Happy Valley spoilers follow.
Happy Valley hit big in 2014 with a first series that delivered heartbreak, thrills, laughs and a formidable lead performance from Sarah Lancashire as haunted Northern police sergeant Catherine Cawood.
Two years later and the follow-up surprised many by being every bit as good as the first. Better even, some would argue. But that was more than four and half years ago.
So, what's next for that troubled town, and when can we expect a return to Happy Valley?
Here's everything you need to know.
Happy Valley series 3 confirmed
On March 16, 2016 – the day after series two's finale went out on BBC One – Happy Valley's BAFTA-winning writer Sally Wainwright confirmed that she was open to more. Good news for fans – including the thousands of Digital Spy readers who overwhelmingly voted in favour of the series continuing.
A month later and Wainwright reiterated that she had more stories to tell. "I hope it's left in a place [after series two] where people will feel satisfied but equally there is more to say."
Then in 2019, Wainwright told Digital Spy that it's "not on the back-burner as such, it's just going to take me a long time to get to it because I've got to do Gentleman Jack two now, and I've just finished writing series five of Last Tango," adding: "We've got pretty clear ideas of where the story's going to go."
Speaking to Digital Spy that same year, Katherine Kelly, who plays Jodie Shackleton, said that "season three is happening but Sally is waiting for Ryan [Catherine's grandson] to grow up".
More on that later.
Happy Valley season 3 cast: Who will star in Happy Valley series 3?
Most importantly, and despite early reports to the contrary, Sarah Lancashire is back on board as Catherine Cawood.
Lancashire had apparently ruled out a third series during filming of the second, saying: "It's the end of the story for Happy Valley. I wouldn't want it to go to a third series, I really wouldn't – then it becomes something else."
But something apparently happened to change her mind in the interim, as by March 2016 a spokesperson for Happy Valley was telling Digital Spy that Lancashire has discussed a third series with Wainwright and was "definitely" up for reprising her lead role.
"I thought we'd already had the end but Sally feels there is a very final ending needed for the show and for Catherine," Lancashire explained in September. "There's going to be a very big full-stop to the piece."
Siobhan Finneran, who plays Catherine's recovering alcoholic sister Claire, was also voicing her interest in returning as early as March of 2016.
"If Sally wants to write another series, I think everybody would be up for doing it," Finneran insisted.
That presumably includes James Norton, in what was his breakthrough role as Tommy Lee Royce (the man who raped Catherine's daughter Becky, who went on to take her own life).
"I suppose in some way I haven't told the story of Tommy Lee Royce," Wainwright told RadioTimes.
Norton himself told Digital Spy in early 2019 that he'd "love to return to Happy Valley," adding, "Obviously, it relies on Sarah, and Sally most of all, who hopefully one day will give us the phone call. I know that she has ideas, but more than that, I don't know.
"Nothing's ever guaranteed when it comes to future series of anything. There's so many different components and variables. So I haven't heard anything recently but my fingers are crossed, as I think lots of other people's are. I hope that we'll see Tommy Lee Royce one more time."
In terms of supporting cast, actor Con O'Neill has also expressed his desire to return as Claire's friend and potential love interest Neil Ackroyd.
"I'd be happy to work with that company and those people again," he said. "I loved Happy Valley – I'm very proud of it and I'm very proud that we as a country are making those sorts of programmes, and writing those sorts of parts for women – giving Sarah Lancashire and Siobhan Finneran the plaudits that they deserve."
Happy Valley season 3 start date: When does Happy Valley series 3 air?
As soon as the possibility of a third series was mentioned, Wainwright was quick to make it clear that we'd be waiting a little while for more Happy Valley.
"I'm so busy with other projects at the moment – I haven't got time to sit down and come up with the stories," she said in March 2016.
Nicola Shindler of producers Red Productions later said that 2018 would be the earliest the show might return (no kidding) and later clarified that it'd be "towards the end" of that year. And still we wait...
Shindler did offer some hope that we might get a bumper helping to make the wait worthwhile, though. "Everyone would love more episodes, we'd probably go up [from six per series] to eight," she said.
But 2018 came and went and still no new series. Not even any more updates. Here's hoping 2021 is the year that all changes.
Happy Valley season 3 plot: What will happen?
Producer Nicola Shindler said in 2017 that the third series might centre on Catherine's grandchild Ryan, conceived after Catherine's daughter was raped by Royce (James Norton).
"Sally is thinking about a story and the story she is thinking about literally needs time. Because if you look at the characters that are left, there is Sarah, there is James Norton and there is a young boy, who the minute he turns into a teenager it becomes a much more interesting story," Shindler said.
"She doesn't know what the story is yet. She is mulling it in her head but we are thinking about giving it a bit of space in story terms."
Wainwright confirmed that to Radio Times: "Basically we're kind of waiting for the little boy to grow up, so he's more of a teenager than a child."
Kelly echoed that in an interview with Digital Spy: "So she's hanging on because it will be really interesting to meet him as a teenager to see how much of Tommy Lee Royce is flooding in his veins, no matter whatever Catherine is trying to do about that."
During an appearance on This Morning at the beginning of 2020, Finneran said that Rhys Connah had sent her a message at Christmas and he looked "like a fully grown man, so he is growing up".
When asked if that meant the timing was right for the series to return, she said: "Yeah!"
Happy Valley series 4: Is Happy Valley series 3 the end?
With the news that Lancashire had signed up for more Happy Valley came a serious caveat – the third series will absolutely be the last.
"Sally has told us she wants to write another series, which will be the final one," she confirmed.
For her part, Finneran has said that she thinks it's right to bring the hit series to an end. "I don't think it's something that could run and run," she said.
"If Sally Wainwright wanted to write another series, I'd be absolutely delighted to do it, because I think she's a genius.
"I know she wouldn't ever put out anything that she didn't think was up to her usual standard. So it would be amazing, whatever she was doing with it. But I do think some things should be left alone, eventually."
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