Happy Valley (S3/2023) Series: A Compelling Crime Drama

Home » Series Review » Happy Valley (S3/2023) Series: A Compelling Crime Drama

Happy Valley series is a compelling crime drama from this British. Although, for most of the key characters, it is a not-so-happy place. Or should we say that it is an Unhappy Valley?

"Trouble Town" is a song by British singer-songwriter Jake Bugg and the said song is the opening theme for the Happy Valley series. It sets the mood and theme for the series.

Its story is set in Yorkshire, Britain, where both the protagonist – a brilliant Police Sergeant Catherine Cawood and the antagonist – a streetsmart Criminal Tommy Lee Royce reside.

Synopsis of the Happy Valley Series

In Halifax, West Yorkshire, United Kingdom (Britain), Catherine Cawood (Sarah Lancashire), divorced, with two children (one of which is deceased), serves as a police sergeant. She is still trying to recover from the suicide of her daughter which occurred eight years earlier. She raises her grandson Ryan, born of the rape of her daughter by a criminal Tommy Lee Royce (James Norton).

It is an emotional crime drama, that depicts the personal and professional lives of Catherine Cawood. Catherine Cawood’s personal life may be a tragic mess, but that does not stop her from being the best police sergeant her small West Yorkshire town could ask for.

Ratings of the Happy Valley Series

FM’s rating4.45/5
FM ratings – Happy Valley show.
Local law enforcement in the Calder Valley (West Yorkshire, in northern England) refers to the region as "Happy Valley" due to the prevalent drug issues it faces.

Poster of the Happy Valley Series

Happy Valley show – poster.

“I’m just becoming the person who I’ve always wanted to be. Don’t take s**t off anybody anymore, I say it like it is, and I know who I am. Finally.”

Catherine Cawood (Sarah Lancashire)

Spoiler Free Brief Review of the Happy Valley (S3/2023) Series

The season three offers some kind of closure

After the airing of the second season of this crime thriller in 2016, the third season was released recently. We had to wait for a few years before we got to learn the fate of Catherine Cawood and Tommy Lee Royce in this drama. But after watching its third season, we are fairly satisfied with the progression of its characters and the finale of their stories. Thankfully, it tied up the knot of its tales and gave closure to its key characters.

Sarah Lancashire, who had previously played a leading role in Sally Wainwright's Last Tango in Halifax (2012), was the sole inspiration behind the creation of "Happy Valley". Impressed by Lancashire's exceptional performance, Wainwright tailored the show specifically for her.

For those, who have not seen its first two seasons, check these video links

Please do not try to jump right into the latest 2023 – season three of this crime show. Now in case you have not seen seasons one and two, it is time to watch them. However, in case you want some kind of shortcut or refresher, then check this video about the recap of season one as well as the season two video on YouTube.

Also, it is worth noting that there is a gap of almost seven years, between season two and season three of the show. So in this period the kid boy character Ryan has grown into a teenage boy – a young man really, you can check the video of the same. Besides, the stories of Catherine and Tommy, this crime drama also focuses on Ryan’s emotional tale.

We loved its realistic script, which has lots of emotional depth

The writing of this British crime drama is of very high quality. The themes of personal – love, dedication, grief, trauma, anger, hatred, failure, shortcomings, etc. have been beautifully explored in the script. There is the angle of the bad blood (hateful personal enmity) between Catherine and Tommy. The lines between personal enmity and professional (unprofessional) conduct have been blurred, somewhat. The raw human emotions and associated behaviour have been depicted effectively and maturely.

James Norton's character Tommy draws inspiration from Max Cady in Cape Fear (1991) movie.

With eighteen episodes spread across three seasons and nine years, this British show tells the story of Catherine and Tommy. Their underlying personal hatred for each other and their subsequent violent confrontations, both verbal and non-verbal kinds. These dramatic scenes were tense, riveting and intriguing to watch.

The acting performances are top notch too

No doubt, its powerful script is backed by strong acting performances in the show. There is one particular video scene that we liked in this show, Catherine’s brilliant comeback to Ryan’s teacher’s lack of evidence, as he complains about her grandson’s behaviour. Besides, there is an explosive clash between Catherine and Tommy in this final season, as both the characters dig deep into the years of hatred and pain in this dramatic scene in the show.

Both the award-winning actors – the protagonist Sarah Lancashire and the antagonist James Norton have been excellent in this fascinating crime series. And both of them are very well supported by the excellent ensemble cast members. So, in addition to its leading actors, we loved the performances of its support actors too.

Why do we think, it is a compelling crime drama?

Here are the top reasons to watch this intense crime (family) drama.

  • Sally Wainwright did an excellent job as the creator and writer of this tension-filled drama, as it has a lot of highly dramatic scenes in the series of eighteen episodes.
  • It has been a treat to watch Sarah Lancashire portraying the challenging role of the protagonist Police Sergeant Catherine Cawood.
  • Besides her, almost all the actors in this series have played admirable roles, with special mention of Siobhan Finneran and James Norton.
  • It is BAFTA awarded and critically acclaimed crime drama TV. All three seasons received high praise from the viewers as well as the critics.

Please note that this is not an exhaustive list of our reasons.

The conclusion

The bold and badass grandmother Catherine is not let anything bad happen to her family members, anymore, especially to her grandson Ryan. This is an emotional family story with crimes as an apt background of a crime thriller. So, it is a crime drama at its core, however, there is an undercurrent of family drama. It is one of the top crime series from Britain that we have seen in recent years. If you love a fascinating British crime drama, then it is a perfect series to watch.

Happy Viewing!

Awards won by the Happy Valley Series

Names of the AwardsNames of the Awards Winners
Crime Thriller Awards, UK (2014)Best TV Drama, Serial or Season
James Norton – Best Supporting Actor –
British Screenwriters’ Awards (2014)Sally Wainwright (writer) – Best British TV Drama Writing
BAFTA TV Awards (2015)Best Drama Series
BAFTA Television Craft Award (2015)Sally Wainwright – Writer: Drama
Broadcasting Press Guild Awards (2015)Best Writer – Sally Wainwright
Biarritz International Festival of Audiovisual Programming (2015)Sally Wainwright, Euros Lyn, Tim Fywell – Golden FIPA – TV Series and Serials –
Monte-Carlo TV Festival (2015)Best European Drama TV Series
Sarah Lancashire – Outstanding Actress in a Drama TV Series
Irish Film and Television Awards (2016)Neasa Hardiman – Best Director – Drama
Irish Film and Television Awards (2017)Charlie Murphy – Best Actress in a Supporting Role – Drama
BAFTA TV Awards (2017)Best Drama Series – Sally Wainwright, Juliet Charlesworth, Nicola Shindler, Neasa Hardiman
Sarah Lancashire – Best Leading Actress
Sally Wainwright – Best Writer: Drama
BAFTA Television Craft Award (2017)Writer: Drama – Sally Wainwright
Awards – Happy Valley Series

Trailers of the three seasons of the Happy Valley Series

First (2014) Season

The kid Ryan Cawood (child actor Rhys Connah) was caught in the crosshair between Catherine and Tommy. As their deep-seated enmity only got worse.

Official Trailer – Happy Valley (S1/2014) show | YouTube.
Second (2016) Season

After almost two years, it was released in February 2016.

Official Trailer – Happy Valley (S2/2016) show | YouTube.
Third (2023) Season

After a long wait of nearly seven years, its third and final season was released in January 2023.

Official Trailer – Happy Valley (S3/2023) show | YouTube.

A young child Ryan Cawood (now a teenage actor Rhys Connah) in season one has grown into an athletic teenager in season three. His teenage story is the centrepiece. After watching it, we could say that season three has tied up loose ends thoughtfully and managed to give a gratifying finale to the tense crime drama.

Key Details about the Happy Valley Series

GenreCrime, Drama, Thriller
Original languageEnglish (UK)
CreatorSally Wainwright
SeasonsThree (3) Seasons – 2014, 2016, & 2023.
EpisodesSix (6) Episodes in Season (1) One {2014}
Six (6) Episodes in Season (2) Two {2016}
Six (6) Episodes in Season (3) Three {2023}

Eighteen (18) Episodes in total
Duration17 hours 39 minutes
CastSarah Lancashire (Catherine Cawood), Siobhan Finneran (Clare Cartwright), James Norton (Tommy Lee Royce), Rhys Connah (Ryan Cawood), Charlie Murphy (Ann Gallagher), Shane Zaza (Shafiq Shah), Ishia Bennison (Joyce Metcalfe), Rick Warden (Mike Taylor), George Costigan (Nevison Gallagher), Karl Davies (Daniel Cawood), etc.
About – Happy Valley show.

Spoilers Alert – episode summary of the Happy Valley Series

A peek into the Six (6) Episodes of the First (1st) Season

First (S1, E1) | April 29, 2014

Sergeant Catherine Cawood’s world stops when the man who drove her daughter to suicide is released from prison.

Second (S1, E2) | May 6, 2014

Catherine’s search for Tommy gains momentum when she receives a tip-off regarding his whereabouts. Helen absorbs the shock of hearing that Ann has been abducted.

Third (S1, E3) | May 13, 2014

Tommy brutally takes control of a situation when PC Kirsten McAskill pulls him and Lewis over. His actions devastate Catherine and the entire Yorkshire police force.

Fourth (S1, E4) | May 20, 2014

Catherine and Tommy finally come face-to-face when he discovers he’s a father. A more sinister discovery leaves Catherine fighting for her life.

Fifth (S1, E5) | May 27, 2014

Catherine sinks into a deep depression as she learns that Tommy is still at large. The net finally closes in on Kevin.

Sixth (S1, E6) | June 3, 2014

Things get tense at Catherine’s birthday party when a drunk Daniel reveals a different version of past events with Becky. Catherine’s fears grow when she learns that Tommy has been spending time with Ryan.

A peek into the Six (6) Episodes of the Second (2nd) Season

First (S2, E1) | February 9, 2016

Tommy finds a way of keeping a watchful eye over Ryan from behind bars.

Second (S2, E2) | February 16, 2016

Catherine comes face to face with Tommy and John takes drastic action against Vicky’s threats.

Third (S2, E3) | February 21, 2016

Tommy urges Frances to go further with her attempts at making Catherine’s life a misery.

Fourth (S2, E4) | March 1, 2016

A gift for Ryan on his tenth birthday reminds Catherine that danger may be closer than she thinks.

Fifth (S2, E5) | March 8, 2016

Daniel suspects somebody at school might be responsible for Ryan’s newfound interest in Tommy.

Sixth (S2, E6) | March 15, 2016

Catherine confronts a delusional Frances while John’s torment leads him to desperate measures.

A peek into the Six (6) Episodes of the Third (3rd) Season

First (S3, E1) | January 1, 2023

When Catherine discovers the remains of a murder victim, it bizarrely leads her straight back to Tommy Lee Royce.

Second (S3, E2) | January 8, 2023

Catherine learns of a painful betrayal close to home, and Faisal comes under increasing pressure from all sides.

Third (S3, E3) | January 15, 2023

Catherine confronts Clare and presents Ryan with an ultimatum, and Faisal and Joanna hatch a plan.

Fourth (S3, E4) | January 22, 2023

As Tommy’s big day approaches, Catherine becomes suspicious and Ryan finds a new way to defy her.

Fifth (S3, E5) | January 29, 2023

Catherine races to protect her family; a murder investigation begins.

Sixth (S3, E6) | February 5, 2023

On Catherine’s final shift, scores are settled for good and Ryan faces a moral dilemma.

If you like this drama show from the UK, then read our FM article about the Peaky Blinders show, too.

Featured & Other Images: Happy Valley | Facebook & IMDb.

Discover more from Focus Magazine

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading

Scroll to Top