The return of Happy Valley – seven years after its second season – might just constitute the first “pinch me” moment of 2023. By the second episode, it’s back to business as usual. Sergeant Catherine Cawood (Sarah Lancashire) is rolling up her sleeves to do some good ol’ police work, while Tommy Lee Royce (James Norton) is up to no good and sporting a new hairdo.
Et tu Brute?
Last week’s episode left Catherine with the revelation that her post-Tommy life of domestic bliss isn’t quite as blissful as she had thought. Someone has been taking Ryan (Rhys Connah) to see his no-good father in prison – but who? Episode two gives us the answer straight off the bat: Clare! More specifically, it’s Clare (Siobhan Finneran) and Neil (Con O’Neil) but mostly, we’re just shocked about Clare.
Catherine drops her jaw in utter disbelief, muttering: “S***.” Then comes the inevitable follow-up question: Why? Always the level-headed detective, Catherine decides to play it cool. “I’m gonna watch them at home. I’m gonna observe. And come next Saturday, I’m gonna follow them,” says West Yorkshire’s best officer.
Hell hath no fury like a boy kicked off his football team
Games coach Rob Hepworth (Mark Stanley) puts in a strong showing for Happy Valley’s most loathsome character. Like a dog with a bone, the football coach won’t be swayed in his vendetta against Ryan. After words are exchanged in an altercation, Rob kicks Ryan off the football team, setting off a mega-tantrum at home. As if that wasn’t enough, he accuses Ryan of drawing obscenities on his car and letting the air out of his tyres. When Catherine comes into the school to speak with the headmaster and Rob about the alleged incident, Rob is visibly shocked by the fact that Ryan’s little old granny is not only a sergeant, but the one who came to deal with his very private family matter in the previous episode.
It turns out Ryan was not the culprit this time – and that it may even have been Rob himself trying to get Ryan in trouble. Catherine knows her grandson didn’t do it, not because he’s a good kid but because “I’ve seen how you draw a c*** and balls when we play Pictionary and it’s nothing like that”.
Later in the episode, Joanna (Mollie Winnard) sheds some light on why her awful husband is being especially awful to Ryan. She explains that the ego-driven Rob will select a lad at school, pick a fight with him and knock him down so that he can be the one to build him up again. During these times, she says, Rob gets “all edgy and handsy with his fists” – which explains the new bruises on her face and arms.
Much like the hapless Kevin (Steve Pemberton) in season one, Faisal (Amit Shah) has bitten off more than he can chew. The local pharmacist’s side hustle selling prescription meds has landed him in hot water with organised crime family the Knezevices who, with the help of a gun and some threats, strongly urge him to start paying up to them. Or else. If scrounging up an extra £1,800 a week wasn’t enough to worry about, Joanna – one of the addicts Faisal has been giving drugs to in exchange for, it seems, sex – wants him to follow through on his promise to buy her a flat so she and her daughters can escape the abusive Rob. When Faisal resists, she threatens to tell the police that she got the pills from him. It should be noted though, that since Joanna didn’t remove the pills from their packaging, despite telling Faisal that she did, chances are officers will be knocking on his door any moment, regardless.
Her threats leave Faisal with no choice but to explain that he is being blackmailed. Well, she says, if he can’t help her get a flat, maybe he can help her kill Rob instead? Oh boy.
“You do know this could be dangerous?”
A woman has been found dead after falling – or was she pushed? – from the window of her fourth floor flat in a block where familiar face Alison (Susan Lynch) also happens to live. A quick reminder: Alison was introduced in season two as the mother of Daryl, the young farmer who later turned out to be behind the murders of several local sex workers. Chatting with Catherine, Alison opens up about the dire living conditions in the block. For example, the windows aren’t supposed to open all the way and there are no sprinklers in case of a fire.
Richard (Derrick Riddal) is elbows deep in his own investigation. Asked by The Guardian to look into the Knezevices, Richard taps his ex-wife for some insider information. Catherine is happy to oblige. And luckily for us, over a five-minute cuppa, the pair spell out everything the audience needs to know. As one of the Knezevices’ many scams, which also include drug-running and trafficking, Catherine suspects the gangsters also deal in housing: namely, the selling of cheap products and installations (e.g. windows and sprinklers). When these things inevitably break, the Knezevices are nowhere to be found, already onto the next money-making scheme. “Got their fingers in any number of dirty pies,” says Catherine. One of those pies is local government, with top boss Darius running for election to Bradford city council.
As always, Tommy is involved some way or another. He has already admitted to being present at the killing of Gary Gogowski, whose remains Catherine found at the beginning of last week’s episode. The chief suspects in Gary’s murder, though Tommy won’t confirm it, are Darius and his brother – who police suspect used the same gun to kill Royce’s criminal boss Ashley (Joe Armstrong) in season one.
Richard has his hands full with the investigation and as Catherine reminds him, it could all become very dangerous.
“Revenge is a dish best served cold”
Tommy is little seen in this episode, besides customary shots of him scowling and threatening, plotting and staring. There is one pivotal scene, however. Taking advantage of a dinner room brawl distraction, Tommy comes into possession of the tiniest mobile phone you’ve ever laid your eyes on. On it, there is just one message: “Ricos newsagents gr8 presents 4 Ryan.” Presents? Newsagents? We’re stumped.
But while Tommy is barely seen in this episode, his presence hovers over events like a spectre. When Ryan repeats the turn of phrase “revenge is a dish best served cold” for the second time, it’s almost as if Tommy is in the room with him. It’s worth noting that there’s no further mention of Tommy learning Spanish – but the mobile phone, the sudden interest in foreign languages, the secret meetings with Ryan. It all spells trouble. Perhaps a father-son abscondment is on the cards?
Someone has some explaining to do!
Catherine is on a mission. Come Saturday, she borrows Alison’s sky blue truck and tails Clare, Neil, and Ryan as they drive to Sheffield – presumably to see Tommy. From a safe distance, she sees Neil and Ryan get out of the car before proceeding to follow Clare as she parks up and enters a coffee shop.
For what it’s worth, Clare does look pained when she answers the phone and lies to her sister who, unbeknownst to her, is just on the other side of the window and watching her every move. The episode ends on a cliffhanger as Catherine walks into the cafe to confront Clare, who has gone all slack-jawed at the mere sight of her sister. Oh oh.
Happy Valley continues on BBC One next Sunday at 9pm.