In this week’s Happy Valley, the walls seem to be closing in. Like the other seasons, our perennially pissed-off protagonist Sergeant Catherine Cawood is kept mainly in the dark about the central crime storyline going on; her problems are more personal as the tension mounts up regarding “our Ryan” and his illicit, extended contact with his imprisoned father, Tommy Lee Royce. Last week ended with the promise of a bombshell, and episode 2 wastes no time dropping it — Clare and Neil have been accompanying Ryan’s visits to see his dad. It’s a devastating betrayal for Catherine; she can’t find the words to confront her sister until the end of the episode.
Until then, Ryan’s got other stuff to worry about. Coach Rob Hepworth singles him out for embarrassing him the day prior, resulting in an outburst that gets Ryan kicked off the football team. It’s infuriating to see a grown man demean and humiliate a kid with behavioral issues, and heartbreaking when Ryan storms home to throw a tantrum where he smashes up his room. Clare eventually gets him calm, but the sweetness in their relationship is undermined by the intel Catherine got at the top of the episode. Catherine’s particularly sensitive to her family members turning/being turned against her, and the distress dwells on her every time we see her face.
In our main crime plotline, Joanna Hepworth is accosting Faisal to help her daughters escape her abusive husband. She seems to think he’s promised to buy her a flat, but the very squirrelly and stressed pharmacist is at a loose end — his money is all tied up in the pharmacy owned by his wife Anisha’s dad. On top of the money he has to regularly pay to gangsters, cash is tight, and Joanna is starting to look like a big problem for Faisal…
Catherine spots Alison Garrs (Susan Lynch), the young farmer mother who mercy-killed her murderer, son Daryl at the end of Season 2. Catherine eventually approaches her, and Alison catches her up: she’s been released and now lives in a shoddy flat, one of many built by shady companies who snap up government contracts and disappear when problems become apparent. It’s very Grenfell, a completely avoidable disaster that happened in the years between Seasons 2 and 3 — but Alison suggests the culprit for a woman falling to her death in the area was because of the unfit-for-purpose windows the high rises are equipped with.
Added to this, the dead woman’s flat was packed with unlaundered Knezevic cash, and Richard’s been tapped by a Guardian journalist to do some digging on Darius’ businesses. Things are cooking up for what seems to be our big bad in Happy Valley’s final season — hopefully, Darius will make an appearance soon.
Catherine is called into Ryan’s school for a meeting with the headmaster and Hepworth: Rob’s car has been vandalized, and he blames Ryan. We see the look on Rob’s face when he clocks the policewoman who turned up at his house is, in fact, the guardian of the child he’s been picking on, and it’s made so much sweeter as Catherine methodically, beautifully pulls apart Hepworth’s bullying tactics for his boss to see, humiliating him once again in front of Ryan. Honestly, stuff like this exposes Happy Valley’s main point: it’s a fantasy of ethical policework, where those with power exclusively use it to right injustices and protect those vulnerable.
Rob comes home completely wound up and emasculated, and after attacking his wife in the middle of cooking, leaves them alone for a very muted and upset family dinner. “Why doesn’t Daddy like you?” Joanna is heartbreakingly asked. She tells Faisal she won’t go through the ordeal of an abuse trial because she doubts that a drug addict would be looked kindly on, and she doesn’t want to lose custody of her daughters.
Faisal isn’t too sympathetic, though — he’s more concerned with the fact that Joanna told Rob where she got her pills from and the fact that Joanna casually drops her plan to murder her husband with a ketamine overdose.
The gangsters are back intimidating Faisal, and we get another upsetting instance of writer Sally Wainwright using the threat of sexual, gendered violence to make people look nasty — the fact that characters have done it every season only makes the trope more unpleasant. Regardless, Faisal makes the stupid decision to reveal that Joanna has loose lips about the source of her illegally traded pills, with the gangster suggesting that he silence her for good.
Back in Sheffield, we follow some backhanded smuggling operations that lead us to Tommy getting access to a state-of-the-art Nokia brick phone. After being caught up in last week’s investigation, Tommy seems wholly focused on connecting as much as possible with Ryan — even Catherine has considered Clare and Neil could be being coerced into helping him reach his son. Still, she borrows a truck from Alison and tails Clare to Sheffield and the prison, watches Neil take Ryan into the prison, and follows Clare to a cafe.
She stands outside, calls her, and has an elongated, very affecting conversation about nothing in particular, where all the hurt from her sister’s betrayal lingers tangibly. The episode ends with Catherine walking into the cafe and sitting opposite Clare — there is no choice but to confront what’s been kept hidden. Hopefully, we’ll see some answers, ones that will likely shed some light on Tommy Lee Royce’s malevolent influence behind bars.
Happy Valley Season 3 streams with weekly episodes on Acorn TV and AMC+ and airs on BBC America on Mondays at 10 p.m. ET.