Where do we stand with Happy Valley with one episode left in Season 3, not to mention the series? The main themes and conflicts have been refined down to sharp points. The chess pieces have been shuffled for the climactic finale. Although none of the developments seem improper or inappropriate, this week’s episode still suffers from character and story shifts, feeling like chess moves rather than natural, unprovoked behavior from our ensemble. Still, the imperfections in this episode of reactions and transitions will be swiftly forgotten if next week’s finale blows our socks off.
Last week, Catherine took part in a prank on PC Tekeli (Mete Durson) by getting him to apply for an “Alien Life-Form Liaison Officer” position that the other officers made up. The reason why Catherine, someone who takes nobody’s nonsense, didn’t call out this prank for being a mean-spirited waste of time becomes clear in Episode 5’s opening minutes because the story needed her to – she’s informed that Tekeli has filed a complaint against her for bullying and racist mistreatment.
Catherine’s having none of it, dismissing it with a venom she usually reserves for pieces of sh*t like Rob Hepworth, but it feels misplaced here, as if she’s too highly strung about Tommy Lee Royce’s court appearance to consider workplace mistakes she’s made. When her unit is put in charge of securing the Hepworth crime scene (Rob took the sensible option of reporting Joanna’s body to the police), Catherine acts in a pretty ugly manner to her complainant; we’re yet to see if this commentary on toxic police dynamics has anything to say in a non-clumsy manner.
She’s quickly informed of Royce’s escape from Richard, and Ryan spots one of the Knezevic goons who brawled at the courthouse on a train station platform, on the phone to his bruiser friend who’s trying to convince him to go back for the money they nicked from the high rise flat. Ryan snaps a picture – a crucial development that leads Catherine and Richard to decide that Darius was involved in Royce’s spring. Catherine goes into survival mode: everyone must hide somewhere safe where the criminal who’s plagued them for so long can’t find them.
Catherine is the one person not shaken by Tommy Lee’s impending arrival, like she has a death wish for grappling with the man as they both plunge over a cliff, Reichenbach Falls style. Meanwhile, we rejoin Royce pounding across the moors on his bicycle with a terrifying conviction before being picked up by Darius Knezevic, who drives him to a safe house and shares the plans to smuggle him and Ryan out of the country to a cushy life in Europe. TLR, however, has unfinished business – killing Catherine Cawood, and needs a gun to do it.
Darius implores him to move on but can’t force him not to kill his nemesis (I wouldn’t try to force Tommy Lee Royce to do anything), even if he refuses to supply him with a firearm. Here we get to see the most incisive observation on the dynamic between Catherine and Tommy – these are people who are asked, again and again, to give up their hatred for their own good, but both of them can’t or won’t.
Richard leaves Ryan with his wife, Ros (Kelly Harrison), when he insists on traveling to an established interview with Darius, and his reluctance to realize that this is, under the circumstances, a completely nonsensical thing to do implies that he may be venturing into dangerous waters. The interview is canceled at the last minute, and Richard’s excursion is revealed to just be a narrative excuse to get him away from Ryan, who takes the opportunity to escape – to Ann and Danny’s home.
Ann offers little sympathy, laying into Ryan’s relationship with his father and dropping the bombshell that his mother, Becky, killed herself after being raped by Royce. This information has been kept from Ryan for so long that its revelation feels seismic, but it’s still odd that Catherine couldn’t experience the difficult catharsis of telling her grandson the truth.
Ann pushes things too far by explaining to Ryan everything we knew about him in Season 1 – that he wasn’t wanted and drove the family apart – meaning we get a lovely bit of character growth when Danny has to adopt a nuanced perspective to explain how difficult a time it was for the Cawoods and how differently they feel about Ryan now.
Everyone gathers at Nevison Gallagher’s, where Catherine, pushed to her absolute limit, attacks Clare with a cruel vitriol that destroys her character and blames her for the situation they’re now in. Like Ann’s tirade at Ryan, the extremities of what Catherine’s saying feel a little forced, almost as if creator Sally Wainwright needs to push these characters to their absolute limit before Catherine and Royce’s final battle.
Tommy Lee is currently cooped up at a safe house, the home of an elderly man whose dedication to dicing beets means he won’t be intimidated by his new housemate. Over Xbox chat, Royce gets in contact with Ryan, and it’s clear over their voice call that Ryan is less feverishly enthusiastic about following his dad to the ends of the earth. The offer of escaping to somewhere he can enjoy life with someone who loves him remains tantalizing, though, but even though Ryan tells his dad he’ll think about flying off to Europe, there’s a note of desperation in Tommy Lee’s voice when he implores Ryan to join him.
A desperate Tommy Lee Royce is a dangerous one. Next week will put to rest the Calder Valley saga, but it’s likely to be a messy burial.