After the panicked tension of last week’s episode of Happy Valley, culminating in Catherine’s surprise confrontation with Clare in a Sheffield cafe after she drove Ryan to see Tommy Lee Royce in prison, Episode 3 takes a slower pace, focusing on the emotional repercussions of Ryan’s rendezvous with his incarcerated father. We pick up immediately after Episode 2’s cliffhanger, as the Cawood sisters talk in wounded, combative terms; Catherine wants the whole story, except for all the bits she already knows, like all the instances where Tommy Lee Royce acted in violent, sadistic ways to hurt her loved ones.
The details are what we assumed: Ryan’s been sending his dad letters since Frances Drummond gave him his address, but it wasn’t until he moved up to Sheffield that Tommy Lee could sneak out letters back to his son. Clare and Neil weren’t coerced into accompanying Ryan on his visits; the reality is rather more complex and difficult. Ryan pushed them into helping him, which Catherine doesn’t believe outright, even though we know the idea of Clare and Neil being so affected by Ryan’s distress checks out. He’s upset he was denied a relationship with his dad and that he’s been kept so in the dark about his parents that he’s in a prime position to sympathize with Tommy Lee.
As Clare points out, Ryan may be the only person on the planet Royce could have a meaningful, genuine relationship with – even if, as Catherine stresses, he tried to set fire to him as a kid. It’s not that Royce deserves a good relationship with his son. Still, there does exist the possibility Ryan can leave a positive impact on his dad, and any improvement on his monstrous character should be welcome. It’s clear when we see Tommy Lee and Ryan together (where in another act of self-delusion, TLR promises they’ll go bungee-jumping together) that Ryan brings out something honest and caring in his father – even if the ways he intimidates Neil show how little he’s willing to change for others.
But Catherine has spent Ryan’s entire life thinking of Royce as the worst monster ever dreamt up, and the idea that he’s capable of showing humanity is the last thing she wants to consider. When Neil and Ryan reconvene with Clare, she drops the bombshell that Catherine knows about their visits; Catherine herself is left with intrusive visions of her dead daughter. Seeing Tommy Lee Royce’s smiling face right after Catherine’s grief is a serious, sickening whiplash.
The truth of Royce worming his way back into the Cawood family circle has a severe ripple effect: Richard and Catherine reflect that they’ve become unalterably different people since their daughter’s death, something made sadder by the fact we’ve never seen them when they were a normal, happy couple. Ann gets the news at the worst possible time, the day before she starts her criminal investigator position. Still, even though Nev can’t find the words to articulate their shared trauma, there’s a charm to the awkward way father and daughter make their love and hurt known to each other.
Ryan’s staying with his aunt, and Catherine makes the ultimatum clear: he can’t stay with her if he keeps up contact with Tommy Lee. She tells him his mother committed suicide, but not the reason why. (Surely she knows keeping him in the dark will only drive him closer to his father?) He’s not the only dangerous man Ryan is being friendly with: Rob’s changed his tune after meeting Catherine, offering some friendly teacherly counsel on Ryan’s familial strife. It’s well-meaning enough until he confides with his star goalie that he’s going through marriage problems – another example of an abuser manipulating their abuse to get sympathy.
Faisal takes a backseat, but that doesn’t mean things are all quiet on his front. He’s mulling over how best to silence the Hepworth pair, who he thinks are onto his criminal scheme, so he follows Joanna’s wish to get rid of her husband with vigor – so much vigor that as he potters around her house looking for avenues to remove Rob’s body after he’s been incapacitated with ketamine, Joanna gets cold feet. She admits she didn’t tell her husband Faisal was supplying her drugs (hence why Rob hasn’t turned up at his very nearby doorstep looking to cave his skull in); she was lying to get Faisal to help her out. But now she’s reconsidering conspiracy to murder and thinks she’d rather get Catherine’s help.
Her promise not to tell the police about Faisal’s operation isn’t convincing enough for the paranoid pharmacist – and making a jab about his weak physique doesn’t help either. Faisal flips out, beating her over the head with a rolling pin, and, on hearing an answering machine message from Catherine about Joanna’s pills that were sent to a lab, prepares the ketamine to finish her off.
Meanwhile, the Darius Knezevic storyline comes to a head with a CCTV identification of Josip (Anthony Skrimshire), funnelling cash out of the flat of the woman who fell to her death – who was really being kept captive. CID and beat officers converge on Josip’s flat just as Darius’ goons arrive to silence their colleague themselves – and Catherine lets loose her pent-up anger at the violent men of the world onto Josip’s face. There’s a clear course of action for the rest of the series – finding a way for grandmother and grandson to finally give their trauma room to breathe and live together in the wake of what one monster did all those years ago.