The not-so-happy lives of Happy Valley
Don’t let the name of the show mislead you. ‘Happy Valley’ is not a happy tale. Instead, it is a tale of crime, loss and revenge. Set in Calder Valley, the place is only ironically called ‘Happy’ due to its raging drug problem. That should tell you a little about the nature of the show. The scene of a picturesque English countryside transitions into that of a drunk youngster threatening self-immolation. And so begin the grim but fascinating stories of the inhabitants of Happy Valley.
The British drama series proves that Sally Wainwright is a gifted script writer. Her understated and relatable scripting breathes life into the characters. These include Sergeant Cawood (Sarah Lancashire) who longs to settle a score with her daughter’s rapist. Kevin Weatherill (Steve Pemberton) who makes an impulsive decision he will live to regret. And a drug dealer whose release from jail changes the lives of the valley residents forever.
With a heady mix of powerful performances and a tight plot line, Happy Valley is a worthy watch. Lancashire, as a tough cop thirsting to avenge her daughter’s death, is par excellence. George Costigan as a hard boss and a terrified father is incredible. Joe Armstrong as Ashley the lead kidnapper is sufficiently menacing. And James Norton as Tommy Lee Royce – the rapist and drug dealer – makes you uneasy.
Happy Valley is a dark, surreal cop drama with a surprisingly human touch. Even the cinematography alternates between two opposites. Watch out for lingering shots of peaceful hills juxtaposed with violent crime scenes. It’s no wonder then that the show won a series of prestigious awards. Happy Valley won the Best Drama Series and Best Leading Actress BAFTA in both 2015 and 2017. It also won Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress BAFTA in 2015 and 2017, respectively.
So if an edge-of-the-seat thriller is what you’re after, Happy Valley is for you. However, with its fair share of violence, it certainly isn’t one for the faint hearted.