'Happy Valley' Season 3 Crosses The Midpoint With a Shot of Adrenaline

Sarah Lancashire as Catherine Cawood looks up from her note taking in Happy Valley Season 3

Sarah Lancashire as Catherine Cawood in Happy Valley Season 3

Matt Squire/Lookout Point/AMC

After last week’s action-packed climax, things cool down slightly for Sergeant Catherine Cawood, just so they can ramp up again in the season’s most explosive moment yet. Before we got to Tommy Lee Royce’s dramatic escape from Leeds’ high court, the heat was dialed up on several supporting characters. Catherine reentered the world of Faisal’s crimes after a couple of episodes dealing with her own mess. Season 3 has just gotten an injection of energy that will propel us to the series finale.

We pick up with the two thugs who arrived at Josip’s too late to avoid the police, racing away and petrified that they’re going to face the consequences, Knezevic-style, for funneling out bags of cash from the high-rise flat when they probably shouldn’t have. They’ve hidden the money but still get called in by brothers Darius (Alec Secareanu, from God’s Own Country) and Zeljko (Greg Kolpakchi) — finally putting faces to the mercurial, sinister crime pair. They don’t seem to be onto the stolen money and aren’t too bothered about Josip being arrested. However, one of the thugs, Ivan, still receives a brutal, humiliating beating for his incompetence. Darius gives them a new job that involves suits and trekking to the courts of Leeds.

After her first excursion with CID, Ann is already finding problems with their policing — as Josip is not being charged with the sexual assault and murder of the blind woman whose flat was used to store Knezevic cash. Catherine has a lot on her plate, which probably explains why she shuts Ann’s concerns down in a patronizing manner, but viewers who felt a touch uncomfortable at a rape victim immediately signing up with the police force may be vindicated by Ann’s hinted disillusionment with law enforcement.

Amit Shah as Faisal and Mark Stanley as Rob argue in the road in Happy Valley Season 3

Amit Shah as Faisal and Mark Stanley as Rob in Happy Valley Season 3

Matt Squire/Lookout Point/AMC

Catherine goes to Neil’s newsagent to confront him in the calm, quiet, and utterly terrifying way she’s so good at. She asks if Ryan bullied him into accompanying him on visits, but of course, it’s more complicated than that — Neil’s far more likely to be pushed into taking Ryan after hearing his persistent, sincere pleading. Still, Neil and Claire agree not to go with him anymore and try to convince him to cut off contact with his dad. It’s clear only Catherine and Richard (and I guess Ryan’s primary school teacher in the pilot?) know that Ryan’s mum, Becky, was raped by Royce, and it’s a bombshell Catherine is not yet willing to drop. 

It’s a compelling piece of character drama, but can’t help but feel a little static — Catherine also spent the last episode refusing to explain to anyone why Tommy is so monstrous, giving her not much new to do here when she chooses to do the same. Something new does bother Catherine though: why did Royce tell Ryan to come to his Leeds sentencing? She gets the sense something’s not right about the routine court appearance, and Richard is adamant he’ll go along to see what happens.

All of the above diverts our attention enough to momentarily forget that Faisal has murdered Joanna Hepworth. We see none of his cleanups, only returning to the house when Rob takes his daughters home from school and assumes Joanna’s gonna walkabout but will undoubtedly return. He does find the answering machine message from Catherine that pushed Faisal over the edge and gets paranoid about police involvement in his marriage. 

Rhys Connah as Ryan Cawood commuting by train in Happy Valley Season 3

Rhys Connah as Ryan Cawood in Happy Valley Season 3

Matt Squire/Lookout Point/AMC

There’s a fantastic scene where Faisal cuts off Rob’s car on the drive to school the following day, causing Rob to see red and yell at Faisal in front of their neighbors and kids. Faisal is cool and collected; there’s a simmering sternness we’ve not seen from him before. After this confrontation, Rob lets the police know about Joanna’s disappearance, and soon her worried parents appear on Catherine’s doorstep, confirming Joanna was in an abusive and coercive relationship the Sergeant already suspected. A detective inspects Rob’s home; he feels the walls closing in — all before Rob discovers Joanna’s dead body hidden inside a suitcase in the garage after the police have left.

Will Rob become the scapegoat for Faisal’s murder? Will he even tell the police about Joanna’s body, or does he realize how incriminating it looks for him? At what point will police attention turn on our nasty pharmacist? 

Meanwhile, in Leeds, Ryan has played truant and surreptitiously comes to Royce’s hearing. But the Knezevic thugs are there too and start a brawl outside the courtroom to make a ruckus loud enough to cause a distraction so Tommy Lee Royce can… fight his way out of the witness box. (!?) It’s not the most sophisticated plan, but after 1.5 seasons of being locked up, it’s a chilling reminder of how ruthless he can be when needed. He rushes out of the courthouse before they can lock down the building, finding the Knezevic safehouse he was tipped off about in prison, and rushes out of police view under disguise.

He’s never had a clearer mission — go back to Calder Valley, steal Ryan from his family, and wreak horrible revenge on Catherine. With two episodes left, it’s unlikely the heat will turn down for the rest of Happy Valley’s run.

Picture shows: Rory Doherty

Rory Doherty is a writer of criticism, films, and plays based in Edinburgh, Scotland. He's often found watching something he knows he'll dislike but will agree to watch all of it anyway. You can follow his thoughts about all things stories @roryhasopinions.

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