in the upper left, the rest follow clockwise.
Despite the idyllic and bucolic surroundings, the residents in the Upper Calder Valley are not, generally speaking, a happy group. Drug use, alcohol abuse, and prostitution, all of which lead to additional crimes, keep Cawood and her colleagues quite busy. You’d think we were in some of the tougher and rougher neighborhoods of London, Leeds, or Liverpool instead of the beautiful Yorkshire countryside.
And that’s not even mentioning a batch of brutal killings of women which has all the signs of a serial killer being in the area. There are plenty of broken homes, rape victims, mental instabilities, sex offenders, as well as human trafficking going on.
But wait there’s more. Tommy Lee Royce, who raped and impregnated Cawood’s daughter Rebecca, is incarcerated. But his mother, a known drug addict has been murdered. Cawood had left threatening messages on her phone. And now she is a suspect in the demise of Royce’s mother, and apparently has no alibi.
This show is operating on two levels this season. The multiple serial murder case is a true who-done-it, and a 4th murder, (and we know who is the responsible party) is lumped in with the other three, causing confusion in the ranks of the police.
The show is well written, well acted, and sharply produced. At the helm is Sally Wainwright as creator, writer, and show-runner. Happy Valley is an excellent short series – just six one hour episodes in each of the first two seasons – so we clearly don’t get filler or time-wasting scenes.
Lancashire as Cawood is stunning. Her character is not always right but she’s sterling as a gruff but fair uniformed copper.
The second season comes with my hearty recommendation. I should tell you, that despite this being a series made in the UK with English-speaking actors, there are moments when you will be scratching your head asking yourself – what was just said.
The people in the series are ardent folks, who have issues, and family problems, just like the rest of us. Which is NOT to say, that watching their struggles is depressing. Not in the least – that is if you can pay heed to the top-notch writing and acting.
Have a quick peek at a short trailer for SEason 2: