Happy Valley (2014– )
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This is beyond good, if you don't get hooked and wanting more after the first episode you probably should not be watching.
There are so many good things to say about this show that I run out of words, but one word that sums up how I feel is gob-smacked.
Having watched 4 out of the 6 episodes so far, I have to say that it has been quite a while since I wished that the days would speed by so I can get my mitts on the next episode.
Happy Valley is the name the police use to describe this neck of the woods, around Hebden Bridge in West Yorkshire. Drugs, unemployment, and the resultant crime are part of everyday life. Within this mix, we meet Catherine Cawood, a policewoman (formerly a detective) played by Sarah Lancashire. At the risk of throwing too many superlatives into this review, I believe Ms Lancashire should win a BAFTA in 2015 for her portrayal of a dedicated, often jaded, but loyal and determined copper. I *believed* her character, through her heroics, as well as her anti-heroism. Her ambivalence towards her young grandson is uncomfortable to watch, but completely understandable. It would be too easy to say that Sarah Lancashire *is* the show, but that would be unfair to some of the other fine performers, such as James Norton, George Costigan, Siobhan Finneran, and a stellar performance from Steve Pemberton, whose character, Kevin, sets off the whole mess of events which kept me breathless for the 6 episodes.
The environment - around Hebden Bridge and Halifax, in West Yorkshire - is beautiful, and the buildings appear to have grown directly out of the landscape, and while this may be an ancient environment, the problems which occupy the police all belong in the modern world. I am really hoping there will be a Series 2.
I am very careful about what I allow into my head. This has to be about as good a television series as can possibly be. I do not even own a television. Watched via Netflix.
I live in America and the tripe that's dispensed, made me give up my telly. I grew up in England and maybe biased since I really haven't seen anything to compare with British TV. In America in my opinion there is Aaron Sorkin's The Newsroom and The West Wing and David Kelly's Boston Legal. That is comparable to Happy Valley. Different shows but brilliant quality.
Happy Valley has flawless acting, direction, score if that's the right term, script, pace,delivery, essentially perfect. Whether this is as a result of great casting, direction or simply brilliant actors, I haven't a clue. I am also an unemotional person and I really cannot see how television can get better. It's restored my faith somewhat, not enough to buy a TV but to realize that it can be that good.
Just really pucker!
As for the series, both one and two, the plot squeezes the characters so hard that it's sometimes unwatchable because you relate so intensely to the psychological pressures their under, both the good guys and the bad.
An absolute must to watch!
Everyone is flawed and for that reason human. Brilliant writing and acting brings them to life. Sgt Catherine Cawood is a character for our time, struggling to fight off the kind of crime that becomes rife when times are bad. Criminals don't pay tax and don't use banks so even though crime is not supposed to pay, with cuts in the police service, it does.
*spoiler alert* Catherine is fighting her own demons, guilt over her daughter's suicide and an ill-advised affair with her ex is preying on her mind. Episode 5 was a touch of genius, showing how this strong woman could be destroyed not just by a violent attack but by the sheer feeling of futility in its aftermath.
By the end of the episode she is finding her way back and I for one can't wait for the final episode. For anyone who says there is no good writing for female actors, then this is the series that will change your mind.
The men are great too, btw. James Norton as the sociopath Tommy Lee Royce could have played him completely black and white, but there is a huge amount of grey in him. The small scenes where he skips along the wall of his mum's house harks at a childhood missed and attempts to recapture it. And he also says a lot with facial expressions, just as Lancashire can say more with a loaded glance than a whole monologue.
Brilliant piece of TV. Can you tell I like it? Catch it if you can, but try to get the whole series on iPlayer. It is a real builder of suspense and worth the time investment.
When I started watching this I was expecting an English 'Fargo'; dark but still a bit funny well it was dark but there were few laughs; there weren't intended to be. Sarah Lancashire does a great job as Sgt Cawood and James Norton is genuinely disturbing as Royce. The rest of the cast are pretty solid too; most notably Steve Pemberton, who plays Weatherill; a man getting in over his head then blaming everybody but himself for the consequences of his actions, and George Costigan who plays Nevison Gallagher; father of the kidnapped girl. The story was gripping from start to finish with some shocks along the way and right up to the end I was unsure whether we'd get a happy conclusion or a tragic one. Overall I'd say that this was one of the best TV dramas I've watched for some time; it is well worth watching.
Detective Sergeant Catherine Cawood ranks with Marge Gunderson (Fargo) and Sarah Linden (the Killing) among the best ever no-nonsense female law enforcement officers, and the series is reminiscent of both in its often inhospitable climate, quirky supporting cast, and overall excellence of writing, performances, and production values.
The parallels with Fargo continue..Kevin Weatherill channels Jerry Lundegaard ...both are ordinary men driven by greed to participation in kidnapping plots, with the circumstances rapidly getting away from them.
Neither of the those two dramas contains a villain to match Tommy. I have to look to Javier Bardem's character in No Country for Old Men to find a psychopath as evil. Not even the final episodes can evoke any sympathy from me.
Despite these comparisons, Happy Valley stands on its own as an excellent show. Netflix has another winner.
The story line is engrossing, the direction is nigh perfect. Even the music fits perfectly.
In January 2015 this series is on Netflix. Watch it, you won't be sorry.
This my first review.
These shows are so much better than the usual trash we watch on network TV.